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March 21, 2024 62 mins

Robert and Randy discuss Hank's unorthodox parenting methods, how he tried to get laid at Disneyland, and some very uncomfortable racism.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Also media.

Speaker 2 (00:05):
Wow. Welcome back to Behind the Bastards, a podcast where
I Robert Evans, was just bearing my soul to my guest,
the cartoonist Randy Millholland, about the fact that I missed
drawing cartoons. I just brought up the great Aesop rock
song Rings, which is about like realizing that drawing is
the thing you used to do and being kind of

(00:26):
quietly devastated by that grifter.

Speaker 3 (00:29):
At first, I was like, no, no, yes, I'm a cartoonist,
so you know, it's the thing.

Speaker 2 (00:34):
Like I alwaysknew I wanted to write, and I had
initially wanted to do that as like a cartoonist because
I was kind of like coming into my adolescence the
same age that like Hank was when he's watching these
yearly Disney Disney cartoons. I was reading like first generation webcomics, right,
like Sluggy freelance and shit like that. That, like there's
people who were able to like make a living cartooning
on the Internet. And I was always like, well, that

(00:55):
seems like the way to do it. What a what
a lush, lavish life these web comic artists. Oh, one
day that'll be me.

Speaker 3 (01:03):
I did have someone's like sending an angry email, like
I know that you, you know, are so comfortable in
your mansion. I was living in an hour of cartoons.
I was living in a one room apartment at the time.
Like I I guess, uh cool.

Speaker 2 (01:20):
Yeah, there's this there's this Nazi cartoon and it's problematic
and it's I'll give you one guess as to like
who the they is, But like the text underneath this
very problematic art is like, if you want to know
who rules you, look at who you're not allowed to criticize.
And I want to replace the racial caricatures with just
like a guy drawing a cartoon, like the secret masters

(01:41):
of the world Web comic artists.

Speaker 3 (01:44):
They rule us all unhappiness.

Speaker 2 (01:48):
Yeah, the petty arcade guys, the sweet guy. Though I
will say I have not met any of them. I
did see Will Wheaton once at Penny Arcade Expo, and
I nearly took my vengeance on him for what he
did to that poor space captain in that fourth season
episode of Star Trek The Next Generation Unforgivable, Unforgivable Will.

Speaker 3 (02:09):
First time I ever met Will Wheaton, I told him
because he never in the same age I was like,
you know, when we were kids, I was always so
jealous of you because you were on the Starship Enterprise.
And he's like, look, however cool you think it was.
It was way cooler and you watch I was like,
damn it, dude.

Speaker 2 (02:23):
Yeah, man, he got to know Riker, He got to
watch that man reinvent sitting down on chairs.

Speaker 3 (02:30):
Never been done the same since, really hasn't. That was
the h I think that's really what taught usuals.

Speaker 2 (02:36):
That was the Manhattan Project for sitting down. Uh so
we're back in the story of Hank Katch him. When
we last left off, his wife Alice had left him.
He blames this on her temperamental irish nature, which he
also blames her alcoholism on. And this is not fair,
but she is an alcoholic right now. I don't think

(02:59):
she's an alcoholic, she's irish. I think she's an alcoholic
because it was the fifties and who wasn't right, like
a health nut ended every day with a full pint
glass of straight bourbon. That was the way people lived.

Speaker 3 (03:12):
Like Martini's in barbiturate field bun diet hills were a
way of life.

Speaker 2 (03:17):
You have called where this is going? Because she is
unfortunately naming barbituates and alcohol, which listeners don't do. This
has been a long digression from the fact that Hank
Ketchum is going to blame every problem that his wife
has on the fact that she's Irish. Now, look, she
is an alcoholic. I am sure that was a contributing
factor to why their marriage didn't work. But I also

(03:38):
suspect a contributing factor to her alcoholism was the fact
that her husband did not want her or their child
around and preferred spending time with a fake family that
he had drawn to spending time with his actual family.
I can see how that might make a problem worse. Right,
I'm not inside this marriage. It couldn't helped, right, not really.

(03:58):
Now there are some other possible clues as to what's
wrong in this marriage from some of Hank's early cartoons.
From that Seattle Times article quote, Dennis persistently tries to
drive a wedge between Henry and Alice by exposing their flirtations.
He narks out Dad on the beach to a furious Alice. Boy,
did we meet a pretty girl? Her name was Sally Holt.
I forget her phone number. Likewise, he deals poor Henry

(04:19):
another blow to his masculinity in front of Henry's male friend.
If you're so handy, how come mom had the man
next door come fix the leg on the card table?

Speaker 3 (04:27):
God damn.

Speaker 2 (04:28):
We get a couple things from this here. For one thing,
he is kind of hinting at this like constant suspicion
of infidelity that may have been a factor in their relationship.
But also, to make this more devastating, again, Dennis is
a kid and aware of the cartoon that's coming out.
His parents break up and his dad starts drawing cartoons
about he and his wife fighting. Where the cause of

(04:50):
the fighting is Dennis. Now, that could fuck with your
head a little as a kid, right, that's the cardoon
fuck that that could do some When we talk about
the ethics of like basic stuff on your life, you
know that's generally okay, But maybe if you're a parent,
don't blame the cartoon version of your son for the
problems of your marriage. That might hurt them.

Speaker 3 (05:09):
Actually, that could Everyone gets the newspaper. Yes, every kid
reads the comics. Yeah, and there's no ways kids his
friends didn't know his dad drew this comic.

Speaker 2 (05:18):
No, No, this is like, honestly, there's really not much
like like mister Beast is probably like in terms of
like his level of popularity, the closest we have to
somebody like Hank Ketchum in terms of the actual penetration
of a single piece of children's media in the time, right,
like it's so popular, and yeah, this would be like
a pretty fucked up thing to deal with as a kid,

(05:38):
in addition to like dealing with the fact that your
parents are splitting up and things are about to get
a lot worse because Alice leaving brings an immediate threat
to Hank Ketchum's life, which is that since they're split
up now, he's gonna wind up with partial custody at
least of his son, And partial custody means you might
have to spend time parenting that kid, and that is
not a thing Hank wants to do.

Speaker 3 (06:00):
Right, No, no, No, father in the fifties is into
that idea.

Speaker 2 (06:03):
Absolutely not so as soon as the two split up
like that same year, Hank sends twelve year old Dennis
to live at a private boarding school. And here's how
Hank describes the reasoning behind this decision. He suffered severe
learning disabilities that were not being properly addressed by the family.
His mother too caught up in luncheon's teas and bouts

(06:25):
with demon rum, couldn't focus seriously on much of anything.
His well intentioned father was buried in creative work and
wasn't spending time with his small family. And like, it's
kind of like you try to give yourself a little Like, well,
I also didn't do enough, but like, yeah, his mom
is all going out to lunch all the time, and
his dad is well intentioned, but he's like two busy

(06:47):
joint cartoons to raise his child, and it's most messed
up here. I have never seen any real supposition as
to what Dennis's learning disabilities may have been. He's not
diagnosed with anything as far as I can tell, given
state of things in that period of time, I think
there's a very good chance he didn't have a learning disability.
He was like acting out and having trouble in school
because his home life was really difficult, and when things

(07:11):
got tough, his dad sends him away. Right, Like that
makes more sense to me than any kind of disability
you might have had.

Speaker 3 (07:18):
He was an upset child. He was a child, and yeah,
divorce was so taboo in the fifties and there's no way. Yeah,
like other kids didn't know. I'm sure his life was
kind of hellish.

Speaker 2 (07:29):
He's dealing with that, right, like the fact that this
is a taboo thing. It's so unprecedented seeming to him.
And also again, his mom is an alcoholic, and that's
also a thing to across to bear as a child, right.

Speaker 3 (07:41):
He is the victim in the situation.

Speaker 2 (07:43):
Absolutely, and Dennis is We have the actual Dinnis's recollections
of this period of his childhood, and he would later
tell People Magazine, I didn't know what was going on,
except that I felt Dad wanted me out of the way,
which is like a devastating way to feed.

