Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dick Tracy's Spirit - Part 3

Dick Tracy recently concluded a storyline involving Will Eisner's creation, the Spirit (Dec. 2016 through Mar. 2017). In Part 1 I tried to fill in the background of this important comic strip character (for those who came in late). In Part 2 I looked at how parts of the Spirit's mythos were handled by Mike Curtis and Joe Staton.

It's not my intention to rehash the entire story arc, but in this final installment I want to look at a few details embedded in the story.

By now, Boston Charlie (of "Terry and the Pirates") is now a supporting character in Dick Tracy. So it's not surprising to see him piloting in a mysterious figure for an exclusive auction. Also shown are Oliver Warbucks, ("Little Orphan Annie") who's found a home in the Tracyverse. The last panel shows the Spirit's archenemy, the Octopus, and his henchman, Mr. Carrion.

Up for auction is an immortality formula. The Spirit relates the last time he encountered one, which was also the first time he met P'Gell in 1946, who would became a love interest/opponent throughout the series.

P'Gell's first appearance in the Spirit, 1946.
More P'Gell from 1947. Note how her features look a little less exotic.

I have to admit I liked this sequence. Commissioner Dulan and Chief Patton are trading stories about their respective crime fighters. Sammy Strunk, the Spirit's sidekick, isn't impressed. What I find amusing about the first panel is that the middle character has served both as superior and sidekick to the hero. Pat Patton started out as Tracy's assistant, and became police chief only because Tracy turned down the offer.

The immortality formula is being auctioned off by Perenelle Flamel, widow of Nicolas Flamel. The name may be familiar to Harry Potter fans, but Flamel's story predates JK Rowling.

Nicolas Flamel (1330-1418) was a scribe and printer in medieval Paris. He was also an alchemist -- not unusual for the time. Centuries later, he was credited with finding the Philosopher's Stone, actually turning base metal into gold, and developing an elixir of life. These legends continued to grow, and far outgrew the original person.

Its always fun when Diet Smith, Chester Gould's original plutocrat mixes with Oliver Warbucks. Warbucks mentions Doc Savage had an immortality formula in 1934. I'm not sure about that, but I do know Lester Dent's pulp character did encounter such a formula in 1939's "The Crimson Serpent."

And we see who Boston Charlie was transporting -- the Dragon Lady, Milton Caniff's quintessential villain from "Terry and the Pirates."

It's the details such as these that make the story, I think. As always, Curtis and Staton tell a great story.

This panel from the end of the story arc is a study in shadow and
light that is worthy of Eisner.

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