My grandfather, Al Wiseman, was the ghost cartoonist who developed and illustrated Dennis the Menace, working alongside with my “Uncle Fred” Toole who wrote copy.

Despite his more than 18 years of work on the strip, the only book that I know of in which he was publicly recognized was in the credits of a Golden Book titled, “Dennis the Menace waits for Santa Claus”

The story my mom shares  is that her father and Hank Ketcham made a deal over a handshake on the golf course one day. The deal was this: whomever got the idea for a strip first, the other would be his ghost.

According to my mom, it was Hank’s wife, Alice, who most deserved credit for coming up with the strip because it was their own son, Dennis, that inspired Alice to  one day remark, “Hank…your son Dennis is a menace!”  And the rest, as they say, is history…

So, based on nothing more than a handshake, Al Wiseman turned down a million dollar offer that came in about the same time as this idea hit, from the Golden State milk company (see photo of an ad he illustrated for them under the “Illustration” tab).

Dennis The Menace - Uncle Jim Wiseman PhotoYet, this story behind how the #1 best selling comic book in American history came about is not widely known, leaving ghosts like Wiseman to haunt the hallowed halls of cartooning enthusiasts, artists, illustrators and advertising industry buffs. To such individuals, my grandfather is well known as one of the industry’s great masters – a “cartoonist’s cartoonist.”

Al Wiseman developed the illustrations for the strip from inception. He came up with the illustration for the strip’s main character, Dennis, along with many others, by drawing as he did in all of his advertising and other illustrative work – by drawing meticulously from life.  Just here on the left is the real face of Dennis the Menace!

Uncle Jim Wiseman and Hank Ketcham in Pebble Beach for Dennis The MenaceThe image of Dennis was inspired from the fresh young face of my uncle, Jim Wiseman.  Uncle Jim, as you can see, was the spitting image of Dennis and an absolute DOLL!

The above photo and the photo to the left were studio shots taken on the Monterey Peninsula. Early on, the powers that be wanted to cast my uncle Jim in the role of Dennis for the television show based on the popular comic strip. The photo to the left shows Hank Ketcham walking with my uncle Jim in Pebble Beach, California. Ultimately, Jim chose not to play Dennis, leaving this as yet one more special image for the family archives!

Al Wiseman also drew Dennis’ dog from my mom’s dog of the same name – Ruff (studio shot  below). Dennis The Menace - Al Wiseman drew Ruff from my mom's dog by the same nameRuff was the dog that followed my mom home on a day that wasn’t going so well, when she was a young child.  No matter how hard she tried to discourage him, he remained by her side, all the way home, loyal and loving that day and every day that followed. One story I loved hearing was about how Ruff knew just what time school let out and, each day, he would show up to walk her home from Carmel Woods School (where her children, too, went to elementary school).

As time permits, more photos, information and anecdotes wll be added. I welcome others who knew my grandfather and/or have followed his work to contribute, as well.

My hope is that this official site maintained by and for the family name will come to serve as resource and reminder of the character and quality of Al Wiseman’s signature work that has so contributed to industry archives and American culture alike.

© 2012 Aliza Wiseman, All Rights Reserved.