Speaker 3 (07:58):
No child, no child feel that way.

Speaker 2 (08:01):
Especially if you are your dad's meal ticket. He's getting
rich off of a pretend version of you, and he
won't even raise you like that's real, real bad. So
this childhood nightmare is exacerbated by the fact that Dennis
the Menace the cartoon is hugely popular among kids of
his age group, and whenever they found out that he

(08:21):
was the original Dennist, he became the source of unwanted attention.
Years later, Hank would cop to some of this and
the effect that it had on his son, telling the
Washington Post, these things happened, which they don't. They never
happened to another kid, Hank. No one else has ever
gone through what your son did.

Speaker 3 (08:37):
Look like at Phill Keene and his kids, who he
based the Family Circus off of. Yeah, Glenn and Gil
Keen became cartoonists, like he was very proud of them.
They apparently had a really good life. So there's an
option here.

Speaker 2 (08:52):
Yes, yes, you can base things on your life. Maybe
not this way. No, Yeah, And even honestly, if he'd
done everything the same with the comic but just kept
his son and raised him, it probably would have been fine.
But that's not what he's gonna do. Hank would add.
This was even worse because his name was used. He

(09:12):
was brought an unwillingly and unknowingly, and it confused him.
And like, yeah, Hank, but I think what confused him
more was you just not being there because you're his dad.
So Alice, again, this is I hinted at this earlier.
This is the fifties. She is an alcoholic, and like
every person who drinks too much in the fifties, she's
also taking too many barbituates. Right, this is a great

(09:32):
way to get really fucked up, and it's a great
way to die suddenly, which unfortunately she does a few
months after he starts boarding school. The same year his
parents break up, the same year he sent away to
boarding school, his mom dies driving past Mount Shasta from
an interaction of alcohol and barbituates. This is unfathomably devastating
for any child. Right, in the best case scenario, your

(09:54):
mom dying suddenly is like the worst moment of your
childhood obviously, right, you know, like that's the it's horrible
let alone, like the fact that he is dealing with
this and the breakup of his parents, and the fact
that he has been sent to live alone at like
a boarding school, right, and that his dad blames it
on the fact that he has a bad brain.

Speaker 3 (10:16):
Right.

Speaker 2 (10:16):
I'm not saying that's what a learning disability is, but
that's very much how people talk about this.

Speaker 3 (10:19):
I'm sure that in private, that was not how his
father termed it.

Speaker 2 (10:24):
Yeah, the fifties, not in the fifties. He's not being
woke about this, right, And Hank is he's not an
expert on tact and child rearing. So when again there's
no internet, right, there's phone service and stuff, but like,
as a kid, you're not connected to the world. Dennis
is locked away at this school, his mom dies, and

(10:45):
his dad decides not to tell him what he doesn't
let him know, and Hank in his autobiography is like,
I just couldn't bring myself to break the news over
the phone, right, which like, well, you're rich there, go
tell I get that, Like, yeah, maybe you want to
tell him in person, go be with your boy. But
he doesn't want to do that either, So instead of

(11:07):
like going to see his son and telling him or
calling him and telling him, he waits until the boy's
mother is buried and then lets him know. And by
the way, your mom's dad, sorry, bro, if like this,
that's such a devastating, traumatizing way to handle that, Like
not only are you alone, not only is your mom

(11:29):
dad and we're split up, but like I'm not even
gonna tell you until she's buried, And my god, that
is so cruel. That's that is that's very abusive. Yeah, man,
that's like we just talked about Steve Jobs being a
bad dad. I don't think he would have done this,
like he would have let the kid know that mom

(11:50):
was dead. That's a ship, Dad, that Jesus and like
this this the fact that he's not able to go
to the funeral. Dennis would later say, fox him up right.
Quote Mom had always been there when I needed her.
I would have dealt with losing her a lot better
had I been able to attend her funeral. Obviously, even
in the fifties, most parents don't need that explained to them.

(12:12):
Of course, the kids should be at the funeral. They
should have the option at least.

Speaker 3 (12:17):
Oh my god, Like, I can't even imagine. How like
when you're that age, like twelve, like well a normal
twelve or thirteen year old, life is hard. Your body
is changing, nothing makes sense. Kids are mean as shit.
You don't see your parents, but your parents are divorced
when that's unusual. You're sent across the country to a

(12:38):
born school. You know your mom's an alcoholic. You're probably
doing worse and it's not going great. And then one day, oh,
by the way, your mom is in the ground. Yeah,
you didn't get to say goodbye.

Speaker 2 (12:50):
Look, KD, I got good news and bad news. Bad
news mom's dead. Good news. You don't gotta go shopping
for a suit funeral's already done. I took care of
that for you, buddy. Have a good time being abandoned.

Speaker 3 (13:02):
No more awkward holidays.

Speaker 2 (13:04):
Yeah you live in the school now. Yeah you're your
mom sober God only marginally worse than what he actually did.
So for his part, Hank is savvy enough in his
autobiography to know that describing this story the way it
actually happened would sound bad, so he explains her death

(13:25):
in his autobiography in this rather baffling passage, the little
girl from Malden that's his wife tried valiantly to cope.
She was a splendid wife and a loving mother, but
the world was spinning too quickly for her. She had
nothing to hold her steady except the relief she found
in barbituates and alcohol. My patients and knowledge of the
disease were woefully lacking, and tragically, she succumbed shortly after

(13:47):
her fortieth birthday.

Speaker 3 (13:49):
Cool that poetry doesn't really help. No.

Speaker 2 (13:52):
First off, he's nice in this paragraph to her she
was a great wife and mother, but like it comes
one paragraph after, he says she wasn't there for her
her son because of the demon rum and all of
those luncheons, So I don't really believe that he felt
this way about her. And then the instant like the
next thing that happens in this book, after he says

(14:12):
that she dies tragically, is not him talking about the
conversations he has with his son, you know, his attempts
to cope with grief himself, his attempts to help his
son deal with this. It is a sub chapter called
blind Rebound Again, and this is literally about a rebound
relationship he has. He goes from my wife died and

(14:32):
not to Here's what happened to my son, Here's how
I talked to him anything. He doesn't say anything about
his kid at all, about the kid they share. That
is the inspiration for the comic. That is why he
has an autobiography. He goes to talking about a lady
he wanted to fuck. This story starts at Disneyland where
he's like, he's at Disneyland and he sees a young
man who's alone and it makes him sad and it

(14:53):
reminds him that it's nice to be with somebody, right.
It was a sad sight and reminded me how much
I depend on being with someone. This must be a
reaction to all the crummy rooming houses and lonely weekends
and holidays. I spent feeling sorry for myself, no question
about it. I'd make a lousy monk.

Speaker 3 (15:12):
I would like to dig him up. He's so bad,
punch him. What the fuck?

Speaker 2 (15:19):
It's such an evil moon man way of talking about,
like your wife dying and abandoning your son. I was like, yeah,
you know, I completely gave up on our responsibilities as
a father. But then at Disney World I realized having
sex is nice.

Speaker 3 (15:33):
There is no empathy in this man.

Speaker 2 (15:35):
It's such a vile person.

Speaker 3 (15:37):
This is Scott Adams level of like I don't see
beyond my own day.

Speaker 2 (15:40):
Yeah, yeah, at least you know, I don't know if
this is true. But well, no, Scott, I'm not going
to say at least with Scott Adams, I will say
nothing for you.

Speaker 3 (15:48):
Scott good good.

Speaker 2 (15:50):
So look, I want to be clear here. I don't
think he had a responsibility to stay in that marriage.
I don't think anybody has.

Speaker 3 (15:55):
A responsibility unhappy.

Speaker 2 (15:56):
Marriage, whether or not they have a kid. But I
do think that if the mother of your child dies,
your job at that point, even if you're split up,
is to focus more on that kid, right, because they've
lost their mother and that's what parents should do. Your
job is not to abandon them. So you can go
get laid at disney World like that is the acceptable

(16:17):
thing to do.

