Dick Tracy fans and collectors quickly learned that the newspaper comic strips were perfectly suited for collections. Stories that were told slowly over the course of several months could be re-read in a single sitting, not unlike binge watching of serialized television shows today. Dedicated readers began to cut out and save Dick Tracy comic strips for just this purpose and companies began to take notice.
In February 1936 Dell Publishing Company began reprinting selected Dick Tracy newspaper comic strips in its Popular Comics series. Dick appeared in issue #1 and continued to appear until at least issue #27. The following year, David McKay Publishers began their “Feature Book” series, which took their lead from Whitman’s Big Little Books. The difference being the Feature Books reprinted the comic strips sequentially and unchanged. Between 1937 and 1938, four Dick Tracy Feature Books were published. These were the pre-cursors to modern-day comic collections.
- Dick Tracy (#0, May 1937)
- Dick Tracy the Detective (#4, August 1937)
- Dick Tracy the Detective (#6, October 1937)
- Dick Tracy and the Famon Boys (#9, January 1938)
Dell Publishing continued to publish Dick Tracy comics and produced a Super Comics line of books similar to their earlier Popular Comics. Super Comics showcased a variety of comic strip heroes and Dick appeared in a number of issues between #1 (1938) and #115 (1947). Dell also created the oversized “Black and White Comics” series which were very similar to the McKay Feature Books. Six Dick Tracy Black and White Comics were published in 1939 and 1940.
- Dick Tracy Meets the Blank (#1, 1939)
- Dick Tracy Gets His Man (#4, 1939)
- Dick Tracy the Racket Buster (#8, 1939)
- Dick Tracy Foils the Mad Doc Hump (#11, 1940)
- Dick Tracy and Scottie of Scotland Yard (#13, 1940)
- Dick Tracy and the Kidnapped Princes (#15, 1940)
As the decades passed and Dick Tracy’s case history grew, the style of single story books was eventually replaced by the collections. Again reprinting the daily comic strips, these publications presented the strips sequentially by date, most often by year. Quite a few of these collections have been produced, and our favorites are documented below.
Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy Series
With apologies to all other works, the best collection series to date would have to be the “Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy” series, which has produced 14 volumes to date and shows no signs of stopping (Volume 15 is due out July 2013). In addition to great introductions by Dick Tracy artists and writers, each hard cover book beautifully presents an average of two years of work in each volume.
|Vol #1||Contains Gould’s strips Oct 1931 to May 1933 with Tracy battling Big Boy and his gang while adopting a spunky young orphan named Junior. Features an interview with the late Chester Gould and an introduction by Max Allan Collins.|
|Vol #2||Contains Gould’s strips May 1933 to Jan 1935 highlighted by the villains Stooge Viller, Steve the Tramp, Big Boy, Jimmy White and Larceny Lu.|
|Vol #3||Contains Gould’s strips Jan 1935 to Jul 1936 with stories including the Boris Arson Gang, Bookie Joe, the Gothorn Murders and Lips Manlis.|
|Vol #4||Contains Gould’s strips Jul 1936 to Jan 1938 with popular events such as Lips Manlis turning good and Tracy’s battle with the Purple Cross Gang and the mysterious Blank.|
|Vol #5||Contains Gould’s strips Jan 1938 to Jul 1939 which were highlighted by Stud Bronzen and the Slave Trade, the villain Karpse and Whip Chute.|
|Vol #6||Contains Gould’s strips Jul 1939 to Jan 1941 and with the outbreak of WWII we are given a number of smaller stories including Nat Natnus and Mamma and the Midget.|
|Vol #7||Contains Gould’s strips Jan 1941 to Sep 1942 where we begin to hit some prime years with the Mole, B-B Eyes, Littleface, Tiger Lilly and Frizzletop.|
|Vol #8||Contains Gould’s strips Sep 1942 to Mar 1944 packed with villains like 88 Keyes, Pruneface, Laffy and the one and only Flattop Jones.|
|Vol #9||Contains Gould’s strips Mar 1944 to Sep 1945 and the Flattop story is finished and we are introduced to The Brow, Measles, Shaky, Breathless Mahoney and Gravel Gertie.|
|Vol #10||Contains Gould’s strips Sep 1945 to Mar 1947 as the war ends Tracy battles Itchy, Influence and Shoulders while meeting new friends B.O. Plenty, Diet Smith and his two-way wrist radio.|
