TreasuryCast #17 – Dick Tracy


Rob welcomes fellow Network All-Star Xum Yukinori to discuss DC Comics' sole attempt at a Dick Tracy comic, LIMITED COLLECTORS' EDITION #C-40!

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24 responses to “TreasuryCast #17 – Dick Tracy

    1. Thank you. However, it was actually my uncle, my father’s brother… and I will tell another story of how cool he was in the first episode of The Done-In-One Wonders Podcast Wonder Show…

  1. As a HUGE fan of Dick Tracy, I look forward to listening to this episode today in great anticipation. I bought the Dick Tracy/Flattop treasury sometime in the early 1980s when I started my deep dive into the daring detective. It’s amazing how much blood and violence got into the newspapers back in the day! It’s a shame (in a sense) that Gould was so willing to kill off his villains but Flattop has resurfaced over the years in the strip despite his demise.

    The Flattop Jr adventure was perhaps Gould’s best 1950s adventure.

    Early in his run Max Allen Collins introduced Angeltop, “Flattop’s Little Girl” in a fun story where she attempts to avenge her father’s death by trapping Tracy in a manner similar to how Flattop dies in this story,”

    In the mid 1980s, Collins briefly returned Tracy to the 1940s in a flashback tale where he again encounters Flattiop, Pruneface, Mrs. Pruneface, & Shaky. Numerous other members of the Jones clan have also turned up to harass Tracy: Pop Top, Blowtop, Hi Top, Mrs. Flattop, etc.

    Fans of old time radio may want to check out the all-star WW2 era Command Performance special “Dick Tracy in B-Flat” which is a musical comedy take on the characters. The cast includes Bing Crosby (Tracy), Bob Hope (Flattop), Frank Sinatra (Shaky), Dinah Shore (Tess Trueheart), Judy Garland (Snowflake Falls), Frank Morgan (Vitamin Flintheart), Cass Daley (Gravel Gertie), Jimmy Durante (Mole), and the Andrews Sisters (Summer Sisters).

  2. I was thrilled when I saw this pop up. I got this Treasury for my 7th or 8th birthday, a couple of years after it’s release. I remember seeing it at the Woolworth’s near our house at the beach. And then I got it and read it over and over.

    Like you both say, the violence was soooo over the top that I felt like I was reading something I shouldn’t be. The scene of the slingshot and the image of the drowned Flattop are burned in my brain. But as you talked about other scenes, I could see the panels in my head … a sign that I read this thing to pieces.

    One of my favorite treasuries, I look for it all the time to buy and read again. Thanks for covering. And great job by Xum adding so many great details!!

  3. Even though, Fire and Water hosts my favorite podcasts, I’ve never commented before because I’m visually disabled. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for covering Dick Tracy.

    When I was a kid, my parents bought me the hardback book – The Celebrated Cases of Dick Tracy. I’d never read anything like it before and reread the book countless times. For a long time afterwards, I cut out Dick Tracy from the newspaper and pasted it into a photo album.

    THANK YOU for bringing back so many happy memories!

    1. FYI: IDW is currently publishing the complete Chester Gould Dick Tracy strips in wonderful hardcover volumes (all with intros by Max Allen Collins). They are now up to the controversial mid-1960s Moon Maid stories. Also, a new documentary on Gould was produced in 2015 and is worth checking out:

  4. Great episode, as usual – enjoyed it thoroughly, even though I’ve never had this Treasury book and know little about Dick Tracy other than what I’ve imbibed through popular culture (e.g., the Warren Beatty movie, the ‘Duck Tracy’ Warner Bros. cartoon, etc.).
    I also really enjoyed Xum’s ongoing reminiscences about his Uncle Kenzo (who he’s mentioned in several other shows at this point) and his adventures in comics collecting. A very bittersweet story. And man, I wish I had an uncle like Kenzo…

  5. Great episode fellas! I remember seeing this advertised in a lot of old DC comics, which was probably my first exposure to Dick Tracy. Then I watched some of those truly awful 60s cartoons with all the racial sterotypes that were cringe-worthy back then (Joe Jitsu, anyone?), on WGN’s Bozo Show.

