Although it ran in newspapers for twenty years, 1944 to 1964, “Teena” is one of the forgotten comic strips of the 20th century, but thanks to Hilda Terry’s light touch and her understanding of how teenagers exist in the world — her lanky young characters, even when seated, are constantly changing positions, twisting, stretching their legs, putting their feet up, gesturing, and so on — it still has a freshness that some other, more celebrated strips, do not. Yes, Terry’s visual style in these early “Teena” Sundays is strongly reminiscent of the work of Gluyas Williams, but it wasn’t long before she developed a much looser style that was all her own. What follows is a sequence of strips that ran on four consecutive weekends in April 1949; the strips were scanned, by me, from Terry’s self-published autobiography, Strange Bod Fellows, so the repro quality is not the best:
It’s amazing to me that such charming, attractive, readable work is not available in affordable reprint editions. Yes, the gender divisions light-heartedly depicted in these particular examples are a little out of date; nonetheless, it seems to me that “Teena” would have tremendous appeal to fans of Little Lulu, Archie Comics, Harvey Comics, Nipper, Blondie, etc. — all of which have experienced a recent resurgence of interest and are in the process being systematically reprinted for new generations of readers.
For those unfamiliar with Hilda Terry’s career, here it is in a nutshell:
Hilda Terry was born on 15 June 1914. In addition to drawing “Teena” for twenty years, Terry sold numerous single-panel cartoons to The Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker, and other coveted markets. In 1950, she became the first woman allowed to join the National Cartoonists Society, which up until that point had only allowed male cartoonists to join, and she became a vocal advocate for other women to follow in her footsteps. She was a pioneer of early computer animation. She received the Animation Award from the National Cartoonists Society in 1979. She taught at the Art Students League well past usual the age of retirement. She was elected to the Friends of Lulu Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame in 2001. She died 13 October 2006, at the age of 92.
“If you do a comic strip, you don’t want it to be forgotten.” — Hilda Terry, MoCCA 2006, as reported by The Beat.