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The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy: Dailies & Sundays 1931-1933, Volume One
posted November 17, 2006
 

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Creator: Chester Gould
Publishing Information: IDW Publishing, Hardcover, 352 pages, October 2006, $29.99
Ordering Numbers: 1600100368 (ISBN)

I hate to be crass about this, but let's get one thing straight. All serious fans of comics art should think deeply and seriously about buying this book. Sight unseen, damn it! Moreover, all consumers who don't mind ponying up $2.99 for 24 pages on a regular basis should think about it, too. When you figure in what you're likely to see as a discount through major on-line sellers, this is a total bargain. I would purchase 352 pages of Kudzu for $20. And Dick Tracy is an all-time classic, an invitee to the party within the party within the party and a regular hanger-out on the serious comics-as-art list. Even the 1990 film proved that the core Dick Tracy concepts kept their appeal no matter how much poop you ladled on top of them.

There are some quirky things about this first volume, though, that I think make it a lot more interesting than a "one of the library" buy. The cover design practically stalks Seth's design for the Peanuts books, to a point I've never seen before. It's still very nice in a John Cafferty versus Bruce Springsteen way, that way where you realize the rightness of an approach over specific execution. The support material here is really solid; Max Allan Collins' memories of Chester Gould sound a lot more honest and exposed than I'm used to reading, as if there's been enough time since Gould's passing for Collins to feel one hundred percent comfortable with writing about his time with the cartoonist. It also has some color work, which is nice to see if only for how it changes the strip.

That strip is a fairly straight-forward adventure serial at this point, years away from the stylized exaggerations in art, the grotesque villains, the more fanciful depictions of violence, and even the minor focus on future technology that fired so many imaginations over the years. This is more a straight-forward police drama, very much like Little Orphan Annie in how the adventures are staged although lacking Harold Gray's mastery of space. I don't know that I can make an argument for the strip's quality -- some of the scenes are awkward, and the violence that gets introduced is more of a "holy crap, I can't believe they're doing that" as opposed to something that works within the vehicle of a larger strip. On the other hand, I could read years and years of a strip like this one, straight-forward and modestly told, clearly defined characters in a world of tough guys, dames and dopes. Hopefully the book does well enough I can make good on that promise.