Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dick Tracy and the End of Annie - 2

Mike Curtis and Joe Staton finished up an extended sequence in Dick Tracy that was (in my opinion) something of a tour de force.

In addition to providing an unusual case for Dick Tracy, it also wrapped up loose ends from another legacy strip, while honoring the tradition of that strip in an innovative way.

For the full background, be sure to read part 1.

The masters of foreshadowing

Curtis and Staton extensively foreshadowed the appearance of Annie. In mid-June of 2013, Punjab, the Asp and Daddy Warbucks made cameos in Dick Tracy.

March, 2014. Staton and Curtis set the stage.

In the Vera Alldid story line, (see The Comical Dick Tracy) various newspapers show the comic strip logo for Annie, as well.

That Little Orphan Annie logo from March, 2014, is there for a reason.

The Plot Thickens

The story arc starts with Dick Tracy being enlisted by Warbucks to find Annie. The Butcher of the Balkans has been followed to Tracy's city -- but Annie isn't with him.

Ever the model capitalist, Warbucks "hires" Tracy.
Tracy, Ketchem and the rest of the cast dig into the case.

When worlds collide - June 8, 2014

While the major characters have a serious discussion, Hank Ketchem
and the Asp riff on the old novelty tune "You Can't Go Back to
Constantinople ('cause it now is Istanbul).

Sparkle Plenty receives a fan letter from Annie -- seemingly mailed in 1942! Eventually Tracy figures out that Annie's letter contains a clue as to her location and, as it turns out, her predicament as well.

Inside the "time bubble"

She's being held on Thunder Island, where residents have been brainwashed. They believe they are living in Simmons Corners, and that the year is 1944. It's actually a plot by arms dealer Axel. The purpose is to convince a scientist that he can win the war with his explosive -- which Axel will sell on the black market.

Annie happened to stumble into the plot, and is now another prisoner. Tracy follows the lead and he, too, comes under the spell of the mind control.

Note that the nurse is drawn "Annie style" without pupils. Welcome to
Simmons Corners.
Mind control that is administered through an evening radio program. Just as everyone rushed home to tune into the adventures of Annie in the 1940's (and were "brainwashed" into buying Ovaltine), Axel ensures everyone tunes into the Betty Belinda program to be subliminally hypnotized.

The story has number of deft touches. Axel was a major villain in the Harold Gray's original strip. He appeared in two sequences spanning 1939 and 1940. So using him in a plot that's seemingly set in the 1940's is just another homage to the rich heritage of Annie's mythos.

When Ketchem and company figure out where Tracy is (and what the situation is), they fly a B-17 over as a signal. The B-17 is Harvard red -- a signature color for Hotshot Charlie, a supporting character from Terry and Pirates' war years. Hotshot Charlie's made a cameo in Dick Tracy before, making his off-screen appearance doubly effective.

Hotshot Charlie flies over Simmons Corner. Note how Staton adopts
the style of original "Terry and the Pirates" artist Milton Caniff
for this sequence.
And of course, in the end, Annie is reunited with Daddy Warbucks, Punjab, and the Asp. Four years after cancellation, Slampyak's story finally reaches an end, albeit not in quite the way he envisioned it.

The official explanation, October 9, 2014
Thanks to Mike Curtis and Joe Staton for doing what the Tribune Syndicate failed to do -- bring an 86-year-old strip to a dignified conclusion.

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