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Dick Tracy (October 12, 1941)
Author(s) Chester Gould
Dick Locher
(current writer)
Jim Brozman
(current artist)
Current status / schedule Running
Launch date October 4, 1931
Syndicate(s) Tribune Media Services
Genre(s) Action, Adventure

Dick Tracy is a long-running comic strip featuring a popular and familiar character in American pop culture.[1] Dick Tracy is a hard-hitting, fast-shooting, and supremely intelligent police detective who has matched wits with a variety of colorful villains, many based on real-life gangsters.[1] ("Dick" is also American slang for detective.) Created by cartoonist Chester Gould, the strip made its debut on October 4, 1931, in the Detroit Mirror.[1] It was distributed by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. Gould wrote and drew the strip until 1977.[1]


The comic strip

Early years

Chester Gould introduced a raw violence to comic strips, reflecting the violence of 1930s Chicago. Gould also did his best to keep up with the latest in crime fighting techniques and, while Tracy often ends a case in a shootout, he uses forensic science, advanced gadgetry and plain hard thinking to track the bad guy down. It has been suggested that this comic strip was the first example of the police procedural mystery story. Others have noted that actual "whodunit" plots were relatively rare in the stories since the comic strip format is not suited for that kind of plot. The real focus, they argue, is the chase, with a criminal seen committing the crime and Dick Tracy solving the case during a relentless pursuit of the criminal, who becomes increasingly desperate as the detective closes in.

The strip's villains are arguably the strongest appeal of the story. Tracy's world is decidedly black and white where the bad guys are sometimes so evil that their very flesh is deformed to announce their sins to the world. The evil sometimes is raw and coarse like the criminally insane Selbert Depool ("looped" spelled backwards, typical Gould). At other times it is suave like the arrogant Shoulders, who cannot help thinking that all women like him. It can even border on genius like the Nazi spy Pruneface who is not only a machine design engineer but also dabbles with a chemical nerve gas.

"Flattop" Jones, Dick Tracy's infamous enemy

Gould's most popular villain was Flattop Jones, a freelance hitman with a large head as flat as an aircraft carrier's flight deck. Flattop was hired by black marketeers to murder Tracy, and he came within a hair's breadth of accomplishing that before deciding to first blackmail his employers for more money. This proved to be a fatal mistake since it gave Tracy time to signal for help, and he eventually defeated his assassin in a spectacular fight scene even as the police were storming the hideout. When Flattop was eventually killed, fans went into public mourning.

Reflecting some of the era that also produced film noir, Gould tapped into the existential despair of the criminals as small crimes lead to bigger ones. Plans slip out of control and events happen sometimes for no reason at all because life can be unpredictable and cruel. Treachery is everywhere as henchmen are killed ruthlessly by their bosses, bosses are betrayed by jilted girlfriends and good people in the wrong place at the wrong time are gunned down.


Amid these cases, the strip had considerable character storylines in the series. For instance, Tracy had a difficult relationship with his girlfriend, Tess Trueheart, who found her beau's firm dedication to his work both an irritating interference and a physical danger with her being often caught in the crossfire in his cases. The stormy relationship hits its nadir when she rejected Tracy to marry a charming wealthy ex-baseball player, only to find herself trapped in a deadly family intrigue that lead to murder and the suicide of her husband that proved so traumatizing that she resumed her relationship with Tracy with a much more patient attitude toward his commitments.

Tracy had his own concerns with a young homeless boy whom he took under his wing to become adopted son and sidekick with the name, Dick Tracy Jr., or simply "Junior." The boy would often participate in his father's investigations at great personal risk until eventually finding his own career as a police forensic artist at the service of his father's precinct. Finally, Tracy had a professional partner, the ex-steel worker Pat Patton. Pat joined the force but initially proved a bumbler who had little confidence in his own abilities to the point of seriously considering leaving the force. However, he gradually grew into his career until he became a detective of considerable skill and courage enough to satisfy Tracy's needs.

Evolution of the strip

The famous 2-Way Wrist Radio

On January 13, 1946 [2] , Gould changed Dick Tracy forever with the introduction of the 2-Way Wrist Radio, having drawn inspiration from a visit to inventor Al Gross. This seminal communications device, worn as a wristwatch by Tracy and members of the police force, became one of the strip's most immediately recognizable icons, and can be thought of as a precursor to later technological developments, such as cellular phones. The 2-Way Wrist Radio was eventually upgraded to a 2-Way Wrist TV in 1964. This development also led to the introduction of an important supporting character, Diet Smith, an eccentric industrialist who financed the development of this equipment.

