Friday, February 11, 2011
Name Of The Beast!
The success of Hank Ketcham's Dennis the Menace brought on a predictable wave of imitators, all with various and sundry names. The Atlas version dubbed "Melvin the Monster" was one. The beautiful cover above by Joe Maneely catches that Ketchamesque feel wonderfully while still maintaining a particular unique character which is distinctly Maneely.
Marvel brought out these stories in reprint at the very beginning of the Bronze Age, but for some reason changed Melvin's name to "Peter the Little Pest". I guess that name seemed less robust and so less potentially offensive. The title was even called "Petey" for one issue, a name even less vivid. (I have the lame notion somehow when I see these that they might interpreted by some archiving Marveloid someday as the boyhood adventures of Peter Parker.)
But the "Peter the Pest" name sure is less potentially toxic than what Atlas changed Melvin's name to in the last issue of the original run. Here the tyke gets called "Dexter the Demon". Yikes!
Comparing the two covers above, you can see how Melvin/Dexter/Peter changed, not only in name, but in demeanor over the decades. Somehow the idea of what kids were seems to have undergone a fundamental adjustment, shifting from threatening to cute.
UPDATE: Sleestak brought this up and I think the point is very well taken. Is this the face of Peter the Pest all grown up?
Although I find no indication of it on the official websites regarding Henry Peter Gyrich's history, I think it's a very compelling and interesting theory. His desire for secrecy might explain the myriad names associated with this past and Gyrich sure deserves the description of "Monster", "Demon", and "Pest" if any character in the Marvel Universe does.