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A noir comic called Dick Tracy
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-10-05 10:23:00
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In a black and white world, where you can spot the criminals from their big flat-top head, policemen are too few to deal with all the crime and gangs, so they often escape through brutality by hitting the prisoner first and then asking the questions. There is also a man with a small hand communicator device and forensic talents that solves all the crimes, who finds the guilty and uses his gun only as the last solution.

ovi_tracy02Black and white is not metaphorical, since I have a mobile telephone myself just next to me this very moment, but I’m not talking about today. On October 4th 1931 the Chicago Tribune newspaper published a cartoon-strip made by Chester Gould with the name 'Dick Tracy' for the very first time.

The cartoon-strip was black and white just like Chicago was in the '30s. The gang wars were nearly over, but the legends were there and Hollywood had discovered film noir. Sam was playing it again and again and the time had come for cartoons to escape from raw action; a new hero was in town. A hero made with straight line, not the usual round nose and always wearing a Humphrey Bogart style yellow raincoat (that’s something we found out much later), the hat was always shadowing the eyes.

I saw the Dick Tracy comic strip for the first time back in the'60s from my father’s daily newspaper and poor Tracy was unlucky to be on the same page as Charlie Brown and Andy Capp. No luck at all. Snoopy was always unexpected with his fast humor and Andy was too much of a loser to be compared with serious and full of thoughts Tracy. I have to admit that it even took me a while to accept it. In a period when everybody was talking about police brutality here was one man, not exactly a policeman, who could storm inside the police station and start slapping faces in order to find the truth!

ovi_tracy01Sometime in the mid-40s they even made two films with Dick Tracy as the main character. In one, Boris Karloff played the valiant detective and I think that’s the only reason anybody will remember them.

However, he had something fascinating, at least for me. You see, near that period Star Trek started and Captain Kirk was using exactly the same communication device that Tracy had been using since the 1930s. This was the period that Gould tried to catch up with his time, when man was going to the moon and the enemy was not coming from the poor neighborhoods, but from the East and had a funny accent.

Times were obviously changing and Gould tried to keep up with more sophisticated gadgets and new characters like the boy and Groovy Grove, a character that was sort of hippie trying to reach a younger reader group, but somehow losing his ordinary reader group that had followed him since the '30s.

This year is 75 years since the first publication of Dick Tracy and the hero has become books, films and even a television series. It has a new creator Dick Locher, who apparently used to help Gould, but has lost a lot of its old glamour - no matter how hard Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino tried to bring him back. For most of us, Dick Tracy will remain the black and white detective with the fabulous women fighting in a dark word filled with villains with flat heads.

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Sand2006-10-04 17:45:50
As nosalgic as one might feel about Dick Tracy, the one comic strip that the world desperately needs today is "Pogo Possum" where political idiots and idiotic political ideas got their come-uppance.

Thanos2006-10-04 22:47:41
Thanks Jan, didn't know Pogo, just found it and it is really good!!! :) My self I always been fan of Mafalda, an Argentinian cartoon-strip that I'm not sure if it ever been published in English with a little girl, very political!

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