Dick Tracy to meet the Spirit

tracyandspiritThe Baltimore Comic-Con has come and gone, leaving us excitedly looking ahead to the next Dick Tracy crossover!  With all four members in attendance (handing this out!), the Dick Tracy creative team unveiled the awesome poster to the left, teasing an incredible future meeting with The Spirit!  Coordinating and getting permissions for these crossovers is no doubt a exhaustive effort and credit to Mike for making these things happen!

“So”, some of you might be asking, “I know the name, but who is the Spirit?”  The Spirit was created by Will Eisner at the behest of newspapers looking to get in on the emerging comic book market in 1940.  Eisner’s new crime fighter was a 7-8 page comic insert inside of newspapers called “The Spirit Section”.  The artwork and writing for these comics was top notch but due to specialized printing requirements and costs, the Spirit was only carried by a select group of newspapers.

thespiritsectionThe Spirit himself was a young detective by name of Danny Colt who was presumed killed in the first pages of the premiere story but awakens from suspended animation (for reasons) in the Wildwood Cemetery where he establishes a base and begins fighting crime while wearing a small domino mask and fedora hat.

Originating but not tied to his home city, the Spirit’s adventures took him around the globe where he met all manner of upper and lower class citizens, bringing his own form of justice to all of them.  The story style and tone frequently changed as Eisner’s interests led him to explore different genres but certain themes remained constant: the love between him and Ellen, the annual “Christmas Spirit” stories and his arch-nemesis, the Octopus, a criminal master of disguise.  According to Eisner,

“When I created The Spirit, I never had any intention of creating a superhero. I never felt The Spirit would dominate the feature. He served as a sort of an identity for the strip. The stories were what I was interested in.”

The Spirit slid away into the night around 1952 although comic reprints are common.  In any case, I’ll stop regurgitating Spirit information you can probably find on Wikipedia.  The exciting part is the Spirit and Dick Tracy will be meeting this coming January!  It will be very interesting to see what foe (foes?) the pair will match wits with and how deep the crossover goes.  Will we get a Fearless Fosdick style mini-story or a full on Little Orphan Annie length crossover?  I’d wager somewhere in between, but we’ll find out together!

2016 Harvey Awards Nominees Announced

harvey_nominee_logoGood luck and congratulations for the fourth year in a row to Mike Curtis and Joe Staton who have been nominated for the 2016 Harvey Award for Best Syndicated Strip or Panel. Team Tracy has won the award for each of the last three years (2013-2015) are in the running to be the only comic strip other than Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) to have won four consecutive years in a row.

The Harvey Awards are a leading comic award that is presented each year at the Baltimore Comic-Com and recognizes outstanding work in comics and sequential art in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993). Nominations are chosen by and voted on by other comic book professions (i.e. those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, edit and otherwise create), meaning the honors are given out by peers in the industry.

This year there are seven nominees, a couple more than normal.  The full list of nominees for “best Syndicated Strip or Panel” are,

  1. Dick Tracy, Joe Staton and Mike Curtis, Tribune Media Services
  2. Bizarro, Dan Piraro, King Features Syndicate
  3. Bloom County, Berkeley Breathed, Universal Uclick
  4. Pearls Before Swine, Stephan Pastis, Universal Uclick
  5. Mutts, Patrick McDonnell, King Features Syndicate
  6. Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Dana Simpson, Universal Uclick
  7. Zippy and the Pinhead, Bill Griffith, King Features Syndicate

Competition looks fierce this year with some fresh challengers and balloting will continue until August 8th.  As is tradition, all Harvey awards will be presented at the Baltimore Comic-Con taking place September 2nd-4th. I have not heard one way or another but in previous years Mike and Joe have both been in attendance and would expect the tradition to continue.

Dick Tracy Volume 20 Released

DickTracyVol20We’re back!  So server upgrades can be tricky and you may or may not have noticed the Depot was up and down for about a month following a painful and worrying failure of the aforementioned upgrade by a hosting service once represented by Danica Patrick.  But, finally, the worst is past, and if we can keep Matty Squared out of our system we should be sailing smooth now, giving us time to talk about IDW’s latest Dick Tracy book.

Volume 20 of IDW’s professional hard cover Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy series is has at long last been released and is for sale and shipping now. Even though 20 hardcovers on a shelf take up a lot of space, we love IDW’s Dick Tracy collections and this volume, which reprints strips between February 20, 1961 and August 26, 1962 passes the 30 year milestone of Chester Gould strips.

In this edition, Dick Tracy embarks on an epic manhunt to track down the Brush (featured on the cover) and a million-dollar sack of cash―but with his foe on the lam without his trademark face wig, Tracy doesn’t even know what the murderer looks like!  The dauntless detective also encounters killer chimps and deadly panthers, protects Little Boy Beard from a deadly revenge plot, investigates a shady surgeon named Keip Choppin, and finds himself immersed in a forty-year-old cold case suddenly turned very hot. The strip enters its fourth decade as Chester Gould also presents a poignant story that rivals the “Model” narrative, when Tracy protects Junior from disturbing news about an important figure from the boy’s past.

Honestly, my favorite parts of these collections are the additional content at the beginning, and this one includes a look at the Dick Tracy television show and one of my favorite black and white actors, Ralph Byrd.  With only a few months in 1962 left, we are staring at a pivotal volume 21 that should kick off the Dick Tracy space period with the arrival of Moon Maid at the end of 1963.  It might be a hot seller and we’ll let you know when it goes on pre-sale.

