Dicky and Nicky (or is it Nicky and Dicky?). Artist: Dik Browne.

THE TRACY TWINS

Medium: Magazine comics
Published in: Boy's Life
First Appeared: 1950
Creator: Dik Browne
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When the creations or co-creations of popular and critically-acclaimed cartoonist Dik Browne (1917-1989) are tallied up, two things are always listed — Hi & Lois, which he did with Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey, Sam's Strip) and Hagar the Horrible, which he did on his own for King Features Syndicate (Popeye, Prince Valiant) Usually omitted are Ginny the Jeep (a World War II toon like Milton Caniff's …

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Male Call and Bill Ward's Torchy, only not as enduring), Chiquita Banana (an advertising icon that's achieved some degree of name recognition) and The Tracy Twins (a feature of Boy's Life magazine, like Mal Eaton's Rocky Stoneaxe and Al Stenzel's Space Conquerors). And yet the latter, at least, played a pivotal role in the advancement of Browne's cartooning career.

During the late 1940s, Browne worked for Johnstone & Cushing, the advertising company that specialized in ads in comics form, to run in the Sunday Funnies section. Their then-famous work included Mr. Coffee Nerves (no relation) (who pushed Sanka, a coffee substitute) and Peter Pain (Ben-Gay). In addition to Chiquita, what Browne did there included a major updating of Grace Drayton's Campbell Kids, who, modernized several times since, lasted until well into the 21st century.

In 1950, Johnstone & Cushing contracted to create a comics section for Boy's Life, the official magazine of The Boy Scouts of America. (The Boy Scouts' impact on comics goes back to what is probably the first serious adventure daily in newspapers.) The new section had contributions from several of Johnstone & Cushing's cartoonists, such as Eaton, Stenzel and Joe King (who contributed Kam of the Ancient Ones). Dik Browne's was The Tracy Twins.

The Tracys' broad appeal was that there wasn't anything special about them, except for being twins. Every boy in suburban America could identify with them. They were kids with a family, living in a neighborhood and going to school. Their names were Dicky and Nicky. They participated in Scout activities, but in Boy's Life that was de rigeuer. Scouting wasn't the point of the series, like it was with Percy Fitzhugh's contribution, Pee Wee Harris.

One day, Sylvan Byck, editor of King Features, thumbed through a copy of Boy's Life while waiting for a dentist, liked The Tracy Twins, and noted Browne's name. The Tracys also came to the attention of Mort Walker, who was preparing to spin off Beetle Bailey's sister and brother-in-law, Hi and Lois Flagston, into their own comic. When Walker and Byck met to decide on an artist for the new strip (Walker planned to write it), Dik Browne's name was at the top of both lists.

Hi & Lois started in 1954. Browne kept up his work for Johnstone & Cushing, including Dicky and Nicky (no relation, by the way), for years, but eventually had to lighten his load. His involvement with The Tracy Twins ended in 1960.

— DDM

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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Boy's Life.