Towards the end of the 1940s, Gould took steps to shake up the status quo of his strip. In late 1948, for instance, a botched security detail led to the death of the semi-regular character Brilliant, the blind inventor of the 2-Way Wrist Radio (among other devices) and son of industrialist Diet Smith. Chief Brandon, Dick Tracy's superior on the police force and a presence in the strip since 1931, voluntarily resigned in shame. Pat Patton, heretofore Tracy's rather buffoonish partner, was promoted to police chief in Brandon's place. Gould later explained this seemingly improbable turn of events by stating that, within the strip's reality, Tracy was offered the job first but had declined, personally recommending Patton instead. To take Patton's place as Tracy's sidekick, a new character, Sam Catchem (based on Gould's old friend, Al Lowenthal), was introduced.

Family life

In 1949, on Christmas Day, Dick Tracy and Tess Trueheart finally married, after a rocky courtship lasting the 18-year history of the strip to that date. Gould changed Tracy with the times, sometimes with mixed results. He introduced topical storylines about television, juvenile delinquency, graft and other new developments in American life during the 1950s. Elements of soap opera began to permeate the strip with Dick, Tess and Junior (along with the Tracy's new baby daughter, Bonnie Braids) at home as a family. Sitcom situations alternated with shadowy underpinnings of crime drama, such as the kidnapping of Bonnie Braids by fugitive Crewy Lou. Junior's girlfriend, Model, was accidentally shot and killed by her brother who is a wanted murderer of a police officer.

In 1949, Spike Jones was caricatured in the Dick Tracy dailies as Spike Dyke.

Gould incurred some controversy when he had Tracy, on a police officer's salary, live in an unaccountably ostentatious manner in a large home complete with a personal Cadillac. As a result, Gould had to create a story where Tracy was accused of corruption and had to explain the origin of his possessions in detail, such as stating he used personal savings he frugally accrued for his house while the Cadillac was a prototype he was test running for Diet Smith. Although Gould's critics were largely unsatisfied by his explanation, the scandal eventually faded, and the cartoonist downplayed Tracy's home life considerably to sidestep a recurrence of the issue.

Space period

As technology progressed, so too did the methods Tracy and the police used to track and capture criminals. These took the form of increasingly fanciful atomic-powered gadgets and devices developed by Diet Smith Industries. This eventually led to what Gould thought was its logical conclusion in the 1960s with the advent of the Space Coupe, a spacecraft with a magnetic propulsion system. This started a much-derided series of stories, known informally as the strip's "Space Period," that saw Tracy and friends having adventures on the Moon and meeting Moon Maid, the daughter of the leader of a race of humanoid people living in "Moon Valley," in 1964. After an eventual sharing of technological information, Moon technology becoming standard issue on Tracy's police force, including air cars, flying cylindrical vehicles. This meant, logically, the villains had to be even more exaggerated in power, resulting in an escalating series of stories that completely abandoned the urban crime drama roots of the strip.

The escalating scope and scale of the stories led to the advent of the character Mr. Intro, who never appeared except as a disembodied voice. His goal was nothing short of world domination in the vein of a James Bond villain. Tracy eventually had to resort to an atomic laser beam to annihilate Intro and his island base. Many readers felt that this effectively spelled the end of storytelling in Dick Tracy; if Tracy had that kind of power at his disposal, how could any Earthbound foe ever believably challenge him again?

Many believed Gould had written himself into an inescapable corner with the Moon stories, but he kept on with them. In October 1964, Junior actually married Moon Maid, and the couple eventually produced a daughter, Honey Moon Tracy, who had antennae and magnetic hands. In the spring of 1969, Tracy was offered the post of Chief of Police in Moon Valley, meaning the strip was likely to soon abandon Earth entirely if Gould had continued unabated.

And then, reality intervened. The Apollo 11 mission in 1969 put an end to the Space Period, as Gould felt obligated to bring his ostensibly reality-based strip back down to Earth when the Moon was found to be barren of all life. However, the accoutrements of the abandoned science-fiction stories, such as the Space Coupe and much of the high-tech gadgetry, remained for many years afterward (and Junior and Moon Maid were still married, although the latter greatly receded from the storyline).

The stories of this period were also often shackled with a stubborn grousing condemnation of the rights of the accused which often involved Tracy being frustrated by criminals because of legal technicalities and proselytizing about it. A not at all atypical sequence from this period saw Tracy, having caught a gang of diamond thieves red-handed, forced to let them walk because he could not prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the diamonds were in fact stolen. As he saw the thieves get off scott-free, Tracy was heard to grumble, "Yes, under today's interpretation of the laws, it seems it's the police who are handcuffed!"

