I didn't entirely get the intended construction of the jokes in the Sunday Bizzaro (Sp??) strip yesterday .   ( The strip appars to be not online , as it is a King Features Syndicate strip , who - Gasp !!! - appear to think they're in the comics business to make money , and keep their strips behind a wall . )

  The joke was " variations on ' I Love New York ' "...but was the panhandler's shirt supposed to be saying " I Owe New York " ?"  I Have Zero , New York " ?

  The yokel , in Middle Ages garb...Was his shirt suppost'a mean " I Love York " , as in the English county that New York was indeed named after ??? ( And Prince Charles is now considered the Duke of , if I recall correctly . )

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Twenty-three years after Charles Schultz' death, a tribute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyaHhF4UY_M

Recently I've been posting about the three volumes of Dick Tracy: The Collins Casefiles from Checker BPG over in "What Comics Have You Read Today?" but today I would like to continue that discussion here, starting with The Complete Max Collins/Rick Fletcher Dick Tracy #1.

I had been a Dick Tracy strip-clipper up until October 1980, but I found the villain "Breakdown" to be derivative (of Chester Gould's Shaky). When Collins/Fletcher followed Breakdown with "Torcher" (whom I found to be unimaginative), I stopped clipping cold turkey. Although The Collins Casefiles gave me the opportunity to reread (and reevaluate) the torcher story, I have yet to see the strips from January 15, 1981 through October 3, 1981 reprinted. I am particularly saddened not to be able to reread the third continuity featuring the Mole, who first appeared in 1940, then returned in 1971. Luckily, Dragon Lady Press gave me the opportunity to reread the subsequent Gould/Fletcher stories starting in 1985.

I know why DLP chose to start their new, cardstock-covered Dick Tracy Quarterly Edition with the 50th anniversary story, but I don't know why they chose to subtitle it "The Complete Max Collins/Rick Fletcher Dick Tracy." They had been on the strip since late December 1977, and the anniversary wasn't until October 1981, their 14th story together. The quarterly edition would last only three issues, but would, after a fashion (which I'll post about next time), see the end of the Collins/Fletcher era.

Soon after the story opens, policewoman Lizz is kidnapped (perhaps killed) by an "Old Friend" of Dick Tracy's. Meanwhile, Diet Smith is promoting an awareness campaign of nuclear fusion (as opposed to nuclear fission). Set against a backdrop of a whistle-stop tour, Dick Tracy takes a leave of absence from the Major Crime Squad, ostensibly to become Diet Smith's bodyguard, but also to check up on some of his "old friends" (those who have survived, anyway), including Measles, Wormy, Pearshape, Dewdrop, Coffyhead, Blowtop, Influence and Mousey. Some of them have reformed, some of them haven't. The continuity ends with the wedding of Junior Tracy and Sparkle Plenty (the second marriage for them both).

The story "continues" in DLP's The Best of the Tribune Co. #2, which had already been published a year before the Quarterly Edition. The sister publication featured a rotating lead every issue, and the plan (as far as Dick Tracy was concerned) was to print one Collins/Fletcher and one Collins/Locher story each issue. This was the first Collins/Fletcher /Locher material ever to be reprinted but, by the time Dick Tracy came up in rotation again, DLP had launched the quarterly Collins/Fletcher series. I wasn't too wild about these villains, either, when they appeared in the paper. The villain holding the gun is Splitscreen and the Carrie Nation-esque woman wielding the hatchet is Ida Jury (a.k.a. "Auntie Freedom"). Splitscreen's real name is Ed Vio (which is "video" spelled sideways). His henchmen are V.H. Hess and Maxie Beta (they are incompatible). Like all of Collins plots, this one was topical (video piracy). Note that the cover to issue #2 is by lifelong Tracy fan Joe Staton, who would, decades later, serve a stint as Tracy's newspaper artist. 

"Who Shot Pat Patton?"

December 10, 1982 is a day I remember well. At least I remember one particular aspect of it. The panel used for the cover of Dragon Lady Press Quarterly Edition #2 was taken from Thursday December 11. I will never forget the following exchange from Friday's strip as Sam asks Tracy...

"Is it Pat?"

"Yes."

"Is he alive?"

"No."

