Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Book Review: THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY, VOLUME 15: 1953-54 by Chester Gould (IDW/Library of American Comics, 2013)
Our cover boy, 3-D Magee, doesn't seem to have a lot going for him apart from the "goofy glasses" that represent his only real connection to the contemporary 3-D movie fad. He and his female partner Pony engage in a lengthy and occasionally tedious scheme to extort money from B.O. Plenty's rich oilman brother Uncle Kincaid (aka "Uncle Canhead"). (What was it about the early 50s that inspired comics creators to dote so heavily on wealthy characters? First Uncle Scrooge, then Richie Rich, and now "Canhead.") The fact that the subplot to this story involves "Canhead" (who resembles a cross between a shorn B.O., Popeye, and Harry Truman) building the Plenty family a bathroom tells you all you need to know about the level of inspiration involved. However, Magee does merit notice in one respect: Despite the Irish surname and the appetite for giant mounds of spaghetti, he is pretty clearly the strip's first major (or semi-major, even) Hispanic villain. He hails from Peru and is an expert knife-thrower (where did the idea that Hispanics excelled at chucking sharp cutlery originate, I wonder, and where did it disappear to?). In a sense, the Magee continuity is a precursor to Gould's more elaborate Havana continuity of the late 50s.
the Crewy Lou/Bonnie Braids Tracy and Tonsils/Mr. Crime continuities from 1951-52, complete with a mysterious backwoods figure (in this case, the blind sharpshooter Rainbow Reilly) who helps the good guys. Gould appears to have eventually had second thoughts about the repeated "child endangerment" plots, because they more or less fade away after this one. Instead, he will pitch into a short period of "villain comeback" stories, starting with the resurrection of the supposedly drowned Mumbles. Those stories could also be considered "cheaters" of a sort, but at least they're more energetic than the relatively pallid ones on display here.