Gould's plots had also started to meander beginning in the late 1960s, often going off on odd tangents (that had nothing to do with the main story being told, Gould including them mainly because he thought they were amusing) and featuring characters whose motivations and goals seemed to change from strip to strip. Since Gould usually did not plot Dick Tracy stories in advance, feeling that if he himself could be surprised at the twists and turns of a given plot then the reader would be as well, this was most likely unintentional on his part.


Color guide for Dick Tracy (March 8, 1970)

In the 1970s, Gould even less successfully tried to modernize Tracy by giving him a longer hair style and moustache, and by adding a supposedly "hip" sidekick, Groovy Grove. Unfortunately, Groovy was designed to appeal to young college-age people of the period, but Gould had misread exactly how much his strip, with its unflinchingly conservative views of the police and society (mirroring Gould's own views), was seen by that audience as being part of the establishment many of them were rebelling against. Groovy's first appearance in print, as it happened, occurred during the same week as the Kent State shootings. Older readers and those who shared Gould's viewpoint disliked Groovy on the grounds that, his allegiance to law and order aside, he still looked and talked much like a typical hippie. Nevertheless, Groovy remained with the strip, off and on, until 1984, when he was killed off by Gould's successors. As for Tracy's mustache, apparently even Gould realized this had been a mistake on his part, as eventually he drew a strip in which Sam, Lizz, and Groovy held Tracy down for an enforced shave.

At this time, the standard publication size and space of newspaper comics was sharply reduced in this period; for example, the Dick Tracy Sunday strip, which had traditionally been a full-page episode containing twelve panels, was drastically cut in size to a half-page format that offered, at most, eight panels. Gould never really adapted to these new restrictions, and Tracy plotlines, heretofore usually lasting months, could be told in weeks or even days as he struggled to tell meaningful stories within the limits imposed on him. All of this combined to make comics stories that, while still somewhat entertaining when read in daily installments, do not read nearly as well when brought together as a collection.

Later, during one of Max Allan Collins' first stories as the strip's writer, the gangster known as the "Big Boy," whose gang members had killed Tess Trueheart's father years ago (making him, effectively, the first Dick Tracy villain of all) learns that he is dying and has less than a year to live. Big Boy, still seeking revenge on the plainclothesman who sent him up the river, decides he wants to live just long enough to see Tracy precede him in death. To this end, he puts out an open contract on Tracy's head worth one million dollars, knowing that every small-time hood in the City would take a crack at the famous cop for that amount of money. One of the would-be collectors rigs Tracy's car to explode, but inadvertently blows up Moon Maid instead (she had to use Tracy's car to run an errand). A funeral strip for Moon Maid explicitly states that this has officially severed all ties between Earth and the Moon, thus formally and permanently eliminating the last remnants of the Space Period. (The lone exception was Honey Moon, who received a new hairstyle to cover up the antennae that betrayed her extraterrestrial origins, and was never again referred to as being anything more than a normal human girl; eventually she was phased out altogether.) Junior later marries Sparkle Plenty (Daughter of B. O. and Gravel Plenty) and has a daughter named Sparkle Plenty Jr. In the 1990s Tracy's own son, Joseph Flintheart Tracy, takes on a role similar to Junior's in the earlier strips.

Plenty family

More successful was the decades-long substory of the Plenty family, a group of goofy redneck yokels headed by former villains, Bob Oscar ("B.O.") and Gertrude ("Gravel Gertie") Plenty. The family provided a humorous counterpoint to Tracy's adventures. Their daughter, Sparkle Plenty, first gave the strip an infant character, and later a pretty young adolescent girl character; unlike most comic strip children, including Dick Tracy's own Junior for many years, she was allowed to grow up (albeit slowly) and eventually marry. Another successful addition was that of Lizz the Policewoman (she was never given a full name, but see below) as one of Tracy's sidekicks. She proved be to an active and formidable female character in a manner that was groundbreaking for comic strips of that era.

The Plenty family appeared with Tracy in a story that was sort of a Crimestopper's Textbook item expanded to fill one Sunday strip; it occurs in a bank and illustrates a way "B. O." found to foil sneak thieves who might snatch an envelope containing money from a counter.

Crimestoppers' Textbook

Beginning in the early 1950s, the Sunday strip included a frame devoted to a page from the "Crimestoppers' Textbook", a series of handy illustrated hints for the amateur crimefighter. This was named after a short-lived youth group seen in the strip during the late 1940s, led by Junior Tracy, called "Dick Tracy's Crimestoppers." This feature continued until Gould retired from the strip in 1977, though Max Allan Collins would later reinstate it (and it continues to this day). After Gould's retirement, Collins initially replaced the Textbook with "Dick Tracy's Rogues Gallery," a salute to memorable Tracy villains of the past.

