Mr. Bribery’s return has been finally confirmed. Teased and hinted at for months, Bribery’s return comes nearly on the 50 year anniversary of his first appearance on July 3rd of 1965. Bribery was a clever and colorful villain with loads of personality and was behind most crimes and attempts on Tracy’s life between 1965 and 1967. He is certainly one of the most remembered villains of Chester Gould’s space period. His rather unexpected death with no body shown at the hands of the Chin Chillars in 1967 seemed to put an end to his career but the loose ends were never tied up, leaving open the possibility of a return.
Now unless you are a newspaper strip collector it can be difficult to re-read Mr. Bribery’s entire arc as they have never been published in their entirety. To help out the casual Dick Tracy reader, below is the Depot’s history of Mr. Bribery….if you need it. Enjoy!
Mr Bibery was introduced in 1965 as a well respected criminal boss in Dick Tracy’s city and he remained as such for over a year, finally meeting his assumed end in 1967. Bribery’s real name was Joie Packet (or was it) and he was a dope runner, blackmailer, confidence man, extortionist, pick-pocket and murderer. A small thin, weak looking man with a perpetual grin on his tilted face, Bribery led a band of criminals which included his sister, Ugly Christine, a head shrinking South American Indian named NahTey, his secretary Miss Deal and later Matty Square.
To the many politicians and petty crooks who visited him for “help,” Bribery appeared to be a friend, always willing to assist. However, as he provided them money with one hand he was picking their pockets to get it back with the other and every meeting was recorded on video tape and were used later to blackmail his victims.
Mr. Bribery and Matty Square
When small time boss Matty Square came to Mr. Bribery for assistance with the Moon Maid (who had recently dismantled his crew), Bribery extended his insincere hand while showing Matty Square his collection of shrunken heads of people who had crossed him. Mr. Bribery agrees to hire on Matty Square, although he forces Square to give up his cigar smoking cat. This hiring was the first step that would eventually pit Bribery against Dick Tracy. Tracy, who has found the strange cat’s pedigree in Matty’s old office uses this clue to locate Square and place a video camera in his car. Matty tools to various stops including one to Nah Tay, a South American rug weaver who also moves cocaine.
Lizz goes undercover to Nah Tay’s shop and returns with a drug sample she picked up with a piece of tape. Nah Tay though is suspicious and reports back to Bribery and determine Lizz was a policewoman. Nah Tay immediately moves out of his store ahead of a police raid, leaving behind a serious looking cooking cauldron. Bribery has Nah Tay pick up Matty Square and while returning they find the police video camera in his car. Things look dire for Matty and Nah Tay is very upset. Mr. Bribery forces Matty to take a lie detector test to prove he was not working with the police. Matty passes and is branded with the letter “B” between his eyes to prove he belongs to Bribery.
Square is given the job of killing Dick Tracy though Bribery himself comes up with the plan. They switch on the police video camera and give enough evidence to lure Tracy to a meat-packing plant that was to be Nah Tay’s new base of operations. There Matty is made to hide himself in a barrel with a tommy gun, lying in wait until Tracy arrives. A trapdoor is also installed that drops a victim down into a bubbling vat of boiling water. Matty is only required to fire on Tracy if he fails to be killed by the trap. Bribery and Christine set the trap and Matty hides away in his barrel, but Mr. Bribery, not much for field work, bumps the barrels on his way out and Square rolls down into the vat of water. With a pained scream Matty Square is killed.
Mr. Bribery and Nah Tay
The police find Matty Square’s body and close the case on him, but are aware that Nah Tay and someone else was involved in a plan to kill them. Mr. Bribery is saddened to lose his latest employee but consoles himself in private conference with his favorite rose and takes ownership of Matty’s cat, Kitty, whom he forces to smoke cheaper cigars.
While the Tracy and their Moon relatives celebrate Thanksgiving together on Earth, Mr. Bribery hatches another plan to kill Dick Tracy. Nah Tay, who is revealing his shamanistic witch doctor side more and more refuses to cause harm to anyone from the Moon, holding the Moon Gods sacred. Bribery moves forward without involving Nah Tay and his sister Ugly Christine poses as a photographer wanting to take pictures of Junior, Moon Maid and Honeymoon in the snow of an observatory. Christine’s inability to operate a camera betrays her true motives though and Mr. Bribery leaps out of nowhere, attempting to gas Junior. Bribery, once again a failure in the field, forgets to pull the pin and is pushed away after which Moon Maid zaps the pair.
