Real Name: Dick Tracy
Identity/Class: Normal human
Occupation: Police detective, formerly commercial diver (pre-detective days), G-Man, Naval Lieutenant for Naval Intelligence, head of security for the Moon Governor (all interludes between regular detective work)
Affiliations: (fellow officers) Chief Brandon (retired after the death of Brilliant), Pat Patton (first partner, later became the second police chief after Brandon retired), Sam Catchem (second partner), Groovy Grove (third sidekick), Professor Groff (police scientist), Policewoman Lizz, Lee Ebony, Johnny Adonis
(others) Diet Smith (inventor), Brilliant (inventor who devised many of Tracy's gadgets, son of Diet Smith, killed by Big Frost); Gravel Gertie, Bob Oscar Plenty, Sparkle Plenty (daughter of Gravel and B.O.Plenty), Sparkle Plenty Jr., Influence (reformed criminal, hypnotist), Rifle Ruby (trigger-happy hermit), Heine Steuben, Vitamen Flintheart
Enemies: 3-D Magee (used killer ants), 88 Keys, Angletop, B-B Eyes, 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, Cueball, Cutie Diamond, Deafy Sweetfellow, Doc Hump, Faceless Redrum, Flattop Jones (professional assassin with mis-shapen skull), Flattop Jr., Gargles, 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, The Mole, Mousey, Mumbles, Olga, Peanutbutter, Pear-shape, Perfume, Pruneface (Nazi spy), Puckerpuss, Putty Puss (able to change his features), Rughead, Scorpio, Shakey, Shoulders, Sphinx, Splitface, Splitscreen, Spud Spaldoni, Squareface, Tiger Lilly, El Tigress, Tonsils, Torcher, Yogee Yamma
Known Relatives: Tess Trueheart (wife), Bonny Braids (daughter), Junior Tracy (adopted son), Moon Maid (daughter-in-law, wife of Junior, extra-terrestrial, deceased), Sparkle Plenty (daughter-in-law, second wife of Junior), Joseph Flintheart Tracy (son); Emil Trueheart (father-on-law except that he died before the wedding, deceased), "Mother" Trueheart (mother-in-law), Honeymoon (granddaughter, child of Junior and Moon Maid), Gordon Tracy (brother, Republic Serial only); Sparkle Plenty Junior (granddaughter, child of Junior and Sparkle Plenty)
Base of Operations: Unspecified American city
First Appearance: Detroit Mirror Newspaper strip (Chicago Tribune Syndicate, 4th October 1931)
Powers/Abilities: Good shot, good detective. His main ability though is his determination, pushing on to solve the case whatever the obstacles. He has used a variety of high-tech wrist watches - the original one was a two-way radio, later replaced by a two-way television, which eventually included its own in-built computer. He sometimes wears a miniature ring camera, suitable for covertly gathering evidence. He used phone wiretaps back before they existed in the real world, and a "voice-o-graph" to identify criminals by their voiceprints. He briefly employed a Magnetic Space Coupe car which allowed him to travel to the moon.
History: Dick Tracy was an unswervingly honest man in his mid-thirties, whose life was forever changed by a tragedy which struck the same day he proposed to his photographer girlfriend Tess Trueheart. When they returned to Tess' home to inform her family of their engagement, they walked in on the middle of a robbery. Local thugs, led by mob boss Big Boy Caprice, were shaking down Tess' grocer father, Emil. Interrupted, the crooks shoot Emil dead, then Big Boy knocks out Dick and kidnaps Tess. Vowing to save the women he loves and see justice done, Dick swiftly in the police force, and nine days later was appointed to the plainclothes detective division. After successfully rescuing Tess, he continued with his new career, using the latest technology and a incorruptible and unswerving sense of justice to bring down a wide range of bizarre criminals. Easily recognisable by his eagle-nose and jutting chin, he became feared and respected by the criminal underworld.
Over the years Tracy has dealt harsh justice to crooks the world over, briefly working as a G-Man (Federal agent), then as a Lieutenant Second Grade in the Naval Reserve during the War, working for Naval Intelligence as a plainclothes detective tracking down spies. In 1946 he befriended industrialist Diet Smith, and his son Brilliant, an inventor - shortly after this they provided him with a two-way wrist radio which will become Dick's most famous trademark. In the 1960's he even travelled to the moon to deal with alien criminals. In 1970 Tracy was temporarily blinded, but carried on his job in spite of this.
