Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meta Tracy

 At first I didn't like the Dick Tracy reboot -- but it's starting to grow on me. I've always enjoyed the work of Joe Staton, from his first comics for Charlton (anyone remember Doomsday + 1 and E-man?) to his most recent work for Femme Noir, a female version of the Shadow. Included in the supporting cast was a policeman who looked a lot like... Dick Tracy.

It looks like Mike Curtis and Joe Staton have been given a bit more freedom than previous have been given a bit more freedom than previous post-creator Chester Gould creative teams. The artwork's picked up in quality, and the writing carries a subtext. One can read the strip at face value, but for the true comics fan there's an interesting subtext.

Take this week's sequence, for example. An old supporting character makes an appearance. When Chester Gould introduced comic strip artist Vera Alldid back in the 1960's, he did so in part to comment on what he saw as a disturbing trend in newspaper funnies. Editors were pushing for  more minimalist drawing from artists, so they could shrink the size of the panels. Also gag-a-day strips were becoming increasingly popular -- two trends that Gould felt squeezed him creatively.

In Dick Tracy, Vera Alldid was the creator of two immensely popular comic strips -- "Sawdust," and "The Invisible Tribe." Occasionally Gould let the reader see some of the strips. "Sawdust" was a play on "Peanuts." In this case, though, the art for each panel consisted of a small pile of dots from which word balloons sprouted. "The Invisible Tribe" carried the concept even further. The panels were blank, and only had word balloons. Take that, you no-talent hacks!

Vera Alldid married Sparkle Plenty (daughter of B.O. Plenty), but when fame and fortune went to Alldid's head, he divorced her and she later married Junior Tracy, Dick Tracy's adopted son.

Curtis and Staton brought him back for the current story arc, and what a change. (click on the images to enlarge)

Alldid's story reflects the state of comics -- especially adventure strips like Dick Tracy. Curtis and Staton are talking to their audience through Alldid. And for those who are comics fans, the final panel of the first sequence is a great punchline.

"Fearless Fosdick" was a comic strip within Al Capp's popular "Lil Abner" strip. It lampooned Dick Tracy, and Chester Gould absolutely hated it.

Times have changed.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:43 PM

    I have never seen any evidence that Gould hated Fosdick. Didn't *love* it, perhaps. But not hated.