Later years

Chester Gould retired from comics in 1977; his last Dick Tracy strip appeared in print on Sunday, December 25 of that year. The following Monday, Dick Tracy was taken over by Max Allan Collins and longtime Gould assistant Rick Fletcher. Gould's name remained in the byline for a few years after his retirement as a story consultant.

Collins reversed some of Gould's late-career changes, including putting a final end to the Space Period (which had actually been aborted by Gould some years before, but Collins was keen to formally close the books on that era) by killing off Moon Maid in 1978 (as previously mentioned), as well as doing away with other Gould creations of the 1960s and 1970s (including Groovy Grove, who was gravely wounded in the line of duty and later died in the hospital; Lizz married him before he expired). He also took a generally less cynical view of the justice system than Gould had adopted in his later years, making Tracy come to accept its limitations and requirements as a normal part of the process he could manage. In addition, the more extreme examples of Tracy's advanced technology were phased out like the Space Coupe in favor of more realistic advanced tools such as the 2-Way Wrist Computer in 1987.

New semi-regular characters introduced by Collins and Fletcher included: Dr. Will Carver, a plastic surgeon with underworld ties who often worked on known felons (he was eventually killed off as well); Wendy Wichel, a smarmy newspaper reporter/editorialist with a strong anti-Tracy bias in her articles, created to address real-life concerns about the strip's often excessive violence; and Lee Ebony, an African-American female detective. Vitamin Flintheart, the aged ham actor created by Gould in 1944 (originally as a bit player during the Flattop story) but who had not been seen in the strip for almost three decades, was resurrected as an occasional comic-relief figure. The Plenty family (B.O., Gravel Gertie, and Sparkle) were also brought back from virtual limbo to become semi-regulars as well; following the death of Moon Maid, Junior and Sparkle were married, and soon produced a daughter of their own, Sparkle Plenty, Jr.

Original villains seen during this period included Angeltop (revenge-seeking, psychopathic daughter of the slain Flattop), Torcher (whose scheme was arson-for-profit), and Splitscreen (a video pirate). Collins also began bringing back at least one "classic" Gould villain per year, although many were dead beyond the power of even comics to resurrect credibly, or else inventing a now-grown family member who would be out for revenge. An obsession developed with the revival of the Gould villains of providing them with full names, and often evidence of marriage and children (sexual activity) or other family connections, bringing a "warm, fuzzy" feel to many of the originally grotesque brutes. "Flattop", particularly, had a number of relatives, all with his characteristic head structure and facial attributes, who one by one turned up to avenge their ancestor on Tracy.

Rick Fletcher died in 1983 and was succeeded by editorial cartoonist Dick Locher, who had assisted Gould on the strip in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Locher was assisted by his son John, who died in 1986.

In 1992, following a financial reorganization of their comic strip holdings, Max Allan Collins was fired from the strip, and Tribune staff writer and columnist Mike Kilian took over the writing. Kilian, according to various sources, was paid less than half of what Collins was making per strip,[citation needed] and continued on the strip until his death on October 27, 2005. Dick Locher received sole credit on the strip - being both author and artist - for over three years beginning on January 9, 2006. On March 16, 2009, Jim Brozman began collaborating with Locher, taking over the drawing duties while Locher continues to write the strip.[3]

In 2005, Tracy was a guest at Blondie and Dagwood's 75th anniversary party in the comic strip Blondie. Later, Dick Tracy appeared in the comic strip Gasoline Alley.

Awards and recognition

Chester Gould won the Reuben Award for the strip in 1959 and 1977. The Mystery Writers of America honored Gould and his work with a Special Edgar Award in 1980. In 1995, the strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative postage stamps and postcards.[4]

Other media depictions


Dick Tracy had a long run on radio, from 1934 weekdays on NBC's New England stations to the ABC network in 1948. Bob Burlen was the first radio Tracy in 1934, and others heard in the role during the 1930s and 1940s were Barry Thompson, Ned Wever and Matt Crowley. The early shows all had 15-minute episodes.

On CBS, with Sterling Products as sponsor, the serial aired four times a week from February 4, 1935 to July 11, 1935, moving to Mutual from September 30, 1935 to March 24, 1937 with Bill McClintock doing the sound effects. NBC's weekday afternoon run from January 3, 1938 to April 28, 1939 had sound effects by Keene Crockett and was sponsored by Quaker Oats, which brought Dick Tracy into primetime (Saturdays at 7pm and, briefly, Mondays at 8pm) with 30-minute episodes from April 29, 1939 to September 30, 1939. The series returned to 15-minute episodes on the ABC Blue Network from March 15, 1943 to July 16, 1948, sponsored by Tootsie Roll, which used the music theme of "Toot Toot, Tootsie" for its 30-minute Saturday ABC series from October 6, 1945 to June 1, 1946. Sound effects on ABC were supplied by Walt McDonough and Al Finelli.

