Friday, May 06, 2011

200 Characters from Dick Tracy 1931-1977

Here's one of the most popular blog entries I ever did. It appeared June 23, 2009.

Last month, I mailed the original DICK TRACY commemorative book to the new TRACY artist, Joe Staton.

"Dick Tracy The Art of Chester Gould" was an exhibition at the Museum of Cartoon Art from October 4 through November 30, 1978. Coordinated by Bill Crouch, Jr., the exhibit at the Museum in Port Chester, NY encompassed not just the newspaper comic strip, but the popular phenomenon, the artistic style of the strip, controversial violence, and Chester Gould himself.

Above: 3 of the 200 DICK TRACY characters.

It's the gallery of 200 characters from DICK TRACY 1931-1977, put together by Matt Masterson in the back of the exhibition catalog, that's a standout. Here is his introduction, followed by the scans of his amazing compilation:

"I completed this compilation of 200 DICK TRACY characters [in] October 1977 as a tribute to Chester Gould when he reached his 46th anniversary of drawing the strip. The original paste-up hangs in Chet's conference room at home and he tells me he refers to it quite often. His first reaction to it was that he had no idea he had created that many!

"To make this paste-up of 200 characters, I went through every strip in my TRACY collection from Oct. 1931 thru Oct. 1977, approximately 17,000 daily and Sunday strips, and picked out the one panel I thought best represented that character. A reduced stat was then made of each one, and then mounted on a large piece of gray matte board along with each character's name and year each appeared. It was a labor of love.

"Some of Chet's early characters from the 30's are easily recognized as popular movie stars of that era; James Cagney (Jimmy White), Claudette Colbert (Jean Penfield), Marlene Dietrich (Marro), Wallace Beery (Stud Bronzen). In the late 90's, some characters names were invented by spelling words backwards, such as Nuremoh, Kroywen, Natnus, Wolley, and Prof. Emirc.

"In the 1940's, characters were to spill from Gould's prolific imagination an an unparalleled rate. Characters such as the Mole, B-B Eyes, Pruneface, Flattop, Brow, Shaky, Gravel Gertie, B.O. Plenty, Vitamin Flintheart and Mumbles were to be household names and are remembered vividly by all who read DICK TRACY in those years. If a poll were taken, Flattop would probably garner the most votes as the most famous villain. At a time when most villains expired from the strip in 12 weeks, Flattop ran TRACY ragged for 5 months.

"... When I asked Chet Gould where he got the names for some of his characters, he told me he used to ride the train from his home in Woodstock, Illinois to his studio in Chicago and sketch various people he observed on the train. He would exaggerate upon certain features or characteristics. The name would follow, with he one exception being Flattop, whose name came from the popular aircraft carrier of World War II. Imagine an hour train ride with the likes of Itchy, Flyface or B.O. Plenty!

"In 1975, Max Allan Collins, current writer of the DICK TRACY strip, was to become the inspiration for the villain, Bulky, and in 1977, I popped up as Leyden Aigg. In answer to the question, 'Has Chet Gould ever put himself in the strip?' Yes! He IS DICK TRACY."

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