I was 18 years old at the time and as cynical as only an 18-year-old can be. I was well aware of how manipulative comics writers could be for short-term returns, but I had come to trust Max Allen Collins. I understood that sympathetic characters must be killed off from time-to-time in a realistic strip, especially one as violent as this, in order to create a sense that "anything can happen" for the readers. A year after the strip had celebrated its 50th anniversary, the death of Pat Patton would have provided a reason for Dick tracy to reaffirm his dedication to fighting crime as powerful and compelling as the death of Tess Trueheart's father had been in 1931.

Imagine my disappointment when, on December 11, Sam said, "Tracy, you're wrong! I'm getting a faint pulse..." I found out years later that it had been Collins' intention to kill off Pat Patton at the time, but the Syndicate wouldn't allow it. I wasn't the only one disappointed. Don Thompson of the Comics Buyer's Guide accused Collins of "cheating." The story did bring about some change, though. The first act of Patton's successor (Chief Climber) was to disband Tracy's Major Crime Squad and assign him to a desk job. This action prompted Tracy to quit the police force and open his own private investigator's office.

I pointed out last month (during the "Detective" theme of the "Cover a Day" thread) that the daily nature of the Dick Tracy  comic strip doesn't really lend itself to standard "whodunnit" mysteries, but this story fits the bill (although it isn't too awfully hard for the reader to solve). When the story concludes, the status quo has changed. Although the Major Crime Squad has been reinstated with Tracy as its lead, he is no longer Chief of Detectives. His new title is Police Consultant and he remains a private eye. 

I recently posted that Rick Fletcher's art started to deteriorate to the end; that assessment was incorrect. I also pointed out that he was several weeks ahead on the Sundays when Dick Locher took over the dailies; that was correct. Locher's first daily was Monday May 10, 1983, and Fletcher's last Sunday was June 12. Fletcher did the entire "Ghost of Itchy" story except the last week of dailies, as well as the first four Sundays of the next story without doing any of the dailies. I don't think I even realized at the time that the dailes were done by a different hand. What I had remembered as a "deterioration" of Fletcher's style was actually Locher being phased in. 

Maz Collins and rick Fletcher were not good friends (for a variety of reasons). According to Collins, "I was not aware that Rick was in poor health--he and his family kept that sad news to themselves, as Rick preferred that the show go on, as long as possible. He drew as long as he could, and when he rose from the drawing board, it was to go to the hospital. A few days later he was gone."

"The Ghost of Itchy" features, Stephanie Queen (a female version of Stephen King), Twitchy Oliver (Itchy's heretofore unknown brother) and B.D. Eyes, the brother of B.B. Eyes. The next story featured a wholly original villain, Lofty Ayres, and the reintroduction of the "Crimestoppers" club by Dick Tracy's granddaughter, Honeymoon. These stories, especially the change in art, signaled the end of my interest in Dick Tracy, the current version, anyway. But that is not the end of this discussion.

By this time I was in college and no longer had ready access to a daily newspaper (plus, as I indicated, my interest in Dick Tracy had waned). All of the 1983-1990 era that I have read (by no means all of it), I have read via reprints, many of which were released leading up to and in the wake of Warren Beatty's big budget Dick Tracy movie. I finally got to read the Pruneface continuity (1983) in the Dick Tracy's Fiendish Foes collection (1990). Various publishers used to release mass market tpb Dick Tracy collections every couple of years, we're now well past the 90th anniversary, and I haven't seen a collection of this nature in 33 years. 

From here we go back to The Best of the Tribune Co. #2 for the Collins/Locher story concerning toxic waste, featuring the husband/wife team of Dye and Oxen. Also, B.O. Plenty wins the lottery, which gives Max Collins the opportunity to employ enough malapropisms to make JD Deluzio groan, such as "internal gratuity," "divine impudence" and (my favorite) "siplton riflery." These strips first appeared in early 1984, but I didn't read them until they were reprinted in 1985. 

Hmmm? What could Hagar mean?

Lucky Eddie is referring to the same thing everyone means by the euphemism "take it to the next level"; Hagar is referring to the particular set of scales which must be lifted in order to achieve that goal. Incidentally, homo sapiens and homo mermanus are incapable of sexual reproduction. Now back to Dick Tracy...

