Thursday, May 21, 2015

BOOK REVIEW! THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY VOLUME 18 (1957-1959) by Chester Gould (The Library of American Comics/IDW 2015)!

Dunno about you, but for this Johnny Onna Spot we're now heading into some of the best years that DICK TRACY hadda offer! Maybe that's because we were also heading into perhaps thee boffo-est times for high class down home Amerigan living, and comics back then did intermingle with fun tee-vee, fast foods, music and all of those other things that kept kiddoids a'goin' at least until the do-gooder types told us to turn off SUPERCAR and listen to Joan Baez before the world fell into that great abyss of consumerist nada. And you know how well that turned out, dontcha!

Some of Chester Gould's best art and storylines appear here. The brief segment where Junior and Tracy discuss the former's planned career in the police department (page 13) is not only brilliantly executed with all of that heavy shadow but contains a whole passel of now-antiquated bit of heart-tug and pathos that went out with the Edsel as the sitcoms used to say! But hey, this brand of cornballism sure beats TODAY'S breed of touchy-feelyisms that attempt to get Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch all heart-throbbing concerned about the plight of your local no-count 'stead of the elderly couple who were robbed and beaten by said badski! Now THAT'S the REAL cornball, not these classic Gould strips which do well to display emotion and feeling in an otherwise violent and at times downright cruel strip.

The rest is top notch as well. The part where the goatee'd crook Pantsy and his wife try to find where a buried stash of loot is by playing the secret message recorded within the grooves pressed under the label is a hoot (and once again we get to see someone get shot through the head with not only brain and skull matter but the bullet wiggling away upon exit), while the extended Egghead saga dealing with illegal cockfights and Tracy being banished to a granite-laden island in the Caribbean sure kept me in suspense the two days I read it just like it must have to all of the comic strip fans who spent a good eight months going through that rather nail-biting episode. And especially creepy is the Headache storyline which not only features the saga of a guy who makes slot machines that look like baby buggies but the aging fanabla's attempted romance with his partner's seventeen-year-old daughter Popsie!  Between all of the violence and this bitta jailbaiting I wonder why the local old ladies and veterans groups weren't trying to ban TRACY inna late fifties 'stead of in the sixties when they thought that it was strips like this as well as BUGS BUNNY cartoons that were influencing everyone from Lee Harvey Oswald to Richard Speck to do all of them dirty deeds.

Good volume here for sure but one thing...I kinda wish that someone other'n Max Allan Collins would write these forwards. Not that I hate the fanabla, but Collins is stuck in neutral rehashing and revisiting a whole load of critical/societal points and causes that cropped up in earlier editions. Now, a recycler like myself might be able to get away with it (or so I hope), here it just seems like a waste of pages what with Collins trying to be his seventies hipster self coming to terms with Gould's old time tough guy ideas even though he has all the respect for the guy who he came to loggerheads with on more'n a few occasions. Fresh blood time, or at least a case of Geritol for the one-time hotshot who seems to have seen better days but now comes off even tireder than I have trying to think up new avenues and modes to crank out my usually flaccid ideas and thoughts that mean about as much to most people as a temperance lecture woulda meant to Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin!


Max Allan Collins said...

I only came to "loggerheads" with Chet Gould once, and that was when (during the period where he was co-signing the strip with me and Rick Fletcher) he criticized in public what Fletcher and I were doing. Not only were these criticisms nothing he'd shared with me (in our at least once weekly phone conversations), he used the spotlight of the 50th anniversary of DT publicity that I had personally bankrolled when the Trib syndicate showed no interest.

I generally don't respond to criticism, and I'm not really doing so now, because I can't make heads nor tails out of your complaints. I don't understand "fanabla" in this (or maybe any) context. I have no idea what a "seventies hipster" is -- in the seventies, there were no hipsters, though there were certainly hippies, and I was never a hippie. I'm sure I am repeating myself somewhat because I have done 19 of these essays, more than a book's worth. The nastier aspects of your mini-rant ("one-time hotshot"; "Geritol") might hurt if they weren't couched in such a self-conscious mix of false modesty and gibberish. But by all means write up an intro and submit it to IDW. Get me fired and replaced by an incompetant. It's happened before.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Gee, if I have to explain what a "seventies hipster" was I'd have to show you an old pic of yourself with that long hair and droopy mustache. But then again I spent the entire decade with hair shorter than Curly Howard so maybe I am prejudiced. And as far as "gibberish" goes well, if pseudo Meltzerian gonzo rockspeak doesn't jibe with you so be it. Ditto Eyetalian slang such as "fanabla" which does give my blog the proper suburban slob appeal I am going after (you needn't bother to understand this since I doubt you grew up in ranch house suburbia---without coming to loathe it).

And personally, after reading many of your socio-political views over the years which I took as a form of standard left wing superiority/oneupmanship over the views that Gould had espoused for years (I mean, saying that parents needing to spend more time with their children is solely a liberal idea really does show what I would surmise is a hopefully not willful ignorance of conservatism), maybe you were more of a hippie (or fellow traveler) than you had realized?

But really, I never would say anything truly nasty about a Flamin' Groovies fan, and what I wrote about you wasn't exactly meant to be taken 100% seriously! (Ninety percent maybe, but I am not what you'd call a nitpicker.)

