Dick Tracy was way before my time. My only connection to the 1931 comic strip was that migraine-inducing 1990 film produced by, directed by and starring that one-man show himself: Mr. Warren Beatty. Beatty’s girlfriend at the time, Madonna, also starred as night club entertainer Breathless Mahoney.
And after sitting through the cinematic equivalent of having my head dunked in a toilet over and over again, I didn’t care to know any more about Detective Dick Tracy and his goofball rogue’s gallery of villains with such ridiculous names such as Mumbles, Flattop, Itchy, Pruneface and Ribs Mocca.
I grew up with really cool characters like Daredevil, Batman and Wolverine. Dick Tracy was a clown by comparison.
Fast-forward 28 years later and Dick Tracy has been dug up, patched back together and shocked back to life by IDW Publishing playing the role of Doctor Frankenstein.
News flash: Tracy is still a clown and should have been left to rest in peace.
In Dick Tracy – Dead or Alive #1, the venerable Boy Scout with a badge has been canned by various corrupt cities and various various corrupt police departments.
“If all I cared about was a career and a pension, I would work at the DMV,” snaps Tracy after he is terminated for arresting someone who should be but is considered above the law.
As Tracy says himself, he is a cop because he believes in law and order and the rule of the law.
Down but not out, Tracy lands a job in The City by The Lake where the mayors, the city attorney, the police commissioner, police chief are all in bed with an organized crime boss: Big Boy. And, yes, that is his real name. He is named after an American restaurant chain whose mascot resembles Ronald Reagan.
They might as well have called him Little Caesar, Chuck-e Cheese or Gidget, The Taco Bell Chihuahua.
Unbeknownst to Tracy the crooks are only hiring him to be a patsy and his dutiful investigation leads to an even bigger conspiracy.
So far, so good, right?
Although Lee and Michael Allred’s hard-boiled adventure story is a decent one, it doesn’t really modernize the character and that is desperately needed as Dick Tracy is as dated as the popularity of gramophones. Nobody these days is going to connect on a personal level with an idealized law enforcement officer who stepped right out of The Andy Griffith Show. That was another place and another time.
Dick Tracy needs to be more Nick Fury and less Andy Taylor.
Rich Tommaso’s exaggerated, pop-art style, which I have never been a fan of, just makes matters worse. I realize the intention was for the art to reflect the original comic strips but in my mind, that was the wrong way to go.
The only way Dick Tracy is going to sell to a generation born and bred on HD video games with art that rivals that of any blockbuster movie is to evolve Tracy and his world into something that resembles Sin City, not Popeye.
By not updating Dick Tracy, Tommaso and the Allreds are squandering what could have been the revival of a character whose true potential has never been reached because the creators have been so focused on the past they don’t see the present or the future.
Dick Tracy – Dead or Alive #1 is like an 8-track tape player at your local flea market. Nobody wants it, nobody needs it and it is best left to collect dust until it disappears into the sands of time, forever forgotten.
- THE GOOD
- Not a bad crime story.
- The series is only four issues long.
- THE BAD
- Dated characters, dated art, dated setting, dated everything.
This could have been something really cool, something different and eye-catching. Instead, it is just more of the stale Dick Tracy for a world that moved on a long time ago.