|Vol #11||Contains Gould’s strips Mar 1947 to Sep 1948 featuring the villains Mumbles, Coffyhead, Heels Beals and Hypo with the birth of little Sparkle Plenty.|
|Vol #12||Contains Gould’s strips Sep 1948 to Mar 1950 as we begin to transition from one great decade to the next Tracy battles Pear-Shape, Wormy and Big Frost while getting a new partner, Sam Catchem.|
|Vol #13||Contains Gould’s strips Mar 1950 to Sep 1951, this volume is highlighted by villains T.V. Wiggles, Blowtop Jones, Crewy Lou and introduces us to little Bonnie Braids.|
|Vol #14||Contains Gould’s strip Sep 1951 to Apr 1953 and features the tragic Model Jones as well as great enemies Mr. Crime, Tonsils and Spinner Record.|
|Vol #15||Contains Gould’s strip Apr 1953 to Oct 1954 which includes the villains 3-D Magee, Open Mind Monty and Rughead and introduces new and amusing B.O. Plenty family relations.|
|Vol #16||Contains Gould’s strip Oct 1954 to May 1956 and introduces police-woman Lizz and features such as Oodles, Nothing Yonson, Joe Period, Flattop Junior and the return of Mumbles.|
|Vol #17||Contains Gould’s strip May 1956 to Dec 1957 and covers the dramatic conclusion to the story of Flattop Jr. and introduces some family groupings like the Kitten Sisters and the Calipso Brothers.|
|Vol #18||Contains Gould’s strip Dec 1957 to Jul 1959 which nearly finishes the busy 1950’s. This collection features Mrs. Egghead, Headache and Popsie and the throw-back villain Rhodent.|
The Collins Casefiles
Chester Gould retired from writing Dick Tracy on December 25, 1977 and Max Allan Collins and Rick Fletcher carried on the detectives legacy with Collins writing and Fletcher providing the illustrations. The Collins Casefiles are yearly collections of the Collins/Fletcher contributions. Three volumes were published between 2003 and 2005, with a fourth volume possibly existing overseas. Since no new volumes have been published in the states, we assume the collection has ended.
- Volume 1 – From 1978, this casefile includes the introduction of Angeltop, the son of the Brow and Big Boy’s Contract in which Moon Maid was killed.
- Volume 2 – From 1979, this casefile introduces us to Quiver Trembly and also features Dr. Zy Ghote the fraud who pretended to clone Mumbles.
- Volume 3 – The 1980 casefile features gangster orientated stories including Art Dekko, Breakdown and Torcher.
- Volume 4 – It’s unclear if the 1981 casefile actually exists but this year would include Pushy Pointer, Ownley Chylde, Dick Tracy’s 50th Anniversary.
The Celebrated Cases of Dick Tracy was first published in 1970 by Chelsea House and in addition to comic strips includes an interview with Chester Gould, an introduction by Ellery Queen, an overview of Tracy’s scientific gadgets and a gallery of rogues between 1931 and 1951. It was republished in 1990, no doubt taking advantage of the Dick Tracy movie.
The book contains a selection of stories including the murder of Emil Trueheart, The Blank, Mary X, Mamma and Jerome Trohs, Littleface, The Mole, B-B Eyes, 88 Keyes, Flattop, the Brow, Breathless Mahoney, Mumbles and Pear-Shape. Unfortunatly, some of these stories have been truncated to conserve space and remove disturbing content. Of note, the death scenes of the Brow and Flattop have been omitted.
The Dick Tracy Casebook: Favorite Adventures is a collection of Tracy adventures chosen by Max Allan Collins and published in 1990 in conjunction with the new Dick Tracy movie. This collection includes seven comic strip stories from Tracy’s past, one from each decade 1930-1980 with an additional from the 1950’s. Dick Locher wrote a 2-page introduction to the casebook while Collins wrote a 2 page “A Six-Year-Old_remembers” in the afterword telling the story of a letter he received from Chester Gould.
Included in this casebook are the Gothorn Hotel Murders (1930’s), The Brow (1940’s), Crewy Lou and Model Jones (1950’s), Spots and Ogden (1960’s), Big Boy’s Open Contract (1970’s) and The Man of a Million Faces (1980’s).
Dick Tracy Magazine
Finally there is Spec Productions Dick Tracy Magazine. Dedicated to reprinting classic comics from the previous century Andy Feighery’s Spec Productions is a small team who have produced 78 Dick Tracy Magazine’s to date, each covering roughly 3 to 6 months of comic strips. The Magazine is the only non-newspaper source for a number of Dick Tracy stories. Sadly Andy passed away in October of 2013. Michele Free has stepped in to keep Spec Productions running for the time being.