warm fuzzy

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy is a long-running comic strip featuring a popular and familiar character in American pop culture. Dick Tracy is a hard-hitting, fast-shooting, and supremely intelligent police detective who has matched wits with a variety of often grotesquely ugly villains. Created by cartoonist Chester Gould in 1931, the strip made its debut appearance on October 4, 1931, distributed by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. Gould wrote and drew the strip until 1977.

This seminal crime strip is being reprinted, from the beginning, in hardcover editions by IDW Publishing.

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.

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.

Evolution of the strip

In January 1946, Gould changed Dick Tracy forever with the introduction of the 2-Way Wrist Radio after 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 an early precursor of 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.

Tracy's marriage

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. Successful additions included topical storylines about television, juvenile delinquency, graft and other new developments in American life as the 1950s wore on. Less successful were elements of soap opera that began to permeate the strip, as much time began to be spent with Dick, Tess and Junior (along with the Tracy's new baby daughter, Bonnie Braids) at home as a family. Some stories from this period began to resemble an early sitcom, albeit one with dark underpinnings of crime drama in the shadows that would rise up to attack the family directly, such as the kidnapping of Bonnie Braids by fugitive Crewy Lou, or when Junior's girlfriend, Model, was accidentally shot and killed by her brother. In addition, Gould incurred some controversy when he had Tracy live in an unaccountably ostentatious manner, with a large home complete with a personal Cadillac automobile on a police officer's salary. 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.

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 of 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).

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.

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 take on a role similar to Junior in the earlier strips.

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." Plenty and Gravel Gertie. 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.

However, the later stories were 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. Further working against him was the sharp reduction in size and space of newspaper comics that occurred around 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.

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, yet still futuristic, tools such as the 2-Way Wrist Computer in 1987 which could do field forensic processing and had a lie detector function on top of its communication role.

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 of including, 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, and continued on the strip until his death on October 27, 2005. Since January 9, 2006, Dick Locher has been receiving sole credit on the strip, meaning he is now drawing and authoring the storyline.

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

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.

Other media depictions

Radio

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

After that Dick Tracy graduated to 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.

Television

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.

The 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 (nee 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.

The cartoons

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 wristwatch radio. Everett Sloane voiced Tracy, while Mel Blanc voiced many of the other characters, including "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 "kid's shows".

This 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 revived some interest in the character with his film, Dick Tracy. Beatty directed the movie and starred as Tracy in a surreal comic strip-inspired world with outlandish colors, restyled automobiles, and extensive makeup treatments for Tracy's famed villains. The film was well-received by some critics, including Roger Ebert, who gave the film his highest rating and a "thumbs-up." Some critics, however, complained about the film's focus on the casting, stylish art direction, and makeup rather than the plot or script. The cast included stars such as Beatty, Madonna, Al Pacino, Charlie Korsmo, Dustin Hoffman, Dick van Dyke, James Caan and R.G. Armstrong as well as many other notable cameos. Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim wrote several songs for the film, including "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" which won the Academy Award for Best Song. There were also several other unreleased Madonna songs that were recorded for the film but not used at all, and several in the film whose versions were changed for the album. The track "Back in Business" in the movie is not at all related to "Back in Business" on the album, for example.

Madonna's soundtrack album I'm Breathless: Music from and Inspired by Dick Tracy spawned two top-ten hits, "Vogue" and "Hanky Panky"; neither was actually used in the film. Only three tracks from the album actually were used in the film, but most were performed in a style to reflect the film's setting. In addition to Madonna's album, an album of the film's score by Danny Elfman and an album of songs "inspired" by the film were released.

Comic books

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

Dick Tracy was then 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 hampered by the fact that it was a direct adaptation of the film, and suffered from the same flaws that many felt hampered 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.

Although the comic strip's public profile has diminished since the 1990 Beatty film, it is still run in several newspapers. Apart from that, it is a common allusion in North America for unusual-looking criminals often to be described as resembling the strip's grotesque villains, while the lead character's wrist communicator is a typical example used when the possibility of an actual communication device being developed along the lines of something from science fiction is raised.

Filmography

Video game

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.

Trivia

  • In Al Capp's satiric comic strip Li'l Abner, there was a long-running parody of Dick Tracy called Fearless Fosdick. Fosdick, an intermittent, strip-within-the-strip feature in Li'l Abner, 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.
  • 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.
  • In an episode of Superman: The Animated Series which starred Gilbert Gottfried as imp Mr. Mxyzptlk, who comes literally out of the comic section Clark Kent is reading, look closely - one of the comic strips on the newspaper page is styled after Dick Tracy.
  • Dick Tracy's name was the inspiration for the name Dick Grayson, the first Robin
  • A Daffy Duck cartoon called The Great Piggy Bank Robbery spoofed Dick Tracy as "Duck Twacy". 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • In an episode of Veronica Mars, Veronica finds her professor's assistant Tim Foyle's password is "Dick Tracy," which she refers to as "cute."
  • Mad Magazine 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!")
  • South Park episode entitled "Imaginationland", Tracy appears among a group of numerous fictional characters.
  • Parody show Robot Chicken recently parodied Dick Tracy's labeling of villains based on their facial features.
  • When Spencer Tracy won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the movie Captains Courageous, the gold statuette was sent to be inscribed with his name. But when he got the statuette, it said "To Dick Tracy". The academy was embarrassed by this and corrected it. So for a few days, Dick Tracy became the first comic hero to have his name inscribed on an Oscar statuette.
  • In the episode "Shelf Life" of The Fairly Odd Parents, Cosmo makes a cameo of Dick Tracy. Tracy never had his name mentioned in the whole episode. Cosmo just produced the yellow hat, changed his appearance and described Tracy's modus operandi thinking he was talking about Sherlock Holmes.

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