Art, Story and Cover – Chester Gould
Publisher – IDW
The square jawed, canary suited detective has returned with volume 18 of the Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, collecting all the strips from December 1957 to July 1959 and weighing in at a hefty 276 pages.
Where this is obviously a collection of strips, one of the great things about Chester Gould’s storylines is that they not only flow seamlessly from one strip to the next but also from one major story arc to another. With its roots deeply in the film noir genre, stories evolve each week from the basic bad guy (girl in one of the story arcs) versus good to complicated multi layered stories that make it difficult to realise that the adventures of Dick Tracy were serialized rather than planned out in a full comic format. For stories written in the late fifties there are still current themes stalking the pages and although at first glance most would think this is a rather childish series the stories jump into dark adult territory quite readily. While simple themes of animal cruelty and gambling are brought to the fore, murder and death is never very far behind and often doesn’t hide in the gutters between panels. One of the other great things is that time actually catches up with Gould’s characters, Junior is no longer a kid now working for the police as a sketch artist and the advance of technology also appears with the tentative appearance of CCTV being used by the force in one arc.
Gould’s characterisation is also one of the series great draws, characters especially the villains of the piece visually and personality wise make an impact in their panels. It’s also lovely to see some of Gould’s animal artwork in this collection, which in comparison to his standard Dick Tracy artwork is leaps and bounds ahead. Yes some of the artwork has problems with scale and flow but this is part of its charm and for a comic that made its debut in 1933 and was only scripted and drawn by one man until 1977 most will be inclined to see it that way.
For those currently collecting this series there is a varied and interesting lot of stories contained in this volume and for those simply wanting to dip into the collection there is plenty here to get them started. Where the art may falter the stories more than make up for it and are still as relevant today as they were over fifty years ago.