The Dick Tracy character was created by cartoonist Chester Gould (1900-1985) in
1931 and first appeared on October 4, 1931 in the Detroit Mirror. In the strip's
first week, Dick Tracy's girlfriend, Tess Trueheart, is kidnapped and Tess'
grocer father, Emil, is murdered. Nine days later, former commercial diver, Dick
Tracy is appointed to the plainclothes detective division as a detective to
track down the killers and rescue his girlfriend Tess. Dick Tracy then decides
to continue to work for the police. The Dick Tracy comic strip was distributed
by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. The Dick Tracy character was named by the
Tribune's editor, Captain Joseph Patterson. Gould initially call him
"Plainclothes Tracy". Gould wrote and drew the strip until 1977. The Dick Tracy
comic strip reflected the violence of Chicago in the 1930s. Dick Tracy used
forensic science, futuristic and advanced gadgetry and police procedure to get
the bad guy. In January 1946, Dick Tracy's famous 2-Way Wrist Radio was
introduced as a communications device, worn as a wristwatch by Tracy and members
of the police force and was eventually upgraded to a 2-Way Wrist TV. In 1986,
the 2-Way Wrist TV evolved into the 2-Way Wrist Computer. Diet Smith was an
eccentric industrialist who financed the development of the 2-Way Wrist Computer. Brilliant,
a blind inventor and the son of Diet Smith, invented the 2-Way Wrist Radio and other
devices: numerous Atomic powered high-tech gadgetry and other devices, an atomic laser beam, a
miniature ring camera, a "voice-o-graph" to identify criminals by their
voiceprints, the Space Coupe (a spacecraft with a magnetic propulsion system),
air cars and flying cylindrical vehicles were all developed by Diet Smith
Industries and Brilliant. Dick Tracy had briefly working as a G-Man (Federal agent), as a
Lieutenant Second Grade in the Naval Reserve during World War II and for Naval
Intelligence as a plainclothes detective tracking down spies. In 1970, Dick
Tracy was temporarily blinded, but continued to work.
Dick Tracy's girlfriend: Tess Trueheart (finally married Dick Tracy on Christmas Day
1949, after an 18-year rocky courtship). Tess Trueheart gave birth to Dick Tracy's
daughter, Bonnie Braids in May of 1951 and their son, Joseph Flintheart Tracy in
November 1979. Dick Tracy's adopted son, sidekick and a prior thief: Dick Tracy
Jr. "Junior", Dick Tracy's boss: Chief Brandon, Dick Tracy's secretary: Gwen
Andrews, Dick Tracy's professional partner: Pat Patton (was promoted to police
chief after Brandon voluntarily resigned in shame), Dick Tracy's 2nd partner:
Sam Catchem. Dick Tracy's 3rd partner: Groovy Grove. Police scientist: Professor
Groff, Policewoman Lizz, Lee Ebony, Johnny Adonis, Influence (reformed criminal,
Some of the comic strip's villains were: 3-D Magee (used killer ants), 88 Keys,
Angletop, B-B Eyes, mob boss Big Boy Caprice (Tracy's arch enemy, and leader of
the Apparatus gang), Big Frost (killer of Brilliant), Black Pearl, The Blank
(face destroyed by gunshot), Blowtop, Bony, Breathless Mahoney, Broadway Bates,
The Brow (Nazi spy), Chameleon (disguise expert), The Claw, Coffyhead, Crewy
Lou, Cueball, Cutie Diamond, Deafy Sweetfellow, Doc Hump, Faceless Redrum,
Filthy Flora, Flattop Jones (professional assassin with mis-shapen skull),
Flattop Jr., Gargles, Gravel Gertie, Gruesome, Haf-and-Haf, Steve Hardin,
Headache, Heels Beals, Honeymoon, Itchy Oliver, Johnny Scorn, Larceny Lu, Lips
Manlis, Littleface Finney, Matty Square, Maxine Viller, Measles, Miss Egghead,
Mrs. Pruneface, Mrs. Volts, Mr. Bribery, Mr. Crime, Mr. Intro (appeared as a
disembodied voice), The Mole, Mousey, Mumbles, Olga, Peanutbutter, Pear-shape,
Perfume, Pruneface (Nazi spy), Puckerpuss, Putty Puss (able to change his
features), Rughead, Scorpio, Selbert Depool, Shakey, Shoulders, Snowflake Falls,
Sphinx, Spike Dyke, Splitface, Splitscreen, Spud Spaldoni, Squareface, The
Summer Sisters (May, June & July), Tiger Lilly, El Tigress, Tonsils, Torcher,
Vitamin Flintheart, Yogee Yamma.
