Time Marches On — Well, Sometimes (part two)

So some heroes change over time, aging at roughly the same rate as the persons who are reading his exploits, but sometimes—even though styles for his supporting cast are allowed to adjust to the current norms – there are heroes who are almost frozen, immune to and unchanged by time. This holds true for crime busters as well as teenagers: note there’s very little change in Phil Corrigan’s look during Al Williamson’s thirteen-plus years artistically helming X-9/Secret Agent Corrigan. Here’s Phil from 1967, early in Williamson’s run:

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Corrigan is not quite as unchanged as Archie—he wears his hair slightly longer and is somewhat more willing to ditch the neckties—but he’s pretty much the same straight-arrow symbol of righteousness readers saw at the start of Williamson’s tenure.
When you’re talking “straight-arrow symbols of righteousness,” of course, you’re talking Dick Tracy. While Chester Gould scarcely deviated from Tracy’s suit-and-tie, hat-and-yellow-topcoat look, time washed over Tracy’s appearance, wearing gradual changes in it the way even the stoutest rock is changed by the coming and going of the tides. Gould started by giving his audience a reed-thin, natty-looking Tracy when the series bowed in 1931:

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Thirteen years later, in 1944, America was in the midst of World War II and Dick Tracy was wrapping up his battle against Flattop. By this time he seems a more rugged, square-jawed lawman:

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A decade after that Tracy’s lines seem cleaner, his hat rides higher on his head, and his gadgetry is a pervasive background element, creating barely an eyeblink thanks do Gould’s diagrammatic captioning:

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A final thought on this subject: it’s easy for us to see the evolution (or lack of same) in the depiction of our favorite newspaper comic characters. We walk over to our bookshelves and pull down various books that allow us to put strips originally published years apart side-by-side for easy comparison. It wasn’t as easy for the newspaper readers who followed these series at the time they were being released, installment by installment, in hometown papers all across the land. How many members of the audience were aware of the ways Annie or Tracy or Terry changed across decades? A mighty small percentage of them, I bet!

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