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YMMV / Dick Tracy

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YMMVs in the comic strip:

     Comic strip 
  • Accidental Innuendo: The Narrator announces "Well! It looks like a warm day for Tracy with the Summer Sisters. Hm?", while one of them reaches for Tracy's butt. She's pickpocketing him, but we don't learn that until the next day's strip.
  • Anvilicious:
    • Chester Gould's stories got really bad for this during The '70s, with Tracy frequently going on lengthy speeches about how the law should operate. Mike Kilian had a tendency to do this as well (most infamously with the movie piracy story), though to a much lesser extent than Gould.
    • Dick Locher's strips completely averted this, oddly enough, though presumably as a famed political cartoonist Locher had another outlet for that sort of thing.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • A surprisingly alligator-related moment happens in Dick Locher's 'Shirl Locke' storyline. While Crooked Cop Shirl sabotages the bank alarms, we cut to a criminal named "Big Al" planning his bank robberies and crying about it heavily (Get it?). You'd think this would tie into Shirl's plans but nope! We cut back to Al once or twice, before he is abruptly gone, never to be arrested or seen again. A new villain abruptly shows up and is unrelated to this guy.
  • Broken Base: Moon Maid and the whole Moon Era which she representatived.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal:
    • The mysterious gun-toting cleaning lady working at the same place publishing exposes about the criminal underworld... is actually the gun-toting author who just wrote a manuscript on the criminal underworld and just went missing at the end of the previous storyline?! Made even worse by Tracy realizing she survived the car accident she was purportedly killed in... only to be utterly shocked when it's revealed she's alive.
    • If a main character is arrested for murder (punishable by execution back then), they did not commit the crime. This happens quite often.
    • If a main character is injured, even to the point where recovery seems impossible, (looking at you Junior!), they will not die. This happens quite often. Only the main cast are safe in this situation though.
    • If a doctor, scientist, or other specialist is desperately needed for someone to live, they will show up after some stalling. This happens quite often.
  • Common Knowledge:
    • People not familiar with the comic tend to think of Flattop as Tracy’s archenemy. In the actual comic he’s a hit-man for a crime syndicate. His excellent design and kidnapping of Tracy for a week to use as blackmail against the syndicate made him MUCH more popular than Gould expected. Like most villains, he's killed off at the climax of his first story. However, Gould and his successors couldn't resist creating a large family for Flattop, the majority of which are violent criminals who have it in for Tracy.
    • Many people assume that the Space era was widely hated and killed the idea of Dick Tracy existing in a somewhat normal setting with grotesque villains. In truth the strip had been dropping drastically in popularity and quality for a few years beforehand, both being vastly improved by the Space-Era if anything. Additionally several supernatural, unrealistic and/or Sci-Fi elements had been present before the Era began including but not limited to: .
      • Most people also assume (thanks to association) that Moon people took up the entirety of the comic on arrival. While they were prevalent, a surprising amount of storylines outright did not use Moon-People at all (Haf-n-Haf being the most well known). A much more accurate interpretation would be that elements unrelated to "normal" Dick Tracy took over the entirety of the strip. These non Moon-people related elements included but were not limited to a gag-comic about specks of Sawdustnote , Many many talking animals, Buckets that could flynote , Solving the mystery of an Amelia Earhart Expy, Advances in scienceExamples , Newspeople stalling the storyline to insanely long lengthsExamples , And most of all: incredibly bizarre comments and/or fads that kept getting repeated over and overExamples .
    • Several people that grew up with the strip assumed that Moon-Maid's marriage to Junior got in the way of a planned Junior Tracy/Sparkle Plenty marriage. In actuality, Sparkle was in her young teens, Junior was practically an adult, and there was absolutely no romantic subtext between them whatsoever until Max-Alan-Collins stepped in.
  • Crazy Awesome: Dick Tracy himself. What else can you call a Police Officer who jumps out of a helicopter onto a circus tent, just to prove a suspect could have done it?
  • Creator's Pet:
    • Moon Maid was given a range of powers that many Golden Age superheroes would be envious of, and was frequently applauded for taking the law into her own hands. Fans of the strip were more divided.
    • Piggy Bank managed to be a complete Karma Houdini in no less than 6 stories. Each story ended with his escape and fans got sick of it.
