Next week for what?
It wasn’t a question Sean, it was a statement.
I’ll be looking into the history of Dick Tracy.
Dick Tracy, remember the name! Introduced in 1931, not only was he around almost 10 years before a certain Caped Crusader, he was very much the Batman (w/Rouges Gallery an all) of the comic strips. Tonight, Trivia Corner pays tribute to the American Sherlock Holmes. After almost 100 years, here’s to his continuing victories over the forces of evil.
Aided by a growing roster of detective associates and valued friends over the years, Tracy did it the hard way, with old fashioned leg work, the strong right (and left) arm of the law, and a trust in the ever expanding world of forensic science. Popularizing " crime scene investigation" for readers, long before CSI would do the same thing for television viewers, in the 21st Century. And even though the smart phone makers don’t give Chester Gould, or Tracy, anywhere near the credit due them, be advised, his renowned 2 way wrist radio (later updated to a TV visual , then a wrist computer), introduced in 1946, beat them out by almost 30 years. As the first hand held, portable cell phone (by Motorola) didn’t appear until 1973. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, and the Tracy story.
Plainclothes Tracy (as he was originally known), was the creation of Chester Gould, for the Chicago Tribune Newspaper Syndicate. The term “dick” was a word applied to a policeman or private detective (meaning, to watch). It was catchier than Plainclothes so … the rest, is history. He was an almost instant sensation. Born as a product of the turbulent 30s (like Ma Barker, Dillinger and others), America was in desperate need of heroes. Chester Gould would give 'em one! The strip quickly caught on, and was soon syndicated in hundreds of papers nationwide! He became a popular radio adventure series, and quickly moved to Hollywood. Four serials were made (by Republic Pictures) between '37 and '41. This was followed by three full length movies (by RKO), from '45 to '47. All but one of which, starred Ralph Byrd. Believe me, he was Dick Tracy. None of Tracy’s famous felons made it into the movies though. They were all originals! Splitface, Cueball and Grusome (played by Boris Karloff), to name a few.
Early in 1945, Germany is still months away from surrendering in May. Japan would do likewise in Sept of that year. But, on Feb 15th, a belated Valentines Day gala event was being put together in Hollywood, for a special broadcast to the troops overseas. It was an Armed Forces Radio Service, Command Performance! The talent assembled for this show, was some of the biggest names in the business. And fortunately, it’s still around in various formats. Chalk it up as a musical/comedy adventure, entitled " Dick Tracy, in B-flat." A better tribute to Gould and his creations, is hard to find, anywhere.
Bing Crosby - Dick Tracy, Dinah Shore - Tess Truheart, Bob Hope - Flattop, Jimmy Durante - the Mole, Judy Garland - Snowflake, Frank Sinatra - Shaky, Frank Morgan - Vitaman Flintheart, Cass Daley - Gravel Gertie, the Andrew Sisters - the Summer Sisters, Jerry Colonna - the Police Chief and Henry Von Zell - Old Judge Hooper. I’m old enough to remember most of those people. A lot of them were still around and active when I was growing up. But a couple of names got by me. So don’t feel bad, if these folks from your grandmother’s (or great-grandmother’s) day don’t ring any bells. This is about as deep as it gets, here at TC. For those of you who choose to find a version of this rarity, enjoy it. Share it with your grandparents. I’m sure they’ll appreciate a return to the grand ole’ days of radio!
When the DT marketing campaign took off, it really flew. Big Little Books, comics, toys and games galore. Madison Avenue was coming into it’s own back then. And like Superman, Hopalong Cassidy, Orphan Annie and a hundred others, if sponsors and copyright holders could make $$$ at it, they did! His 2-way wrist radio (modified walkie-talkies) was a most popular item. Toy guns were certainly a big part of that as well. Before the " super-heroes" showed up, becoming popular in their own right, almost every “good-guy” was packin’ heat! From the Shadow and the Spider, to Gangbusters and Dick Tracy. If the kids on your block weren’t playing cowboys 'n indians, you can bet they were having cops 'n robbers shootouts with cap pistols or squirt guns! Today, except for the marketing of toy guns, the violence from real ones, is still very much with us. And I think I’m editorializing here. I apologize.
