The colorful connection between the BSA and Dennis the Menace

Illustrations courtesy of Ronald Ferdinand

Scouts shouldn’t be menaces to their neighbors, but according to one cartoon, one got into his fair share of trouble.

The “Dennis the Menace” comic debuted in March 1951. Since then, the mischievous 5-year-old that cartoonist Hank Ketcham created has been featured in 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries as well as in advertisements, comic books, television cartoons, a live TV show (1959-1963) and a 1993 movie. Over the years, he has often expressed his desire to join the Boy Scouts of America, and in a recent comic that you might’ve seen during the Be the Change event celebrating the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts, he is one along with a female friend.

The cartoon was illustrated by Ronald Ferdinand at the request of his friend and chief information officer of the Michigan Crossroads Council, Christopher Hopkins.

“For my part, it was just Christopher asking if I’d do a cartoon and I gladly obliged,” Ferdinand says. “Hank Ketcham had a history with the Scouts, so I just wanted to carry on the tradition.”

Ketcham drew the Dennis the Menace cartoons from the 1950s until his retirement in 1994. He drew several comics referencing the Scouts and did some BSA promotional pieces in the 1980s.

Two cartoonists continued the popular comic after Ketcham’s retirement. Today, Ferdinand pens the Sunday multi-panel comics while longtime Scouter Marcus Hamilton handles the daily single-panel cartoons. The single-panel comic that Ferdinand drew for the BSA features Dennis in uniform and sitting on a porch, sandwich in hand, next to a female Scout, Gina. He says to her, “Us Scouts gotta stick together!” Above the comic, Ferdinand wrote a congratulatory message to Eagle Scouts.

It’s one of the few times Dennis the Menace has been portrayed as a Scout. He often is shown telling his friends how he wants to be a Scout one day or making funny comments about his neighbor Mr. Wilson, like this one, where he asks, “If you were an Eagle Scout when you were a kid, does that mean you’re a bald eagle now?”

In the third season of the Dennis the Menace television show, Dennis, played by actor Jay North, is a Cub Scout in the episode “Through Thick and Thin.” In that 1962 episode, Dennis, his den and Mr. Wilson put on a circus, complete with songs and skits. The older actor was old enough to be in Cub Scouting, and today, the illustrated Dennis is old enough to be a Cub Scout, too.

Illustration courtesy of Ronald Ferdinand

About Michael Freeman 445 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.