NEWS COLUMNS

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2014

DICK TRACY MAGAZINE

By James Johnson

originally printed in the Woodstock Independent
July 27, 2005

After the Dick Tracy comic strip began in 1931, Chester Gould and the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate licensed reproduction rights for many spin-off products. The Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum has a large collection of books, comics, toys and other items featuring Dick Tracy and the cast of villains and heroes who appeared in the strip. The pre-comic book “Big Little Books” series first published Tracy in 1934 along with other popular characters such as Mickey Mouse, Flash Gordon, Little Orphan Annie plus a variety of Hollywood stars or fictional heroes.

The Dick Tracy Magazine, an excellent bi-monthly magazine, continues today. Along with other historic comics such as “Joe Palooka,” “Moon Mullins” and “Buck Rogers,” it has been produced and edited for many years by Andy Feighery of Spec Productions in Colorado. Feighery and his wife visited the Museum during Dick Tracy Days and brought copies of the latest Issue No. 57. It features Dick Tracy in 1977, Chester Gould’s final year of drawing the strip.

The magazine has insightful articles about Gould, including a 1977 interview of Gould by Vic Wichert of Hopewell, N.J. The interview occurred at the Comicon Convention in Chicago. This was an event started by Shel Dorf , organized by comic book collectors and was a gathering of artists including Gould, Dale Messick who created “Brenda Starr,” Mort Walker of “Beetle Bailey” fame, Dik Browne of “Hagar the Horrible” and others. Wichert arrived early for a scheduled morning appearance by Gould and was the first person to greet and talk with Gould at the Dick Tracy exhibit. Wanting to obtain Gould’s autograph, Wichert had brought a copy of the Oct. 12, 1931 Dick Tracy strip, the first time it had appeared as a daily strip. He was somewhat nervous about approaching Gould but found him to be friendly and happy to discuss his work.

Wichert didn’t tape record the meeting but recreated the narrative from memory. Gould spoke of his early career in Oklahoma, drawing editorial cartoons. He commented on how the comics page sells newspapers and found regrettable the tendency of papers to reduce the size of the printed comic (he would be appalled to see today’s examples). They laughed over the mustache that Tracy had recently acquired and Gould said that Lizz, Tracy’s police officer partner, was going to convince the detective to shave it off.

The crowd of fans grew while Wichert and Gould talked. Max Collins, who later was to write the Dick Tracy strip, was there along with Matt Masterson, a collector and producer of a Dick Tracy calendar. Frank Mathie of ABC Channel 7 news then arrived to formally interview Gould for the evening TV news and the gathering ended.

Readers of the Woodstock Independent are invited to visit the museum and see Jean O’Connell’s Hats Off! 2005 exhibit. Copies of the Dick Tracy Magazine No. 57 are available for sale in the museum. This is Feighery’s final issue; in the future the magazine will be edited and produced by Wichert.

Follow-up note: Andy Feighery’s website, with hundreds of comic classics reprints available, is at www.specproductions.com . Frank Mathie is still broadcasting for ABC and visited the museum for Dick Tracy’s 75 th Anniversary celebration in 2006.

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“They said he was a smart crook, but who ever heard of a bullet being afraid of brains?”
- Chester Gould
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