Dick Tracy: The space era revisited

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

The blog, during an ice storm this past weekend, got caught up on recent developments in the Dick Tracy comic strip.

It turns out the strip’s current creative team, artist Joe Staton and writer Mike Curtis, revisited one of Dick Tracy’s most unusual eras — the Space era, which began in the early 1960s and appeared to be done by the late 1970s.

Background: Tracy creator Chester Gould (1900-1985) abruptly took the intrepid detective into the space age in the early 1960s.

As one story line was ending, Tracy got a call from industrialist Diet Smith, whose company supplied the police with two-way wrist radios and other gadgets. He had something he wanted to show Tracy.

That something was the space coupe, which traveled via magnetic power. Well, the space coupe quickly became the target of criminals. They stole it and used it to commit crimes. One strip showed the stolen space coupe dumping a victim into Earth’s obit.

Tracy recovered the amazing machine. Meanwhile, Diet Smith sent a crew to the moon in the space coupe. Moon Maid, a humanoid woman with horns, stowed away and came to Earth. She was part of a group of Moon People who lived in a part of the Moon (Moon Valley) with an atmosphere.

Chester Gould’s original version of the space coupe.

For a strip which had its beginnings during gangsters and Prohibition, it was a huge departure.

Eventually Tracy’s adopted son Junior fell in love with her and they got married (albeit with a lot of complications). The couple eventually made Tracy a grandfather.

Eventually Gould dialed things back. He retired from the strip, with his last contribution appearing Dec. 25, 1977.

His first successors, writer Max Allan Collins and artist Rick Fletcher (who had been Gould’s art assistant), seemed to close the door on the space era.

Big Boy, the strip’s original villain was dying and put out a contract on Tracy. But Junior’s wife (dubbed Moon Maid by Gould) was killed by a bomb meant for Tracy. The Moon People broke off diplomatic relations with the Earth. The last remnant of the space era (or so it seemed) was Junior’s daughter, Honeymoon.

2012-2013: Many years later, under the Stanton-Curtis team, a woman who appears to be Moon Maid reappears. She is seen at Wildwood Cemetery where Moon Maid (aka Mysta Tracy) is buried. She smashes the tombstone.

This is a part of “Moon Maid sightings.” But initially this is a subplot. Nevertheless, Tracy — with the help of Diet Smith — takes Honeymoon to, well, the Moon, as a sort of Christmas present.

However, Moon Valley, where the Moon people lived is deserted and there’s no atmosphere. Honeymoon, who had anticipated meeting her other grandparents is heartbroken.

The Moon Maid saga becomes the strip’s main tale in the spring of 2013. The mystery is whether Moon Maid is really back, is a clone or something else. It is not revealed until October 2013 that she was genetically altered using the original Moon Maid’s DNA and programmed to believe she was the original.

In between those events, classic Tracy villains BB Eyes and Mumbles show up as part of the proceedings as supporting heavies. There’s an attempt to steal Diet Smith’s remaining space coupe by the main villains (Dr. Tim S. Sail and Dr. Zy Ghote). But the crafty industrialist programmed it to fly into deep space.

Given the choice, and knowing the truth, the “new” Moon Maid remains to retain her appearance. She takes the name Mysta Chimera.

2017-2018: The Stanton-Curtis team decided to revisit the Space Era once more.

The Moon Governor, father of the original Moon Maid, shows up on Earth. He meets with Mysta Chimera’s real father.

Meanwhile, Diet Smith has evidence of a signing of one of the space coupes the Moon People had. Smith had built a few for the Moon People. “There were a few minor differences between the space coupes, Smith says. “And the Moon Governor had a fleet of five.”

Another classic Gould villain, Bribery, is involved in yet another plot. He wanted to get to the Moon via a space coupe so he could steal gold that had been at Moon Valley. But Bribery wasn’t aware the Moon had been abandoned. Shortly there after, Tracy moves in to arrest Bribery.

At the end of the story, it’s revealed the Moon People, indeed had fled to Earth. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how the story’s conclusion reflects 21st century issues — climate change/environmental issues and immigration.

“When we realized our oxygen was dissipating, we launched a vigorous campaign to replenish it,” the Moon Governor (actually now former Moon Governor) says. “But despite our technological advances, it was too late.”

He adds the following: “So we emigrated to the Earth, where our location will remain secret.”

Thus, the Moon People walk among us. Undocumented immigrants, indeed.

One Response

  1. […] Long-running characters change and evolve: Sherlock Holmes got “timeshifted” to the 1940s during movies made by Universal during World War II. Batman fought aliens in 1950s and early 1960s comic books. Dick Tracy had his own “space era.” […]

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