Speaker 3 (16:18):
Going to Disneyland to get some strange Yeah.

Speaker 2 (16:21):
Kind of weird, bizarre, bizarre, Robert, I really.

Speaker 1 (16:26):
Am going to revisit my take on titling for this thing.
You can do the history's greatest monster.

Speaker 2 (16:32):
The history's greatest monster. For the tennis the menace guy,
you can do that.

Speaker 1 (16:39):
I'm okay with it.

Speaker 2 (16:41):
Yeah, you know who else? Sophie is history's greatest monster?

Speaker 3 (16:46):
Oh?

Speaker 1 (16:46):
Is it capitalism?

Speaker 2 (16:47):
Our sponsors? Yeah, because they made you listen to this. Ah, everybody,
we're back and we're just having a great time.

Speaker 3 (17:01):
Those are as in services, I feel contented.

Speaker 2 (17:04):
Dennis is enduring one of the most traumatic childhood experiences
I can conceive of, and while he's doing this alone
at a boarding school, his dad agrees to go on
a blind date with a stewardess named joe Anne Stevens
now Kank is clear that all he knows when he
books this date is that she's a stewardess, and he
informs us that people in his day called stewardess's stew's.

(17:26):
I've actually read a lot about air travel in this
period of time. I've never heard this before. I'm not
gonna say he's wrong, but that's a stupid thing to
call a stewardess.

Speaker 3 (17:34):
That sounds like something he called them, and he wants
to it to sound like, yeah.

Speaker 2 (17:40):
Says stew's, stew's. What a weird thing to call a stewardess.
You see those stews on the flight? Hey, STU, bring
me some STU? What a weird What a weird time
that was?

Speaker 3 (17:53):
I hate everything about that.

Speaker 2 (17:54):
I'm gonna try that next time I'm on a plane,
I'm gonna call the stewardess or stewardess STU, yat me
some drinks.

Speaker 1 (18:00):
I feel like they should immediately go on to strike
the first time STU is announced.

Speaker 2 (18:06):
Yeah that that's a strike worthy thing, and they can
shut down the whole country. We saw it happen under Trump, right, yep.
Stewardesses have a lot of power for stewart. I don't
know what the there's probably another turn flight attendant, right, yeah, yeah,
what are you gonna call them? You can't call them
stews now, Flindant's that's a terrible thing to call them
better than Stew's.

Speaker 1 (18:26):
Arguable, I agree it's better than Stew's.

Speaker 2 (18:30):
So this lady, Joanne Stevens works when he meets her,
she's a stewardess on the specially chartered jet the Nixon
administration is using the campaign. I know, I know, but
I mean I will say for joe Anne that you
must have hazard pay for that, the degree of harassment
you have to encounter as a fifty stewardess on the

(18:52):
Nixon plane.

Speaker 3 (18:53):
There is no part of her that wasn't.

Speaker 2 (18:55):
Pinched, indescribable. And Hank, by the way, very much a
Nixon fan. He describes Yeah, He describes himself as being
intoxicated by joe Anne's free spirit lifestyle and deciding that
her influence convinced him it was time for him to travel,
and this, eventually, through a somewhat cecuitous route, leads to

(19:15):
him embarking on a new life overseas. He and Joanne
get married, and he moves to Switzerland. To his credit,
he does not leave Dennis behind. To his end, not credit,
he does something a little worse. Here's how a People
magazine article in nineteen ninety three describes what happened next.
Dennis was sent to a local boarding school, where, already
a slow student, he had even more difficulty learning foreign languages.

(19:38):
His stepmother was unsympathetic. Joanne was unused to children, says Hank.
She and Dennis didn't get along. What's unsaid here is
that not only does Hank take joe anne being unused
to children as an excuse to send his son back
to the US, he does so pulls him out of
whatever life he has in the States at a boarding school,
puts him in this Swiss boarding school, makes fun of

(20:01):
him basically for not being smart enough to pick up
German overnight, and then when his new fling is like
I don't really like kids, he sends his son back
to an American boarding school alone on his birthday.

Speaker 3 (20:16):
What the fuck?

Speaker 2 (20:18):
This is like a psychological experiment for like how badly
can you fuck up a child?

Speaker 3 (20:25):
This is mommy dearest level shit, It's really bad.

Speaker 2 (20:29):
Like I was like, can you hang most of an
episode on like how bad apparent one guy was to
one kid? And I guess you can because he is
such a bad dad.

Speaker 3 (20:39):
Did he have a checklist of like well, no, let's
just go fuck it all up. Yeah?

Speaker 2 (20:45):
Yeah, is this guy like philipz Embardo secretly like carrying
out some fucked up experiment for unclear reasons. Dennis eventually
graduated from boarding school in nineteen sixty six, two years
behind his original class. Hank and Joe Anne devoid a
few years after this, and Hank remarried a woman named
or remarried to a woman named Rolanda.

Speaker 3 (21:06):
Uh oh, so he basically sent his kid away for
a marriage that even last.

Speaker 2 (21:10):
Yes, that doesn't last. The marriage with Rolanda does better.
He has two children with her, and he does parent them.
I'll give him this. He is much better with these kids,
from everything we know, than he was with his first two,
which doesn't really make up for not or with his
first son, which doesn't really make up for it. I
found a two bar, Robert, Yeah, not a high bar.

(21:33):
I found an old two thousand and one article in
the Pittsburgh Post Gazette by Sharon Randall, who talked to
Hank before his death, and he expressed some regret here
quote pausing a moment to rearrange some pencils on his desk,
he added, sometimes young fathers scrambling to make a living,
to climb the ladder. Leave it to the mother to
do all the parental things. But you get back what
you put into a child. It's like a piano. If

(21:53):
you don't give it much attention, you won't get much
out of it. And I actually you could frame that
as growth, but I actually think that's bad because like
you don't you shouldn't take care of your child because
you get something from it. It's because that life you're
responsible for. You helped create it, so you should take
care of it as well as you can.

Speaker 3 (22:13):
I have a child, yeah six. I take her to
all of her speech therapy appointments, I do her doctor
appointments I do. I have no guarantee she will take
care of every one day, and if not her fucking job,
she may she may turn eight things like you know what,
I'm out by old man. That's her right. I'll be heartbroken,
I will be shattered, but it's her right. I didn't

(22:36):
have a kid for an investment. I had a kid
because I wanted to have a kid and I was
able to. I have a partner who wanted to have
a child as well.

Speaker 2 (22:45):
I am a strong believer in that children have no
inherent responsibility to their parents. You did not ask to
be brought into the world. You are not in debt
to them. Parents have an inherent response. If you're going
to create life, you have a responsibility to it, right,
And he just ad gates it in the case of
one of his kids. And then he's like, I was
too interested in my career, which was based on my

(23:05):
son to raise my son. He's like a piano, which
is also fucked up because like he actually got a
lot more out of his son, his first son, than
he did the kids he actually raised because his first
son is his meal ticket. But whatever I mean.

Speaker 3 (23:19):
Yeah, literally, the destroyed childhood of his first child r
paid for the childhoods of all the other kids afterwards.

Speaker 2 (23:26):
Yeah, yeah, so it works out well for them, right.
So for Hank's part, the worse he was to his son,
the better his cartoon Boy tended to do. In nineteen
fifty nine, it inspired a live action adaptation, which is like,
He's one of the first cartoon might have been the first.
I don't know if it was the first, but it
was certainly one of the first cartoons to get like

(23:46):
a live action adaptation.

Speaker 3 (23:48):
There were a few others before that. I'm I'm sure
Joe Paluka had one. Yeah, there were a few, but yeah,
it was probably the most successful. But if you read
the comic and then like see like it's it's a sitcom,
it's nothing really like.

Speaker 2 (24:04):
No, and it's like there's people will talk about like
the show being bad for its its child actor. I'm
not going to bring that down as like a thing
on Hank's against Hank.