  • Dork Age:
    • From the start of the "Space Era" in the 1960s until Max Allan Collins took over as writer. The space era introduced far too many science-fiction elements into a strip that until then had been more grounded.
    • Dick Locher's era as writer.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The Blank; though he only appeared in one story, he's largely one of the more memorable villains Tracy fought.
    • Toss in Flattop; a one-shot character that everyone assumes was around way longer than he actually was, to the point of considering him Tracy's archenemy.
    • And Mumbles. Popular enough to be brought back from the dead THREE TIMES!
    • B.O. Plenty, Gravel Gertie, and their daughter Sparkle. Newer readers might be mystified as to how a family of hillbilly farmers got to be such prominent supporting characters in a Police Crime strip. The answer is that B.O. and Gertie both started out (in separate stories) as minor villains Tracy had to bring in. Then they reformed, met, fell in love, and married, gaining popularity as the Plucky Comic Relief. The birth of their baby daughter Sparkle is widely regarded as the strip's high point in terms of merchandising, coinciding with the start of the baby boom.
    • Blaze Rize quickly became one of the most popular villains of the recent run.
  • Jerkass Woobie
    • Jimmy White from the Jean Pennfield storyline has it pretty rough, despite being a thuggish teen.
  • Memetic Psychopath: Dick Tracy himself was seen as this at the height of his popularity, particularly by his spoofs.
  • Narm:
    • For whatever reason, Tracy's lips in the Jean Penfield storyline. After Tracy realizes she survived being attacked in her car, those lips keep getting bigger... and bigger... and no this does not appear to be symbolism. This all cumulates in Jean being officially revealed to be alive, which Tracy is so shocked about (despite already knowing she's alive), that he makes this wonderful face.
    • Chester Gould had a tendency to call people 'National Heroes' for performing on the side of the law. This is already narmy for its frequency alone, but then there are characters that barely do anything to get praised. The most egregious example is the 'Patsy' storyline, where all the teenaged girls do is try to hide some record music (that they found at the park and decided to keep) from the police, and are called national heroes ("gosh!") for eventually turning the music over to the police.
    • Rhodent is a Rat-Faced villain that would not look out of place in parody comic Fearless Fosdick. It's hard to take them seriously.
    • Locher ends his writing term of Tracy by saying "I just wanted to say thanks for 10 years of high speed excitement." A nice sentiment, but the main thing people dislike about Locher's work is that the stories take FOREVER to progress.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Has its own page.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Moon Maid since her resurrection under Staton and Curtis, which saw her powers greatly toned down and her actions being viewed in a somewhat more realistic manner by the other characters.
    • Pony went from being the only character people disliked more than 3D (at the time) to this when she had a complete breakdown in her jail cell before getting executed, repending of her wrongdoing, exeronating Kincaid on Christmas in repentance, and getting an actual backstory with Kincaid. Speaking of, Kincaid was reasonably liked upon this revelation.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Moon Maid is this for most people who despise the space era.
      • Her father, even for people who don't. He constantly shifts back and forth from shaking hands with Tracy to trying to wage war on mankind (In fact, he does exactly that in his very first appearance). He's a Karma Houdini thanks to his position of literal and political power (in a comic that usually kills off people as corrupt as he). He has a Humans Are Bastards vendetta at all the most inopportune times. He essentially kidnaps his daughter in a moment of weakness on her part and sneers at Tracy's "violent nature" when they object. Later when his daughter starts having a baby on a trip to Earth, he tries to force the controls to take them back to the moon (against the wishes of everyone) and ends up stranding them in space. His reaction to the aforementioned event is pure horror at his daughter not being born on the moon, until he realizes it happens to be a pretty baby, and is also the first baby to ever be born in space. All in all he's the least enjoyable part of anything he appears in.
    • Piggy Bank for being an utter Karma Houdini in a strip that notoriously adverts Joker Immunity.
    • 3D Magee, for utterly lacking any personality outside of "evil", and having a storyline that dragged on for SEVEN MONTHS. Throw in that he's super creepy around both his hired maid and the Plenty children, and we have a character more hated than the rest of em. The 3D glasses also seem a bit random.
