NEWS COLUMNS

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2014

DICK TRACY SAVES A JUDGE

By James Johnson

Originally printed in the Woodstock Independent
May 11, 2005

Very early in his career, Chester Gould’s format for the “Dick Tracy” comic strip had one story line for the Sunday pages and a separate story for the daily strips. The Sunday edition was often a “stand alone” story. Editors felt that the Sunday comics were primarily read by children and that the daily strips had an older audience. On a Sunday adventure printed April 10, 1932, Dick Tracy saved the life of a judge. The entire story was completed in that one strip.

A local judge named Garrity, after handing down sentences to a group of convicted kidnappers, had received a threatening letter in the morning mail. The judge invited Tracy to his club for a golf game, also wanting to consult with him regarding the threats. Tracy met the judge at the first tee of the golf course that afternoon. Leaving the judge waiting for a minute, Tracy went to the locker room to get the judge’s clubs and observed a man walking away from the judge’s open locker. Initially, he thought the man was the caddie master. Taking the judge’s clubs out of the locker, he asked a caddie to deliver them to the judge. Alert for trouble, Tracy then began inspecting the area. He found an empty vial outside the building, and then saw that the judge was about to tee off. Tracy shouted “Hey judge, stop…don’t hit that ball.” Tracy then picked up the ball and threw it toward a nearby shack where he had seen the supposed caddie master go.

The ball exploded, destroying the shack. The caddie master came staggering out with his hands in the air and was apprehended by Tracy. Judge Garrity exclaimed “Why, that’s Blood Muggins, the gangster.” Tracy told the judge that he had found particles of a golf ball along with the vial and deduced that the ball had been drilled out and filled with nitroglycerine.

Elements of American history often found their way into Gould’s stories. In a 1952 adventure, Tracy found the remains of a “Judge Lava,” who had mysteriously disappeared 20 years earlier. Gould patterned this after the famous real-life case of Judge Crater. Crater entered a taxicab outside a New York City restaurant August 6, 1930 and was never seen again. A justice on the New York Supreme Court, Crater had been connected to the Tammany Hall political organization. Before his disappearance, he had withdrawn cash from his bank. It was never learned if he had been the victim of a crime or if he had gone into hiding by his own choice. As was the case with Jimmy Hoffa, his body was never found. Mrs. Crater was denied double indemnity by the judge’s life insurance company, since it could not be determined if death was accidental or by foul play.

Follow-up note: Copies of this early Chester Gould classic are available in the “Sunday Project” merchandise section.

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“Your fingerprints are more like you than your face. You can't disguise them.”
- Chester Gould
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