With the Billion Dollars Limited train carrying the gold reserves of an entire small country scheduled to pass through Dick Tracy’s city I thought it only fitting to link the below Billion Dollars Limited Superman cartoon that Team Tracy is honoring. While I don’t know for certain, I have no doubt this story came out of Mike Curtis’s love of all things Superman.
This cartoon was the third of seventeen animated Technicolor short films featuring DC Comics Superman. This particular story centers around a train carrying one billion dollars in gold to the US mint, which is sabotages by robbers before Superman intervenes. The plot is beginning to sound vaguely familiar! This nine minute cartoon was released by Paramount Pictures in 1942 and can be watched below.
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!
So far we’ve just been teased but something fantastic seems to be happening at Diet Smith Industries. Joe Staton’s June 18th rendering of Diet Smith’s new tower project bears a resemblance to Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower. Funded by a Diet like predecessor, J.P. Morgan, Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower was a pilot plant for a worldwide system of wireless towers that could provide electricity wirelessly through the atmosphere and possibly control the weather and communicate text and images across the globe. Out of this world concepts in 1900 and exciting even today. Unfortunatly for Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi’s far cheaper invention of the trans-Atlantic wireless telegraph signal effectively ended his dreams of a wirelessly powered planet. While we are simply basing this theory on a single strip panel, this does sound like something Diet might be interested in. Plus it gives us a chance to plug our favorite Damn Interesting website where you can read more about Tesla’s Tower of Power!
Today (June 19th), Diet Smith told Oliver Warbucks and Dick Tracy of his plans to recreate the Philadelphia Experiment, an alleged 1943 military experiment involving invisibility, teleportation and possibly time-travel. There are many competing stories on the experiment, which involved enveloping the USS Eldridge in an invisibility field. This field was created by bending light around the Navy Destroyer. According to unified field theory, the process of bending light also bends space-time which can cause teleportation and time-travel. The USS Eldridge is said to have vanished from Philadelphia, teleported briefly to Norfolk Virginia and returned, with many crew members made sick, crazy or embedded into bulk heads. If Diet is trying to re-create this experiment, we wonder which parts he’s really interested in and hope he’s keeping his employees safe! I’m sure all these answers will be coming soon and we can’t wait to see what’s really going on!
Dedicated readers of the Dick Tracy comic strip are no doubt aware of the mysterious appearance of a character who may or may not be Mysta “Moon Maid” Tracy, Junior’s first wife. Moon Maid, for those that don’t know was introduced in 1964 when Dick Tracy and Diet Smith visited the Moon and was killed by a car bomb meant for the heroic detective in 1978. The mysterious character who we’ve been teased with over the last eight months has battled crime in the city with Moon Maid’s signature look and powers, only a mask covering her face. Is it Moon Maid? We’ll soon find out, Mike Curtis has dropped the news that the Moon Maid storyline will take center stage starting in late April and much like the Mr. Crime storyline of last year will involve a host of new and old characters.
Take the chance before then to get caught up on some of the coming characters Mike has teased, including,