Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY, VOLUME 16: 1954-56 by Chester Gould (IDW/Library of American Comics, 2014)

After a brief fallow period, Chester Gould snaps back to top form here, bringing back two classic villains (well, since Flattop Jr. is Flattop's son, perhaps I should say "one-and-a-half"), birthing another (the corpulent hitman Oodles), and introducing Lizz the Policewoman, whose role in the strip would only grow with time.  The TRACY material reprinted in Harvey Comics' DICK TRACY MONTHLY petered out at about this time, but a portion of this era has seen the light of post-newsprint day before, with the entire run from 1956 having been reprinted in a 1991 volume.


Our cover boy, Rughead, isn't the most compelling of foes, though the manner of his final demise is imaginative.  Things really begin to pop when the long-thought-dead Mumbles unexpectedly returns as the calypso-singing (?!?) tutor to the wild children of healthy-living fanatic George Ozone.  Actually, while Mumbles is in good, muttering, murderous form, Ozone is the most memorable figure in the ensuing adventure, though he doesn't hang around for very long.  He's a classic "tweener," claiming that his exercise regimen and "ozone pellets" will help save mankind from a sedentary fate, while at the same time attempting to dodge the taxman by burying his boys Neki and Hokey's inheritance in an out-of-the-way place.  I wonder whether Chester Gould got the idea for Ozone from George Herriman's short-lived strip MAJOR OZONE'S FRESH AIR CRUSADE.

Oodles, of course, would later enjoy the singular honor of being included in the rotating rogue's gallery on UPA's Dick Tracy Show, voiced by Howard Morris, no less.  Thankfully, the animated series presented the character in his original, mop-haired form.  When the on-the-run oaf tries to throw off the coppers by losing weight and shaving his head, the end result is NOT a pretty sight.

You seem entirely too... eager there, Dick.

Is that Oodles' hair or a deflated souffle?

Lizz enters the picture after her sister falls victim to the vaguely Brando-esque hood Joe Period, who might be described as Gould's first concerted effort to fully come to grips with a pop-culture archetype of the 1950s.  After what would seem to be an unrealistically short period of training, Lizz is on the case, attempting to bring Joe to justice.  Thankfully, Gould doesn't fall victim to the temptation to make her a completely competent cop from the off; her early efforts include more than a few bungles.  Clearly, however, Gould realized that he had a winner in this character, and he will bring her along nicely in the coming years, though she won't really come into her own until the 60s and 70s.  

As the volume ends, Joe Period and Flattop Jr. are allied and attempting to evade the fuzz in Flattop's impressively high-tech car.  The two-teen dynamic is one that Gould had never tried before, and he carries it off well, though he makes no serious attempt to mimic the slang that teens were speaking during this era.  (Well, Joe Period does use the occasional "baby," which I suppose counts for something.)

Reproduction of daily strips continues to be a bit of a problem, as it has been in a number of the most recent volumes.  A lot of the fine detail in the dailies, particularly those from '55, simply isn't visible.  I greatly respect IDW's production quality and certainly hope that their creative team isn't slacking off as the number of volumes grows.


Joe Torcivia said...


I’m not particularly well-steeped in Tracy-lore but, if ever there was a villain character I was convinced was specifically created for the UPA animated TV series, it was Oodles… just by the LOOK of him!

Even if I didn’t know specifically, all the other villains LOOKED as if they would have been created by Gould. I’d even give it to the two-time-appearing “Cheater Gunsmoke” over Oodles, who I felt was created to give The Brow a “dumb henchman” for the purpose of exposition.

Further, I don't believe Oodles was voiced by Howard Morris on the daily cartoon, with which I’m familiar. Compare the voice with any of the voices Morris did for the various Hanna-Barbera shows and there’s no “repeating match” anywhere – as you’d find with the non-H-B characters of animated Beetle Bailey and Jughead Jones.

And, there were no “obviously-Morris” voices anywhere else in the DICK TRACY series. Surely, they wouldn’t have brought him in for a single, semi-recurring supporting role, when every other actor (save Everett “Dick Tracy” Sloane) did double/triple/quadruple duty.

Perhaps Morris DID voice Oodles for the prime-time MAGOO episode but, for the cartoon, I’d always guessed it was somebody like Jerry Hausner. And, since you got me curious, IMDB appears to confirm that HERE.


Pan MiluĊ› said...

Since you the only Dick Tracy fans I know, I must turn to you guys for avice...

My local comic book store have three volumes of this :

Are they worth buying?

Chris Barat said...


Yes, those are the collected strips from the first three post-Chester Gould years of DICK TRACY (1977-1980). They're of pretty high quality and certainly worth getting.