Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 24: 1967-1969 by Chester Gould

As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 24 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from July 3, 1967 through to April 2, 1969. The book has an introductory essay by consulting editor Max Allan Collins, “Is All This Moon Stuff Worth It?” about the state of the strip at the time. It concludes with contributing editor Jeff Kersten’s “Hard as Hell – Act Two” about Gould and provides interesting annotations.

The book opens with Dick Tracy and Diet Smith hot on the trail of the bearded duo George Chin Chillar and his wife Notta as they try to make off with Bribery’s $100 grand that’s been orbiting the Earth. As the crooks descend, Gould makes clear they didn’t think things through, not only losing the money, but becoming slaves on the “farm” of music-loving/stolen-car ring leader Piggy Butcher, described as “the most brutal gangster known.” His ruthlessness is on full display in his treatment of the Chin Chillars, especially Notta, whose beard he repeatedly mocks.

As Tracy leads an assault on the compound, Gould presents an unexpected twist to the story when a henchman tries to destroy evidence. The associated panels feature marvelous details to the goings-on and serve as a commentary about the loyalty of crooks and that even “in nature, crime doesn’t pay.”

Piggy gets out on bail, but the cops have found his hidden millions, so he seeks revenge on Moon Maiden, who was responsible for his capture. He calls in Pollyanna, a dame who somewhat resembles her but that plan fails in a spectacular fashion. Plus, Piggy isn’t the only one seeking revenge, which is why readers should expect the unexpected from Gould as loose ends always seem to get tied up.

Gould then takes Tracy and readers to the Moon, which experiences their first murder. The culprit who confessed is Purdy Fallar, the brother of Mrs. Chin Chillar, making her maiden name Notta Fallar, which a few characters find funny. Yet, it was part of a plan to get to Earth and strike a deal with Mr. Intro to “control the economy of every major nation” with $60 billion in gold from the Moon. It seems rather a terrible decision for Gould to have Purdy get Tracy’s attention when Purdy could easily find another method to get to Earth.

The Plenty family returns when Sparkle wins a Moon Maid look-alike contest with first prize being a trip to anywhere. Mindy is disappointed she didn’t win, as is her father, perfume thief Posie Ermine, who murders some company executives as a result. When Tracy goes to investigate, Posie’s hat, a clue to proving him the killer, falls out the window and is given to a horse that drives a carriage in the city. Over several weeks, Posie chases after the hat while Tracy chases after Posie. It was a fun adventure, but rather disappointing to have yet another case begin with a stupid decision by the villain since Posie could afford to send his daughter anywhere.

A speeding driver leads to a gang of human-hair bandits, which eventually leads to a murder case. Along the way, Tracy loses of his dark locks and has to escape from being trapped 7,000 feet up in his magnetic air car. The Painted Lady is a nightclub and is named after a woman thought to be cause of the hair-stealing, but she is killed before being apprehended. They have a suspect in her death but he doesn’t match the clues. Even still, a trap is set on Diet Smith’s golf course on the moon.

Throughout Volume 24, Gould continues to deliver adventures filled with thrills, laughs, and action. The latter is the most impressive as a newspaper strip only allows for static images, yet Gould creates action in the mind as the readers’ eyes move across the panels. He repeats a visual gag over the course of this volume where a martini is thrown in someone’s face with the olives lining up perfectly where their eyes should be.

Gould seems to take glee in violence towards criminals from the well-detailed depictions. During the months-long Purdy case, he complains in a couple panels about the then-current justice system which “have made crime easy, convictions hard.” He hasn’t let the strip be affected by America’s turmoil of the late ’60s, as all cops remain good guys and the bad guys are simply that. Can’t wait to see what that start of a new decade will bring in the next volume.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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