Junior and Moon Maid take Honeymoon back home to safety and though they try to keep it a secret at first eventually tell Tracy and the Moon Governor about the attack. Luckily for the two criminal siblings, Nah Tay shows up takes their frozen bodies out of the snow and revives them with the help of a Doctor A. M. Dawn at his home. Sam Catchem is staked out at Nah Tay’s home from a nearby building and although he did not see Bribery or Christine arrive, he does see the doctor visit. Nah Tay sees Sam as well, and attacks him from behind, taking Catchem’s hat off with a deadly knife throw. The two wrestle before Nah Tay leaps from the three-story rooftop and lands unharmed, escaping into the night.
During the fight, Mr. Bribery’s secretary Miss Deal arrives and helps him and his sister escape back to his office. Initially he fears Nah Tay was arrested but instead the South American arrives with a knife wound on his arm. Mr. Bribery finally asks that Nah Tay handle Dick Tracy and the witch doctor spends a week taking drugs and expanding his mind for the mission. This entire episode is captured on camera by Bribery so when Nah Tay decides to switch sides and kill Bribery instead, the boss acts.Diet Smith’s second space coupe pilot, a man named Maay is paid a handsome $5,000 to assist two of Mr. Bribery’s thugs who pick up Nah Tay with Smith’s newest space coupe and jettison the head shrinker into orbit.
Mr. Bribery and the Space Coupe
While Mr. Bribery spends several weeks singing a little “No More Corpus Delec-ti” tune to celebrate his genius method of eliminating bodies, Tracy and Diet Smith interview Space Coupe pilot Maay about his un-expected Space Coupe outing. Maay plays an innocent, only admitting to taking the Space Coupe for a spin to try it out. Diet has complete faith in the man’s answers but Tracy is more suspecting and he and Sam begin to shadow Maay. The high-flying pilot buys a hot rod with his ill-gotten gains and soon totals the vehicle and kills a female passenger while speeding at 180 mph.
Ugly Christine manages to draw Mr. Bribery’s attention away from his song and to the danger Maay represents and a pair of hit men are hired to take out Maay, who is in the hospital. The hit men arrive, disguised as attendants as Diet and Tracy grill the pilot for information. Maay is shot dead and one of the gunmen is battered by Diet before he is accidentally wounded by his partner. The second hit man runs through the hospital, gun drawn before he is shot dead in the head by Tracy.
The police recognize both of the hit men have branded “B”‘s on their foreheads, just as the now deceased Matty Square did and begin to wonder about this, “Mr. Big.” Sam and Lizz do their own investigation and find a hook that Maay had hidden away and match it marks on Nah Tay’s abandoned car. Putting two and two together they determine the Space Coupe was used to kill the South American and using a modified Space Coupe go up and retrieve the body.
Mr. Bribery is shook up following the loss of two good hit men and blames it on his cat Kitty’s bad cigar breath, a problem he tries to solve by masking the scent. Diet Smith spends some time showing off his newest creation, an atomic 18 million dollar fire fighting behemoth that could fight city-wide fires and Tracy visits Junior and Moon maid on the Moon, the later sending him back with more Sawdust gags to sell. It takes another stupid move by Mr. Bribery to get things moving again. Fed up with Kitty, Bribery and Ugly Christine tie the cat to Christine’s new hot iron and try to throw it into a water reservoir. That cat uses one of his lives and slips the collar, giving him a reprieve but a reservoir supervisor witnesses the event and thinks the pair are disposing of a weapon. Lizz, Sam and Tracy use a magnet to retrieve the gun and are surprised to find a hot iron and collar with a stylized “B” on it. This lucky clue leads to even more luck as Lizz investigates where the hot iron was sold and catches sight of Ugly Christine and her marked “B” forehead as Christine is purchasing another hot iron.