Speaker 3 (24:13):
Because no, that's not his fault.

Speaker 2 (24:15):
That's most child actors have, at least up until very
recently had. It's just a you probably shouldn't make a
kid suddenly world famous.

Speaker 3 (24:23):
And I would say the physical and mental abuse that
Jay North isn't I think he suffered was the fault
of all the adults around him. Because it was his
and an uncle or his managers, and they were the
ones abusing him. It was obviously then uncle's fault, but
also the adults who saw this and did fucking nothing. Yeah,

(24:43):
but you can't really blame Ketch them. He wasn't involved
beyond he not paid. No.

Speaker 2 (24:48):
And it's one of those things every time I read
about shit like this, I'm not a particular Harry Potter guy,
but when it comes to the movies. Everything I've read about,
like how both the parents of those kids and their
co hosts were like, these kids, we have to really
be on the ball to protect them, because this is
going to be a disaster for all of them if
we're not really careful. And it seems like they mostly

(25:10):
have ended up pretty well. I know Daniel Radcliffe had
is like his tough years, most of us do, but
like he's doing great. I think the rest of them
seem to be doing well. Like you got to be
weird owl, Yeah, you got to be weird out. What
more can you ask for in a life? So good
on all of the adults involved in that situation, but
not this one.

Speaker 3 (25:27):
There was no Ja Lloyd situation.

Speaker 2 (25:29):
There was Yeah, yeah, exactly. Oh god, that's another bleak
one man.

Speaker 3 (25:35):
Man. The world really hates kids.

Speaker 2 (25:37):
Yeah, it sure does. Now. During this period after he
moved to Geneva, Hank decided to stop reading the news.
He's a millionaire by this point, and he decides there's
nothing but bad stuff on the news, so he doesn't
read it anymore. And because he's living in a foreign country,
he feels like he needs to stay up to date
on American culture. And he does this by subscribing to
the Seers Catalog, which he claims gave him an accurate

(25:59):
look at the esthetic of American life. This apparently worked. Yeah,
I don't know, Okay, I think what what works? I
don't think he keeps up to date with American life.
But what works about Dennis the Menace is that it's
kind of permanently stuck in an idolized version of the
fifties that never existed, right, Which is fine for a cartoon.
It's fine if it's not based on your real life

(26:21):
and the family you abandoned.

Speaker 3 (26:22):
Right.

Speaker 1 (26:23):
For people that don't know what Sears is, can you
explain that before?

Speaker 3 (26:27):
Oh yeah, anymore?

Speaker 2 (26:32):
Kids know how? Like Target and Walmart? They're these big
stores people used to go to before Amazon to buy stuff.
Well back even before then, people would buy stuff they
Sears had some big stores, but mostly they had a
catalog and it would go to your house where you
lived on the prairie with your family until you all
died of diphtheria, and you would order stuff once a
year from the Sears catalog to get the things you needed,

(26:54):
and they sold everything you could get, house kits they sold.
We have multiple guns that are antiques that were originally
sold to people mailed to their door through catalogs. I
don't have any automatic weapons, but they would ship you
machine guns.

Speaker 3 (27:09):
Back then, they had their own, They had their own
knockoff atari in the Yeah, did we had a bunch
of cartridges that worked in their tarty six hundred.

Speaker 2 (27:17):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (27:17):
From them.

Speaker 2 (27:18):
It's it's it's it's a wild tale. So that's how
he stays in touch. And it's one of those things.
Dennis the Menace is successful in large part because it
stays trapped in the past, and this was very much
due to Hank's personality. He told The Washington Post, turmoil
is something I don't need other than what I generate myself,
which is shows more self knowledge than the rest of

(27:39):
the statements he makes.

Speaker 3 (27:40):
Damn man.

Speaker 2 (27:42):
Unfortunately for Hank, but fortunately for the rest of the world.
During kind of the period where Dennis the Menace is
hitting its stride, the civil rights movement is also picking
up steam. Right this kind of the mid sixties is
when when a lot of that stuff really starts to
to boil over and Hank, living this wealthy Geneva expat life,
is like scared and kind of angry at all of

(28:03):
this stuff he's seeing, which is like confusing and threatening
to him, and he retreats inside of himself more and
more as the civil rights movement goes on. He expressed
to The Washington Post later a sentiment that he kind
of in Dennis the Menace, he replaced the real, tumultuous
America of the day with his own cartoon version. And
I think it's also true that he replaced his own

(28:24):
tumultuous and failed first family with this fake version. Right,
both of these are things that he's doing with this cartoon.
He's very much using it as a tool to escape reality.
He is a lifelong Republican voter, so perhaps this is
not surprising, but.

Speaker 3 (28:38):
That's not excuse because you have people wing al cap
who are lifelong Republicans. And he used his power to
do a comic call the Martin Looking Junior in the
Montgomery story, Oh, to promote Martin Luking Junior, because and
al Capp is a piece of shit, but like he's
still one thing about him. He was for integration.

Speaker 2 (28:58):
Yeah, that was a kind of guy you had back then.
Like there's there's a number of those from entertainment where
it's like well, this man was a monster everywhere else
in his life, but he was firmly on the side
of integration.

Speaker 3 (29:09):
Yeah. Capp was a big admirer of King. And you know,
then you have like Charles Schultz.

Speaker 2 (29:18):
We're talking about.

Speaker 3 (29:19):
Yeah, I'm gonna hide.

Speaker 2 (29:22):
Yeah. Oh yeah, oh god, this that's what's coming up here, buddy.

Speaker 3 (29:26):
Oh no, so uh.

Speaker 2 (29:29):
I do want to continue first with a quote from
that Washington Post article. It is a world where ketch
Him is in control. These are people I want to
live with, he says of the characters and the musical
so familiar from the cartoon Dennis, his parents Alice and
Henry Mitchell, and their next door neighbors, George and Martha Wilson.
If they aren't what I like, I erased them. The
headlines can be murderous and bloody, but in my world,
the birds are singing, and that is such a telling line.

(29:52):
If they aren't what I like, I erased them, because
that is what you did to your own son, mm hmm,
like when he didn't turn out the way you wanted
as a small child.

Speaker 3 (30:00):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (30:01):
Now you won't be surprised to hear from that that
the world he creates does not include black people for
quite some time. Right, Yeah, Hank's cartoon is not unlike
most popular culture made by white people in that time, right,
and that it ignored the existence of black Americans to
a large degree. And like, I think one of the
first times I was aware of this is a kid.
Every Christmas my family would watch the Bing Crosby Danny

(30:23):
k movie White Christmas. Stuff about that movie. The only
black people you see are working as like white staff
on a train, right, and they don't say anything. That's
the only time you see any black people in that movie.
That was just I mean, that was It's not good,
but that was like not Hank is not unique, right,
And in this in his criteria.

Speaker 3 (30:45):
There was a problem in general with black representation and
comic sup It's like, if you wanted to see black representation,
either it was blackfrees characters, yeah, or you had to
go to black newspaper papers where you have comic strips,
which that the world of black comic strips are amazing

(31:05):
and none of people know about them.

Speaker 2 (31:07):
Is there any reading you might recommend on that you
could pull up.

Speaker 3 (31:10):
My spouse has actually been going through archives and collecting
old strips. If you want to send you a file
of some of the ones we have found, because we've
found some really cool ones.

Speaker 2 (31:19):
I mean, that'd be a great thing to be able
to like host and just let people go through.

Speaker 3 (31:22):
If it's post that is the goal, I think a
lot of it. Well, it's it's but even then, like
I have an article that was published in seventy three
when Beatle Bailey brought in a black character and how
there were newspapers in seventy three dropping it. Yeah, and
mart Walker's response was, it's unrealistic to have a comic

(31:42):
about the army and not have a black character at present.

