My grandfather, Al Wiseman, was the ghost cartoonist who did the great majority of cartooning for the Dennis the Menace comic book series, for 18 years (the only one of which giving him credit was the Golden Book titled, “Dennis the Menace waits for Santa Claus”). I will post an image of the credits from the book that I own, on his bio page, here on the official website maintained by and for the family name.
The story my mom always shared was that my grandfather made a deal with Hank – they agreed that, whomever could come up with an idea for a strip first, the other would be his ghost. They shook hands on it over a golf game, apparently.
Out of integrity, based on nothing more than a handshake, Al Wiseman apparently turned down a million dollar offer that came in about the same time as the idea hit, from the Golden State milk company (photo below). Interestingly, I recall hearing that it was Hank’s wife, Alice, who actually deserved the credit for coming up with the strip idea – the story I always heard was that their son inspired her to say something to the effect of, “Hank…your son Dennis is a menace!” And the rest, as they say, was history.
While my mom says Al Wiseman was a “cartoonist’s cartoonist” and the industry well knew of him (and still does, today), the public has, in large, failed to learn of his involvement (or that of my “Uncle Fred” Toole, who did the writing – as an aside, it was always a fun thing for us kids to note how we had an Aunt Millie and Uncle Ed and an Aunt Molly and Uncle Fred!).
It’s also my understanding that Al Wiseman came up with the images, drawing, meticulously, from life (not just for the series, but for the ad work he did, which was also prolific – more on that later). For instance, the face of Dennis was inspired from the beautiful face of my Uncle Jim Wiseman. Uncle Jim, as you can see, was the spitting image of Dennis and an absolute DOLL!
Speaking of a doll, my girlfriend, Michelle Easterson, recently purchased for me (from a local swap meet on L.A.) a 1958 Dennis The Menace Doll.
He has his original overalls, minus the shirt. It was such a thrill to receive such a thoughtful gift from a friend.
Al Wiseman also drew Ruff (white dog in chair, below) from my mom’s dog by the same name. My mom gave to me the studio shot to post. Again, you can see the obvious resemblance to the image created for the cartoon strip.
As an aside, my mom has always spoken with a great deal of feeling about her dog, Ruff.
Ruff was the dog that followed her home and, no matter how she tried to discourage him, he remained at her side, loyal and loving to a child who had been having a particularly bad day. Ruff was a wonderful companion. One of the stories I always loved hearing was about how he would show up, to walk her home, from the Carmel Woods School (where I, too, went to elementary – now, it’s the elementary, Robert Louis Stevenson). Apparently, Ruff knew just when to arrive and was there, daily, without fail, to walk her home.
As promised, here’s a piece of evidence i was given, of one little bit of credit, where my grandfather was listed. Also, you may have noticed the background on the site – it was taken from a poster my mother gave me; a poster he used to advertise his freelance cartooning services. Of course, that has his name peppered throughout, as well.
I look forward to updating the site on behalf of Al Wiseman’s legacy. His children, grandchildren and now, great grandchildren deserve to have a resource of their own, to access, where they can be reminded of the quality of work he put into the world. May it inspire us all to dream – to create – to use our gifts as we are intended to use them. For wherever we may fall short, we may also succeed in doing something to inspire others – to do better – to create and contribute to others in the world, to reach their own, highest degree of potential.
© 2012 Aliza Wiseman, All Rights Reserved.