For the comic strip collectors among you, Volume 15 of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy series has been released in all it’s hardcover glory. The cover features 3D Magee one of several sociopathic villains introduced during this collections time period, April 19, 1953 to Oct 24, 1954. Like the previous volumes, former Dick Tracy writer Max Allan Collins writes a detailed introduction filled with images of old advertisements for the Dick Tracy comic strip.
In the last volume we were introduced to Odds Zonn, the new Mr. Crime and his daughter Susie who he abandons near the Plenty farm, a cliffhanger ending. B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie of course take little Susie in, calling her Little Wingy and are concerned to find she glows in the dark. Little Wingy is suffering radioactive poisoning and Diet Smith asks Dr. Von Nucleus to cure her. Her criminal father’s fate comes to a more tragic end with a bullet to the head and Susie is adopted by the Plenty’s, becoming a sister to young Sparkle Plenty.
Sparkle, a recent addition to the strip has been a marketing hit for Gould, with a very popular Sparkle Plenty doll in stores. Chester may have hoped to repeat this performance with Little Wingy, pairing the two little girls together and putting them in peril when 3D Magee and Pony use their lives (and some lethal ants) to blackmail rich Uncle “Canhead” Plenty. 3D and Pony are clearly sociopaths, willing to kill to achieve their goals and the chase to arrest them lasts for the remainder of 1953. Uncle “Canhead” seems to have filled the role of Vitamin Flintheart in the strip during this time period and a new character Chick Smithly seems like an beta test of a Lizz Worthington like female crime fighter.
After Christmas Tracy, Junior and Sam discover a baby inside a heated tree. The child belongs to Mrs. Green, who has been renting out the babe to Dewdrop and Sticks Hepbeat. Dewdrop pretends its hers so her ill father will let her inherit his ten million dollars. When Tracy arrests Mrs. Green and takes the child, Dewdrop smothers her own father with a pillow to keep her secret. The despicable actions continue with a maid and released Mrs. Green trying to blackmail the Hepbeats and soon Sticks is dead and Dewdrop flees to her husband’s brother, Open-Mind Monty.
Open-Mind Monty is a weird individual, drawn with a knife blade sticking out of his head and it would be interesting to know where Gould came up with the concept. Open-Mind harbors the fugitive Dewdrop and the two come up with a scheme to kill Dick Tracy. He fools the two with a dummy and they believe they have killed the great detective. Tracy reveals the ruse and the two are arrested. After the arrest we learn the blade sticking out of Open-Mind’s head is fake, simply used to unsettle his criminal enemies. We agree it would be unsettling, but it also seems like it would be easy for an enemy to finish Open-Mind off if a blade was already halfway through his forehead.
In the final story of the collection, Sparkle and Little Wingy accidentally discover a stolen fur racket ran by the villain Rughead and Tracy is soon on his trail. The detective spies on the gang by posing as an electrical worker but his undercover skills are slipping and Rughead identifies him as a cop and we are blessed with a shootout. Rughead runs of (briefly) to Mexico while his right hand man, Happy attempts to assassinate the detective. This story line ends the volume but Rughead will return to begin the next Volume when it goes on sale. Volume 16 will also introduce Mumbles, so we can’t wait for it!