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Comic Strip / PreTeena

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Teena (centre). clockwise from top: Tess (mom),Stick (BFF), Gordo (friend), Hugh (dad) and Jeri (sister).

Allison Barrows' Slice of Life account of the Keene family of New England. Hugh and Tess Keene are freelance artists with two daughters. The family dynamic is most often viewed through the eyes of eleven year old Teena (the PreTeena of the title), although the other principal characters are allowed their points of view. A newspaper comic strip about parenting, growing up, and family dynamics.

This comic strip was first syndicated on newspapers starting from April 23, 2001, and ended its run at May 18, 2008, ending with a little over seven years of material, including reruns. The artist's reasoning for ending the run at that time was to attend to the needs of her son and daughter, who were at that time entering high school and college respectively.

The archive of this comic strip can be found here.


This newspaper comic strip contains examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Jeri really wants to be one and gets most of the way there, as is seen in her dismissive treatment of Stick. But she is let down by a well-concealed streak of basic human decency that surfaces at the most inconvenient moments.
  • Author Avatar: Compare the way Tess Keene is drawn to pictures of Allison Barrows. There is a definite similarity. Allison is also a mother of daughters based in New England. Tess is a professional artist...
  • Bilingual Bonus: Stick and her family sometimes use a little Yiddish. One of Teena's grandmothers is Lithuanian. It is revealed that Teena and Jeri both speak a little Lithuanian from her.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Most of the characters, most of the time. Only the key character in the foreground usually has fully realised eyes.
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  • Black and Nerdy: Gordo's friend, Goose, which is short for Augustus.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Jeri, and her friends Kim and Tracey.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Jeri. Although in one story arc, Teena and Jeri's grandmother reveals that Tess Keene was one too, as a teenager.
  • Bumbling Dad: Hugh Keene.
  • The Ditz: Jeri Keene.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Teena Keene.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The story arc where Jeri's friends Kim and Tracey are caught smoking behind the football field scoreboard.
  • Fear of Thunder: Tess Keene manifests this fear. While her daughter and her friends would happily go out to play in a thunderstorm and will sit discussing the cool noise and light show, Tess hides under the kitchen table.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Johnson Pinecone only becomes attractive to Jeri after he seemingly stops chasing her and starts - apparently - going out with the gorgeous Candy. In reality this is holding out Schmuck Bait to get Jeri chasing him.
  • Forced into Their Sunday Best; Teena and Jeri, whose parents ensure they are regular churchgoers. Teena does not like dressing girly; Jeri does not like dressing conservatively. One strip has the girls lamenting the fact other people can get away with dressing extremely casually for church.
  • Gasshole: Stick's burping skills have been mentioned on occasion, and demonstrated once or twice.
  • Grand Finale: In the final week of this comic, Teena had a dream on the future of the main cast, excluding her parents. Stick becomes a model, Jeri becomes a best-selling author, Johnson becomes a movie star, Goose becomes an inventor of see-through glasses and got rich because of that, while Gordo grew up to marry his college sweetheart and had children, which happens to be Teena herself. According to Teena, that is the best part of the dream.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: At a pool party, Tess Keene comforts daughter Jeri when Jeri sees the new girl in town looks far better in a swimming costume than she does - and is getting on very well with Jeri's would-be boyfriend Johnson. Tess cheerfully tells her daughter this is one of those things, and we all have to face it sometime. Then she looks round and sees Candy's mother looks good in a bikini. The scene cuts to Tess and Jeri sitting miserably at the poolside, wrapped in blankets and miserably sharing a very large tub of ice-cream.
  • Hippie Parent: Tess and Hugh are professional artists who work form home and Hugh especially has a streak of laid-back Hippe Dad about him.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Johnson Pinecone. Who despite being illustrated as the sort of alpha-male teen boy any teen girl would adore (and they do!) - depicted as intelligent, caring, gentle, very good-looking - still does not meet Jeri's impossibly high standards. She frequently rebuffs him, but it doesn't stop him trying.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Jeri Keene.
  • Informed Judaism; Ambiguously Jewish: Teena's friend Sabra Klein (Stick) who is stated to be Jewish, observes festivals such as Hanukah and Pesach, but still loves a ham sandwich.
  • Insane Troll Logic; Stick. Strange Minds Think Alike applies when Teena follows her friend's train of thought to its illogical destination.
  • Overprotective Dad: Hugh Keene, who finds any sign of his daughters being interested in boys is hard to deal with.
  • The Perfectionist: Jeri. Her boyfriend requirements set the bar impossibly high.
  • Playing Sick: Teena tries this - once - to escape a school test she hasn't prepared for. Jeri does this sort of thing all the time, but Teena's conscience gets the better of her.
  • Preacher's Kid: Johnson Pinecone.
  • Romantic False Lead: Candy.
  • Series Continuity Error: Teena's homeroom teacher is first introduced as Mrs Scott. She abruptly becomes Mrs Freeman with no explanation. In addition, Jeri appeals to the authority of an unseen person called Mrs Freeman to stop Johnson Pinecone throwing things at her (paper aeroplanes, and later the threat of ballistic food in the school canteen). But Jeri and Johnson attend a high school; Teena is in the top class in elementary. Her Mrs. Freeman might have been a canteen supervisor and not a teacher?
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Teena is good-hearted, cheery and tomboyish. Jeri is cold-hearted, moody and girly-girly. Teena also still wants to be a good student in school, while Jeri doesn't care about that stuff anymore.
    • The McBride family (with the odd twin daughters) apparently move out from next door in mid-2006. But in mid-2007, Tess casually says to Jeri, when she has to sit through Teena's illness, that if anything she can't handle turns up, she can call on Mrs mcBride next door for assistance.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Johnson to Jeri, until he wises up. She misses him when he suddenly isn't there any more.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": It is revealed that the sisters Jeri and Teena Keene were actually christened Geraldine and Christina. Jeri, having just heard the names of her four great-grandmothers note  and learning she and her sister were named after two of them, asks "Oh. So which ones were we named for?"
  • Sudden Name Change: Mrs. Scott becoming Mrs. Freeman.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Teena is not that interested in her looks or clothes (she mostly wears a plain white t-shirt and blue jeans) and has a rather short haircut. And that is enough for the twins next door to keep mistaking her for a boy. Jeri on the other hand is a wannabe Alpha Bitch with a more "girly" look (including a more feminine wardrobe, long hair, ear-rings and make-up).
  • Women Are Wiser: Tess Keene's handling of her daughters. But sometimes this misfires.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: here.

Alternative Title(s): Pre Teena