DLP's Best of the Tribune Co, became Thrilling Adventure Strips with #5, and dick Tracy came up again in rotation with #6. Soon after becoming Rick Fletcher's replacement, Dick Locher recruited his son, John Locher, as his replacement. It had been his father's wish that his son someday succeed him as primary artist on the strip, but unfortunately John Locher passed away when he was only 25 years old. He served as assistant for two years prior to his death, and it is to his memory that this issue is dedicated. John Locher was a big Bruce Springsteen fan and peppered his art with references to The Boss, including the panel used as this issue's cover. 

Storywise, Max Collins often plotted interlocking and overlapping storylines in an effort to thwart local editors from dropping the strip. (Newspaper editors will usually wait until a continuity's conclusion before cancelling a comic to avoid reader complaints.) For example, in this issue, the Murky Depps story led into the Bugsy Bugoff one, but both had ties to Big Brother.

I guess I should have included an emoji. 

Richard Willis said:

Hmmm? What could Hagar mean?

No, I knew what you were getting at. Perhaps I should have included an emoji.

Next up is [Dick] Tracy's Wartime Memories, the first ever collection of Collins/Locher Dick Tracy. Dick Locher's son John was still alive at this point (the "Big Brother" story was reprinted later the same year, after his death), but Chester Gould died in the midst of this continuity's original run. This story originally appeared in 1985, but I first read it in the reprint edition in 1986. Storywise, this flashback is a continuity implant which tells the "untold tale" of Tracy's first meeting with the likes of Flattop, Shaky, Pruneface and Mrs. Pruneface. As such, it doesn't really work, continuity-wise, however, Dick Tracy did go on a fishing trip (in continuity) at the time this story was to have taken place. 

During his tenure as writer, Max Collins included Gould villains (or their close relatives) far too often for my taste. Years later I learned that his Syndicate editor at the time insisted that he do so at least once every third story. It was also this editor who was responsible for the "Who Shot Pat Patton?" fake-out (mentioned above) as well as Dick Tracy's detective agency being written out of the strip so quickly. Collins had planned on Tracy working as a P.I. for two or three years before returning him to the force, but the syndicate let him do only "The Ghost of Itchy" (after which Johnny Adonis disappeared as well). It makes me wonder what Collins' Tracy would have been like without editorial interference.

Especially because I first read "Tracy's Wartime Memories" in collected form, I tend to think of it as another artist's interpretation of classic Gould-era villains (the same way I think about the Kyle Baker limited series or some of those more recent ones from IDW). Ultimately, I take my cue from Max Collins himself: "So, to the really hardcore nitpicker TRACY fans out there, I say: lighten up. It's just comics. It's just a story. Take your shoes off, lean back and have some fun."

Continuing...

First, a brief review...

By this point, most of Max Collins' Dick Tracy has been reprinted, in one form or another, by one publisher or another, including everything from December 26, 1977 through January 14, 1981. The next three continuities (1/15/81-10/3/81) remain unreprinted to the best of my knowledge. The reprints pick up again with the 50th Anniversary story (10/4/81) and run through "Big Brother" (11/25/84). "Tracy's Wartime Memories" ran from 3/18/85 through 9/4/85, but there are gaps both before and after: "Normal Jones" (11/26/84-3/17/85) and the return of "Angeltop and the Brow's Son" (9/5/85-2/9/86). "Normal" Jones was no relation to Flattop, but I regret having missed Angeltop and the Brow's son in their third continuity since Collins took over.

Which brings us up to "Uppward and Trendy Lee-Mobile," husband and wife investment bankers running a Ponzi scheme (2/10/86-6/9/86). the Major Crime Squad built up a fraud case against the couple fairly easily, but Tracy wanted to nail them for murder. This story also features a "death trap" for Tracy to escape from, another editorial mandate. One thing the strip is known for is the occasional death traps Tracy escaped from, but Gould didn't use them in every single story, but the Syndicate pressured Collins to include them as often as possible. 

This story is reprinted in the America's Most Famous Detective collection (full title: Dick Tracy: America's Most Famous Detective (The Life and Times of Chester Gould's Immortal Sleuth), which also includes the three-page "Origin of the Two-Way Wrist Computer" which leads directly into "The Russian Exchange."

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