    • And then there's Morin Plenty. Suffice it to say that this is generally regarded as Gould's absolute worst attempt to create a "funny" character. Among the many "quirks" we are supposed to find funny about this guy include the fact that despite being 80, his wife is 20.
    • Among creators, Dick Locher is generally regarded as the worst, due to his art errors, out-of-character cast, ludicrous plots and horrifically slow storylines.
  • Shocking Swerve:
    • Oh yeah uh, Flattop randomly drowns while swimming away from the police... a confusing and abrupt end to some.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Tracy beating the crap out of Big Boy after rescuing the kid he kidnapped.
    • The Brow being impaled on an American flagpole (He was a Nazi).
    • Breathless forgiving B.O. on her deathbed.
    • Sparkle's birth.
    • Tracy being put into the Boulder trap.
  • So Bad, It's Good:
    • The Moon Period stories can actually be a lot of fun if you enjoy the very pulpiest of pulp science fiction. They're utterly ridiculous and out of place, but they can be fun for exactly those reasons. Gould's artwork during this period is impressive; he very clearly enjoyed getting to draw stuff so radically different from the normal restrictions of the strip's genre. Some fans consider this period to be Vindicated by History, especially compared to the Locher era, and since Moon Maid's return under Curtis and Staton.
    • Go to and look at the Locher era. The entire comment section seems to be dedicated to making fun of the various art errors (Why do people point by leaning in specific directions?), continuity errors (The disappearing "Big Al" for one), Off-Model characters (Is that a mustache or a mouth?), horrifically out of character... charactersExamples , incredibly idiotic decisions (Tess and Tracy suspect nothing after hearing two explosions next door), bad dialogue (Especially if it's a themed villain), and ok you get the point...
  • Take That, Scrappy!:
    • The "Mr. Crime" storyline that ran in 2011-2012 revealed early on that there was a mole inside the police department. This turned out to be Lt. Teevo, the one recurring character that had been introduced by Dick Locher, and at the conclusion of the storyline he ended up being fed to a giant, carnivorous plant.
    • Hey, you know those moon people? Yeah, they moved or something, never to be seen again.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Every single memorable villain deserved more time before they bit the dust we tell ya!
    • Bonny Tracy, Dick Tracy's daughter, has made surprisingly few appearances, considering she's his daughter. She's not dead however, so wasted might be a bit of a stretch.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Mid-late 2016 featured a storyline that started out with a member of the House of Representatives who tried to introduce a bill that would have classified Moon Maid/Mysta and Honeymoon Tracy as members of an invasive species, with the implication that they would be forcibly sterilized if the bill passed. However, said representative ended up being assassinated by her assistant... over an unrelated matter early in the story, which subsequently turned into a manhunt for him, with the bill later being off-handedly mentioned as having died due to a lack of support. While the story as a whole was actually regarded to be pretty good, many fans would have preferred to have stuck with the original storyline for longer, finding its themes more interesting than the more standard-issue storyline that it became.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • Bookie Joe from an early 30's storyline suffers as a villain from a very strange case of this. We follow a crooked bank teller named Mark, who keeps stealing from his bank to bet on horses, despite Bookie Joe constantly warning him not to (Mark denies everything). Bookie Joe does nothing in the story at first but the aforementioned warnings. Suddenly Mark suffers the consequences of his very stupid actions and decides that the best course of action is to blackmail Joe about his business and that he'll blame the robbery on Joe. Surprisingly Joe merely reacts by telling him that he will not get him out of another hole (as he evidently has once before) and to tell Mark get out his apartment, rather than doing anything drastic, and is met by getting shot by Mark. Mark's girlfriend Toby drags him to the hospital where he wakes up unsure of how he got there and has Mark bombed. This is supposed to be him being an Ungrateful Bastard, but given he just woke up from being shot, and has no idea Toby had him saved, it instead comes across as self preservation more than anything. The Chief of Police responds by having Tracy and his fellow officers break into various areas assumed to be owned by Bookie Joe and destroying them all with AXES! Toby later says that all Marks problems were somehow all Joe's fault (without giving reasons beyond "gambling bad"). He ceases to be sympathetic for much longer, but it is very safe to say his name/status as a Bookie was supposed to paint him as an irredeemable monster from the start.
