Monday, May 22, 2006


This drawing by Hank Ketcham dates back to the era before comic strips were drawn with the monotonous line of a felt tip marker and reproduced at the size of a postage stamp. Looking at this original drawing, you can feel the bite of Ketcham's pen nib on paper. You can see how Ketcham expertly guided the flow of the ink around the page like a master hydrologist. The energy and variety of Ketcham's line create a joyful little design at the same time that it conveys a wealth of information about his subject.

By the time this drawing appeared, Ketcham had been drawing Dennis the Menace for over 35 years. His creation had become a big business, and the weary Ketcham often resorted to ghost artists to draw his panels. Yet, when Ketcham picked up the pen here, he still took obvious pleasure in drawing the folds in the pants or the squiggle of the child's elbow. This drawing may have taken Ketcham only minutes to execute, but it took decades to be able to draw it.


Cedricstudio said...

Great post! Ketchum is indeed a master.

Anonymous said...

There are Ketchum DtM panels that leave me amazed at his ease with composition. Mini masterpieces of black pools and line.

Anonymous said...

As an industrial designer by trade, and an appreciator of drawing in general I cannot stress more the magnitude of the task of making something wonderful... "simply"

It's the hardest thing to do, to resist the urge to either make it complicated, or lose all life by making it too simple.

Thanks for the great post on Ketchum (and many many others, that keep me coming here).

Anonymous said...

Simplicity and appeal. Two things desperately lacking in todays comics, both in superhero books and in newspaper strips.

leifpeng said...

David; I've been remiss in not commenting recently although I've been checking in and very much enjoying ( and learning from ) your ongoing "O.L.D." series. Please keep 'em coming!

I had to add my praise to those above for Hank Ketchum's work - though I have an even greater fondness for the artist(s?) who drew the early Dennis comic books... they were such a fine example (perhaps the only American example at that time) of what Hergé was doing with Tintin - the "line claire" style so popular and imitated in European comics.

Also, the stories themselves made me laugh out loud. I don't know if Ketcham wrote them, but they were hilarious.

I read 'em in a great digest-size series of paperbacks called Dennis the Menace's Pocket Full O' Fun - and still have a stack of them which I like to reread to this day during our vacation times at the cottage.

I also collected the Dennis paperbacks that reprinted the single panel from the newspaper but its only now, as an adult (and as a cartoonist/illustrator) that I've come to appreciate Ketchum's exceptional skills. He was a master.

leifpeng said...

Aarrgh! And apologies for my poor spelling! :-(

Julie Oakley said...

I don't know if you knew but in England we have our own Dennis the Menace. Both Dennis the Menaces were conceived co-incidentally by two different artists at the same time.
Although Ketcham's lines are beautiful I much prefer our English Dennis the Menace who is a thoroughly nasty boy accompanied by his evil dog Gnasher. See
if you're interested