Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

Chester Gould, Dick Tracy, January 2, 1947

Chester Gould (1900-1985) was a journeyman cartoonist until he created Dick Tracy in 1931. The crime strip was unusually violent and featured grotesque criminals as foils to its police detective hero Dick Tracy. To maintain suspense, Tracy and other characters often found themselves trapped in situations where death was imminent but not instantaneous--the rescues could be stretched out over many days. In addition to such bizarre criminals as Flattop, the Brow, Influence, Pruneface and Mumbles, many of the secondary characters were just as strange: B.O. Plenty, Diet Smith, Gravel Gertie and a major player in the sequence Influence story arc, Vitamin Flintheart. Influence, a criminal who is able to hypnotize people with his eyes, takes command of Flintheart in a scheme to rob a rich widow.

What was truly brilliant about Dick Tracy is the design of the strip. The use of black as a visual element, providing rhythm from panel to panel and helping to create a sinister mood, is masterful. His figures are so stylized that they seem utterly surreal. Dick Tracy is one of the most visually exciting comic strips ever created.

More than two decades worth of this classic strip have been reprinted in the past few years.

Chester Gould, Dick Tracy, February 2, 1947