The women trade gunfire with Lizz losing an earring and Christine taking a shot in the arm. The criminal woman dives into a moving cab and points her gun at the cabbie, forcing him to drive. Lizz shoots out a tire and the vehicle spins out of control and crashes. Ugly Christine escapes just before Lizz can reach the crime scene and returns to her brother, who faints at the sight of her blood.
Having narrowly escaped the law, Ugly Christine and Mr. Bribery hires a pair of twin brothers to learn how to fly a Space Coupe using blueprints stolen by Maay. The twins learn while Bribery and Christine consult an Ouija board to see the results. The twins then pose as visitors from NASA and Diet Smith’s facility and steal a Coupe. Diet is aghast to have one of his space vehicles stolen again. Bribery and Christine take the twins out for a spin, promising them $100,000 in cash but with the intention of jettisoning them into orbit instead of. Mr. Bribery reveals he learned how to fly the Coupe when the brothers were learning.
The twins fight back and grab Christine’s gun, knocking her senseless and threaten to orbit the brother/sister pair instead. Mr. Bribery knocks the $100,000 cash into the ejection tube and the money dispersing into a cloud in orbit. He then offers his captors another $100,000 if they return him and his sister to Earth. This move saves their life, they return to Earth for the money and while one twin counts the cash, Christine causes a distraction and Bribery grabs a gun and shoots the observer dead. Christine dispatches the second twin with the stiletto heel of her shoe.
The world marvels and salivates at $100,000 cash floating in orbit and considers ways to retrieve it while Tracy and his team find the stolen Space Coupe, hidden away in the wilderness and stake it out, waiting for the culprits to return. Mr. Bribery and Ugly Christine do return, with a plan to net their $100,000 from space but return in the midst of a wicked storm that brings down a passenger jet with 62 people on board at the sight of the Space Coupe. They are forced to turn back but Tracy spots them and follows in a police air car, losing his wrist radio on a tree branch.
Bribery and Christine return to their penthouse building and Tracy observes, not wanting to lose his targets. He infiltrates the building and takes the blackmail film recordings that Mr. Bribery keeps and uses to control many aspects of the government. Tracy leaves to retrieve his wrist radio while Christine and Bribery find their film has gone missing. If the blackmail material gets out, Bribery is quite sure he’ll be dead in 24 hours and he begins to panic. The pair ambush Tracy as he returns to the penthouse rooftop. Bribery keeps Tracy pinned down with a machine gun until Christine attacks the detective with her knife. Tracy wins the wrestling match and Ugly Christine is placed into an air car, under arrest. She refuses to be taken alive and dives from the air car, falling to her death down a smoking chimney.
Mr. bribery meanwhile escapes with his secretary, Miss Deal through a secret passage in the building. They escape to an apartment with Kitty the cat and Bribery is more concerned about those he blackmailed than the police. Miss Deal leaves to withdraw $300 from her bank account but the account was under observation by Lizz who places a wire on Deal. Mr. Bribery freaks out as deal returns and tries to kill her but is brought low by Tracy who crashes through the apartment window in his air car. Both are arrested and Tracy promises Mr. Bribery will get the chair for murder. Kitty the cat is forced to give up smoking and joins the police animal menagerie.
Mr. Bribery’s End
With Bribery incarcerated in the state penitentiary, a man named George Chin Chillar was working at Diet Smith’s factory on the Moon with his wife Notta and they were contacted by Mr. Bribery. The clever criminal enlisted the pair in recovering $100,000 cash that had been left orbiting the Earth following his failed plot to kidnap Honeymoon Tracy. The Chin Chillars stole one of Diet Smith’s magnetic Space Coupes and used it to break Mr. Bribery out of jail and attached a special net to the back to snag the floating bills in orbit. Toasting their success with champagne , the Chillars drugged Bribery and dropped him off back at prison from a great height, seeming to kill him in spectacular fashion.
At this point Bribery’s story appeared to be over. At least that was the impression Chester Gould seems to have wanted to send, but it was pointed out by Dick Tracy historians (I’m referring to some of my favorite GoComics posters, Willy007, Ray Toler and Pequod77) that no character in the strip ever said that Mr. Bribery was actually dead and when Dick Tracy later confronted Notta with her crimes he did not mention the crime of murder, leaving the door open for a possible return.