Well that’s it for now. I’ll pick up the rest of the Dick Tracy story, next week. Have a great night everybody!
Not going into the 1990 movie?
Sean, I think you missed the part about " continued next week." Be patient, I’ll get there.
Yeah, missed that
Thank you my friend. Always nice to be appreciated for one’s work and efforts. I admit I missed this kind of camaraderie growing up in the 60s. The founding days of Fandom were fine for those who could get together to form clubs and whatnot. But many of us,“'out in the wilderness” so to speak, didn’t have those connections. This late in my life, it’s nice to be able to make up for lost time. Thanks again, for your friendship. And how are you feeling these days?
I’ve been feeling great, move to a new home and am addicted to a app called Happy Colors, love to color like disney, marvel and stuff. That’s why I haven’t been around for a while.
Beside that I’m doing great, thankyou for asking.
A name we all can appreciate!
Easily one of my favorite things about media that’s over 20 years old is seeing what technologies materializes in the real world. Seeing things like Apple Watches (which I believe are in their 4th iteration??) come to life when wrist radios were featured in Tracy’s adventures just makes me happy!
Love those bad guy names!
I know a handful of 'em!
As always, thanks for sharing! I never get tired of the knowledge you bring to this thread.
And we’re glad you’ve found us here–certainly glad to have you, and glad we can help make up some of that lost time!
Love to hear it! Glad you’re doing well .
Is there any way we can be warned when a series is about to be removed from the site? I was set to read Demo today and had even opened issue 1 yesterday so I could just jump back in on the app and today it was gone. I’m ok with it disappearing if there’s a reason, but if I knew it was leaving I would have stayed up last night reading it.
At least I figured that we’d probably be losing the Masters of the Universe stuff so I read it all a little while back, but it would be incredibly frustrating to not be able to read the DC Comics Presents issue that had them in it and is now gone.
Will either of the upcoming DC/Marvel Amalgam and/or Crossover Omnibus books be added to DC Universe Infinite Ultra after they are released in August?
Welcome back my friends, to part two of my Trivia Corner coverage of Dick Tracy. Say what you will about Chester Gould, but he appears to have been a firm believer in that old saying, " the female is deadlier than the male." His women, were just as evil and dangerous, as their male counterparts! Breathless Mahoney, Crewy Lou, Mamma, Cinn Ozone or the Kitten Sisters, to name just a few. He played no favorites! Gould’s Tracy strips coasted in to the 50s with a real sense of maturity about them. And it was about the late 50s that I first discovered the Tracy newspaper strip. Along with Buck Rogers, the Phantom, Steve Canyon and a few others. It would be years later before ever seeing an episode of the live action TV series that starred his living embodiment, Ralph Byrd. Cancelled in '52 because of his untimely death.
But during that time, viewers got to see him take on some of the worst from his Rouges Gallery. Flatop, the Mole, Shakey, Pruneface and others, all got their “shot” at taking on the Top Cop! Tracy’s popularity took a hit during the 60s due to a number of factors. Chief among them being Gould’s major interest in America’s space race with the Russians. During that time, he created things and beings that became so ingrained in the mythos, that over the years, he could only try and make the best of a bad situation. Also, the Syndicate’s crack down on strip violence and a reduction in panel size, all contributed in a falloff in readership.
