Charlie Chan, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, Ellery Queen, Nero Wolfe, Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Perry Mason, and Sherlock Holmes. All are classic fictional detectives that, except for Holmes, emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, pulling in countless readers across the world and together forming the roots of today’s mystery and crime genres. You can add another detective to that list, too, the straight-arrow justice seeker Dick Tracy, although his readers would get a new dose of him every day, thanks to creator Chester Gould’s daily newspaper strips. Over the decades Dick Tracy was featured in monthly comic book series in the 1930s to the 1960s, and again in the 1980s. After failed efforts to bring Dick Tracy to comic books, first in a series by Mike Oeming and Brian Michael Bendis, and most recently in a series from Archie Comics featuring creators Alex Segura, Michael Moreci, and Thomas Pitilli–both cancelled for licensing snafus–finally we’re about to see Dick Tracy back in the comic books. IDW Publishing, which just released the 24th volume of Gould’s original strips in anthology format, is launching a new four-issue limited series this Fall.
Since he first appeared in print October 14, 1931, newspaper readers have been following Tracy’s crimefighting adventures. Chester Gould created the character and continued writing and drawing him and his foes in comic strip form until his retirement in 1977. The strip was taken over by Max Allan Collins and Rick Fletcher and later Dick Locher and Jim Brozman, who wrote the strip until 2011, when comic book legend Joe Staton became artist with writer Mike Curtis–they would take the Harvey Award for the classic series for best syndicated comic strip three years running.
“I am thrilled to try my hand at drawing this legendary, pulpy, hardboiled crime classic,” said newly tapped Dick Tracy artist Rich Tommaso in an IDW press release. “Along with Roy Crane, Milton Caniff, Noel Sickles, Jack Cole, and Alex Toth, Chester Gould is a cartoonist that I am perpetually inspired by when I’m working on my own crime stories. So this is a project that I feel is well within my wheelhouse. The Dick Tracy cast of characters makes this comic so much fun to draw on a daily basis. I only hope we can all bring something great to the comic ourselves while, simultaneously keeping true to its origins. Not an easy feat to be sure, but I feel it’s damn worth a try.” Tommaso has previewed some of his penciled panels on his Twitter account (shown above and below), revealing a story set in the 1930s or 1940s. Michael Allred will write and ink the series, called “Dead or Alive,” co-written with brother Lee Allred, with coloring by Laura Allred, Mike’s wife and frequent creative partner.
Along with the list of comic writers and artists attached to the character over the past nine decades–and Tracy’s hawk nose and two-way wrist radio–it’s the unusual villains the series is best known for. With oddball names and equally odd faces, Gould used famous actors of his day as a guide when drawing key supporting characters, including himself as the character Pearshape. Criminals included Breathless Mahoney (Veronica Lake), B.O. Plenty (Gabby Hayes), Vitamin Flintheart (John Barrymore), Oodles (Jackie Gleason), Mumbles (Bing Crosby), and Rughead (Robert Montgomery).
Look for the first issue of the limited series Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive to premiere this September from IDW Publishing.