Dick Tracy and American Culture

Morality and Mythology, Text and Context


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About the Book

In October 1931, Dick Tracy made his debut on the pages of the Detroit Mirror. Since then America’s most famous crime fighter has tangled with a variety of protagonists from locations as diverse as the inner city and outer space, all the time maintaining the moral high ground while reflecting American popular culture.
Through extensive research and interviews with Chester Gould (the creator of “Dick Tracy”), his assistants, Dick Locher (the current artist), Max Allan Collins (who scripted the stories for more than 15 years) and many others associated with the strip, Dick Tracy as a cultural icon emerges. The strips use of both innovative and established police methods and the true-to-life portrayals of Tracy’s family and fellow cops are detailed. The artists behind the strip are fully revealed and Dick Tracy paraphernalia and the 1990 movie Dick Tracy are discussed. Dick Tracy’s appearances in other media—books, comics, radio, movie serials, “B” movies, television dramas, and animated cartoons—are fully covered.

About the Author(s)

Garyn G. Roberts is a multiple award-winning author, university and college faculty member and administrator. He is the author of a number of articles and books on diverse American culture topics. He lives in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

Bibliographic Details

Garyn G. Roberts
Forewords by Max Allan Collins, ; Jean O’Connell ; and Dick Locher
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 350
Bibliographic Info: 163 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003 [1993]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1698-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents


Some Context for a Serious Study
Max Allan Collins      xi
Dick Tracy’s Sister Remembers
Jean Gould O’Connell      xiii
The Enduring Qualities of Dick Tracy
Dick Locher      xv


1. The Dick Tracy Comic Strip: An American Culture Phenomenon      1

2. Chronicling a Culture: A History of the Development of the American Comic Strip      17

3. Of Blue Knights and Social Injustices: The Police Procedural Detective Story and Dick Tracy      31

4. From Historical Fact to Historical Fantasy: The Dick Tracy Comic-Strip from 1931 to the Present      55
The Thirties      59
The Forties      83
The Fifties      114
The Sixties      128
The Seventies      142
The Eighties      148
The Nineties      153

5. Builders of a Legend: The People Behind Dick Tracy      163
Chester Gould      164
Max Allan Collins      175
Richard E. Fletcher      185
Dick Locher      189
John Locher      191
Richard Arnold “Dick” Moores      191
Russell Stamm      196
Jack Ryan      197
Coleman Anderson      198
Ray Gould      198
Ray Shlemon and Susan Anderson      199
An Overview of the Contributors to Tracy      199

6. A Proliferation of Moral Storytelling: Dick Tracy in Media Other Than the Comic Strip      203
Big Little Books      205
Feature Books      215
Comic Books      216
Radio Drama      224
Movie Serials      250
“B” Movies      254
Television Drama      257
Animated Cartoons      261
Television Pilot      266

7. Premiums, Paraphernalia, and Material Culture: The Dick Tracy Toys      271

8. The 1990 Blockbuster Movie      277

9. The Second Most Famous Detective      287


INDEX      309

Book Reviews & Awards

Honorable Mention, National Book Award—Popular Culture Association. Finalist, Edgar Allan Poe Award—Mystery Writers of America
“excellent…highly readable…the text is punchy, determined, giving a slam bang comprehension of what Gould and Tracy were all about…copious illustrations of comic strips…super biography about Gould himself…fascinating, and well illustrated…definitive book on all-things-Tracy”—Classic Images; “the first comprehensive history of Dick Tracy…will be warmly received and enjoyed by many”—Choice; “comprehensive”—Journal of the American Association of School Librarians; “marvelous…thoroughly comprehensive…highly informative…very enjoyable”—Journal of Popular Culture; “a wealth of descriptive material”—Inks; “profusely illustrated…readable and very entertaining”—The Armchair Detective; “provides a broad survey of the Dick Tracy phenomenon”—AB Bookman’s Weekly; “well worth reading”—Daily News (Bowling Green, Kentucky).