Along the way Dick adopted a young thief, who was rechristened Dick Tracy Junior, and after nearly two decades he finally married Tess. The course of true love didn't always run smooth though - prior to their marriage, Tess broke off their engagement, stating Dick's true love was his job, and instead married baseball player Edward Nuremoh. Nuremoh soon revealed he was only after Tess' inheritance though, and Tess divorced him and returned to Dick. They married on Christmas Eve, 1949, and Tess gave birth to their daughter, Bonnie Braids in May of 1951, and their son, Joseph Flintheart Tracy in November 1979. Although Tess considered divorcing Dick in 1994, and even filed papers, the couple eventually worked things out, and in 1999 celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. In 2006 Dick will celebrate seventy-five years of crimefighting, and he is still going strong.
Comments: Created by Chester Gould (1900-1985), whose inspiration for the character came from C.Augustine Dupin and Sherlock Holmes. The character was named by the Tribune's editor, Captain Joseph Patterson - Gould initially intended to call him "Plainclothes Tracy". Gould wrote and drew the character until he retired in 1977, after which Max Allan Collins took over writing, and Rick Fletcher the art. They in turn were replaced by the current team of Michael Kilian (writer) and Dick Locher (artist).
Beginning as a newspaper strip (the first daily one on 4th October 1931, the first Sunday one on 13th December the same year), Dick Tracy soon moved into other mediums. In 1932 the very first Big Little Book was "The Adventures of Dick Tracy", which reprinted the second month of his daily newspaper strip (November 19 through December 28, 1931 and April 12 through May 24, 1932). Dick had one of the longest running series of all characters who appeared in Big Little Books, 26 books in all, not counting reprints. Asides from the above, they were:
Dick Tracy from Colorado to Nova Scotia (1933, reprints May 22, 1933 to August 2, 1933 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and Dick Tracy Junior (1933, reprints October 13 through December 31, 1932 newspaper strips)
Dick Tracy Out West (1933, reprints March 2, 1933 to May 16, 1933 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Stolen Bonds (1934, reprints October 2, 1933 to December 5, 1933 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy Solves the Penfield Mystery (1934, reprints January 23, 1934 to May 7, 1934 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy on the Trail of Larceny Lu (1935, reprints August 3, 1934 to October 15, 1934 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Boris Arson Gang (1935, reprints November 13, 1934 to February 6, 1935 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy in Chains of Crime (1936, reprints May 26, 1935 to August 4, 1935 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Racketeer Gang (1936, reprints September 28, 1935 to December 8, 1935 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Hotel Murders (1937, reprints March 8, 1936 to May 10, 1936 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Spider Gang (1937, based on the Republic Serial of the same name)
Dick Tracy and the Man with No Face (1938, apparently an original story)
Dick Tracy on the High Seas (1939, reprints January 9, 1938 to March 26, 1938 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy, the Super Detective (1939, reprints November 8, 1938 to March 9, 1939 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy Returns (1939, based on the Republic Serial of the same name)
Dick Tracy and the Phantom Ship (1940, based on the radio script Dick Tracy's Ghost Ship)
Dick Tracy vs. Crooks in Disguise (1941, reprints March 12, 1939 to July 4, 1939 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and his G-Men (1941, an adaption of the Republic Pictures serial of similar name)
Dick Tracy, Special F.B.I. Operative (1943, reprints December 21, 1935 to March 1, 1936 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy on Voodoo Island (1944, original story)
Dick Tracy and the Wreath Kidnapping Case (1945, reprints February 4, 1943 to April 14, 1943 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Yogee Yamma (1946, reprints July 14, 1940 to September 18, 1940 newspaper strip),
Dick Tracy and the Mad Killer (1947, reprints February 26, 1941 to May 16, 1941 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Bicycle Gang (1948, reprints October 24, 1940 to December 19, 1940 newspaper strip)
Dick Tracy and the Tiger Lily Gang (1949, reprints June 14, 1942 to September 22, 1942 newspaper strip)
Dick also starred in several novels (which I don't currently have details of).