Speaker 1 (31:45):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (31:45):
Yeah, And that's like it's nineteen sixty five is when
a major publisher produces the first dedicated comic book with
a black hero, Right, is that Lobo? Yeah, it's Lobo
nineteen sixty five, and that's just two years after the
first black man wins an Academy Award for a leading role.
And it's it's Sydney Poidier.

Speaker 3 (32:03):
Obviously that it was also Del Commons do del Commas,
as I recall, they were kind of in their Hail
Marry years and they were just desperately trying. Yeah, there
had been a comic in the forties. I can't remember
the name that all Negro Comics, which was created in
forty seven, and it was created by back black creators.

Speaker 2 (32:26):
Yeah, and this is this is a period where I mean,
like that kind of stuff I think I would love
to know more about. Like it's it's it's such an
uphill battle, right to try and to try and make
sure that, like the the popular culture that most people
see as reflecting America includes black people, right, Like that
that's that's such a struggle during this period of time.

(32:49):
I think a lot about like you watch those old
Star Trek episodes and like a Hurrah often doesn't have
a whole lot to do. They clearly like didn't always
know what should we have this character doing. But just
like having you know, Whoopie Goldberg talks about this, just
the fact that there was a black woman on television
that wasn't anybody's maide, that was like doing a real job,
that was an officer like everybody else, was a huge
fucking deal. And you know that extends to the world

(33:13):
of cartoons. And I think one of the first, maybe
the first really major white cartoonists to start including a
black character in his cartoon was Charles Schultz, as you
kind of hinted at a bit ago, nineteen sixty eight,
is when he introduces Franklin. And I want to talk
about Schultz for a little bit, not because what he
does is like heroic. It's not. It's beyond the minimum,

(33:37):
but it's not like a wild act of radicalism or whatever.
We're going to be covering how Hank handles the same situation,
and I want to start with how a basically decent man.
And I think Chuck Schultz was a basically decent man.

Speaker 3 (33:50):
I've never heard a bad word about him.

Speaker 2 (33:51):
Yeah, I've never heard a bad word about him. Handles
integrating a black character into his cartoon and why he
does it. Here's what he says about the decision to
add Franklin to the comic strip later. I could have
put him in long before that, but for other reasons
I didn't. I didn't want to intrude upon the work
of others. I think he's talking about some of those
black cartoonists you mentioned earlier here, so I held off
on that. But finally I put Franklin in. And there

(34:12):
was one strip where Charlie Brown and Franklin had been
playing on the beach, and Franklin said, well, it's been
nice being with you. Come on over to my house
sometime again. They didn't like that. Another editor protested once
when Franklin was sitting in the same row of school
desks with Pepper and Patty and said, we have enough
trouble here in the South without you showing the kids
together in school. But I never paid attention to those things.
And I remember telling Larry Rutman, president of United Features

(34:35):
Syndicate at the time, about Franklin. He wanted me to
change it, and we talked about it for a long
time on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, well, Larry,
let's put it this way. Either you print it just
the way I draw it, or I quit. How's that.
So that's the way things ended. But I've never done
much with Franklin because I don't do race things. I'm
not an expert on race. I don't know what it's
like to grow up as a little black boy. And

(34:56):
I think that gives you a really good idea of
like how a well meaning person would handle this. First off,
he does go beyond the minimum here when he's like, look, man,
who's your next pick for Charles Schultz, if I won't
make this comic for you peanuts.

Speaker 3 (35:11):
Yeah, and he was at the height of his popularity, absolutely,
and like it was, it would have been a big
deal and that's meaningful. Yeah, it would for him to
walk away from that, that's a walk away from a
lot of money.

Speaker 2 (35:25):
He's arguably not maybe not the only cartoonist, but certainly
one of the only cartoonists who could have forced something
like this into a major cartoon, who could have forced
them to show like integrated schools and stuff in his
cartoon because he had that much cloud. And it's good
that he used it that way.

Speaker 3 (35:40):
There were other people who could have. But like from
the article from seventy three, I remember like Ernie Bushmuller,
who did an Nancy was like, no, I don't want
to no, I don't want to touch political stuff that
he Yeah, one of my predecessors, Bud Sagingdorf, worked in Popeye.
I kind of get his viewpoint. He's like, the way
I draw everyone, when you put a brown skin tone

(36:00):
on them, it looks like a racist character. Is like,
I don't want to make this worse.

Speaker 2 (36:05):
Yeah, and I think that's not unfair necessarily.

Speaker 3 (36:08):
Like he was understanding like, if I do this, it
looks Yeah, the history of comics and how black people
have been treated in.

Speaker 2 (36:17):
Comics, I shouldn't be the guy to do this, right, Yeah,
that's fair. And I think that what Schultz did again,
I think it's I don't want to go like overboard
praising him because he's not putting his life on the
line here. But I think what he is doing, what
he would say he's doing, is he's looking at people
putting their lives on the line and saying, well, like,
I am in a position where I can force this
through and I should, right. I don't really know how
to write this character. But maybe that's not what matters

(36:39):
right now. What matters is just showing that Charlie Brown's America,
which is one of the most popular depictions of fictional America,
includes black people, Right, And that's a good thing to do, Right,
That's a that's a praiseworthy some amount of praise at least.
That's it's worthing.

Speaker 3 (36:53):
Not that he'd never really talked about there during his lifetime.
It's only in the last few years that's come out. Yeah,
and they're actually doing a short I think where I
may come out a cartoon special. Yeah, about Franklin. That's
a retelling of that first storyline.

Speaker 2 (37:05):
And I think it's also perfectly fair for Schultz to
be like, look, man, I'm not the guy to start
making points about like race in America or like try
to depict the life of a young black boy in
the sixties. No, he's not right when it comes to Pena,
I shouldn't be doing that. I just want to make
people to know that he's here. And I think that
is respectable, and I think it's worth covering this respectable
attempt to add, like to integrate the world of comics.

(37:29):
You could say with what Hank Ketcham does. About two
years after Schultz Debut's Franklin in nineteen seventy, Hank Ketcham
adds his first black character to Dennis the Menace and Randy,
have you seen this comic?

Speaker 3 (37:43):
I did not know there was a black character.

Speaker 2 (37:46):
Oh boy, his name is Jackson, and I'm just gonna
have so if you show it to you and you can.

Speaker 3 (37:52):
Just hold on, he's I can get my what the fuck?
What the fuck that is? He's a sambo character.

Speaker 2 (38:06):
I don't think that is white lips. That is the
best way to describe him. I don't know how to
actually like describe how he draws this character.

Speaker 3 (38:14):
I will with one character with white lips. He is
a cart He's a nineteen forties character.

Speaker 2 (38:23):
Oh, I have seen and the caption we'll get to that.
I want to know, like I thought when I saw this,
because I used to do a lot of stalking Nazis online,
I have seen neo Nazi comics from the nineties that
depicted black people almost identically to the way that he
does in this Like it is bad people, some.

Speaker 3 (38:41):
Of the movie bad So. My spouse and I one
of our hobbies as we go through newspaper archives. I
love looking for lost comic strips that note but that
means I also see a lot of really weird racist
shit from the nineteen ten and nineteen This could have
been printed in nineteen twenty one.

Speaker 2 (38:58):
Yeah, it's wild how bad it is for nineteen seventy.

Speaker 3 (39:01):
That is, he has giant white lips. You can't see
his nose. He is ink black. He is as black
as the father's hair.

Speaker 2 (39:09):
And like he doesn't have like the Popeye guy. I
get that argument. Like my all of my characters are caricatures.
I don't really know how to draw a black person
and not have it look like a.

Speaker 3 (39:16):
Problem different from everything else he ever draws.

Speaker 2 (39:18):
Yes, yes, he draws normal looking people as a general rule.

Speaker 3 (39:22):
Now here's my question, though, I need to know this. Yeah,
Ketchum did have ghost artists and ghost writers.

Speaker 2 (39:28):
No, this was him.

Speaker 3 (39:30):
Oh, this was Hims.

Speaker 2 (39:31):
It was not Wiseman that I don't think has even
started yet. This is him.