During 1961 an animated cartoon series premiered, and ran for 2 years. Wherein those same bad guys all faced off against an all new line-up of cops. Stereotypes were alive 'n well in the world of Dick Tracy. Created just for the show were Joe-Jitsu (no relation, I trust), Heap O’Calorie, Go-Go Gomez and Hemlock Holmes (a British Bulldog) who led the Retouchables. An animated version of the Keystone Cops. Yet, somehow, they always managed to win the day. And, like in Gould’s strip, Tracy (voiced by distinguished actor Everett Sloane) would often speak to his audience, giving lessons in Law Enforcement and on being good citizens. Much like Gould’s Crimestopper’s Textbook tips, that first appeared in the Sunday strips, in 1949. I’d be remiss, if I didn’t mention a few tasty tidbits here. The character of Go-Go Gomez, was first introduced on a Mr. Magoo cartoon around that time. And, as if returning the favor, Tracy appears on an episode of the Famous Adventure of Mr. Magoo, entitled “Dick Tracy and the Mob,” in 1965. Sort of a prevue of what would hit theaters some 25 years later. In '66 producer William Dozier, in an attempt to piggyback off his success with Batman, would create a live-action Tracy pilot. It wasn’t bad, but failed to garner any interest from sponsors. In '67 the BLB line was revived by the Whitman Publishing Co. Among the characters chosen for inclusion, was a Top Cop title. It contained new art and story, entitled, " Dick Tracy Encounters Facey."
In 1970, an original Tracy paperback novel by William Johnston and published by Tempo Books, hit the stands. In '71, Tracy again appears in animated form as part of Archie’s TV Funnies. And gone were the stereotypes, thank goodness. Gould continued to downplay his “space related connections” (even killing off a major character), but the strip would never see it’s Golden Age heights of popularity again. In '77 Chester Gould retired.
Max Collins and Rick Fletcher took up the reins, until Fletcher’s death in '83. In the five years that Collins and Fletcher were together, the strip rebounded, thanks to solid artwork and very creative stories. It was Collins who created African American policewoman Lee Ebony in 1980. Almost 25 years after the introduction of Lizz Worthington to the force. A fine and long overdue change from the “domestic help” of the Gould era. Visually acceptable for the day, much like Billy Batson’s Steamboat valet. But very cringe worthy by today’s standards. Dick Locher replaced Fletcher, as both had been assistants to Gould in earlier years.
In 1990, something was done with Dick Tracy, not seen since the Armed Forces Radio, Command Performance of 1945. A vision, by a Hollywood leading man, and the power of his name to draw in others, would once again revive Tracy at the box-office. Warren Beatty took the lead, bringing with him, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Madonna, James Cann, Kathy Bates and a score of other talent to flesh out this aged comic strip, once again given life at the movies. Hard to believe it’s been over 30 years since I first saw that in the theaters! What Dozier did for the Caped Crusader on the small screen, Beatty did with Tracy on the big one! And as expected, the merchandising was everywhere. Collins contributed two original pb novels and edited a 3rd one of short stories.
Collins left the strip in '92, and was replaced by Mike Kilian, until he passed in 2005. From that period until '09, Dick Locher (assisted by his son), took on double duty as both writer and artist. In '09, Jim Brozman took on the art chores, allowing Locher to concentrate on the writing. In 2011, the Trib brought in the team of Mike Collins and Joe Staton to continue Tracy’s adventures. This they did, and did well, until Staton left in '21. Replaced by his long time inker and letterer on the strip, Shelly Pleger. And that brings us up to date (as far as I know). Whew! I think I need a drink.
I’ve said this before, and it’s still true. Dick Tracy is long overdue for a meeting with Batman. Hopefully (with a little push from us), like minded folks at DC and the Trib (through their crackerjack legal departments), can make that happen, someday.
Sorry for the extra length. But hell, you should see what I edited out!
That functionality currently does not exist, but that is a great idea! Can definitely see how losing a book you were currently reading is super frustrating. If you haven’t already, take a few mins to fill out the DCUI Survey that was posted last week. Your responses will go directly to the teams that develop the app! No better way to make your voice heard:
I haven’t been made aware of any plans to do this, but if/when I do get details, I’ll be sure to let everyone know!
These names! Wild!
Definitely a complicated time in America–particularly around depictions of violence in media.
Hah, none that I’m aware of!
I would have loved to seen this in theaters! What a cast.
I fully agree–would be an awesome crossover!
Hah–never apologize for being thorough! As always, thank you for sharing! Another fantastic entry, friend.
Thanks for the answer and I forgot to put in on the survey. Would it be ok to do a second one or just let you pass it on?