Bart Simpson was hardly the first little-boy prankster hero of cartoons--check out "Dickey Dont" at my comic blog.
Also, "A Furtive Look Back at the Seebackroscope," and a number of late 19th century magazine "montages" (forerunners of comic book layouts). Lee sez, check it out.
Link: Lee's Comic Rack.
Montage from the May 12, 1887 Youth's Companion (above).