Sometimes in today’s world, we wonder about the arts. So often now, art seems to carry a political message, including even in the American comic strip found in newspapers.

Yet, there are those artists and writers who continue to see art simply as a reflection of life, and sometimes even faith.

Ron Ferdinand, the artist for the“Dennis the Menace” Sunday strips, is one of those. 

NMCV: Tell us a little about yourself, Ron. Where did you grow up?

Ron: I was born in Manhattan and moved to Queens, NY when I was seven.

NMCV:  Did you enjoy reading newspaper comics as a kid? What were your favorites?

Ron: I loved reading the comics as a kid. Every Saturday night I’d run down to the candy store and wait for the Sunday NY Daily News to be delivered. The color comics section was the wrap-around. There was Dick Tracy in all of his glory! My favorites were Dennis, of course, and Peanuts, Pogo,Gasoline Alley and Rick O’Shay to name a few.

NMCV::  Have you always wanted to be a cartoonist?

Ron: I always loved cartoons of every kind (Disney, Warner Brothers, MAD Magazine). I was always drawing on the corners of every magazine and notebook. I really couldn’t stop drawing.

NMCV:  How did you get the job working on Dennis the Menace?

Ron: I subscribed to a quarterly magazine called “Cartoonist Profiles.” In 1980, there was an interview with Hank Ketcham. He had just moved back to Monterey, CA from Geneva, Switzerland and was starting a training program. I sent him a few sketches of the characters and amazingly, he liked them.

We corresponded for a few months then he flew me out to Monterey for two weeks to see how things would go. After the two weeks he offered me a job and a month later my wife, Andrea, and I headed for our new adventures in California.

NMCV:  What are your duties?

Ron: Originally, I was working on the Dennis comic book for Marvel. A year later, Hank started me on the Sunday page which I continue to do.

NMCV: What do you like most about your job?

Ron: I still love drawing the various characters and situations. They are so beautifully designed. Hank’s son, Scott, has become involved now. He’s inherited his father’s talent and creativity. Its exciting for us to keep Dennis fresh and faithful to Hank’s vision.

NMCV: You are a cartoonist known for having faith in Jesus Christ. Can you tell us about your faith and how it impacts your life?

Ron: Having grown up reading the works of such devout Christians as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and seeing what their Christian faith produced in their lives, I’ve always tried to follow their lead. Many people think of faith as a hindrance to creativity but I see it as just the opposite.

NMCV: Dennis remains a pretty iconic figure after 68 years in print, along with his appearances in movies and on TV. How do you account for his popularity?

Ron: Hank Ketcham was a genius. Hank was a creatively restless spirit. He was always challenging himself. There are a host of cartoonists, current and older, who list Hank as one of their main inspirations. His work just gets better with time. Scott, Marcus and I are trying to carry that mantle into the future.

NMCV: What are you most thankful for after years of working on this popular comic?

Ron: I am most thankful for having worked personally with Hank for 15 years in California. It was a cartoonist’s dream come true.

Artwork Ron created for the Classic Comics Museum exhibit at Wellington Farm USA, just south of Grayling.
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Kurt J. Kolka grew up in the small community of Grayling, Mich., near the forested AuSable River. After majoring in English at college, he began a career in writing and newspapers spanning more than two decades. In his spare time he creates a Christian comic strip, The Cardinal, which has a 28-year history of publication. He has also authored a book, “Bullying is No Laughing Matter” (Front Edge Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich., 2014) and is working on his first novel. Kurt and his wife Diane have been married for more than 25 years and have one daughter, Rebekah, and an overprotective dog, Alli. Of life, Kurt says, “Life is never dull with God at the steering wheel, but, man, does He have a lead foot!” More about Kurt and his musings may be found at www.betweenthepines.org.

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