Adam's Reviews > The Complete Dick Tracy, Vol. 11

The Complete Dick Tracy, Vol. 11 by Chester Gould
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Sep 23, 12

bookshelves: comics
Read from July 08, 2011 to September 22, 2012

I read through the first 50-60 pages of this in one sitting, then stretched the rest of the book out over more than a year, reading a single strip each day. Why? Because I'm a connoisseur of Dick Tracy. Reading them all in a jumble makes them seem too much like a haphazardly plotted comic book, which isn't fair, since Chester Gould designed them to be read in a daily newspaper. Gould was a master of storytelling in this format. He drives the plot forward each day in a fun or shocking manner. The reader never loses sight of the overall story arc, but also never gets bored with constant exposition to explain what's happened already.

This collection features one of Dick Tracy's most memorable nemeses, the low-talking, jazz-music-playing, expensive-clothes-wearing hood called "Mumbles." Mumbles does not look unlike Robert Mitchum, and has conversations with his henchmen that go like this:

"Star tover."
"What did he say?"
"Quits aying whadee zay."
"What did he say?"
"He said for you to quit saying, 'what did he say?'."

Mumbles is more than just a menacing hood who talks out of the corner of his mouth, he's a sadistic killer unafraid to murder police officers, punch his girlfriend Kiss Andtel in the face, or leave all his men behind to die.

Gould brought his right-wing social philosophy to the pages of the funny papers day after day, but he created such a brilliant phantasmagoria that readers of any political stripe could enjoy his violent fantasies, provided they could deal with his cheerful sadism.

Of course, there are some weeks in the Dick Tracy strip that are less exciting than others. For every brilliant creation like Mumbles, there's a less-than-brilliant creation like Coffyhead, who drinks a lot of coffee and whose head is shaped like a coffee pot.

With the exception of Coffyhead, Dick Tracy's rogues' gallery is pretty great in this volume: Acres O'Riley, who's an essentially good-hearted taxi driver, but whose enormous stature makes her a danger when she's enraged; her boyfriend, the tiny midget forger and hustler named Heels Beals (he wears lift heels in his shoes); Mrs. Volts, the gangster leader of an energy concern; Hypo, a twitchy drug addict, and Shoulders, a smooth-talking man with enormous shoulder pads for smuggling jewels. While Shoulders as a concept sounds kind of silly, his storyline here is really well-done. He's on the lam, hiding out as the husband of a woman who has a young daughter from a previous marriage. There's a sense of menace and unease in the scenes of Shoulders at home, and the story plays out in a suspenseful fashion.

Gould also presages the widespread use of security cameras. At the end of this volume, a new storyline is beginning in which the millionaire entrepreneur Diet Smith perfects a "television burglar alarm" which is officially known as the Dick Tracy Teleguard, allowing banks, homes, and government buildings to be watched at all times. There's even an option for motion-activation.

This is great stuff. I've loved Dick Tracy since I read a collection in high school, which was awesome, but being able to read a strip a day and get lost in Gould's crazy world has been a real treat.
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01/13/2012 page 146
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