A Plainclothes Salute

Almost about ten years in the making, Dick Tracy Volume 29 will complete our goal of getting all of Chet Gould’s hard-bitten detective comics back into print. We’re putting the finishing touches on the book now; the front of the dust jacket looks like this:

IDW Publishing began this series in the early days of strip reprints, releasing the first six volumes before Tracy and his stalwart crew (and his often-grotesque villains!) moved under the LOAC banner for the rest of the run. We’ve watched Gould do extended riffs on the Chicago crime scene of Al Capone and the days of the mob — bring forensic and scientific investigative techniques to the fore — add comedy to his mix in the form of characters like B.O. Plenty,. Gravel Gertie, and Vitamin Flintheart — mix in War-years themes — contrast the bumpety-bump of lovelorn hearts with the rat-a-tat-tat of machine-gun fire — take his characters to the Moon — and stir in a dollop or two of sociopolitical subtext along the way. Dick Tracy is one of the great accomplishments in comics history, and it’s a true pleasure to have it preserved for generations to come.

As we prepare to print Gould’s swan song with the character he first introduced as Plainclothes Tracy, we thought we’d skip through the decades and share a smattering of coverage that involved the square-jawed detective.

We begin in 1934, just a scant few years into the strip’s long run. Here’s a Gould original, done especially for the St. Louis Star-Times, to help promote the paper’s marbles contest (oh, for the days when marble contests and the possibility of winning a new bicycle would draw in the kids!):

Vault ahead eleven years and suddenly it’s 1945. Tracy‘s popularity is huge, and he can help sell products (and plug his radio show) through the power of his name alone, as this ad from the New York Daily News helps illustrate:

Eleven more years into the future and, in 1956, the series celebrates its silver anniversary. The Shreveport, Louisiana Journal did this neat little “then and now” ad to mark Tracy‘s twenty-fifth year — and tease the current storyline appearing on their comics page:

You guessed it — advancing yet another eleven years reaches 1967. Tracy is loosening up a bit by this point — at least, Gould is willing to allow him to temporarily trade in his trusty fedora for a chef’s toque in this Daily News cooking feature. If you’ve ever wanted to eat pasta like America’s favorite comic-strip sleuth, now’s your chance — just follow this recipe for Dick Tracy’s Spaghetti Sauce:

Chester Gould retired from creating Dick Tracy in 1977, so eleven more years up the line and the strip is being carried forward by other talented hands and minds. But in Woodstock, Illinois, Gould’s longtime hometown, the area’s official “Rescue Squad” wore a patch created in homage to their most famous citizen and his even-more-famous creation, as the town’s newspaper, the Daily Sentinel, reported …

Our text essays in Volume 29 will touch upon some of the rumors and false starts for a Tracy feature film. Certainly there was what we now call “buzz” in the air on that topic, and as a little icing on the cake for you, below is an Associated Press article focused on scenarist Lorenzo Semple (best known for his involvement with the 1960s-era Batman TV series) and his vision for the Dick Tracy film he was hired to develop (but which never went before the cameras).

A crown jewel of the Chicago Tribune – New York News Syndicate, an American original, and just a terrifically entertaining read, Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy is a series I am both proud and delighted to have occupying my bookshelves — and I’m betting many of you say exactly the same thing!

2 thoughts on “A Plainclothes Salute

  1. Sachin says:

    I recently discovered Dick Tracy and found out that the earlier six volumes being handled by IDW are not of the same size as later ones. Since series is coming to an end is there a possibility that you may give the same LOAC treatment to first six as well?

    • Dean Mullaney says:

      Glad to hear that you’ve boarded the Tracy train! We’ve had discussions about reformatting the first six books, but no firm decision has yet been made. Once it i, we’ll blast the news!

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