Half a year after Moon Maid entered Dick Tracy’s (and Junior’s!) life, the syndicate’s nationwide contest attracted many contestants. Here’s the announcement ad in Editor & Publisher from June 6, 1964.
Finally! The eight letters that forever changed America’s favorite police strip…
It’s (literally!) out of this world action in the twenty-first volume of our COMPLETE DICK TRACY — on sale in December. Here’s a little tease we found while researching the basement archives of the Chicago Tribune-New York News.
Loyal Dick Tracy reader Kendall Smiley pointed out that the Sunday on page 111 of Volume 19 contained a duplicate panel, which meant that there’s also a panel missing. Here’s the correct, complete Sunday (with the missing panel at the bottom left). We’ll include the page in Volume 20 for all completists. (In the meantime click on the image below for a larger version.
In addition to providing groundbreaking historical essays to our complete Dick Tracy series, Jeff Kersten was a founding member of The Chester Gould/Dick Tracy Museum and serves as the Museum’s resident historian and President on its Board of Directors. He, his wife, Keri, and their two little ones, Norah and Halas, recently paid a visit to the home of Jean Gould O’Connell, Chester Gould’s daughter, to say hello to their long-time friend. They were also there to scan material from Chester Gould’s archives to use in the next couple of volumes of our Tracy series. Keri captured photos of Jeff at work and posing with Jean next to a blow-up of her father on the wall. Some of the scans Jeff made will be in Dick Tracy Volume 17, in stores late summer.
Here in the 21st Century, violence against women has become socially unacceptable, though unfortunately it has yet to be eradicated from the culture. For decades during the prior century society was much more forgiving in this area – as late as 1964, network TV was willing to shrug off wife beating as an acceptable situation comedy story plot (see the Dick Van Dyke Show episode, “The Lady and the Tiger and the Lawyer,” which may be the most infamous achievement in the exceptional career of multi-talented Garry Marshall, who co-wrote this Van Dyke teleplay). By 1977 producer Norman Lear and writers Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf brought a seriocomedic look at rape and its consequences to All in the Family in a controversial hour-long episode entitled “Edith’s 50th Birthday,” which prompted one female TV reviewer to write, “The point is that the program was not prepared to ‘deal’ with reality, only to exploit it.”
What do these ruminations have to do with good ol’ LOAC? They were spurred by a recent gift by longtime Friend of the Library Ed Maslow.
Over the course of the past few years, Ed has shared several wonderful e-mails with us describing his younger days, reading the New York papers of the day and savoring strips likeFlash Gordon and “the crown jewels” of the Tribune Daily News syndicate. Most recently, Ed gave us a fascinating look at violence against women in Dick Tracy. Notice this panel from November 6, 1943. As Ed observed in his note, “The strip that was published in newspapers had Tracy saying ‘I hate to shove a lady–but, ow!'”
But, as Ed went on to both show and tell us, “The way Gould wrote it is the panel below with Tracy saying ‘I hate to slap a lady–but, ow!’ The art is the same only the word shove has replaced slap.”:
Apparently by 1943 the syndicate had decided that “It’s not right to hit a lady,” and that, as a symbol of What’s Right, Dick Tracy would abide by that rule, even when tussling with someone as nasty and potentially dangerous as Lois, who certainly had no scruples about beating up Tracy.
Gould’s editors had fewer scruples only five years before, Ed reminded us, as he sent this sequence between baddies Karpse and Marrow from the November 13, 1938 Sunday page (click on strip for larger size):
And shortly after our exchange with Ed on this subject, I was going back through my early Tracys and found this sequence from March 29, 1934. Never mind villain being villainous with villainess, in this shot Tracy is laying a hand on brunette spitfire Jean Penfield, who was trying to move in on him and cut Tess Trueheart out of the picture:
Of course, to be fair to both Tracy and Chester Gould, the idea of “making a woman come to her senses” by slapping her across the face was a melodramatic device that remained in use well into the 1960s.
Ed Maslow’s e-mails to us revealed an intriguing editorial change to the Dick Tracy daily of November 6, 1943, but it also spurred more sobering thoughts about this particularly sobering subject. Despite still-shocking cases that get reported in the news even today, it’s clear our society has increasingly moved to reject the idea of violence against females – and, thanks to his editors, Dick Tracy was moving in that direction before World War II had ended, literally decades ahead of many other pop culture heroes.
In the summer of 1964 the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate launched what turned out to be its last major Dick Tracy promotion—the Miss Moon Maid Contest. Chester Gould introduced the mysterious girl from the moon as 1963 turned into 1964 and it caused a sensation.
Even today, Tracy fans argue about the succeeding “moon period.” Some love it (count me in this crowd), while others simply loathe it. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the stories, the period represents (in my humble opinion) perhaps the most abstractly diagrammatic drawing of Gould’s career. But then again, I was nine years old at the time and loved EVERYTHING in the Sunday comics!
Thanks to our friends at TMS News and Features for sharing their file copies for this promotion. We’re still several books away from reprinting this period. In the meantime, we’ll do further research to determine in what TV shows and movie, if any, the winner appeared.
It happens. You don’t like it. We don’t like it. But it happens. There’s a missing strip in the netherzone between Dick Tracy vols. 12 and 13. Reader Brian Snyder correctly brought to our attention that Tracy 12 ends with Saturday, March 25, 1950, while Tracy 13 (on sale this week) begins with Monday, the 27th. Where’s the missing Sunday? Here it is, folks, with our sincere apologies. We’ll also include this March 26, 1950 Sunday in vol. 14 so all of we completists can have it in print.
Now, after more than fifty years, the solution to…Chester Gould’s “Black Bag Mystery” featuring Dick Tracy!!!
My dad’s been gone more than thirteen years now, but when we get together, my siblings and I often fondly recall his many colorful sayings (some of them not proper for an all-ages website). One of his turns of phrase that I find myself using from time to time is the one he’d trot out when my sisters or brother or I started getting too big for our britches: “Smarty had a party, but nobody came.”
Working on LOAC projects makes me think of that line on occasion, because it reminds me that no matter how much even the most diligent comics historians knows, he doesn’t know it all. And acting like he does know it all is a good way to be set up for a fall. So we try to keep it properly humble here in LOAC-land, because occasionally things like this happen …
When we began running Chester Gould’s “Black Bag Mystery” strips, featuring Dick Tracy, during October of last year, we wrote, “The syndicate hoped to duplicate the [“Black Bag”] promotion in newspapers from other cities and so never published the solution to the mystery. It’s still an open case, folks!” That’s exactly what we thought based on the information we had at hand and, because despite the considerable resources we have available, no evidence to the contrary was available.
But Gould scholar extraordinaire Jeff Kersten can call on even more Tracy resources than we can as he digs deeper, ever deeper into the Master Detective’s history and mythos. And Jeff recently unearthed the fact that the Chicago Tribune did indeed select a winning solution to “The Black Bag Mystery,” with Gould bringing it to life in his own distinctive artistic style. Moreover, Jeff was able to drop the solution, as it appeared in the Trib, straight into our pulpy little palms!
We present the first three “solution” strips today and the final three tomorrow, with the hope you’ll join us in a vote of thanks to Jeff Kersten, not only for playing such a major role in bringing forth a fully-rounded history of America’s top crime newspaper strip, but also for reminding us not to gettoo sure of ourselves, because after all these years it’s still true: Smarty had a party, but nobody came!
Come back tomorrow for the final three!