Happy Birthday Ned Wever


Ned Wever on left while at Princeton

Born 117 years ago today and regarded as one of the great voices during the Golden Age of Radio, Ned Wever was the recognizable voice of both heroes, villains in side kicks including the solid and dependable detective, Dick Tracy.  In addition to his decades of radio work, Ned was also a noted lyricist in his early years and a television and movie actor in his latter. While many radio historians know of Mr. Wever, and we here at the Depot are familiar with his radio role as Dick Tracy, very few know him in any great detail.  I spent some time digging into the man behind the voice and thought his birthday would be a good day to pass it on.

Early Life

Known as Ned Wever for most of his life, Edward Hooper Wever was born in New York city on April 27, 1899, to Daniel and Grace Wever.  Ned lived the first three decades of his life in his parents home with his younger brother George.  His father made decent money as a general lawyer and in 1918 Ned was enlisted as an Apprentice Seaman in the Navy and attended Princeton University as part of a Naval Training Unit.  He never saw deployment and while at Princeton Ned was chosen President of the Triangle Club, a historic theatrical troupe still active today.  He was the primary force behind the club’s “They Never Come Back” production in 1920, writing dialogue, most of the song lyrics and playing the role of Englishman Sir Rollover Doyle.


After graduating Princeton in 1922, Wever sought work as a lyricist and actor in New York while he officially remained living with his parents in nearby Greenwich, Connecticut.  There are few records of Ned’s activities through the 1920’s but he kept active with roles in small budget plays as evidenced by his performance and musical credits in the New York Globe Theatre production of “The Grab Bag” in 1924 and 1925.  In September of 1930 he appeared on Broadway in the cast of “The Second Little Show” a short-lived 63 show performance at New York’s Royale Theatre.  Although signature song, “Sing Something Simple” went on to sweep the nation, the Second Little Show was not well received and at the conclusion of the Broadway show in October, Wever began to direct his energy towards radio drama while continuing to work as a lyricist and composer.

Sing a New SongMusical Success

Becoming a member of the music licensing firm “The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers”, Ned is credited with a number of popular 1930’s songs, including,

Radio Voice Pioneer

Dick Tracy - Ned Wever - publicity stillRadio found Ned’s romantic 30 year old voice at the dawn of the radio soap opera.  He was often cast as a love interest of long-suffering heroines and played the romantic lead in silent movie star Irene Rich’s “The Love Story Hour” in 1931 and 1932. Wever expanded his soap opera credentials as a cast member on the “Betty and Bob” show, which followed the lives of a Secretary (Betty) who falls in love and marries her Boss, Bob Drake. Of interesting note, Betty was played by Edith Davis who’s teenage daughter Nancy would later go on to marry a man named Ronald Reagan.

Ned also found love while working in New York and married 25-year-old Carla Scheuer in 1935. Now living in New York, with Carla’s mother (her father having passed) the married couple welcomed their first daughter in 1938.

Wever’s rich clear voice kept the radio roles coming and in addition to his frequent romantic roles he would soon play the speaking voice of Conrad Thibault in the variety/melodrama Showboat (1934), which was based on a the book and movies of the same name. Much like B and C movies of today, radio was quick to produce a show in copy of a popular movie or book and Wever benefited from this again in the radio drama, Twenty Thousand Years in Sing-Sing (1933-37).

Ned Wever, Dick Tracy Atmosphere Shot

Ned Wever, Dick Tracy Atmosphere Shot

In 1938 the seven-year old Dick Tracy comic strip by Chester Gould had gained enough popularity to warrant its second 15 episode movie serial and of course a Dick Tracy radio show was bound to be a sure fire hit.  Ned was ready for action and took on the title role of Tracy. The adventurous Tracy has a long history in radio and the Ned Wever years on the air are regarded as some of the best.  Heroes and crime fighters were becoming more popular and Wever also joined the cast of the Shadow (1938) with Orson Welles and ushered in 1940 with the role of Kryptonian Jor-L and the villains the Shark and the Wolf in The Adventures of Superman.

Wever continued to appear semi-regularly in Superman and also become a regular in the 1945 “Atom Man” serial, where he played the chuckling fat man and side-kick, Sidney. With World War II in full swing, he worked to keep the home front entertained, playing British detective Bulldog Drummond (1943-1944) in one of the most well regarded radio mysteries of the time. Due to the war, most roles of the 1940’s were of a crime fighting, heroic or war themed, such as his role on Treasure Star Parade as an American Pilot downed in China.

Movie, Television and Retirement

As radio drama began to die off in the 1950s, Wever transitioned to on-camera character roles and often portrayed doctors and judges. Now in his fifties, Ned rarely was given a starring role but he can often be seen as a doctor or judge in a supporting role on films like The Shaggy Dog and Anatomy of a Murder. Moving to Santa Monica, California around 1960 he also played smaller screen roles and made appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bonaza, Perry Mason and Petticoat Junction.  By the end of the 60’s Wever officially retired from acting, his last recorded role in a 1968 episode of Get Smart as the judge marrying Maxwell Smart and Agent 99.

With a rich life and long retirement behind him, Ned Wever died in 1984 of a failing heart in Laguna Hills, California. A life long entertainer Mr. Wever’s accolades have only been touched on and sampled here and many more can be found on his IMDB page and in radio and music collections around the web.