Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 25: 1969-1970 by Chester Gould

As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 25 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from April 3, 1969 through to December 23, 1970. The book has an introductory essay by consulting editor Max Allan Collins, “Fate Is Strange,” which provides commentary on the strips included, and concludes with contributing editor Jeff Kersten’s “Bushed and Ugly,” about Gould’s political subtext and the business of Dick Tracy.

As the book opens, readers meet cartoonist Vera Alldid, whose name is a groan-inducing pun based on his father’s broken English. The father exclaimed with relief after the birth of his sixth child, and first boy, “Ve’re All Did!” I find it hard to believe anyone aside from Gould finds it as funny as the Tracy gang do. Vera has come to town in hopes Tracy can put him in touch with his uncle, B. O. Plenty. Turns out Vera’s specialty is drawing dogs, which not only gets him an art exhibition, but into the clutches of Mr. Litter, who uses Vera’s talents for a dog-napping ring.

Vera and Sparkle Plenty become a romantic item. After a few suggestive strips, Gould retcons the character and lets it be known, through Sparkle, that they are actually step cousins, which should placate anyone with delicate sensibilities. When Vera discovers he’s been duped by Litter, he runs away, but Sparkle refuses to let him go alone. They elope, returning 13 months later, with Vera a successful cartoonist, thanks to his The Invisible Tribe, a joke strip as unfunny as Sawdust, and a stove with a built-in TV for his father-in-law.

There’s no rest for the police force. As the dog-napping case wraps up, a floater is found. There’s a clue in the man’s cuff links, which reference the zodiac and were made in London, so Tracy and Lizz travel to England. It’s not a surprise to learn the villain this case is named Scorpio, complete with a scorpion tattoo on his face, and is beholden to astrology. His obsession is his downfall as is alcohol, which keeps Scorpio from thinking clearly, such as when he recklessly throws a bottle at Lizz who is in an air car outside his penthouse.

Tracy briefly “moonlights” as Head of Security and Law Enforcement for Diet Industries on the Moon, which is good timing as the underworld has moved in, and is running a black market, starting with sundries. Realizing Tracy is on their trail, they hire Two Finger to take him out. An unsuccessful arson attempt leaves Tracy blind from the intense heat, but the escape from the house by him and Tess is not believable. Tracy attempts to keep working to the frustration of many and gets help from a blind orphan girl named Tinky and her guide dog Stoney. Tracy gets his sight back in about three months but keeps up the ruse. The underworld’s comeuppance is poetic.

After serving 12 years on a false charge, the hirsute Groovy Grove is pardoned by the government. Tracy thought he was innocent, and Groovy now wants to be a cop. He has a connection to Tinky but it takes a while for the characters discover it. Groovy is approached by Diamonds to provide police information, but refuses. Diamond works to blackmail Groovy into service with a plan that seems so easy to foil, it’s no surprise when it does. Not sure if it’s poor plotting by Gould or a comment on the intelligence of criminals. Likely the former, considering how many panels were used to set it up. However, the writing improves on two fronts: how Diamond gets the upper hand before the eventual downfall of his gang and how Groovy and Tinky handle learning about their relationship. Diamond is briefly assisted by Pouch, the cover villain of Volume 26. He can hide stuff within pockets of flesh in his neck.

Gould clearly doesn’t think much of Constitutional Rights as many criminals lay claim to them, but Tracy doesn’t care and continues to give them a beating or shooting. It seems a strange dichotomy for a supposed law-and-order guy like Gould to care so little about the Constitution. He’s also not happy about Habeas Corpus as a crook known as The Doll gets released because of it before Tracy can get the necessary evidence.

The art by Gould and his assistants is still top notch. Over the course of three days of panels while chasing of Mr. Litter, Tracy and Sam’s shooting prowess is on display through exquisite drawings as they shoot out two car engines and a bad guy in the forehead. There is also outstanding use of shadow as Vera attempts to say goodbye to Sparkle. Gould also has a great eye when it comes to backgrounds, using a lot of details to help set the scene or choosing to have nothing to focus the reader’s eye on important information. There’s a reminder that Lizz has some nice legs as she wears a very short skirt, and it’s funny to see people get a drink in the face with the olives lining up properly.

Volume 25 is another satisfying installment of The Complete Dick Tracy. While they never bothered me, for those who didn’t care for Gould’s lunar antics, this volume features very little of the location and even less of Moon Maid. The only drawback is not much Junior either. But there was a little more of Tess, even though blindness didn’t limit Tracy’s time on the job. I am very curious to see how the ’70s influence Gould and the strip.

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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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