Directors of the series included Mitchell Grayson, Charles Powers and Bob White. Cast members at various times included Walter Kinsella as Pat Patton, Helen Lewis as Tess Trueheart and Andy Donnelly and Jackie Kelk as Junior Tracy. Announcers were Ed Herlihy and Dan Seymour.

On February 15, 1945, Command Performance presented "Dick Tracy In B Flat," or "For Goodness Sakes, Isn't He Ever Going To Marry Tess Trueheart?" Billed as "the world's first comic strip operetta", it starred Bing Crosby as Dick Tracy, Dinah Shore as Tess Trueheart, and Bob Hope as Flattop Jones. The cast also included Jerry Colonna (police chief), Frank Morgan (Vitamin Flintheart), Jimmy Durante (The Mole), Judy Garland (Snowflake Falls), The Andrews Sisters (The Summer Sisters—May, June & July), Frank Sinatra (Shaky), Cass Daley (Gravel Gertie), and Harry Von Zell (narrator).

On July 8, 1945, during a New York newspaper deliverers' strike, New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia read a complete Dick Tracy strip over the radio.

Film serials

Dick Tracy made his live-action debut in Dick Tracy (1937), a Republic Pictures movie serial starring Ralph Byrd. The character proved very popular, and a second serial, Dick Tracy Returns, appeared in 1938 (reissued in 1948). Dick Tracy's G-Men was released in 1939 (reissued in 1955). The last was Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. in 1941 (reissued as Dick Tracy vs. the Phantom Empire in 1952).

The sequels were produced under an interpretation of the contract for the first, Dick Tracy (1937), which gave license for "a series or serial." As a result Chester Gould received no further money for the sequel serials.

In these serials Dick Tracy is portrayed as an FBI agent, or "G-Man," based in California, rather than as a detective in the police force of a Midwestern city resembling Chicago, and, aside from himself and Junior, no characters from the strip appear in any of the four films. However, comic relief sidekick "Mike McGurk" bears some resemblance to Tracy's partner from the strip, Pat Patton; Tracy's secretary, Gwen Andrews (played by several actresses in the course of the series, including Jennifer Jones), provides the same kind of feminine interest as Tess Trueheart; and FBI Director Clive Anderson (Francis X. Bushman and others) is the same kind of avuncular superior as Chief Brandon.

Early feature films

Six years after the release of the final Republic serial, Dick Tracy headlined four feature films, produced by RKO Radio Pictures. Dick Tracy (aka Dick Tracy, Detective) (1945) was followed by Dick Tracy vs. Cueball in 1946, both with Morgan Conway as Tracy. Ralph Byrd returned for the last two features, both released in 1947: Dick Tracy's Dilemma and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome. Gruesome is probably the best known of the four, with the villain portrayed by Boris Karloff. All four movies had many of the visual features associated with film noir: dramatic, shadowy photographic compositions, with many exterior scenes filmed at night. Lyle Latell co-starred in all four films as Pat Patton. Anne Jeffreys played Tess Trueheart in the first two, succeeded by Jeffreys double Kay Christopher and finally Anne Gwynne; Ian Keith joined the cast as the delightfully hammy Vitamin Flintheart for two films; Joseph Crehan played Chief Brandon. RKO stocked the films with familiar faces, creating a veritable rogues' gallery of characters: Mike Mazurki as Splitface, Dick Wessel as Cueball, Esther Howard as Filthy Flora, Jack Lambert as hook-handed villain The Claw; baldheaded, pop-eyed Milton Parsons, mild-mannered Byron Foulger, dangerous Trevor Bardette, pockmarked, gently sinister Skelton Knaggs.


The strip has also had limited exposure on television with one early live-action series, two animated series, one unsold pilot that was never picked up, and a proposed TV series currently held up in legal litigation.

First live-action series

Ralph Byrd, who had played the square-jawed sleuth in all four Republic movie serials, and in two of the RKO feature-length films, reprised his role in a short-lived live-action Dick Tracy series that ran on ABC from 1950 to 1951. Additional episodes intended for first-run syndication continued to be produced into 1952. Produced by P. K. Palmer, who also wrote many of the scripts, the series often featured Gould-created villains such as Flattop, Shaky, the Mole, Breathless Mahoney, Heels Beals, and Influence, all of whom appeared on film for the first time on this series. Other cast members included Joe Devlin as Sam Catchem, Angela Greene as Tess Tracy (née Trueheart), Martin Dean as Junior, and Pierre Watkin as Chief Patton. Criticized for its violence, the series remained popular. It ended, not in response to criticism, but because of Byrd's unexpected, premature death in 1952. The series was filmed on a low budget, with many long hours and a rushed shooting schedule; the arduous shooting and the physical demands placed on Byrd may well have accelerated Byrd's demise.