Speaker 3 (39:35):
No, how Wise been working in the fifties, but he
was mostly working on the comic book I think.

Speaker 2 (39:40):
Yeah, yeah, I like and the comic book he talks
about that that winds up coming on and coming off
because it gets too expensive. But like, yeah, this is
because he writes about this.

Speaker 3 (39:49):
Like he takes he takes credit for this.

Speaker 2 (39:51):
He takes credit for this.

Speaker 3 (39:52):
Yes, oh shit, I wouldn't.

Speaker 2 (39:54):
And there is so that the cartoon we're talking about,
we were so bold over by how racist it is.
Like it is. You've got Dennis the MENACE's dad mowing
the lawn and he's looking over and there's Dennis, and
there's Jackson, and Dennis said.

Speaker 3 (40:08):
The father looks terrified.

Speaker 2 (40:10):
The father looks scared to see this little boy. Dennis says,
I'm having some race trouble with Jackson, he runs faster
than I do. What is that saying?

Speaker 3 (40:20):
Man?

Speaker 2 (40:21):
Like, what is that even saying? Like I know what
he's saying is like Dennis doesn't see race, right, Like
that is the actual point of the comments, which.

Speaker 3 (40:30):
Is also it's funny. It's a holy, I don't understand thing.

Speaker 2 (40:33):
And again, like there's something quietly political about that first
like Franklin strip where because he's just making the point that,
like Franklin is welcome in Charlie Brown's home, right, And
actually in that time that is kind of a political statement.

Speaker 3 (40:45):
It's like the same part of mister Rogers episode where
yes he shares a foot wash with a black man.

Speaker 2 (40:51):
Yeah, or when he like shares a hug or something
with like that guy who was suffering from HIV to
be like, look, you don't have to treat these people
with Is that a subtle politic, Yes, a subtle, meaningful,
earnest politics as opposed to whatever the fuck this is.
And a lot of people get angry at this cartoon.
Hank even alleges that there are violent attacks as a

(41:13):
result of this cartoon. This is from his autobiography, a
harmless little play on words and I felt a soft,
amusing beginning. Not so. The rumbles started in Detroit, then
moved south to Saint Louis, where rocks and bottles were
thrown through the windows of the Post Dispatch newspaper. Boys
were being chased and hassled in Little Rock, and in
Miami some herald editors were being threatened. The cancer quickly

(41:35):
spread to others large cities.

Speaker 3 (41:38):
Am I wrong? No? Is the children who are?

Speaker 2 (41:41):
It's the people? And like, did you ever describe racism
as a cancer or just people getting angry that you
drew a slur in your cartoon, Hank, I.

Speaker 3 (41:49):
Would say, if he has a you know what, I
drew this, and I did not think about the fact
I was thinking that with the mind of a man
born the twenties. Yeah, like I should have stepped back.
I should have He needed someone in that room to
say that's not okay.

Speaker 2 (42:05):
It does say a lot about the state of the
industry that this comic presumably passes through a bunch of
people's hands before it goes up it.

Speaker 3 (42:12):
Dude, I did a comic not long ago that was
it was a throwaway Popeye strip and the joke was
when I was a child, I was convinced the song
Caughton Eye Joe was about a zombie. So I just
trip about that and when my editor is like, heyesse,
you know there might be some racist history to that song.
And so there was a meeting about the strip, and

(42:33):
I mean, there's an article it's questionable. And my whole
thing was like, okay, we'll just pull it, Like just
pull it, like even if it's not true, someone out
there might think it. I don't want to hurt someone's feelings.
But like, multiple editors got together with me. We had
a big discussion on it. Yeah, and that looked nothing
like this.

Speaker 2 (42:52):
Yeah, I'm sure the extent of this conversation was, like
he sends this cartoon, an editor on his fourth high
ball of at lunch was like.

Speaker 3 (43:01):
Great work.

Speaker 2 (43:02):
You're gonna fix the race problem in this country. And
then back to drinking eyeballs, like if that had.

Speaker 3 (43:07):
Run in fifty five, I'm like, oh, yeah, of course
it fucking ran.

Speaker 2 (43:10):
Yeah, but seventies wild stuff.

Speaker 3 (43:14):
Oh my fucking god.

Speaker 2 (43:16):
So he describes being mad as hell at the reaction
that this gets and shamed he ought to be. Snopes
notes that at the time, a number of newspapers ran
apologies to their readers for this cartoon, and they provide
an example from the Cleveland Press. Yesterday's Dennis the Menace
cartoon offended a number of Press readers. The press apologizes

(43:36):
for the affront caused by the cartoonist. It assures subscribers
that such a thing will not happen again.

Speaker 3 (43:41):
Oh I'm sure he was not happy about that. No,
he was not.

Speaker 2 (43:44):
And normally I would say, why don't throw the cartoonist
under the bus? In this case, yeah, throw the cartoonist
under the bus.

Speaker 3 (43:51):
Hobble him so he can't get out of the way yet,
so just let it go.

Speaker 2 (43:54):
So catch him for reasons that are known only to God,
would make one more comic feature Ring Jackson. I will
say this Jackson is drawn less racist ly than before.
Not well, not good, but not the same.

Speaker 3 (44:13):
I'm dreadnossd.

Speaker 2 (44:15):
It's still not good. It's still maybe a little definitely
a little bit of a problem, but uh better, Okay, yeah,
yeah better.

Speaker 3 (44:25):
I would actually think that's a totally different character, to
be honest.

Speaker 2 (44:27):
Yes, it is drawn wildly differently.

Speaker 3 (44:30):
So for the people who obviously can't see this, the
character is drawn less of as a giant ink blot child,
he still seems to have white lips, which is not good.

Speaker 2 (44:41):
Yeah, but also the like a third of his head
is white. I think just because of like where the
light's supposed.

Speaker 3 (44:46):
To be the shine. But at this point in time
that black characters are shown with like a crosshatching, Franklin
was drawn the same way a lot of Like it's
just kind of how it was done. Yeah. Yeah, I
don't agree with it, but it's truth. Yeah. But yeah again,
like the white lips, like that's a weird tell tale

(45:06):
like that all you had to do was give like
the textured hair.

Speaker 2 (45:11):
Yep.

Speaker 3 (45:12):
I mean, look at a comic Curtis, which is a
granted drawn by a black creator, Like you can give
features that denote African American heritage without going to fucking stereotypes. Yeah,
arms are still jet black.

Speaker 2 (45:27):
I think another thing you could do, and maybe other
cartoonists could have done too, is like, well, I don't
know how to draw this cartoon or make a point.
I'll just have a black cartoonist take over my strip
for a day, you know, yeah, like like put out something.
You don't have to do this, Hank, Like you could
use your clout here some other way.

Speaker 3 (45:45):
Or actually hire a consultant, a black what go to
someone and say, like give them money because they shouldn't
have to do it for free.

Speaker 2 (45:55):
Particularly after your first cartoon causes a riot, like oh,
you're not the one to handle this anymore. And the
cartoon itself is yeah, his mom's got two cookies and
she's like looking at the two boys.

Speaker 3 (46:08):
And again she's nervous.

Speaker 2 (46:10):
She's nervous. Dennis has his hand out towards Jackson. He's
like me and Jackson are exactly the same age, only
he's different. He's left handed. And again it's the same
punchline where like all of you, you know, silly Americans
and the civil rights movement care so much about race,
Dennis the menace, the boy I invented while ignoring my
own son, doesn't even see race, you know, like.

Speaker 3 (46:31):
He feels like a concervative, Like, well, my character gets it.
What's wrong with you, liberals?

