Public Dick Tracy Reads

In the early decades of Dick Tracy, the Tribune occasionally licensed the Dick Tracy character out to other publishers with the caveat that Tracy was still owned by the Tribune and created by Chester Gould. This resulted in the well documented Big Little Books and many other limited publications with no credits beyond the Chester Gould attribute. Many of these one-off publication copyrights have fallen into the public domain due to non-renewal at their 28 year mark. What this means for us is we can let you read them!

The first I’d like to showcase is titled “Dick Tracy and Case of the Purloined Sirloin”. Published by Harvey Comics in 1958, The Purloined Sirloin was a 11 page comic book written for Esso Service Station Salesmen, i.e. it was given to those who worked in Esso stations. Esso is a brand now only seen overseas, having been replaced in the states by the Exxon name.

The publisher, Harvey Comics, was founded by Alfred Harvey in 1941 and specialized in creating comics featuring licensed characters; Casper the Friendly Ghost was their biggest asset. Following a gradual decline Mr. Harvey stopped publishing at his retirement in 1982.


The second Dick Tracy comic is “Dick Tracy Shoots it out…” a six page story in the little remembered Famous Features Stories #1. This one-shot from 1938 was a 66 page collection of written stories featuring nearly a dozen comic strip characters including Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Terry & The Pirates and Tarzan of the Apes. Little is know about the publisher of the Famous Features and they never produced another issue.

The story itself is a bit of a rewrite, using elements of the Dick Tracy strip between Sept 1935 through March 1936 when Dick Tracy took a temporary job as police chief of a mob-infested suburb called Homeville. Chester Gould’s comic strip story featured Cut, Muscle and Maw Famon while the Famous Features story features Jitters, Snipe and Ma Moline. There are many other similarities with minor differences such as the inclusion of the strip regular Toby into the written story.

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