DVD release of the 1961 cartoon.

In the first cartoon series, produced from 1960 to 1961 by UPA, Tracy employed a series of cartoony subordinate flatfoots to fight crime each week, contacting them on his two-way wrist radio. Everett Sloane voiced Tracy and supporting characters and villains were voiced by Jerry Hausner, Mel Blanc, Benny Rubin, Johnny Coons, Paul Frees and others. The cartoony subordinates included "Go-Go" Gomez, Joe Jitsu, Hemlock Holmes and Heap O'Calorie. These 130 five-minute cartoons were designed and packaged for syndication, usually intended for local children's shows.

Since UPA was also the production company behind the Mr. Magoo cartoons, it was possible for them to arrange a meeting between Tracy and Magoo in a 1965 episode of the season-long TV series The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. In that episode, "Dick Tracy and the Mob," Tracy persuades Magoo (a well-known actor in the context of the Famous Adventures series) to impersonate an international hit man whom he resembles, and infiltrate a gang of criminals made up of Flattop, Pruneface, Itchy, Mumbles, and others. Unlike the earlier animated Tracy shorts, this longer episode was played relatively straight, with Tracy getting much more screen time. It's notable for pitting Tracy against a coalition of several of his foes, a conceit that would be adopted more than two decades later in the 1990 film mentioned below.

The package was pulled from syndication in the mid-'70s, due to ethnic stereotypes and accents.

A second cartoon series, produced in 1971, was a feature in Archie's TV Funnies, produced by Filmation, which adhered more closely to the comic strip although hampered by cruder animation, typical of the studio's production standards, than the UPA shorts.

Live-action television pilot

In 1967, William Dozier, the producer responsible for the 1966 Batman television series, produced a pilot for a live-action Dick Tracy series, starring Ray MacDonnell in the title role. While the quality of the pilot was slightly above-average, the series was not purchased by either ABC or NBC as ratings for the Batman series were dropping, and a similar series featuring The Green Hornet had recently flopped. To the networks, the "Hero Camp" or Batmania craze was dying, and they chose not to take a risk on another series.

The pilot is notable for the non-appearance of the future Jan Brady, Eve Plumb as Bonnie Braids. Although cast in the role, she only appears in the title credits at the opening of the show.

1990 film

In 1990, Warren Beatty played title character in a live action film. For more information see main article.

Comic books

Chester Gould's cover for 1947 Quaker Puffed Wheat giveaway comic book reprinting early 1940s Dick Tracy strips.

The first Dick Tracy comic book was produced in 1947 by Sig Feuchtwanger and was a giveaway comic in boxes of Quaker Puffed Wheat cereal. In January 1948, Dell began the first Dick Tracy comic book series and which ran to 145 issues ending in 1961, although it was published by Harvey Comics from issue #25.

Dick Tracy was revived in 1986 by Blackthorne Publishing and ran for 99 issues. Disney produced a series of three issues as a tie in for their 1990 film. This miniseries, entitled True Hearts and Tommy Guns, was drawn by Kyle Baker and edited by Len Wein, and the first two issues were well received by comic fans and critics alike. The third issue was a direct adaptation of the film.

Recent events

Media outlets reported that there is a legal battle being waged over just who owns the rights to the Dick Tracy character. Warren Beatty announced plans to make a sequel to his 1990 movie. At the same time, television producers have announced plans for a new Dick Tracy TV series. Both sides claim that they are the legal owners of the rights to Dick Tracy. In May 2005, Beatty sued the Tribune Company, claiming he has owned the rights to the Dick Tracy character since 1985. The lawsuit is ongoing.[5]


Over the years, many reprints of Dick Tracy newspaper strips have been published. Currently, the complete strip is being reprinted from the beginning in hardcover editions by IDW Publishing at a rate of about three volumes per year. The first eight volumes were published in 2007-09. Other collections include:[6]

  • The Exploits of Dick Tracy, Detective: The Case of the Brow. Rosdon, hardcover, 1946.
  • The Celebrated Cases of Dick Tracy, 1931-1951. Chelsea House, hardcover, 1970
  • Dick Tracy: The Thirties—Tommy Guns and Hard Times. Chelsea House, hardcover, 1978.
  • Dick Tracy: His Greatest Cases, No. 1—Pruneface. Gold Medal, paperback, 1975.
  • Dick Tracy: His Greatest Cases, No. 2—Snowflake and Shaky plus The Black Pearl. Gold Medal, paperback, 1975.
  • Dick Tracy: His Greatest Cases, No. 3—Mrs. Pruneface plus Crime, Inc.. Gold Medal, paperback, 1975.