Speaker 2 (46:36):
I'm much woker than you, but for living in Geneva
and ignoring the Civil rights movement. As the years go on,
Hank is going to increasingly defiantly avoid any interaction with
the real world or any hint that life for a
regular Americans was no longer the bland fifties daydream he
depicted in Dennis the Menace and had actually himself failed

(46:59):
to live in the nineteen fifties. And we are going
to talk about what happens to the real dnnis after
he gets out of school. But first, what's going to
happen to you is you're going to listen to these ads.
We're back, so we're talking about the real Dennis the

(47:20):
Menace again. Now he gets out of school in nineteen
sixty six. He never benefited from the protection his father's
wealth might have allowed him, and he joins the Marine
Corps in nineteen sixty six. Shit yes, and he goes
straight to Vietnam. He is stationed in Vietnam and he sees,
from what I can tell, pretty heavy combat.

Speaker 3 (47:40):
So unlike his father who was drafted, he sees action.

Speaker 2 (47:43):
Yes, he has a bad tour. People Magazine quotes him
as saying, my grandmother and aunt sent me letters, but
never Dad. When People Magazine went to Hank and were like,
did you not send your son letters when he was
in Vietnam, they note quote Hank insists he did write
to his son. I know who. I believe it's based
on the rest of this story. I know who I believe.

Speaker 3 (48:02):
Yeah, that's if I'm not mistaken. He was also in
the seventies doing like a military comical half Hitch, wasn't he? Oh?

Speaker 1 (48:12):
Was he?

Speaker 3 (48:13):
Yeah? He kitcham did a strip? Oh no way, yeah,
I'm double checking it. He did it like during That
was his World War II comic Half Hitch. But he
brought it back from seventy to seventy five.

Speaker 2 (48:26):
Oh wow, for just at the tail end of Vietnam.
Huh a couple of years after. Weird, that's peculiar, but
not interested in his own son, who was technically serving
in a branch of the Navy. Sorry Marines. That's the truth.
So Dennis the Minis sees some shit in Vietnam and
he comes home with severe PTSD. The real Dennis the
Menace is a traumatized nom veteran. He has trouble functioning

(48:49):
in society. He is unable to really hold down a
job for a considerable period of time. He moves through
a lot of like low paid gigs. He's a prison
guard for a while, he's a ranch hand, and by
night he's living in Ohio and is generally described in
articles at the time as being estranged from his father.
When some people would reach out, he would make comments

(49:10):
to the effect that like, yeah, being having a popular
comic named after me and based on me by my
dad who abandoned me, really messed with me. And again
Hank's response to this is these things happen. They don't.

Speaker 3 (49:23):
No, they really don't. Yeah, really shouldn't now.

Speaker 2 (49:27):
For reasons that probably aren't surprising, the real Dennis the
Menace has a tumultuous personal life. He has several divorces
for reasons I don't know. He is legally barred for
a time from seeing his teenage daughter Jennifer. Probably not
a great story there, that People article concludes. Every now
and then, as he did a couple of weeks ago,
Dennis phones his father. I see your movie is out,

(49:47):
said Dennis. And this is when the movie with the
guy from U fuck Edrithews bears Walter Matthous.

Speaker 3 (49:54):
From Lloyd to the villain in the movie.

Speaker 2 (49:56):
You're right, we'll talk about we'll talk about Walter Matthew
in a second that No, No, I love Walter math out.
I see your movie is out, said Dennis. I hope
you see it. Hank replied, Dennis said he hoped to.
He then announced that he and Janet, who's his wife
at the time, are quitting their jobs and resettling in
the Southwest, and asked his father to help finance their move.
That's the way many of our conversations go, says Hank sadly.

(50:19):
And like when you're reading every article you can find
about a guy, which I did for Hank, a funny
thing happens, which is that you pick up some patterns
in multiple interviews. He will tell people in this period
of time, my son only calls me to ask for money.
There's one exception to this, and it's a two thousand
and one article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette by Sharon Randall,
and in it, Hank speaks very differently about this part

(50:42):
of their relationship. Quote when I asked about Dennis, he said,
he checks in about twice a year, and if he
needs something, I try to help him. That's a really
different response from he only calls me when he wants money, right.

Speaker 3 (50:55):
Which makes you think he caught some flack.

Speaker 2 (50:57):
Did he catch some flack? Is it just because the
interviewer is a woman? Is he like into her? Does
he want to impress her Like I couldn't tell you
why he phrases it this way, but it really stuck
out to me, where every other time he's like he
just wants money, and this time he's like, I try
to help him when I.

Speaker 3 (51:11):
Can, you know, try to be again. Yeah, and let's
suspect again.

Speaker 2 (51:17):
In addition to like the I don't think that like
kids have a responsibility to your parents. If you have
money as a parent, I don't think you have a
responsibility to make your kids rich. I think it's actually
terrible for them if you do. But if you base
a cartoon on your son and kind of destroy his
childhood partly as a result of that, you probably do
owe him some of your millions. You should probably give

(51:38):
him some of your riches.

Speaker 3 (51:40):
If I made a comic based off my daughter and
it became like I would feel like I'd have to
put at least some of the money aside for her.

Speaker 2 (51:45):
Yes, I think most people would.

Speaker 3 (51:47):
Because she had no abilit she's sick.

Speaker 2 (51:50):
She can't no to that, and it's gonna affect her
life less now. But like back then, especially like cartoons
being as central as they were to like child culture. Yeah, now,
in that article, that People article by Michael Lipton. There's
a very devastating line where this comes from part of
the interview with Dennis. Quote. Dad can be like a stranger,
counters Dennis, who has never met his two half siblings.

(52:12):
Sometimes I think that if he died tomorrow, I wouldn't
feel anything. That's that's what we call in the narrative business,
a setup. So as soon as he's able to justify it, Hank,
as you've noted, takes a back seat in the production
of his own cartoon. He brings some ghostwriters and artists
to draw it. And I don't think there's anything wrong
with that. Shit.

Speaker 3 (52:31):
No, that's happens.

Speaker 1 (52:32):
You know.

Speaker 2 (52:33):
Behind the Bastards is still a one man shop in
terms of the writing of episodes. But you know, if
I ever got the chance to retire wealthy and have
some some zoomer pretend to be me and use an
AI voice, maybe I've done that already. Maybe you don't know,
You'll never know if it's still me. I mean, you know, Randy, and.

Speaker 3 (52:50):
You know so Bay guys like I could see you.

Speaker 2 (52:52):
Yeah, you can see me. So I don't know. I'm
not gonna I'm not gonna shit talk him on that,
especially since it's not an AI. Actual artists are getting
their stars, are building careers drawing the Dennist the Menace cartoon.

Speaker 3 (53:02):
It is a very common thing throughout this entire industry.
So what's being wrong with that? The only cartoonist I
know of who was very big who refused, lets someone
draws comic with Charles.

Speaker 2 (53:11):
Schultz, Yeah, yeah, Schultz, and obviously in Waterson.

Speaker 3 (53:15):
Yeah, Waterson, yeah, obviously yeah yeah. And Larson, Harry Larson
pretty sure, oh.

Speaker 2 (53:19):
Yeah, yeah yeah yeah. And also like those are guys,
like I think Larson just brought it back. If I'm
not mistaken, he's.

Speaker 3 (53:26):
Book I believe he's doing them yea. And Waterson also
came from a different field. Waterson came from political comics, yes,
and like you can tell for his line work, that's
what he started out as. And I think when you
have political comics like Berkeley Breathe or Gryto, like that's
just not a field that normally has cost artists.

Speaker 1 (53:45):
Got it.

Speaker 2 (53:46):
Yeah, I was a huge Bloom County fan as a
kid too. Didn't understand a lot of the comments about
like fucking the Symbionese Liberation Army and ship the news dropping,
but love that opus.

Speaker 3 (54:00):
He's so fun.

Speaker 2 (54:01):
I love cutter John, Yeah yeah, Bill a cat great stuff.
So yeah, I got no issue with the fact that
he gives up drawing his cartoon gradually. Obviously that makes
sense to me. He does it in favor of spending
his free time painting arts. He depictions of jazz singers
and other like he tries to start a fine art career,

(54:22):
and he would claim later in life that this is
the work he wanted to be remembered by. Dennis the
menace was, he admitted, just a money generator. His art
was what he was really in. Like that that was
the posterity, right, he says, He says in this interview
with s F Gate. Now my painting, that's something else.
My bid to posterity is my paintings. And here's a
painting he did of Jesus.

