when an editor questioned the authenticity of teen-age chatter in “The Jackson Twins,” new McNaught syndicate comic. Cartoonist Dick Brooks took the matter to authorities. He got the teenagers of the Westport, Conn. high school journalism class to take a look at his work.
They gave him a better than passing grade: they found little fault with the tone of the strip, thought the slang words for the first four weeks were 85% okay.
But the cartoonist’s philological findings were rather startling in some cases:
You might have guessed that “Wallflower,” that well worn term for unpopular misses, is pretty well done for. Modern teens would say: “She’s strictly for the birds,” or “She’s a deadpan.”
But “glamourpuss” seemed to Mr. Brooks a fairly sprightly handle. Teens didn’t agree. They prefer: “She’s a doll,” “She’s sharp,” or “She’s a queen.” “He’s a square” may sound more up-to-date to you than “He’s a pill.” But the Westport gang holds out for the medicinal overtones.
And “Jeepers,” an expression you might think comprises 50% of the average teen’s vocabulary if you listen to radio much, is strictly for the birds, according to older teens. A 12, 13 or 14-year-old might say “Jeepers,” but a 17-year-old probably wouldn’t.
Trend Away from Cuteness
Westport teenagers and others at Bridgeport and Norwalk high schools passed up “Corny” for “Crummy,” and “Buzz me” for “Give me a ring.” They suggested “Momps” might be a little too cute an appellation for mother. In fact, Mr. Brooks thought he detected a trend away from cute, gimmicky talk.
The Westport cartoonist has made some changes as a direct result of the teen advice; but he hasn’t followed suggestions blindly. He’s a crotchety old antiquarian of a little over 30, and sometimes thinks he knows best.
Mr. Brooks also had to veto some advice from real-life Toni twins, Jane and Janet Leigh of Port Chester, N. Y. who were on hand at the syndicate the other day for some promotion pictures. Some of the strip action involved jealousy between Jan and Jill Jackson, the teen age twins. (“Tweens,” Mr. Brooks calls them.) The Leighs say identical twins wouldn’t be jealous of each other—one wouldn’t mind if the other went out with her beau, etc.
“But heck, I’ve got to have competition for story purposes,” says Mr. Brooks.
The Leighs, who appeared in the Toni ads and went on an extensive Toni tour, have been valuable in giving other pointers, however. And it seems they’re a special type of twins that just happens in one out of four sets of identical twins. They’re mirror twins: the right side of one’s face matches the left side of the other’s face.
Mr. Brooks, besides being an avid researcher on tweens, seems to have gotten his daily and Sunday comic off to a good beginning. It first appeared Nov. 27, and several large-city newspapers used it.
Mr. Brooks studied sculpture, life drawing, landscape painting before he taught himself cartooning evenings. He sold his first newspaper feature—a weekly half page drawing summing up the local news in cartoons—to the late Boston Evening Transcript in 1940.
While serving in the Navy in WWII, he drew and wrote a book “Elmer Squee,” the saga of a timid little Naval recruit. He served for a year as Bob Montana’s assistant on “Archie,” McClure’s teen-age comic.
He believes he’s unique in having a strip about identical twins who are girls. (Several boy-and-girl twin sets are in comics). And the Westport cartoonist has a goal of not patronizing his teen-age subjects. In fact, he has a healthy respect for the age group: “You’ve got to be on your toes to get up in front of them to talk,” he says with a bit of awe in his voice.