Monday, November 14, 2011

Dick Tracy and the Phony Funny

Comic strips can provide a moment's entertainment. But skilled creators can make this simple art form multi-layered to appeal both to the casual reader, and those who look for more in their entertainment. (click on image to enlarge)

This particular sequence provided more than a few seconds of reading. Mike Curtis and Joe Staton worked something very clever into this one. You may recall that recently Tracy ran into Vera Alldid, former cartoonist, and referenced a discontinued comic strip. In a later sequence, Tracy called the Flash, bringing in yet another defunct classic comic. So when Sam Ketchum states his favorite strip was "Derby Dugan," I thought it was yet another reference to a Golden Age newspaper strip.

Except it was one I had never heard of.

That's not too exceptional. There were many comics that came and went since the format was introduced in the 1900's. Just take a look at the archives of Barnacle Press, for example - most of the titles are cyphers to me.

I was curious, though, so I researched Derby Dugan, and discovered the Easter Egg written into the strip. It turns out that Derby Dugan is the subject of a trilogy of novels by Tom De Haven. De Haven's narrative arc is set in the world of newspaper comics (and real life personalities) in the early part of the century (Funny Papers: A Novel ), the 1930's (Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies: A Novel ), and the 1960's (Dugan Under Ground: A Novel ). The books feature different heroes all involved (in some fashion) with the fictional comic strip "Derby Dugan."

A simply line in Dick Tracy, that helped me discover a new author (and series) I'm anxious to read. Not bad for a three panel daily!


  1. Anonymous10:10 AM

    Thank you very much. I hope you enjoy reading Derby Dugan as much as I did.

    Mike Curtis

  2. I've placed an order for the first volume. Really looking forward to it. Thanks for mentioning it, and thanks for the work you and Mr. Staton are doing on Dick Tracy.