Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Comical Dick Tracy, Part 3

The current storyline in Dick Tracy is something of a tour-de-force, I think. Mike Curtis and Joe Staton are currently weaving three story lines together, and all three reference vintage comic strips in some fashion. In Part 1 I looked at how Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" was cited through a pastiche of Capp's "Fearless Fosdick," a comic-within-a-comic parody of Dick Tracy. Part 2 foreshadowed the arrival of Punjab and Asp from "Annie" (originally "Little Orphan Annie"), bringing Harold Gray's creations into Dick Tracy's continuity.

And in Part 3, another vintage comic character is referenced -- long forgotten by his strip, which still runs to this day. (click on images to enlarge). And be warned: if you just skim these panels, you'll miss half the fun.

The sequence starts at the racetrack. How seriously should we take all this? That first panel is a reference to Chico Marx's classic routine in the 1937 Marx Brothers film, "A Day at the Races."

And that tout in the second panel may ring a bell with comics fans. Rusty Riley was a comic strip by Frank Godwin that ran from 1948-1959. It featured an orphan who was a stable boy for a large horse-racing outfit. Stands to reason that many years later, he'd still be haunting the tracks!

One final reference: Quick-Draw McGraw was a Hanna-Barbara animated cartoon character from the early 1960's; a horse who was sheriff of a Western town.

The storyline is actually focused on one horse, though.

Sparkplug was originally owned by Barney Google, and the two were among the most popular comic strip characters of the 1920s. Billy DeBeck created the pair in 1919. Sparkplug (not looking as trim as he does in Dick Tracy) spawned many toys, books, games, and other licensed merchandise.

Then in 1934, DeBeck introduced Google's hillbilly cousin Snuffy Smith, and things began to change. By 1954, Barney Google had disappeared from the strip, and today many readers only know the feature as "Snuffy Smith," (currently drawn by John Rose).

The threads are beginning to come together. Vera Alldid, the artist of "Straightedge Trustworthy" (the "Fearless Fosdick parody), is working in same movie studio as the Moon Maid. Said studio is owned by Tabby McAngus, who also owns Sparkplug. Who seems to have trampled the crooked studio head to death. Or did he?

Meanwhile, Asp and Punjab are in transit to see a certain detective...

These are the things that make reading the daily funnies a true pleasure.

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