Other editions:[6]

  • The first Big Little Book was a Dick Tracy title and many subsequent ones in the series followed. Some were reprintings of newspaper strips and some alternate between text and original black-and white drawings.[7]
  • Dick Tracy and The Spider Gang, a novelization of the Republic serial, Big Little Book #1446, the pages alternate between text and black-and-white photos from the movies.
  • Dick Tracy, Ace Detective. Whitman, hardcover, 1943.
  • Dick Tracy Meets The Night Crawler. Whitman, hardcover, 1945.
  • Dick Tracy and the Woo Woo Sisters, Dell, un-numbered paperback with a pictorial back cover but not a mapback, 1947.


Licensed products

In the 1960s, Aurora produced a plastic model kit of Dick Tracy sliding down a fire escape ladder into an alley, in hot pursuit with gun drawn. A Dick Tracy Space Coupe model came next.

The Dick Tracy video game was developed by Titus Software in 1990. It was ported to many platforms including Amiga, Commodore and MS-DOS. Dick Tracy is a side scrolling action shooting game. Player controls Dick Tracy through five stages.[8] Another video game about Dick Tracy was a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System produced by Bandai.

Character development

Many of the comic characters were based on local citizens of Woodstock, Illinois where Chester Gould wrote the majority of the strip. However, Gould modeled many characters after close associates like his publisher, Joseph Patterson, as Big Frost and even himself, as Pear-Shape Tone.

Since the first appearance of Flattop, there has been some controversy between fans of the strip as to the ethnicity of the character. According to some who knew Gould, Flattop was intended to be a light-skinned African-American, but the inking and printing techniques of the day failed to convey this appearance to most readers. Max Allan Collins, however, has stated emphatically that Flattop was based on the real-life gangster Pretty Boy Floyd, who was white. Both Floyd and Flattop hailed from Oklahoma's Cookson Hills. In any event, in live-action film portrayals, the character has been depicted as white. In an episode of the early 1950s Tracy TV series based on the comic strip Flattop story, the character was played by John Cliff, a white actor. And when Warren Beatty included the character as one of Big Boy's henchmen, he appeared more racially white, with the type of red hair and features normally associated with the ginger stereotype.


  • In Al Capp's satiric comic strip Li'l Abner, there was a long-running parody of Dick Tracy called Fearless Fosdick. An intermittent, strip-within-the-strip feature in Li'l Abner, Fosdick lampooned every aspect of Dick Tracy - from Fosdick's impossibly square-jawed profile to his propensity for bullet-riddled "ventilation". The style of the Fosdick sequences closely burlesqued Tracy, complete with outrageous villains, ludicrously satirical plotliness, and ramped-up cartoon violence. Whatever Capp really thought of Dick Tracy, he was always careful to praise Gould and his strip in conversation and in print, invariably referring to it as "Chester Gould's magnificent Dick Tracy."
  • Dick Tracy is also spoofed in the comic strip Red Meat by Max Cannon. The character of Stacy is a down on his luck alcoholic kicked off the force.
  • A classic Warner Bros. cartoon with Looney Tunes star Daffy Duck called The Great Piggy Bank Robbery spoofed Dick Tracy as "Duck Twacy". The cartoon was directed by WB legend Bob Clampett in 1946. Daffy wore Dick's yellow hat again in a Tiny Toons episode where Plucky Duck becomes the protagonist of a Dick-Tracy-themed dream sequence just like Daffy did in TGPBR.
  • The "Crimestopper's Textbook" was parodied in two editions of The Stan Freberg Show in 1957, both in a discussion sketch called "Face the Funnies." In the first, a self-proclaimed Dick Tracy expert (voiced by Daws Butler) advised, "If vandals kidnap you, look for fingerprints on or about your person." In the second example, Butler said, "If someone shoots you in the chest, extract the bullet and look for small tell-tale bore markings on the slug, and then call a doctor."
  • Mad once eulogized Tracy as having died from lead poisoning, which resulted from being shot in the left shoulder 47 times (noting Gould's repeatedly showing Tracy being wounded in that spot). Other issues of Mad showed Tracy identifying Pruneface despite a facelift (by viewing his still-wrinkled buttocks), or ranting in Doonesbury style about changing trends in police procedures. (In the latter, Junior suggests "There's always the CIA!") A parody of the 1990 film was also made, where Warren Beatty's Tracy is killed in the end by the Blank, who reveals himself to be the original comic-style Dick Tracy.
  • Parody show Robot Chicken recently parodied the Dick Tracy strips labeling of villains based on their facial features. Tracy nicknames everybody, in an insulting way. It's later revealed that Tracy himself is named Dick because his head looks like the head of a penis [dick].
  • Parodying a period when Tracy was blind, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Underground comix books featured Tricky Prickears, a very conservative blind and deaf detective. These comic-within-a comic episodes appeared under the heading Crime Stoppers, Mein Kampf.
  • In the crime drama The Closer's episode Tapped Out, a character named Richard Tracy was a psychotic man who thought he was a cop.
  • The February, 1949 issue of The Yale Record (cover titled Record Comics) contains several full color comics parodies, including the Dick Tracy parody called "Hotshot Stacy". In this two-page feature, the detective pursues "The Head", a man with a giant egg-shaped head, and corners him at the head, literally, an outhouse. During the strip, The Head puts "Bright Boy" through a meat grinder. The art is signed by Sylvester Goul, in the style of Chester Gould's signature. The whole magazine is a precursor to the comics parodies in early issues of Mad (magazine).

