University of the Arts London
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A Tale Of Two Menaces

posted on 2023-04-27, 10:46 authored by Mark HibbettMark Hibbett

This dataset was collected in order to test the validity of a unified catalogue of transmedia character components by using it to compare the British and American characters who share the name 'Dennis The Menace'. 

Both characters are young boys and, in one of the comics world's greatest coincidences, both first appeared on the same day, 12 March 1951. DC Thomson’s character Dennis The Menace is the star of the UK's longest running comic The Beano. The Beano remains a British institution, first published in 1938 and a part of British cultural life ever since. The American Dennis was created by Hank Ketcham, based on his own son, and has been a popular syndicated newspaper strip as well as being adapted into comic books, a TV sitcom and several movies.

The catalogue was originally developed as part of an analysis of the Marvel Comics character Doctor Doom. The analysis of Doctor Doom showed that the catalogue could be used as a tool for mapping the coherence of this character as they moved across time and media. The analysis of the two menaces was conducted firstly to see whether the tool would work for other characters, and secondly to see whether it could be used for different purposes - in this case, comparing two characters within similar media types, rather one character across different media. 

A total of 16 texts were selected for this analysis, eight for each Dennis. Texts were selected by choosing random dates at seven yearly intervals and then identifying the strips closest to that date. For the UK Dennis strips were taken from the closest weekly issue of The Beano, while for the American Dennis the closest Sunday strip was analysed. The Sunday strip was used because it featured a narrative over several panels and so was closer in style to the British series than the single panel daily version.

Each text in the sample was examined for signifiers to do with the main character. The data was recorded using a unified catalogue of transmedia character components which brought together aspects of the models devised by Pearson and Uricchio, Klastrup and Tosca, Marie-Laurie Ryan, Paolo Bertetti and Matthew Freeman within a framework based on Jan-Noël Thon's ideas of Transmedia Character Networks that extends Henry Jenkin's formulation of 'transmedia' in line with Scolari, Bertetti and Freeman's Transmedia Archaeology. Where gaps were identified within these definitions, specifically around the area of 'behaviour', additional definitions were brought in using the psycholexical approach, the Big Five Index, and the idea of character motivations from creative writing practice. Where necessary the components were re-named for clarity, and finally were placed into groups based on Matthew Freeman's classification of transmedia, with 'behaviour' extracted into a group of its own.


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