    There’s a lot of back and forth on whether the Batman Rogues were really inspired by Dick Tracy villains. Most of Tracy’s more outlandish foes appeared after or around the same time as the most famous of Tracy’s grotesque foes. Although Kane and company definitely ripped off the Blank for a character in the very early days of Batman’s Detective run.

    If I ever see this one out in the wild, I’ll have to pick it up!


    1. If you read the first decade of the DIck Tracy strip you will see that the villains were not the physically grotesque or gimmicky rogues of later years. The 1930s villains were much more based on real life figures such as Capone, Dillinger, Ma Barker, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc. Others were modeled on Hollywood stars of the era, like James Cagney & Claudette Colbert. The con man Broadway Bates from 1932 ( was undoubtedly the inspiration for The Penguin. The Blank (1937) and The Mole (1941) were among the first time Gould employed the characters’ physical deformaties to mark their moral failings.

      Perhaps the most lasting influence of Tracy on Batman was the introduction of Junior. You can trace the evolution of Tracy’s relationship with the boy (who could grow up to be a criminal if not raised under the influence of a strong and moral adult man) as the blueprint for Batman and Robin. I once wrote an academic essay on this topic. If you look at the 1930s stories, I’d argue Tracy’s relationship with Junior was more important and prominent than his with Tess Trueheart. This is especially apparent when Junior’s father appears and takes the boy away from the detective. A bit of Tracy trivia: Junior’s birth name is Jackie Steel.

  6. Another great podcast! This tabloid was advertised in so many of the first comics I read, I’ve long been very interested in its contents! As others have stated, I thought that Flattop was more than a “one-adventure ” villain! My exposure to Dick Tracy was, like Chris, those awful cartoons. I saw them on “The Uncle Gus Show” on WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire. I was always disappointed that there wasn’t enough Dick Tracy! It was always these stupid other cops! But the villains included Stooge Viller, Mumbles, Shakey, and I think Flattop. Why do I remember this crap? Thanks, Chuck for linking to Dick Tracy in B-flat. I’ve had that record a long time! I’ve listened to a lot of old-time radio and the Dick Tracy references are many. I think this particular story struck a lot of people. Or Bob Hope at any rate. Rob, you keep reeling me in a little tighter all the time. Now I’m going to go to the Film and Water archives to hear your discussion about the Dick Tracy movie!

  7. I got the first volume of the complete collection that IDW published a couple years ago. My dog chewed it to bits a week after we got her, before I had the chance to read it.

    So, um, what’s the deal with Dick Tracy’s villain Pouch?

  8. Believe it or not, but Pouch still makes sporadic appearances in the current Tracy strip. I don’t think anyone considers him a first tier rogue, but he debuted in the early 1970s shortly before the treasury was published.

    He was a formerly obese man who lost a massive amount of weight. This led to him having lots of folds/pouches of excess skin. He would hide stolen items, weapons, etc in the pouches. Gould may have been running out of ideas with this one. Here’s his entry from the Tracy wiki:

  9. I believe Pouch was the only Tracy adversary to literally get away with murder. He rigged a popcorn popper to explode and kill Johhny Scorn, and it was considered an accident by the police investigation…

  10. Great episode, gentlemen. What I know of Dick Tracy comes primarily from the movie. So, it was very interesting to learn more about his comic strip roots. In particular, I was interested to hear about the disposability of his rogues gallery. Quite a departure from modern comics, where we take it for granted that the villain will survive whatever horrible fate they appear to suffer. I don’t think the Joker would have been able to escape Arkham so often, if he lived in Dick Tracy’s universe. Why do I want to see a Dick Tracy/Batman team-up all of the sudden?

    As an aside, Rob, I recalled you bemoaning the lack of comic book adaptations for the new Star Wars movies, when I saw this announcement for a graphic novel adaptation of Rogue One earlier today ( I find it interesting that IDW will be handling the adaptation, rather than Marvel.

  11. I count Dick Tracy as another one of those amniotic heroes that I was introduced to in a fetal state pre-memory. If I had to deduce sources, I’d point out that his cartoons ran in early morning syndication (probably the Archie’s TV Funnies segments, but possibly and/or The Dick Tracy Show.) His strip was in one of the Houston papers, plus I recall the house ad for this treasury. I also accessed one the comic book history books (probably Jules Feiffer’s) that went on at length about Chester Gould’s influence on the comics medium in general and Batman in particular. I recall Flattop getting a lot of attention as one of the most highly regarded Tracy foes in one of the most popular and oft-revisited cases, plus he was on the cartoon. Much was also made of the violence in the strip, and the brutal demises. I’ve tried to get into the character a few times, but like most pulp and newspaper strip characters, I respect the role they played in shaping what became comic books more than I actually enjoy reading the inspirational material.

