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LONDON (Reuters) - Dennis the Menace, one of Britain's most popular comic strip characters, turned 60 on Thursday with President Barack Obama firmly in his mischievous sights.
The spiky-haired cartoon character who made his debut in "The Beano" back in 1951, will celebrate by starring in a stage show, giving readers catapults and pea shooters -- his trademark weapons for executing pranks -- and meeting the U.S. leader in a special anniversary edition.
"President Obama visits Beanotown with the normal security entourage and Dennis and (his canine sidekick) Gnasher have a bit of a laugh at his expense," Beano editor Mike Stirling told Reuters on Thursday.
He said Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband also featured in the issue, with things descending into chaos when they try to make Obama feel welcome by cooking him lunch in a cross-party initiative called "Operation Hotdog."
"Dennis doesn't like people who take themselves too seriously and sometimes politicians fall into this category... We hope the politicians take it in the spirit that it is intended," Stirling said.
Some 160,000 fans read about Dennis' antics in The Beano every week and the comic creation is also the subject of an animated cartoon television series, which Stirling said had been broadcast in the U.S. and all of mainland Europe.
Asked why the comic creation clad in a red and black striped jumper remained so popular 60 years after he was first sketched on the back of a cigarette packet, Stirling said he thought Dennis' accessibility was key.
"He doesn't have any superpowers or wear crazy costumes so any child can think they are Dennis and execute their mischief vicariously through the character," he said, adding that parents also liked the stories because they always had a moral.
"Dennis' bad behavior does have consequences -- they are all amusing consequences but he doesn't just get his own way, he gets his comeuppance," Stirling said.
Editing by Steve Addison