Friday, June 17, 2016

Reader's Diary #1324- Chester Gould: Dick Tracy Dailies and Sundays 1931-1933 Volume One

After reading a Green Lantern comic recently I'd become more and more interested in other pulp fiction icons and decided to get my hands on some Dick Tracy comics. The only thing I'd known about the character previously was that Warren Beatty and Madonna made a movie in the 80s. I didn't see it.

This collection, which goes right back to Dick Tracy's newspaper strip beginning, was surprisingly good. I had anticipated that it would take a while for Chester Gould to find his footing with the character and that it would feel dated.

Not having read later Dick Tracy comics, I cannot say whether or not they got better, but as for finding footing, the comics are entertaining enough from the get go. And while yes, the comic is very dated, it's part of what I enjoyed about it. The language and slang are adorable and I found myself affecting an ol' timey accent, reading the strips under my breath. Far less adorable, and quite atrocious to be frank, is the depiction of a black character named Della. Drawn in that bizarre and racist style with the over-sized white clown lips (did white people have trouble seeing back then, or what?), speaking about her "Massa" in broken English, it was very, very inappropriate and sad. Furthermore, she was forever referred to the "colored cook." Why the hell not just "cook"?

If one can get past the strips with that character— which don't make up a lot of the book, but nonetheless could be enough to ruin the whole collection for anyone— there are at least other, far less offensive things, to enjoy.

The action and plots are full of somewhat over the top action, with doses of humour and romance thrown in for good measure. And, as they were written daily and with stories that flowed from one strip to the next, it doesn't work half-bad as a graphic novel. Of course, there's some recapping from strip to strip that you won't find in a typical graphic novel, but there are still larger over-arching stories.

And (again with the very notable exception of the "colored cook") I enjoyed the art. Expecting a daily to be short on backgrounds and details due to the time constraints, I was very impressed with Gould's work; full of hatching and cross-hatching, patterns, and interesting things to take in.

1 comment:

Nicola Mansfield said...

Cool. I never can get into comic strips but I love the old Dick Tracy movies from the '30s/40s starring Ralph Byrd!