ICv2 Stars: 4 (out of 5)
Posted by Brigid Alverson on November 14, 2017 @ 5:08 am CT
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Creator: Fred Toole (writer), Al Wiseman and Owen Fitzgerald (artists)
Format: 192 pgs., Full-Color, Hardcover
Age Rating: 7+
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
This book consists of a reprint of the first printing of Dennis in Hawaii (a.k.a. Dennis the Menace Giant #6), a 100-page comic with stories, puzzles, and other extras, with copious front and back matter that is fascinating reading for collectors and Dennis aficionados—but the kids will probably skip over.
The comic itself is fun, if a bit dated—this edition is from 1958, before Hawaii was a state. Dennis and his parents take a trip around Hawaii, visiting Pearl Harbor, a volcano, a luau, and other tourist attractions. Dennis’s antics wear a bit thin in a comic book, as opposed to the single-panel newspaper cartoons. It’s pretty much a one-joke comic: Dennis misunderstands something in a humorous way, his father becomes exasperated, repeat ad infinitum.
Nonetheless, the comic is an entertaining period piece, presenting the bits and pieces of Hawaii that we all know from popular culture—luaus, leis, hula dancing, volcanoes. The story briefly turns serious when the Mitchells tour Pearl Harbor (part of which could not be shown, according to the text, for security reasons), and the creators also depict real Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers, so there’s some authenticity to it. Mostly it’s just good, clean, 1958-style fun, though. (A later Dennis in Hawaii comic from 1969 is also included.)
The rest of the book documents the creation of this and other Dennis the Menace comic books, through photos, interviews, old newspaper articles, sketches, other bits and pieces. Dennis creator Hank Ketcham actually sent Wiseman and Toole on a trip to Hawaii to research the comic (boy, those were the days!) and editor Bill Alger interviewed Ketcham, as well as Wiseman’s first wife and Toole’s widow, about the creation of the Dennis comic books, Ketcham’s studio, and the various trips the creators took to research comics about Mexico, London, and Europe as well as Hawaii.
Alger seems to have assembled this book more than edited it. The interviews are choppy and sometimes repetitious, and the "introduction" by Mark Arnold is actually a series of paragraphs drawn from Arnold’s book, Pocket Full of Dennis, giving the chronology of every printing and variant of the Dennis in Hawaii comics. In the end, Dennis in Hawaii comes across like the scrapbook of a devoted fan, a collection of information about the creators and the act of creation, with the comic itself serving as a centerpiece.