This month marks Dick Tracy‘s 80th anniversary! Chester Gould began the story of his intrepid policeman on October 4, 1931 and established him as the foremost comics detective—often copied and parodied, but never equalled.
The strip was so popular that in late 1948 the Chicago Tribune‘s publisher, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, asked Gould to create a serialized mystery case for Dick Tracy to investigate that could be used to boost the paper’s circulation. Gould came up with “The Black Bag Mystery,” in which readers were encouraged to submit solutions for cash. The Colonel staked the promotion with $25,000 in prizes. Gould wrote and penciled the strips and the syndicate hired another artist to ink and color.
The contest ran for thirty-six consecutive color weekday strips in January and February 1949—the only Tracy “dailies” ever to appear in color. It was a great success, netting the Trib 50,000 new subscribers and Chester Gould a brand new black Cadillac as a “thank you” from his boss.
The complete color strips and full details of the story are in The Complete Dick Tracy volume 12, which will be on sale this month. We’re very grateful to Jean Gould O’Connell, Chet’s daughter, for loaning us her father’s personal scrapbook of these strips so we could scan them.
The syndicate hoped to duplicate the promotion in newspapers from other cities and so never published the solution to the mystery. It’s still an open case, folks! Here’s your chance to match wits with Dick Tracy: we’ll run one strip per day every day this month right here! To kick things off, we’ll start you with the first five today!
Check back every day to get the latest clue. After the final strip appears on November 1st, we encourage you to write your own solutions in fifty words or less. Please send YOUR solution by November 20th. Don’t look for any part of that twenty-five grand—the Trib gave that away more than sixty years ago! Instead, we’ll print our favorite solutions here by the end of November.