Thursday, January 24, 2019


I'm sure there are a whole lotta readers out there who never knew that DICK TRACY even made it outta the sixties alive, but these strips (which probably didn't even run in yer local paper because they were contributing to the upswing in violent crime, or something like that) show that the same Chester Gould feel and ideals were still in charge, and in charge pretty good at that! The grotesque style in art and text that we've known since at least the late-thirties is still present, and even the advent of the New Morality and all that civilization chainball wrecking that we hadda endue couldn't stop Gould from putting out a strip that, while firmly embedded in the ways and mores of a better comic era, was pretty much up-to-date and about as to-the-point as DIRTY HARRY only without the swearing and tits, naturally.

The words used to describe these particular comics, at least by a few commentators up and about, is "soap opera-y". Or something like that an' I can see where these expert types are comin' from. While TRACY hadn't actually become MARY WORTH and melodrama has always been heavily hangin' about the strip since the early days there seems to more of that ol' "emote" around what with the passage where Tracy himself goes blind after his house burns down (the second time!) and B.O. Plenty's nephew Vera Alldid falls in love with a now-fully grown Sparkle who's his cousin (though I did breathe a heavy sigh o' relief when in the May 21, 1969 edition it was discovered that the two are not blood relatives---fer a minute I thought Gould was gonna be headin' into hillbilly incest territory!). But don't worry, because in between all the tear-sheddin' yer gonna do while reading these there's also a fairly good amount of ACTION that'll keep you true to your own Suburban Slob Ranch House Kiddie credo! With the likes of dognapper Mr. Litter. the astrologically-minded and face-tattoo'd Scorpio and flashy hip gangster Diamonds (who with his diamond tooth and nostril/ear piercings looks pretty uppa date if ya ask me!) to contend with how could ya say these comics were lacking the true TRACY spirit?

The whole "War on Crime" aspect of these TRACYs that's been talked about, often and usually in conjunction with the strip's "demise", really ain't as overbearing as various wags out there would have led ya to believe. Other'n a daily strip where a still-blind Tracy attends a meeting inaugurating the "Law and Order First" campaign which consisted of posters bearing Tracy's likeness being splattered across various comic panels in the weeks to come, there ain't nothing here that'd scare any of you lefty readers off unless yer really sensitive about your sense of misplaced compassion. Of course the criminals who get caught always crack me up when Tracy shoots at 'em and they complain about their civil rights and such, but after years of mollycoddling and using kid gloves on truly violent types in this world I for one sure get a kick outta their caterwauling!

Thankfully Gould also doesn't let his opinions regarding the so-called "Beautiful People" be damper'd. Hippies get the razz, and in a world where the shaggoids used to get praised to the hilt as some sorta new breed of Christ (!) it sure is refreshing seeing 'em put down like they always shoulda been! And ya know I ain't talkin' 'bout the high energy, hard rockin' type of longhair nohow but the flitzy heartbleed Joan Baez/James Taylor types who have irritated me to no end! But there is an exception to the usual TRACY rule---in these pages a fellow by the moniker of "Groovy" Grove, a hipster ex-con who was convicted on circumstantial evidence, pardoned and wants to become a policeman himself makes his rather surprising debut. His appearance ain't as hippoid as one would have expected, in fact he looks more like some seventies porn star complete with a "flavor saver" mustache than a rabble rousing student type, but at least to Gould he represents one of the younger generation types who made good and I can see nothing especially wrong with that. In these early appearances Grove actually seems like he would have been a fairly good addition to the TRACY cast what with his savvy and brash cool-ness---too bad the post-Gould-era creators had him offed after he was married (on his death bed!) to detective Lizz some time in the eighties. Awww, maybe he was a one-shot type after all but he was a rather major character in these sagas and fits into the then-recent emotive tone rather snazz-like!

I kinda dread in at least a few ways the upcoming volumes. After all, even Gould decided to do some updating on the TRACY legacy portraying him with flashy colored shirts, a blue suit, a mustache and even long hair probably aliening all of the old time readers he still had left! But although the few strips I do remember from this era were so-so (I was only catching the Sundays by this time, and on scant occasion) I get the feeling that the ol' TRACY style will live on without any real amputations, at least until Gould's 1977 retirement. And I for one play on sticking around until this very end---will you???

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

I can't keep up with these....I'm still around 1960 in my Tracy reading....but it's amazing that these are coming out at all and continuing into the years that often get slammed and that most people have not read. I think I'll skip ahead and get this volume, though. I have a feeling that Chester Gould's take on the late 1960's will be a breath of fresh air and he will deflate various sacred cows of the era. You can never get enough Chester Gould, whose hometown was Pawnee, Oklahoma, right down the road from where I lived in the early 80's. They should erect a statue in his honor. At one time there was a Dick Tracy mural in Pawnee....I hope it's still there.