Trivia: Dick Tracy

The Comic Strip

  • Actor Allusion: The introduction of Canon Immigrant Gruesome to the strip featured many references to him resembling Boris Karloff (who played him in the film Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome), up to Gruesome actually taking the role of Jonathan in a production of Arsenic and Old Lace!
  • Artists:
    • Chester Gould - In addition to creating the strip, he acted as the sole artist until 1977, though was assisted by various others including Dick Moores, Rick Fletcher and Dick Locher.
    • Rick Fletcher - After assisting Gould for the better part of two decades he took over as the main artist in December 1977. His work took Gould's basic style and improved it, with particular attention to detail with weapons and technology; unlike most of the other artists, he also generally depicted Tracy as having his eyes open (Gould and Staton having his eyes closed the vast majority of the time, and Locher being about 50/50). His tenure ended with his death in early 1983.
    • Dick Locher - An assistant under Gould in the 1950s, and also a noted political cartoonist. His art style was much simpler and more stylized than his two predecessors, though still generally strong until the late 2000s, when his advancing years took their toll on the art quality. He retired in early 2011.
    • John Locher - Dick Locher's son, who alternated art duties with his father starting in 1985. The long-term plan was for him to take over as sole artist, a plan which was sadly ended when he died aged just 25 in mid-1986.
    • Ray Shlemon - Uncreditedly drew a few strips in 1986 while Dick Locher was mourning the loss of his son. Afterwards, he hung around as an inker and general art assistant until 1990.
    • Jim Brozman - Joined as co-artist with Dick Locher in 2009, and stayed with the strip until Locher's retirement two years later. He was able to improve the strip's art a little, bringing a more solid inking style and covering up some of the more glaring flaws, though he never worked as a penciller, limiting just how much he could do.
    • Joe Staton - The strip's current artist, who has a style more reminiscent of Gould and Fletcher, though still identifiably his own.
  • Author Existence Failure - Three times. Rick Fletcher, who replaced Chester Gould as artist, died in 1983, and writer Mike Kilian died in 2005. Probably the most tragic instance came in 1986 with the premature death of John Locher, who was in the process of taking over the strip's art duties from his father.
  • Creator Breakdown: Many older fans, and some younger fans born after the Apollo Moon landing, felt Gould sending Tracy to the Moon in the early 1960s was an example of this. Then again, given the sheer volume of contempt Gould had towards various 1960s Supreme Court rulings regarding due process rights all criminals have, Gould probably thought turning the book into a sci-fi strip would be better for his mental health.
    • Judging by the decline of the strip's artwork quality from 2006 to 2011, some fans consider Dick Locher to have suffered one of these, most likely because he experienced both the death of both his son (John Locher, who was co-artist in the mid-80s) and one of his closest friends (Mike Kilian, who was the writer between 1993 and 2006) while working on the strip. This seems likely especially when one gets a chance to read the one story Locher wrote in 1993 after Collins left and before Kilian was hired. That one 1993 story by Locher is actually pretty good, with none of the pacing, repetition, and "cowardly Tracy" problems that plagued Locher's writing from 2006-11.
  • Executive Veto: Dick Tracy had such a moment when the creator, Chester Gould, put Dick in a truly inescapable Death Trap. Gould was so stumped for a solution that he decided to have Tracy Break The Fourth Wall and address Gould himself who literally extends his hand to lift the Detective out. His publisher, Joseph Patterson, rightly concluded that this was an dumb idea and ordered Gould to redraw the section into something, anything, else.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Sadly, collections of the various Dick Tracy comic strips are few in number and those few that DO exist, largely focus on the early 1930s era. In particular, Max Collins' critically acclaimed run on the strip has only had three printed volumes, though some of his strips appeared in other collections.
    • This is becoming a subverted trope, as since 2006, IDW has been publishing the "Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy". Eighteen volumes (covering the start of the strip in 1931 to Mid-July 1959) have been released. The intent is to produce the series until the entire Gould Run (up to December 1977) has been covered.
      • Sadly, though, these strip volumes keep going out of print and the prices on Amazon and other such sites go up drastically. However, they bring back these strip volumes eventually.
    • Also, you can probably pick up some of those little issues of the Dick Tracy comic books, which are actually the Dick Tracy comic strips in a compressed, Comic Book styled format.
    • The GoComics site's past strips only go back to mid-2001. While Gould's work is being reprinted, and there's a good chance Collins' work will someday be, it's sadly unlikely Kilian's work will be. Collins is a well-known, award-winning writer who's currently writing introductions for the Gould volumes. Kilian is less well-known, deceased, and his work on Tracy has a vocal Hate Dom. So less than half of Kilian's work is readily available to the public, while every single day of Locher's abysmal run gets to live on in infamy. This is even sad for Locher, since it's just as unlikely his one 1993 story will ever be reprinted, showing he wasn't always a bad writer.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Whenever the intros to the Dick Tracy books and articles regarding Tracy talk about Chester Gould, they tend to point out that Chet did not see himself as an artist creating a fictional narrative to entertain audiences, but rather as a businessman creating a product designed to sell newspapers.
  • Outlived Its Creator
  • Technology Marches On: While some of the extreme examples like the Space Coupe with its magnetic propulsion system are straight examples, Tracy's various wrist communicators have always felt reasonably in line with the times with occasional upgrades over the years (the latest iteration being the Wrist Wizard).
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Standard writing style of Chester Gould, although he did write himself into a corner at least once (See Executive Veto above).

The Film

  • All-Star Cast: Though many of the biggest stars had relatively small roles.
  • Development Hell: The film switched studios, writers, and directors multiple times, especially since Beatty refused to make the film realistic and gritty, and eventually helmed the film himself. Beatty hoped to make a sequel, but Disney had no interest after the film didn't pull the kind of numbers Batman did despite an all-out marketing blitz. The film rights to the property have been in legal battle for the last twenty years as Beatty and The Tribune Co. have continued to try to stake their claim to it, with Beatty finally winning in March 2011. He hopes to finally make a follow-up to the film, but has not indicated when he would begin pre-production or a script.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!:
  • Hey, It's That Voice!:
  • Playing Against Type: Dick Van Dyke as D.A. Fletcher, who does the bidding of Caprice as a victim of extortion.
  • Spoiled by the Merchandise: In 1990, Playmates Toys released an action figure line to coincide with the movie. "The Blank" was a Canada-exclusive figure and if you pulled off the blank-mask, you revealed Madonna's face underneath. The novelization, by contrast, conceales the Blank's true identity.
  • Stillborn Franchise: Disney/Touchstone had hoped that Tracy would become the Indiana Jones of the '90s. However, while the movie did light the box office on fire (contrary to popular belief), there were legal issues between Warren Beatty and Tribune Co. over who had the rights over the franchise that ensued for two decades, plus studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg was dissatisfied with the final results.
  • Stunt Casting: Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles, apparently on a dare.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Tim Burton was offered to direct it at one point but had to turn it down to focus on Edward Scissorhands.
    • Jack Nicholson was originally offered the lead role, and he seriously considered it, being a lifelong fan of the comic strip. However, he turned it down, being already committed to his role in Batman.
    • Brooke Shields almost secured the role of Breathless, but was changed nearly last-minute because producers thought she was too young for the role.
    • Danny Elfman originally proposed a darker, more Gershwin-inspired score that was very different from the one heard in the movie proper. He later released it on Volume 1 of his compilation album, Music for a Darkened Theater.
    • Sean Young was originally cast as Tess Trueheart but was replaced when Warren Beatty felt she was not right for the role. She later accused him of firing her for not having an affair with him (Beatty had a reputation for being quite The Casanova after all).