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.

Dick Locher, editorial and Dick Tracy cartoonist, dies

Dick Locher, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and the third primary artist on the Dick Tracy comic strip, died earlier this month at 88, according to an obituary posted by the Chicago Tribune.

Toward the end of Locher’s run, he also took over the scripting duties while continuing to do editorial cartoons for the Tribune.

Locher was an art assistant to Tracy creator Chester Gould (1900-1985) in the 1950s. He later found success as an editorial cartoonist at the Chicago Tribune, the home newspaper for the Tracy strip.

Gould retired in late 1977. His initial successors were writer Max Allan Collins and artist Rick Fletcher, another Gould art assistant.

Dick Tracy meets Pruneface after the Nazi has been thawed out, 1983. Drawn by Dick Locher.

When Fletcher died in 1983, Locher took over the art duties on Tracy. That same year, one of Locher’s first highlights was a story line where Nazi spy Pruneface (one of the most famous Gould villains for the strip) was revived from suspended animation by Dr. Freezdrei, a former Nazi scientist.

Initially, Tracy believes it’s a hoax. A few years earlier, the Collins-Fletcher team had a story where there is supposedly a Mumbles clone. But it turned out it was the original villain with a face lift.

However, in the 1980s story, it turns out Pruneface really had been in suspended animation. Tracy is not happy upon hearing the news. “Back in those days, we had an electric chair to thaw him out,” Tracy says.

Pruneface attempts to get revenge on Tracy. But a mysterious figure intervenes.

Locher drew the Tracy strip until 2009 and wrote it until 2011, according to the Tribune obituary.

Somewhere, the Spy Commander has a Tracy cartoon drawn by Locher that was the subject of a silent auction to benefit the Society of Professional Journalists.

No Skyfall novelization, Book Bond Web site says

There won’t be a novelization of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, the BOOK BOND WEB SITE REPORTED, citing Ian Fleming Publications.

Raymond Benson's Die Another Day remains the most recent 007 film novelization. Photo copyright © Paul Baack

Raymond Benson, most recent 007 novelization author


There was no statement on the Ian Fleming Publications Web site as of 3 p.m. Eastern Time on March 18. On the Book Bond site, webmaster John Cox said he didn’t press for the reasons why there won’t be a novelization.

One possibility (our own speculation): director Sam Mendes has had a penchant for secrecy for all matters Skyfall, even to the point of denying in early 2010 he was in talks to direct the film even after his own publicist had confirmed such talks were, in fact, underway. A novelization is typically available before a film’s release and is the ultimate spoiler. One exception: Max Allan Collins, in his novelization for Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy movie, awkwardly told the reader Tracy was surprised who the mystery was without revealing the identity.

IFP controls the literary Bond. Novelizations were published for the four Pierce Brosnan films: GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. John Gardner did the GoldenEye novelization in 1995 and Raymond Benson the others, beginning in 1997. In 2002, Benson’s final Bond continuation novel had been published but he was the logical choice to do Die Another Day’s novelization published in the fall of that year.

With 2006’s Casino Royale, IFP re-issued Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel of the same name, and with 2008’s Quantum of Solace, IFP put out two Fleming short stories, including Quantum of Solace, which had nothing to do with the film.

Going further back, Christopher Wood penned novelizations for The Spy Who Loved Me (“James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me”) and Moonraker (“James Bond and Moonraker”) in 1977 and 1979 respectively. Gardner also wrote the novelization for 1989’s Licence to Kill.

IFP has no “regular” Bond continuation novel author. Sebastian Faulks and Jeffery Deaver were hired to do one-offs (Devil May Care for Faulks where he was “writing as Ian Fleming” and Carte Blanche for Deaver). Interestingly, based on spoilers that have leaked out, Skyfall has a plot element similar to Carte Blanche. (We referenced that spoiler in a March 17 post, so we won’t mention it here).