    • Flyface was this to a lot of readers at the time, thanks to actively opposing murder committed by his colleagues, not actually doing anything criminal until he breaks out of jail after being forcibly dragged in as an accomplice to a murder he never intended to let happen, ditching his criminal acquaintances to have Christmas with his innocent family, and his Odd Friendship with Willie the Fifth (whos deeds at first consist of attempting to avenge his brother). Some also felt that his seeming death of being repeatedly being dragged and rammed by tidal waves before being rammed into rocks underwater by said waves was a little too cruel, particularly the way the Police watch and find it amusing. A recent 2011 storyline seemed to agree, having him be revealed to be alive and having him walk out on the attempted murder of Lizz.
    • Smallmouth Bass (The story directly before Moon Maid's debut) is essentially sold by his adoptive father to black marketeers who want to harvest his organs, mainly his heart. His working with the marketeers to harvest his father's organs in place of his own is supposed to be a Moral Event Horizon despite being a rather understandable act of self-preservation and revenge... or at least that seems the intent, considering he doesn't actually do anything else evil in the rest of the story. While he is mixed up in the organ harvesting business, he is never shown to be aware that the business is anything but transplanting, and never does anything but act as a specialized deliveryman. When Tracy enters to arrest him and his boss, he never announces himself to be a Police Officer when he pulls a gun on them, making the fact that they take him by surprise and tie him up rather understandable. Before either can do anything to move Tracy out of the firenote  Tracy pulls a gun on them while tied up, and tells them not to leave the burning barn that they are all inside of at this moment. Since Bass has a gun trained on him by a shady character and is being told not to leave a rapidly spreading fire hazard, his pulling out a gun (which gets him shot) is genuinely understandable.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Tess Trueheart has a moment in the earliest days of the strip. She complains that Tracy never tells her about his plans to arrest criminals, saying she feels troubled Tracy can’t trust his fiancé. He finally caves and tells her not to tell anyone, but that a bunch of criminals are going to meet at a place and be captured. When Tess ruins his plans by telling someone, he complains that he couldn’t trust her with sensitive information after all which... yeah she demonstrated why he can’t. Tess responds to this complaining by claiming that it was his own fault for telling her, and breaks up with him for daring to bring up the issue. While Tracy is slightly sexist in claiming that women are hard to trust with secrets, he’s absolutely right about her, and her response is completely unreasonable.
  • Values Dissonance: Let's just say that a comic focusing on police officers originating in 1931 was bound to have some amount of this. Even to 1958 racial depictions were a bit mixed at best.
    • Of particular note is foreign culture. While African American caricatures were (thankfully) mostly restricted to the 30's and early 40’s era, discomfort happens when Mexico, Cuba, England, or really anywhere outside America is visited.
    • Fatty McDonald used to be plump, but starved herself to become a model. She's praised for her willpower and nobody seems too concerned by this aside from her father (Who just wants her to be a farmer anyways). This is uncomfortable given the Axorexia problems prevalent to this day. Even Gould seems to realize this, and noticeably rushes the storyline.
    • The character of Mona from the Spready Spensive storyline doesn't hold up all that great, and is a pretty big waste of potential. She's introduced as a powerful reliable lawyer, not afraid to X-Ray her unconscious clients to know everything. A villainous version of Lizz if you will, perhaps a rare possibility for a recurring antagonist. Once Spready slaps her once though, she completely folds under pressure, reporting him to the police (which itself is understandable), and quits being a lawyer to pursue the music profession she "should have had all along". What seals it is her last words in the comic.
      "Basically I'm just a women, *sob* A little female woman."
  • Values Resonance: The character of Lizz still holds up pretty well today. Even Tess's characterization from the 40's onward is pretty darn ahead of its time.
  • Vindicated by History: As mentioned above, some fans now consider the Moon stories to be this. In addition, Mike Kilian's writing has started to be looked on more favorably by fans in the years since his death, with many feeling that his work actually stacks up well compared to other contemporary adventure strips. He is also given the benefit of the doubt for being in the difficult position of trying to replace Max Allan Collins.
  • What an Idiot!: Has its own page.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Also on its own page.