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "I LIKE 'EM TOUGH", Jim Doherty, 2009, webpage: ME-like_em_tough: notes villains & includes short bio of Chester Gould.
  2. ^ Garyn G. Roberts, Dick Tracy and American Culture: Morality and Mythology, Text and Context (McFarland, 2003), p38
  3. ^
  4. ^ Detective Fiction on Stamps, United States 1995, Comic Strip Classics: Dick Tracy,
  5. ^ Comics Reporter Spurgeon, Tom (2005). "Dick Tracy and the Attached Sub-Rider". The Comics Reporter. Accessed 2006-11-17.
  6. ^ a b Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2000, by Allen J. Hubin, addenda to the revised edition with annotations by Steve Lewis, accessed September 10, 2009
  7. ^ An alphabetical listing of Big Little Books and Better Little Books, 1932-1949, accessed September 10, 2009
  8. ^ Mobygames: Dick Tracy


  • "75 Years of Continuous Crime-Stopping," Jim Doherty, 2007, webpage: MysE-like_em_tough: notes villains, real gangsters & includes short bio of Chester Gould.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dick Tracy is a 1990 film about the Dick Tracy comic strip character created by Chester Gould.

Directed by Warren Beatty. Written by Jim Cash and Joe Epps Jr.
I'm on my way! (taglines)


Dick Tracy

  • Tess, you're one in a million.
  • Take the bad men away. They scare me.

Big Boy Caprice

  • I'm gonna miss you but all's fair in love and business. Benjamin Franklin.


  • Itchy: Well, I guess that's the end of Dick! [snickering] Thirty seconds, no more Dick! Thirty seconds, no more Dick! Thirty seconds, no more Dick!


Breathless Mahoney: Thanks for calling. I was beginning to wonder what a girl had to do to get arrested.
Dick: Wearing that dress is a step in the right direction.
Breathless: Are you going to make a move or do I have to do it?
Dick: I'm on duty.
Breathless: When's your day off?
Dick: Sunday.
Breathless: It's a big world it must be Sunday somewhere. Does it feel hot to you?
Dick: Hot?

(Breathless goes onto his desk revealing her voluptuous figure.)

Kid: I don't like dames.
Tess: Good. Me neither.


  • I'm on my way!


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!

You may also be looking for the Nintendo Entertainment System version of this game.
Dick Tracy

Developer(s) Sega
Publisher(s) Sega
Release date Genesis:
1990 (NA)
Master System:
1990 (NA)
Genre Run and Gun
Mode(s) Single player
Age rating(s) N/A
Master System
Platform(s) Genesis
Sega Master System
Media Cartridge
Sega Master System
Input Genesis Controller
Sega Master System Controller
Credits | Soundtrack | Codes | Walkthrough

Dick Tracy is a game released for the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System. The game is based on the movie adapted from the comic strip of the same name.


The plot of this game is based loosely on the movie. Big Boy Caprice, the main nemesis, has murdered the father of Dick Tracy's wife, and now the gumshoe is out for revenge.

This is a platform shooter/"beat-'em-up" game. Plenty of gunmen will attack our hero from all the sides. Dick can only move to the right or to the left. He can use his pistol gun to take out enemies who are in front or behind him. Since he can't approach enemies who attack from the depth of the screen, he can dispose of them using his machine gun. When the enemy is too close, Dick will punch him instead of shooting.

This article uses material from the "Dick Tracy" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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