Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prohibition - a comic view, part 2

Last post I talked about how the attitudes about Prohibition (a current topic thanks to Ken Burns' documentary "Prohibition") had spread even to the lowly comics that appeared in the daily papers. But while Americans didn't feel a legal obligation to abstain, they did have a growing horror of the gang lords that arose to supply the illicit substance.

A modern equivalent would be the viciousness of the drug cartels of Central and South America.

So there was a selective feeling for a need for law and order. And the anger of one man towards what was happening in his city of Chicago created a cultural icon. Chester Gould wished for a champion to fight the gangsters -- and so he created the master detective Dick Tracy in 1931.

If there's any question about who Gould thought the villains were, check out arrival of the main bad guy in the strip below (click on image to enlarge).

"Big Boy" Caprice, the gang boss bears a close resemblance to Al Capone. And that was intentional. After Big Boy's gang ruthlessly murder Tess Trueheart's father in a robbery, Tracy promptly joins the police force to go after them with the full force of the law. He of course would be successful in capturing the men who gunned down his fiancee's father.  It would only be the first of many encounters Tracy would have with organized crime throughout the pre-war years.

The gangsters were often ugly, the violence brutal, and sometimes innocents died in the crossfire. But Gould was a man with a mission. For Dick Tracy, there was no compromise with criminals -- something Gould wished for in the real world.

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