YMMVs in The Movie:

     1990 Live-action film 
  • Cult Classic: While not quite a big hit when it came, even if it was the ninth highest grossing film of the year and the biggest hit of Warren Beatty's career, it's still a very fun movie to watch.
  • Ham and Cheese: Dustin Hoffman only played Mumbles because Warren Beatty dared him to.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Charlie Korsmo, here playing a kid who desperately wants to be a cop, grew up to become a lawyer.
  • Magnificent Bitch: Breathless Mahoney is the main singer at the Club Ritz who secretly becomes the faceless gangster "The Blank". Seeking to get out from under Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice, Breathless secretly makes plans to undermine his business and takeover while also stringing along Dick Tracy whom she is in love with. She discreetly learns about Big Boy's plans and as Blank, saves Tracy from a trap Big Boy set from him. Wanting to tarnish Tracy's name so he'll join her acquisition of the city and choose her over girlfriend Tess Trueheart, Breathless kills the corrupt DA Fletcher and sets Tracy up for it. She then kidnaps Tess, pins it on Big Boy and then tries to bargain Tracy into killing Big Boy and then joining her.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The general freakish nature of most of Tracy's rogue gallery, where with the exception of the Breathless Mahoney (who designed the Blank costume/persona to wear so that she could go around killing people without anyone suspecting her), the costume designers met the challenge of portraying all of Tracy's villains as the grotesques they were in the comics.
    • The film has a surprisingly high body count for a PG-rated film, with seven men being killed in the first 10 minutes alone. Despite all the death, there is very little blood or gore.
    • Lips Manlis pathetically begging for his life as cement slowly covers him.
    • Big Boy Caprice's lethal temper and chronic fondness for Kicking The Dog.
    • The Blank's inhuman - even reptilian - hiss of a voice.
    • The final gun battle on the street, with Influence and Flattop shown getting shot in disturbing close-ups.
    • Flattop's spasmodic death throes, his tommy gun firing wildly as his fingers lock on the trigger in a death grip, is especially graphic.)
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Tear Jerker: The death of Breathless. With her final words to Tracy being "Could it ever have happened between us?" The Danny Elfman score accompanying this moment is what really drives it home.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: The five card players shot and killed by Flattop within the first two minutes were all significant characters in the strip. The Brow is widely regarded as one of Chester Gould's greatest villainous creations, who ranks with among others, Flattop himself; Little Face was one of the first "Grotesques" introduced into the strip; Shoulders and Stooge both appeared twice in the strip's canon (a rarity for Dick Tracy villains); and the Rodent was one of the last great grotesques of the 1950s.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Creepy as they may be, you can't deny the sheer quality of the makeup design that won this movie the Academy Award for Best Makeup. They actually look realistic to a degree. Add to that the set design and color scheme throughout, this is one good looking movie!
  • What an Idiot!: Tracy himself for thinking it was a good idea to stand under the wet cement mixer after he freed Bug, jamming his gun with wet cement during a shoot out.