    The closest I came was when I saw a midnight screening of the movie on a Thursday at the urging of my mother, who got me the t-shirt which doubled as a movie ticket that I wore to school for years after. They mixed up the reels, so suddenly the dead Dick Van Dyke character was alive and evil, and we all got to collect rain checks as a result. I’m not sure what I used it on. Bird on a Wire? Back to the Future Part III? Gremlins 2: The New Batch? My best guess would be The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. I think I saw that one on my own, just as I had Dick Tracy. Anyway, I liked the movie more than most, in large part because I embraced the aesthetic. I’d also read the three issue prestige format True Hearts and Tommy Guns mini-series that set up the picture and had a much better story overall, plus lovely Kyle Baker color art. Glenne Headly was an asset in the movie’s favor; Warren Beatty not so much. Madonna takes all the heat, but I found Beatty to be the bigger blank in every scene.

    Anyway, I’ve never read this treasury, and probably my greatest extended exposure was when CSN used to run the Sunday strip weekly when Max Allen Collins was writing it. I like Gould’s art style, and that’s a nifty bunch of mug shots on display, I ought to give the original material another shot.

  12. I came on here to say what a great episode this was me how interesting it was to hear Xum’s background, but after reading the comments I just feel like Chuck Coletta should start a Dick Tracy podcast.

  13. Great show covering one of my favorite Treasury editions. My first encounter with Dick Tracy was either in the local Sunday comics, Archie’s TV Funnies (where my parents were able to identify the villains before I could) or a tv commercial for Silly Putty (I think the putty was applied to Tracy’s Sunday page – or a similar looking character and then his face was stretched on the image on the putty).

    I started clipping and collecting the strip starting with the Big Boy story in June ’78, but only kept up with it for 3 story arcs. I was later fortunate to have met and spend time with later Dick Tracy artist Dick Locher (who recently passed away) a few occasions. His favorite villain was Pruneface.

    What is still a mystery to me about this Treasury is how it wound up in Joe Strummer’s hands while he was poolside in the Clash video “Rock the Casbah.”

  14. My first exposure to Dick Tracy were the cartoons, which were kiddie fare; that was fine for me at the time, because I was a kiddie. But I never felt compelled to actually read the strip. I bought this comic on eBay last year – for cover price! – as part of a package deal, and never read it. After listening to this episode, I trudged down to the basement and brought it upstairs. And much to my surprise, it was adult, gritty, and well done – surprising because I was comparing it to the cartoons. Thanks for inspiring me to read this!

  15. I wanted to say thanks for another great podcast. Really liked it. I had my 73 year father listen to it. He was the reason I got into comics. He is a huge Dick Tracy fan and has all the original comics, plus the Blackthorn reprints. He also has quite a few books on Chester Gould. He was telling me after we listened to the podcast that the reason why Chester came up with Flattop as a character was that the aircraft carriers during the World War 2 were called Flattops and Chester thought it would be a great character name. I am sure that I will repeat what others have said, but the violence in the strips were to prove that Crime doesn’t Pay and if you do these things that eventually you find yourself in these situations. My father bought this treasury new back in the 70s and with all his other Dick Tracy collection I couldn’t touch it. Well, now I can and I have my own copies of many Dick Tracy books as I am collecting the IDW books.

    I also wanted to say that I know the treasuries aren’t worth as much as the original comics, they bring back many good memories for me. I lived in a small mid-western town and comics weren’t easy to come by, but Wal-mart and other stores would have magazine racks and you could get treasuries. I have a friend from High School and we talk about how much fun we had with ours. My first one was the Star Wars movie adaption and it was the #2 copy. I had looked at that and read that copy so many times when I was kid. I still have it today. It isn’t in very good condition but it is all there and I love it. Thanks for bringing good memories of when I was much younger.

    I would love to see the Fire and Water Podcast do Dick Tracy Podcast.


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