Launching in the pages of the October 4, 1931 Detroit Mirror, Chester Gould‘s hard-boiled detective comic strip Dick Tracy has ran in both daily and Sunday newspapers for over eighty years under the stewardship of several talented writers and artists. The tough cop with the yellow trenchcoat, 2-way wrist radio, and a nose and chin of the same sharp shape has taken on villainous underworld grotesques who were deformed both inside and out. The comic strip has inspired a radio series, movie serials, live-action and animated television shows, and feature films spanning from the late 1940s to the summer of 1990 when Warren Beatty directed the big-budget adventure Dick Tracy for Disney and starred as Gould’s iconic crime-fighter.
Tracy may not have had the impact on popular culture as his four-color contemporaries from DC and Marvel Comics, but his exploits in the funny papers have demonstrated a remarkable staying power that shows no signs of letting up. As evidence of this IDW Publishing has been releasing hardcover volumes collecting each and every one of the Dick Tracy comic strips in fully restored reprints. The latest volume finds us in the early years of the baby boomer era in The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy Volume 15: 1953-1954.
Gould wrote and drew the strip until Christmas Day 1977, and acclaimed mystery novelist Max Allen Collins took over writing duties the very next day. Collins wrote a six-page introduction to this latest volume of reprints where he discusses the period of fallow creativity from Gould that kicked off Tracy’s Cold War-era adventures but also how the comic strips presented here also showed Gould coming up with some of the darkest and most brutal tales of his career. When I was in middle school Dick Tracy was released to theaters and seeing it made me a fan of the character and comics. Gladstone Publishing, a company that went out of business in 1993, licensed many of the original Tracy strips and published them in comic book form around the same time as the movie. I became a rabid fan of the comics and even tried to teach myself to draw comics in Gould’s style. I wasn’t into superhero comics at the time so the deformed villains and out-sized action was like catnip to my impressionable young mind.
The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy Volume 15: 1953-1954 delivers the fights, chases, close calls, violent ends, and characters with memorably goofy names fans of the strip long came to expect from Gould. We are reintroduced to Little Wingy – the child of a radioactive father, as well as Dr. Von Nucleus, Diet Smith, Canhead Plenty, Open-Mind Monty, and 3-D Magee. The baddies and supporting cast aren’t among the most memorable in the Dick Tracy canon and the adventures are often too drawn out to be effective, but the writing is straightforward and Gould’s artwork continues to evolve with great detail and imagination. He always drew some of the oddest faces in comicdom.
If you’re a fan of Dick Tracy you’ll love this book, and you’ll know pretty much what to expect on every page. It’s solid good fun from a more innocent time when the comics section of your local newspaper didn’t completely suck.