In 1937, David Mckay Publications published a few issues of
"Dick Tracy, the Detective" Comic Strip (reprinting some of the newspaper strip).
In 1938, Dick Tracy became one of the leads in Dell Comics' Super Comics, which ran for 121 issues.
The first Dick Tracy comic book was produced in 1947 by Sig Feuchtwanger and was
given away in boxes of Popped Wheat cereal. In January 1948, Dell Comics began
the first Dick Tracy comic book series, publishing 24 issues of Dick Tracy. From
1950 to 1961, Harvey Comics finished the Dick Tracy comics series from issue #25
to issue #145. Starting in 1986, Blackthorne Publishing ran 99 issues of The
Dick Tracy comic book series, releasing 24 issues of a reprint title, as well as
specials and an "Early Years" mini-series. A few years later ACG released 4
issues of "Dick Tracy, Detective". Disney produced three Dick Tracy comic book
issues for their 1990 film.
The first Dick Tracy cartoon series was produced from 1960 to 1961 by United
Productions of America, with 130 five-minute cartoons designed and packaged for
syndication. In 1971, a second Dick Tracy cartoon series, produced by Filmation,
was a feature in Archie's TV Funnies.
Chester Gould died in 1985. There are legal battles 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, a major motion picture from Touchstone
Pictures, and television producers have announced plans for a new Dick Tracy TV
series. Both claim that they are the legal owners of the rights to Dick Tracy.
In May 2005, Warren Beatty sued the Tribune Company, claiming he has owned the
rights to the Dick Tracy character since 1985.
The Dick Tracy comic strip is still run in several newspapers. Dick Tracy's
2-way wrist communicator "Dick Tracy Phone" is now an actual communication
device and is continually being developed an improved.
Chester Gould retired from comics in 1977 and his last Dick Tracy strip appeared
in print on Sunday, December 25, 1977. The following Monday, Dick Tracy was
taken over by Max Collins and Gould's assistant Rick Fletcher. Rick Fletcher
died in 1983 and was succeeded by editorial cartoonist Dick Locher. Locher
assisted Gould in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Locher was assisted by his son
John, who died in 1986. In 1992, Max Collins was fired from the strip, and
Tribune staff writer and columnist Mike Kilian took over. Kilian continued on
the strip until he died on October 27, 2005. Dick Locher is now drawing and
helping to author the storyline with Michael Kilian (writer).
The Dick Tracy radio show aired 15-minute episodes weekdays in 1934 on NBC, four
times a week on CBS in 1935, on Mutual from 1935 to 1937, on NBC's weekday
afternoon from 1938 to 1939, on the ABC Blue Network from 1943 to 1948, and on
ABC for a 30-minute Saturday series from 1945 to 1946.
The Dick Tracy character was played on screen and TV by Ralph Byrd in four
Republic Pictures movie serials "Dick Tracy" (1937), "Dick Tracy Returns"
(1938), "Dick Tracy's G-Men" (1939), "Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc." (1941), in two
RKO Radio Pictures feature length films and a Dick Tracy series that ran on ABC
from 1950 to 1951. Additional episodes intended for first-run syndication were
also produced in 1952. The Dick Tracy series ended because of Ralph Byrd's
unexpected death in 1952. The sequels to "Dick Tracy" (1937) were produced under
an interpretation and Chester Gould, Dick Tracy's creator, received no money for
the sequel serials.
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