In 1935 Dick Tracy moved to radio, when Mutual produced the show for the New England region. Ned Wever, later to be known as the voice of Jor-El in the Superman radio series, played Tracy, making him the first actor to portray the character. In 1937 NBC took the show, and ran it for two year. It restarted on the NBC Blue Network in 1943, and ran until 1948. To begin with, the radio show ignored Tracy's detective background, and made him first an aviator (pre-US entry to WW II), then (unsurprisingly) a war hero. After the war, they finally turned Tracy into the cop he had always been everywhere else. In 1945 they did a special for the Radio Show, "Dick Tracy in B-Flat", a musical with Bing Crosby providing the voice of Tracy and Bob Hope the voice of Flathead.
Dick also enjoyed an early cinematic career, beginning with Republic Pictures filming several Saturday morning serials:
Dick Tracy (a.k.a. Dick Tracy and the Spider Gang, 1937) was the first, seeing Ralph Byrd in the title role, battling the Lame One and his Spider Gang, and introduced Gordon Tracy, Dick's brother. Originally a 15 part serial, this was then re-released in edited form as a feature film the same year.
Dick Tracy Returns (1938), the second 15 episode serial also saw Ralph Byrd reprise his role.
Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939), another 15 episode serial, had Tracy (again played by Byrd) take on Nicolas Zarnoff, a mad scientist who brought himself back from the dead after his execution
Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc (a.k.a. Dick Tracy vs. Phantom Empire, 1941), the final 15 part Republic Serial saw Byrd's Tracy battle Crime Inc., and it's leader, the Ghost, a villain who could turn invisible.
Dick Tracy (a.k.a. Dick Tracy, Detective, 1945) saw Morgan Conway take over the title role, to take on Splitface. As well as using a villain from the newspaper strip, this movie also saw the film debut of several members of his supporting cast, who had been missing in earlier adaptions.
Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946) again starred Conway as Tracy, and saw him battle Cueball.
Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947) saw Ralph Byrd return to the role, taking on the Claw.
Dick Tracy vs. Gruesome (1947) marked a close to the Republic series of movies and serials. Again starring Byrd as Tracy, it introduced several scientist with dubious pun names - Dr. A.Tomic, Dr. I.M. Learned, and Dr. Lee Thal. Gruesome, the lead villain, who killed using nerve gas, was notable because he was played by horror genre great Boris Karloff. Gruesome's assistant was called X-Ray.
In 1950 Ralph Byrd returned to the role, playing Tracy in a short lived (one season) series. Tracy got another stab at live action television in 1967, when Ray MacDonnell played him for a single season. The detective would return to live-action and the big screen in 1990, when Warren Beatty played him opposite Al Pacino's Big Boy, in a major motion picture from Touchstone Pictures.
Dick's animated adventures began in 1961 with UPA's Dick Tracy Show, a series of one-hundred and thirty 5 minute cartoons which saw him handing out assignments to various assistant detectives, and not actually fighting crime himself most of the time. He was voiced by Everett Sloane. On September 11th 1971, he returned to Saturday mornings briefly when Filmation slotted in a single Dick Tracy episode as part of "Archie's T.V Funnies" - John Erwin provided his voice.
In 1937 David Mckay Publications published a handful of issues of "Dick Tracy, the Detective", reprinting some of the newspaper strip, then a year later he became one of the leads in Dell Comics' Super Comics (which ran for 121 issues, although Dick had moved on before the final issue). He got his own title a decade later, published initially by Dell Comics for 24 issues, then from 1950 to 1961 by Harvey Comics, finishing with issue #145. Blackthorne Publishing released 24 issues of a reprint title starting in 1986, as well as specials and an "Early Years" mini-series. A few years later ACG released 4 issues of "Dick Tracy, Detective".
In 1995 the U.S. Postal Service honoured Tracy, along with several other seminal comic strip characters (including Popeye and Flash Gordon), with a commemorative stamp and first day covers.
Tracy has guest starred in another long running strip, Gasoline Alley, and has been parodied as Fearless Fosdick in the L'il Abner strips.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
any other detectives
anyone else called Dick
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
Back to US Independents Page
All images and characters depicted on this site are copyright their respective holders, and are used for informational purposes only. No infringement is intended and copyrights remain at source.