Thursday, September 08, 2016

Dick Tracy's Dark and Stormy Night

Last week I wrote about Mike Curtis and Joe Staton's homage to Sherlock Holmes (see: Dick Tracy's Final Problem). As in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original story, both the detective and his arch enemy were locked in a mortal struggle at the Reichenbach Falls, and both apparently tumbled to their doom.

Tracy, of course, survived and was nursed back to health by a mysterious figure.

Of course, I thought perhaps the figure was Dr. Watson. But that wasn't quite true.

Dr. Bulwer Lytton was a little delusional, but otherwise harmless (and by tending to Tracy's wounds quite helpful, actually). And if that name sounds somewhat familiar, it should.

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) was a well-known British novelist, playwright, poet, and politician of the Victorian Era. Some of his stories were used for operas -- Wagner's "Rienzi" is one of them. He's credited with coining phrases still in use, such as "the pen is mightier than the sword."

 But today he's remembered for the opening sentence from just one of his novels, "Paul Clifford" (1830) -- because it was used in Peanuts (first appearing in 1971, I believe).

From there, the phrase and the author became something of a joke. And now the creator of phrases like "the almighty dollar" and "the great unwashed," is memorialized by the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. The goal is to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.

Kudos once again to Curtis and Staton for having a walk-on character with such rich connotations and associations.

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