YMMVs in the Animated Adaptation:

    Animated series 

  • Designated Hero: The ONLY thing Dick Tracy does in almost every episode is call in someone to essentially do his job and shows to arrest the criminal, while doing very little actual work.
  • Ethnic Scrappy: Joe Jitsu and Go-Go Gomez are broad ethnic stereotypes. They were the good guys, and such stereotypes were considered acceptable at the time, but modern viewers may find them cringe-worthy.


YMMVs in the Video Games:

    Video games 

  • Demonic Spiders: The snipers in the NES game. The streets are swarming with these guys all over the place, and you're open to enemy fire while driving and can't retaliate as you're only allowed to shoot straight ahead. You can only kill them while you're out of the car, and even when you do kill off a sniper or two, expect more of them as you continue driving; walking from one area to the next with intent to clear the map of snipers isn't an option as the map doesn't move unless you're in the car. Good luck trying to beat the game without taking too much damage.
    • Cars that bump into yours in the Genesis game car chases, especially if you're shooting the enemies in the background. They'll bump and reposition you so that the enemy shots from the background would hit you. Plus if you're bumped off, your Tommy Gun aiming reticule also repositioned, ensuring several annoyances in the process.
  • Game-Breaker: Tear Gas clears the screen of enemies in the NES version. It's very useful to have in levels where there are a lot of gangsters and other enemies around.
  • Goddamned Bats:
    • Almost every enemy in this game can be dispatched in one hit, but they all came in hordes, so be ready to get busy!
    • Rats in the NES game Zerg Rush Tracy in some levels. When they do, you better have Tear Gas ready, because that's the only thing they're weak against.
  • Goddamned Boss: Every boss in the Genesis game always had a mercy invincibility upon being hit, complete with the fact that the foreground also covers them from any hit ensures that they'll be difficult to dispatch.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: The Sega Genesis version of the game strips the city exploration and interrogation-clue-puzzle game from the NES game and turned it into a pretty well done Side Scrolling Action Platformer with Railgun elements.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: There were two Nintendo games, a side-scrolling shooter for Game Boy and a genre mashup for NES. The NES version was actually pretty unique in that you had to drive around a big city and collect clues. There are four "cases" to solve, and although you can raid the gangsters' hideouts and nab them at any time, you need evidence to nail them à la Carmen Sandiego. The difficulty is what makes this game so notorious in the annals of licensed games.
    • Suspects are well-protected by armies of goombas, and you get punished for shooting "unarmed" thugs, so you have to frantically switch between your pistol and your fists while in the middle of a war zone. The only reprieve is that a single punch sends low-level bad guys flying like spinning tops. It makes no sense. Why don't they just fall down?
    • Snipers rain bullets down on your cop car as you try (and fail) to navigate the streets. Sometimes a car will speed off as you exit a scene, and you gotta be quick to catch up and shoot the car so it spins out and you can grill the driver for more clues.
    • There was simply no way to play this thing back in the day without passwords or a Nintendo Power code book. And forget about finding clues or suspects without a pen and paper! Going in blind is an exercise in futility, as the The Angry Video Game Nerd discovered. Shame that the game looks and works rather ambitious for its time.
  • The Scrappy: The scowling Game-Over Man in the NES version. Some asshole cop harangues you for shooting those poor, defenseless mafiosos, or for trying to arrest them without proof. After two decades his annoying face is burned into players' memories.
  • That One Level:
    • Any level in the Genesis Game where you have no gun turns almost every enemy into a Demonic Spiders thanks that you'd be forced to go melee most of the time and had to carefully time your attacks and dodges, as the enemies are almost always armed.
    • The fourth case on the NES version is easily one of the most difficult. You first have to travel to 9th and J Pier, itself not clear because the game doesn't tell you to go there first or any of the Pier levels. Then you have to make your way through collecting five other pieces of evidence. Enemies from this point forward will be relentless, attacking Tracy, while dodging armed and unarmed criminals, dogs and rats in several levels. You remembered to collect some Tear Gas for the rat levels, didn't you?


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: