cover image Where’s Dennis: The Magazine Cartoon Art of Hank Ketcham

Where’s Dennis: The Magazine Cartoon Art of Hank Ketcham

, . . Fantagraphics, $19.95 (173pp) ISBN 978-1-56097-853-4

Readers with an interest in comics history will value this book. Though not part of Fantagraphics’s deluxe set of the collected Dennis the Menace , this little paperback gives a fascinating look at Ketcham’s career before he created that franchise, when he was a commercial artist and a popular contributor to magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post , Colliers and sometimes even the New Yorker . He wasn’t an especially fluent writer, relying on others for punch lines, but the hundreds of pieces gathered here show what a prolific artist he was. They also show his development as a cartoonist, as his lines start to swirl and ricochet, becoming looser and loopier, dancing in casual-looking brush strokes of fluctuating thickness—even without the gags, Ketcham’s best work is extremely fun to look at. Ketchum has assembled a cast of bemused housewives, frazzled businessmen, and bratty kids even before discovering his unifying concept. It’s especially interesting to see how several early cartoons were reworked into Dennis panels; in every case, the later pieces are superior, with tighter layout, sharper choice of details and livelier art. (Nov.)