By the way, did you catch my review of STRIP FOR MURDER? I raise a few interesting points in that one as well!

Max Allan Collins said...

You are apparently much hipper than I've ever been, because I have no idea what "pseudo Meltzerian gonzo rockspeak" is or what "Eyetalian slang (with) suburban slob appeal" is either. You must be close to my age, since when you criticize me for being a tired old guy who needs Geritol, you do so in the way a tired old guy might -- you know, one who knows that Geritol is. The hair and mustache in old photos (which I've used now and then in self-mockery) date to the late '60s, not early '70s, and don't reflect anything more than what a lot of rock musicians wore at the time (the last CDs I bought were the Standells and Shadows of Knight live ones -- though I'm not in particular a Flamin' Groovies fan, which you inform me I am).

I was reading Ayn Rand in junior high and went through a crazily conservative phase till early college, which may be why I took to DICK TRACY and Mike Hammer, at least in part. I've spent a good deal of my career being attacked by conservatives for being too liberal and vice versa, which means I must be doing something right. And I doubt Mickey Spillane would have entrusted me with his voluminous unpublished files if he thought there was any chance I'd try to complete these works by infusing them with left-wing views.

On the other hand, in an essay, I will express whatever views I care to at the time. I don't think there's much politics in my TRACY intros, with much more focus on storytelling both visual and verbal, and that's probably what offended me about your wishing I would go away, as if I spent my time on a liberal soapbox attacking Chet. With the exception I previously noted, I never had any problems with Chet, and we were actually very close, predating my involvement in the strip. His problems were with Rick Fletcher, and that was an unfortunate, even tragic surrogate father-and-son relationship that found me in the middle. My Alley Oop documentary, CAVEMAN, was my way of discussing that situation by examining a stunningly similar one (V.T. Hamlin and Dave Graue).

I shouldn't have waded in here because I really don't understand where you're coming from enough to do so at all intelligently. I don't believe I've seen your STRIP FOR MURDER review, and you didn't provide a link.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Thanks for writing (really!). As for the Flamin' Grooovies word has it via a fan of this blog that you are a fan because of a character of your's singing "Teenage Head" in a BATMAN comic. And hey, I for one figured who else would toss a lyric by a nearly forgotten outside the garage band fan realm act into a mega-popular world-known comic title anyway?

Of course I know what Geritol is considering how THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW has blared forth from the family television ever since I can remember! (And, as readers of this blog know, I sure do throw in the old cultural references in as if any of my readers would remember the Jack Paar "W.C." incident or Tommy Manville.) And yeah, I would consider myself a tired old turd in many ways myself considering how for me all GOOD pop culture seems to have petered out in the seventies only to be replaced by a pale baby boomer variant that never could live up to the original. As I've said before, I'm pretty much the modern day version of the old coot I'd see when I was a youth who looked and dressed like Lt. Trask from PERRY MASON and still drove the same 1949 Dodge he bought when he retired twentysome years back.

The only good thing I could really say about Ayn Rand (other'n she made a few good points along with a bunch of bad ones) is that the lady influenced those Steve Ditko comics I really enjoy. For me my own political opinions are more or less influenced by an amalgamation of Mencken, Pat Buchanan, Murray Rothbard, Ron Paul, Justin Raimondo and a few choice commentators of the past and present. And I absolutely hate what modern day conservatism is, let alone modern day liberalism.

I don't know how to post links in these comboxes, but if you're that interested you can always go to the top of my page and search. After reading the review again, I found it too wordy, bogged down and plain unreadable which is how I look at some of my scribblings which, no matter how much I think genius upon creation, rarely if ever stands the test of publication let alone time. I do make a few good points in there though such as about the constant hammering of anti-communists by people who just can't get into their minds as to how vile and bloody the entire movement had been this past century.

Funny, for some reason I thought you'd be familiar with the writings of Richard Meltzer. How about Lester Bangs or some of the other early gonzo rock writers of the seventies?

Max Allan Collins said...

Oh, Richard Meltzer. Lester Bangs. I glanced at that stuff at the time but have never really paid much attention to rock critics. I have a general sense that taking this stuff too seriously was a bad turn to take. I have indulged in criticism from time to time, but wish I could resist the impulse. I had a regular movie review column in MYSTERY SCENE for maybe ten years but quit when I had directed a movie myself and found out how fucking hard it was. I hope Gene Siskel is in an unpleasant purgatory trying to get out by writing and directing a movie equivalent to the worst one he ever saw.

I can confirm that modern day conservatives and modern day liberals are shitheads. I really do get attacked by both sides equally. I dared in my novel SUPREME JUSTICE to have a hero who was an old school Kennedy liberal, and was swarmed by negative reviews on Amazon from people who'd got word that I needed attacking (don't need to read the book, just start frothing and go). When Mike Hammer or Nathan Heller admire a female form, I'm attacked for misogyny. When Quarry kills somebody in his hired killer role, I'm either amoral or immoral, depending. Some days it's wearing, but most days it's amusing. Say whatever you will about me (meaning the specific you, not the general one). At least you bother to try to prove your points, which so few do anymore.