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Trivia / Dick Tracy

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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.
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    • 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.
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    • 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.
    • Shelley Pleger - Inked Joe Staton's artwork right from the start of his tenure, and filled in as the main artist when Staton took a sabbatical from the strip in 2017, becoming the first woman to occupy the role.note 
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  • 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: Some fans 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 may have 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.
  • Creator's Favorite:
    • The aforementioned Blackjack is a character that originally appeared in writer Mike Curtis' fan fiction. He is a huge fan of Dick Tracy and wants to join Tracy's Rogues Gallery, so he trains himself to become an expert marksman and starts robbing banks. But, he only robs banks that have engaged in unwholesome business practices. He never robs the bank patrons or shoots anybody, so he's not a BAD guy. He later shows up at a criminal bar and talk about how neat it is to be one of Tracy's foes. He eventually helps Tracy escape a death trap, and Tracy apparently lets him go free. He's clearly a character that Curtis loves and wants the readers to love, but he's so obviously not a threat to Tracy that he's impossible to take seriously.
    • Although he was created by Chester Gould, Max Allan Collins really likes ham-actor Vitamin Flintheart (and in the introductions to many of the Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy Books, he's pretty much out in the open about this). Gould created Flintheart in the mid 1940's, used him up until 1950, then never again for his entire run. Collins brought Vitamin back for his first story in 1978, then used the character in several stories up until his run ended in 1993.
  • 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 unacceptable solution and ordered Gould to redraw the section into something else.
  • 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: While Chester Gould had already retired from actively working on the strip the better part of a decade before his death, it's continued long past that point.
  • Shown Their Work: When Curtis came on as writer, he made a point of sitting down and reading the entire run of the comic from start to finish. Accordingly, his time as writer has been full of Continuity Nods to the strip's long history.
  • 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).
    • One villain who appeared in 1950 ran a protection racket targeting the television sets in bars. At the time, a TV set was a significant investment, costing up to $5000, a far cry from today when a TV costs a fraction of that and even the poorest household usually owns one.
  • 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

  • Actor-Inspired Element: Al Pacino actually designed Big Boy Caprice's make-up himself and completely re-imagined the character, who was originally big and fat in the comics with a little nose. Caprice's resulting film counterpart is of average height with enlarged hands, nose, and cheekbones, hence his street name.
  • All-Star Cast: Though many of the biggest stars had relatively small roles.
  • Dawson Casting: While Tracy's age is never stated in the film, his date of birth is 1909 and the date on the deed of the Club Ritz (visible only in freeze-frame) is dated 1938, making him a 29-year-old character played by 53-year-old Warren Beatty.
  • 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 (1989) 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 (and it really doesn't help that the expensive flop Town and Country in 2001 kept him off the big screen for fifteen years).
  • Follow the Leader: Although Beatty's development of the film had been in the works as long as Tim Burton's Batman (1989), it still retained a lot of elements that drew comparisons since Batman was released a year earlier. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone noted that they both contained: "a loner hero, a grotesque villain, a blond bombshell, a marketable pop soundtrack and a no-mercy merchandising campaign." That also didn't factor in the Art Deco-insipired set design, the original working script being worked on by Tom Mankiewicz (both films would basically discard them), and Danny Elfman as composer (and Travers noted that his Tracy score was incredibly similar to his one for Batman).
  • Playing Against Type: Dick Van Dyke as D.A. Fletcher, who does the bidding of Caprice as a victim of extortion.
  • Saved from Development Hell:
    • The film went through a very long development process with many incarnations including a musical version in the early 1970s with Sonny Bono as Dick Tracy and Cher as Tess Trueheart. Ryan O'Neal also sought to play Tracy in the early 1980s.
    • At one point, John Landis was set to direct with Clint Eastwood in the title role. He hired Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. to write the screenplay. His orders to the writers were to do the screenplay for the film centered on Big Boy Caprice as the main villain, and in a 1930s atmosphere. But Landis, after an on-set accident on Twilight Zone: The Movie, left the project.
  • 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, conceals 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 well at the box office (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:
    • 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 (1989). Robert De Niro refused the role for fear of being typecast as a grim, hardened tough guy similar to his Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver. Bruce Campbell, an avid fan of the comics, lobbied hard for the title role. However, Warren Beatty though Campbell was "too TV like" and was turned down. Couple years later, Campbell tried to adapt the comic book character to TV, but Beatty (who owned the rights to the character) declined unless he'd play the role. Other candidates included James Caan, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, George C. Scott and Tom Selleck
    • Kim Basinger, Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sharon Stone were considered for the role of Breathless Mahoney.
    • Macaulay Culkin was considered for The Kid, but turned it down as he preferred to do Home Alone over this film.
    • Gene Hackman was offered the role of Lips Manlis, but he turned it down, because he couldn't bear being directed by Warren Beatty again after his experience on Reds.
    • According to his autobiography, comedian Gilbert Gottfried was nearly cast as Mumbles based on his distinctive voice. He was perplexed that he and Dustin Hoffman would even be considered for the same role, joking that "the only way our names would appear together in the same Hollywood conversation would be in the sentence, 'I've seen Gilbert Gottfried's acting, and he's no Dustin Hoffman'."
    • The producers lobbied for Former President Ronald Reagan to play Pruneface but this was nixed by Beatty.
    • 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).
    • Beatty originally wanted Bob Fosse to direct, but Fosse turned him down. Martin Scorsese was also a fan of the comic strip and considered directing at one point, but he lost interest and chose to make Goodfellas. Walter Hill was set to direct during pre-production. But he left after disagreements with the studio and Beatty. And at one point, Steven Spielberg was offered the director's chair. Tim Burton was offered the job at one point but had to turn it down to focus on Edward Scissorhands.
    • The filmmakers wanted to run the Looney Tunes classic The Great Piggy Bank Robbery before the movie in theaters, but Disney balked and had a Roger Rabbit cartoon preceding the film instead, which was originally going to be attached to Arachnophobia.


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