Speaker 3 (54:43):
I'm gonna hate this, sir.

Speaker 2 (54:44):
I it's it's just weird. It's not bad, it's not bad,
but it's weird.

Speaker 3 (54:51):
What the hell?

Speaker 2 (54:53):
I guess that's hair because it's like on his armpits
and his chest. It looks like he's sticking into him. Yeah,
a little odd, but like, like not bad. I wouldn't say.

Speaker 3 (55:05):
It's definitely it has influences of his It's weird he
doesn't want to remember for his comic because I know
a lot of artists, yeah, who love his line work,
like his line work was very influenced.

Speaker 2 (55:18):
Certainly, I mean he's a good, good darget illustrator. I
certainly I find Dennis the Menace. I can probably recall
the basic animation of that cartoon with my eyes closed.
And I don't think I'll remember this Jesus painting very much.
Yea like bomba?

Speaker 3 (55:34):
Is that Obama Jesus?

Speaker 2 (55:36):
No, he didn't live that long, so he wouldn't have
done it. And here's an untitled painting a bearded man.
This is this one's weirder and untitled painting of a
bearded man in a dog collar reaching for a cigarette
while a dominatrix stands over him.

Speaker 3 (55:49):
What the hell?

Speaker 2 (55:52):
That's a weird painting from the fucking Dennis the Menace guy. Huh.
There's no title to it, so I don't know what
he was going for with this, Like I I it
clearly that's a dominatrix though, right, both of those.

Speaker 3 (56:04):
Dominator Yeah, a pair of dominatrixes dominatrixes.

Speaker 2 (56:08):
Yeah, and the guy's got like a golden or a
bronze collar. He's got like spiked collars around his hands too,
and he's like on his knees grasping for a cigarette.
Someone stepped on it looks like it's weird. It's weird.

Speaker 3 (56:20):
The women were laced up knee high boots. Yeah, it's interesting.

Speaker 2 (56:25):
This is like learning it's bad.

Speaker 3 (56:27):
Yeah, it's like learning one of the creators a Superman
did all that weird bondage and murder.

Speaker 2 (56:31):
Yeah, it's it's definitely odd. It's not what I would
have called for him. It certainly doesn't remind me of
his cartoons. But it's like it's it's competently drawn.

Speaker 3 (56:40):
It it's actually like the composition's nice. I like the
facial structure, like I like the line work.

Speaker 2 (56:47):
I saw it online. I think this was going for
like two hundred bucks, so like it's affordable. If you
want to hank catch him original, you can. You can
probably make that happen for yourself.

Speaker 3 (56:57):
I mean, stuff might not be I mean, I'm sure his.

Speaker 2 (57:00):
Cartoons are price yer, but I don't think there's a
lot of interest in his weird Dominatrix art. So one
of the most interesting articles I ran into on the
Man's Personality was published by the La Times in nineteen
eighty six, and it's got some really good paragraphs. Having
been approached by his fellow cartoonists to join them in
the crusade against hunger and Africa catch them, declined, I

(57:21):
think we have other priorities right here. I prefer to
do everything I can for my neighbors, then the peninsula,
then the state, then the country. My priorities are not overseas, no,
of course, not for God's sake. Like yeah, yeah, a
very standard thing, but worth bringing up just in terms
of like the kind of guy he was. There's a
revealing moment in this article where the journalist is like

(57:42):
looking at his drawing desk in his office and sees
a picture of a little boy on the desk, and
he's like, oh, is that a picture of your son?
Dennis the original Dennis the Menace? And Hanks's answer is, now,
he's forty, now doing his own thing. We don't communicate
that much. So who's the five year old in the picture?

Speaker 3 (57:59):
That's me?

Speaker 2 (58:00):
Now? Does he look like a menace? Nice chunky little fella?
Future Republican fella future grumpy old man. God, what a
weird What a weird thing to say we like of
yourself for the cartoon that you draw about your kid
who you abandoned. A little weird. Yeah, so, I don't know.

(58:20):
You can have whatever opinion on his fine art you want,
but time has shown pretty clearly that he is not
going to be remembered for that. He will be remembered
for both Dennis the Menace and being a bad dad.
Hank himself died in two thousand and one, and his
first son, the original Dennist the Menace, did not attend
his funeral.

Speaker 3 (58:36):
Nor would he Like do we know what he's doing now?
Is he okay?

Speaker 2 (58:39):
I haven't heard much. I haven't heard anything about him
in the last few years. I mean, he would be
pretty old at this point. If he's still around, I
wish him the best. Uh maybe depending on what happened
with his teenage daughter. I guess I don't know fully,
but yeah, the dad didn't help with that, I'll tell
you that much.

Speaker 3 (58:57):
I mean, like, you're abandoned by your family, like your
mom was probably not really present, your dad ditches you.
Then you go to fucking Vietnam. M Well, first of noo,
then you're gonna send your your mom dies, you don't
find out, your dad remarries, moves you across the world,
gets mad you're not learning a new language. When you're
having trouble learning, his new wife says and on one

(59:21):
and you get sent away that marriage doesn't even fucking
work out. Then you go in the Marines, serve in
a war that's fucking horrible. Come back to all that hate,
because let's be honest, I'm sure he was not treated
real well when he got back, and the government kind
of forgot about you, just like your dad did. There's

(59:41):
just so much pain and sadness there.

Speaker 2 (59:43):
Yeah, it's uh.

Speaker 1 (59:45):
And all people do is associate you with a cartoon
version of yourself that h from a dad who didn't
know you.

Speaker 3 (59:52):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you know, your dad built an
entire world off you. There's there's been so as movies,
there were cartoon shows. I mean when I was a kid,
Dennis Lamas was like a Dairy Queen mascot.

Speaker 2 (01:00:07):
Yeah, yeah, he's a d Q kid. And it's yeah
to think that, like from the perspective of Dennis the
real boy, the only moment where his dad paid attention
to him. Was that moment his mom yelled at him
that inspired the comic, and that was all his dad
needed from him and his entire life.

Speaker 3 (01:00:23):
That is as a that's bleak.

Speaker 1 (01:00:29):
I wonder if the author of Gone Girl got inspired
by this story when she wrote, Uh, look you know,
do you know? Do you know that what I'm talking about?
Anyone isn't that?

Speaker 3 (01:00:41):
Yeah?

Speaker 1 (01:00:41):
Yeah, So the the main the main female characters entire
life was her. Her mom wrote books called the Amazing
Amy and it was inspired by her. Remember that. And
I just wonder if the author I think the author's
name is gil Flynn. I just wonder if the maybe

(01:01:04):
there's a lot of parallels there.

Speaker 2 (01:01:07):
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised. Well, everybody that's behind the bastards, Randy,
where can people find you? Online?

Speaker 3 (01:01:15):
Probably crying in a corner for a while after that
goddamn story. Yeah, I guess I shouldn't be complaining. I
don't get brought on for the dying baby episodes, so
that's that's nice.

Speaker 2 (01:01:28):
Just the traumatized child episodes.

Speaker 3 (01:01:32):
An awful cartoon, which is a lot. I can't wait
to come back for l Cap or the guy who
did Annie. He was a piece of shit too something
Positive dot net. That is the comic Gun drawings in
two thousand and one. I also draw the Sunday Popeye
strips as well as the Thursday all of them Popeye comics.
I also do a comic called mouse Trap, which you
can find out mouse Trap Comic top Blog.

Speaker 2 (01:01:54):
Well check all that out, folks, and uh go to Hell.

Speaker 3 (01:01:58):
I Love you.

Speaker 1 (01:02:02):
Behind the Bastards is a production of cool Zone Media.
For more from cool Zone Media, visit our website Coolzonemedia
dot com, or check us out on the iHeartRadio app,
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