Dick Tracy and Sam Catchem’s pursuit of the Billion Dollar Limited train robber Jimmy Choo Shooz is hitting an exciting climax on the shore of Lake Pratchett (we love you Terry!) The drilling rig disaster currently occurring on the beautifully named lake is like a history lesson, reminding us of the 1980 Lake Peigneur mining disaster in which an oil rig punctured the ceiling of a salt mine beneath Peigneur. Like a stopper pulled on a bathtub, the lake drained down a quickly expanding hole, creating a biblical vortex that dragged everything on the lake down with it. If it would have occurred today we’d have some fantastic footage, but alas we must make do with 35 year old coverage. Here’s a short five minute video on the event with the best video I can find.
Also, I want to remind those of you collecting IDW’s Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy books, the volume 18 edition, featuring dates December 15, 1957 through July 11, 1959 is now available for purchase. I’ve already got my hands on it. The collection is finally entering a period of lesser known stories, which I am thoroughly enjoying. IDW’s Volume 19 is available for pre-order on Amazon and the predicted publication date looks to be late September of this year.
Today Dick Tracy begins to get a little funky with the Funky Winkerbean universe wandering right into the Dick Tracy world. Things have begun innocently enough, Dick and Sam are on the way to Finley’s Pharmacy, last visited during the climax of the Jumbler case. The Jumbler case you may recall was part of a Dick Tracy / Daily Jumble crossover in 2013. Today we have a comic book auction for a Westview charity in the works. Don’t see the crossover yet? I’ll point it out. Westview High School is one of the focal points of the Funky Winkerbean universe and even better, take a look at today’s Monday Funky strip, which features Funkyverse slackers John Howard (a comic shop owner) and Crazy Harry (I think, not an expert here) heading to the same charity auction! It’s unclear how long the crossover might last, but it looks like Funky himself will make an appearance Tuesday and we may want to spend time reading both strips!
Read the full panels at www.gocomics.com/dicktracy and http://comicskingdom.com/funky-winkerbean.
With Arsenic and Old Lace playing such a prominent role in the current Gruesome story it’s about time we dug in to this Boris Karloff classic.
Arsenic and Old Lace is well-known as one of the most successful and enduring plays in the history of stage. Written by Joseph Kesselring and opening on Broadway in January of 1941, this was a dark comedy starring Mortimer Brewster who returns home while debating his plans for marriage and is forced to deal with his insane and homicidal family.
This wonderful family includes two spinster aunts, who have taken to murdering lonely old men with poison, a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs the Panama Canal in the basement and a murderous brother Jonathan Brewster played by Boris Karloff. In an effort to evade police capture, Jonathan has received plastic surgery from an alcoholic accomplice (Dr. Einstein) and the botched facial surgery is easily one of the most hilarious bits in the play when Jonathan realizes his new face makes him look exactly like Boris Karloff.
During its original run, the play was extremely well received and closed in June of 1944 after an impressive 1,444 performances in New York City. In 1944 this made Arsenic and Old Lace a top 5 all time Broadway play and even today in 2014 it remains in the top 60.
A movie version of the play was made by Frank Capra in 1941 starring Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster. While produced in 1941, the film was not released until the New York play closed in 1944 and play managers prevent Karloff from taking part in the film for fear of lost ticket sales.
Throughout the years following the play’s initial run, Karloff would occasionally reprise his role on stage, radio and even in television. We wonder if Karloff, commonly type cast as a horror genre star might have seen the comedic Arsenic and Old Lace as a breath of fresh air.
Below we have linked a couple good videos on Arsenic and Old Lace:
With Halloween right around the corner it’s time to get Gruesome! Mike Curtis has teased us with Dick Tracy’s fall enemy, the fearsome 1947 film foe Gruesome. Like Cueball before him, Gruesome’s comic strip introduction is occurring six and a half decades after his 1947 film debut and we excited to see him added to the comic strip canon.
So who is Gruesome? RKO Pictures created 4 Dick Tracy movies between 1945 and 1947, Dick Tracy Detective, Dick Tracy vs. Cueball, Dick Tracy’s Dilemma and finally Dick Tracy meets Gruesome. This last film was the most star-studded, with horror genre star Boris Karloff (of Frankenstein fame) playing the role of Gruesome against Ralph Byrd’s Dick Tracy. Karloff was so well-known in 1947 that his villain role was promoted more than that of the hero.
In this Dick Tracy classic which you can watch below, the stern-faced Gruesome is a cold-hearted ex-con who stumbles upon a poison gas designed to freeze individuals in place. Gruesome is initially exposed to the gas and thought dead, leading to a classic Karloff moment when Gruesome awakens like a zombie in the city morgue, much to the surprise of Pat Patton. Gruesome and an accomplice use the gas in a daring daylight bank robbery, which goes off perfectly except for witness Tess Trueheart who hid in a sealed phone booth.
Tracy and Pat Patton investigate the heist and gas, relating it to the disappearance of a scientist named Dr. A. Tomic. These names are very Gouldian, with A. Tomic’s associate Dr. I.M. Learned either helping or hindering the investigation. The movie toys with several horror themes during their detective work, an example being Pat Patton’s nervous search of a taxidermist shop. Yet, the movie pokes fun at itself and the horror genre with Tracy commenting that this Gruesome fellow feels like a character out of a Boris Karloff film.
While Tracy and Patton’s investigation closes in on the bank robbers, Gruesome plays his role with cold malevolence as he silences those who might lead Tracy to him. Of course Tracy eventually does still track Gruesome down and they face off in a well done battle complete with a conveyor belt feeding a red-hot furnace. I’ll not reveal if Karloff’s villain ends up in flames like so many of his other monstrous roles. For now, we’ve only gotten our first peek at Curtis’s Gruesome and it will be interesting to see what traits of the character will remain, if any at all!
Easter Egg, homage, having a little fun, whatever you call it, Mike Curtis and Joe Staton are masters of slipping in references to old comic strips. For the past several months one has been staring me in the face and I didn’t have the slightest clue! As we know, Dick Tracy and Annie Warbucks are trapped in a 1944 version of Simmons Corner, where most of the townsfolk are brainwashed by a daily “Belinda” radio show. While we caught the similarities between the radio shows secret code and a Dick Tracy Radio Secret Codes, I was surprised to learn in yesterdays interview (read it!) with Mike and Joe at Comic Book Resources that Belinda herself was an English version of Little Orphan Annie!
The Mirror, Dec 23, 1941
Belinda Blue Eyes was first published September 30, 1935 in the UK’s Daily Mirror by Bill Connor and Steve Dowling who signed with the name “Gloria”. Belinda was a blond-haired orphan waif of similar age and adventuresome spirit to Annie. The Mirror was Britain’s most important newspaper for strip cartoons and much of their early success came from copying American ideas but adding a regional twist for the home market. In addition to Belinda Blue Eyes, the Mirror introduced England to Buck Ryan (Dick Tracy), Just Jake (Li’L Abner) and Garth (Part Superman, Part Terry and the Pirates).
According to Steve Dowling, the Mirror’s Guy Bartholomew was fanatical about comic strips, having been an artist himself and his excitement towards the medium can be summed up with this 1941 comic page. With World War II paper rationing in effect, the Mirror was limited to 8 pages a day yet still they included a full-page of comics. This one page may have been an important momentary reprieve for British citizens directly threatened by the dominant German war machine.
The Belinda strip ended October 17, 1959 with artist Tony Royle and writer Don Freeman at the helm, and now you know.