Thanks to the generosity of an unnamed benefactor (Hi, CR!), I recently got my hands on IDW Publishing's The Complete Chester Gould's DICK TRACY, Volume 1, the first installment in an ambitious program to eventually reprint in beautiful, hardbound editions, the entire run of Gould's seminal newspaper adventure strip.
The first volume covers the years of 1931 to 1933, and includes nearly 600 daily and Sunday comic strips.
Now, I love crime comics, so I'm automatically a Tracy fan, but I can't claim to any great authority regarding the actual strip. It never ran in any of the local Maine papers while I was growing up (still doesn't, actually), so my exposure to the character is limited to a few random comic books, the Republic serials of the 30's, the RKO B-movies of the 40's, a couple of reprint volumes... and the Warren Beatty film (which I actually like quite a bit, despite its weaknesses). Of course, I've also read Max Allan Collins' Tracy novels, which spun out of that film's merchandising.
Therefore, this is my first exposure to the early strips, and... wow!
No political correctness here! Heinous acts of bloody violence are carried out on almost a daily basis, frequently occurring on-panel. Even the origin story is surprisingly grim: Tracy begins his legendary law enforcement career after his girl, Tess Trueheart's, father is shot, and she is kidnapped by mob boss Big Boy's hoods. All the more shocking, Tess is then pressed into service as the gangster's reluctant moll! Tracy joins up with the police department (being immediately made a plainclothes detective!) to find his abducted girlfriend and avenge her father's death!
Great stuff, and IDW's presentation is astounding. The artwork is clear and crisp, as if shot directly from Gould's original art (and for all I know, it may have been!). There's a fine introduction by the aforementioned Max Collins, as well as a vintage interview with Gould, conducted by Collins and Matt Masterson. The book also includes Gould's original try-out strips, which he called Plainclothes Tracy. ("Dick" was the syndicate's idea.)
I only hope that this first volume sells well, that IDW can continue publishing the series, and that I can somehow keep getting them!
Check 'em out for yourself.