The Villains of the Dick Tracy Universe
Chester Gould, in over nearly a half-century of writing and drawing the Dick Tracy strip, created perhaps the most formidable list of villains in American literature. The first was BIG BOY, whose gang killed Emil Trueheart and kidnapped Tess. A character of the early 1930’s, BIG BOY was a combination of Al Capone, Bugs Moran and other notorious gangsters. With the cover of crooked politicians and lawyers, it took over two years for Dick Tracy to finally put this criminal out of business. Along the way, Tracy was framed by STOOGE VILLER and suspended from the police department, later reinstated with help from Tess and Junior.
Through the years, the parade included the saboteurs PRUNEFACE and KARPSE, the foppishly handsome cad EDWARD NUREMOH, who was briefly married to Tess, the con man SHAKY, the grotesque LITTLEFACE, the MOLE (who eventually went straight), the tough guy SHOULDERS and MUMBLES, who required a translation for nearly everything he said. There were the hipsters—88 KEYES, a crooked, itinerant piano-player, and FLATTOP JONES, a ruthless killer and one of Dick Tracy readers’ all-time favorites. FLATTOP was so popular that Chet brought back the character as FLATTOP JR., son of the original.
The villains were usually ugly characters, drawn that way because Chet said that “crime is ugly.” He sometimes deviated from this rule, such as with the beautiful BREATHLESS MAHONEY, but anyone who saw PRUNEFACE or FLATTOP in a strip knew that these were bad people. The list could go on and on, and all of Chet’s characters have been admirably described in Vic Wichert’s “Dick Tracy Encyclopedia.” Viewers to the website will enjoy the following images of these memorable characters, created by the genius of Chester Gould.
All biographies adapted and reprinted with permission from the author Victor E. Wichert, “The Dick Tracy Encyclopedia, Oct. 4, 1931 – Dec. 25, 1977.” Dick Tracy is a registered trademark of Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Zora Arson was a gangster, killer and sister to the arch-criminal, Boris Arson. Zora Arson had dark hair and regularly disguised herself as a man. Zora appeared from Wednesday, November 14, 1934 to Thursday, May 16, 1935.
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Dr. Plain’s full name was Doctor Keenan Plain and he was a one-armed surgeon and murderer. Doctor Plain was a bald man with a white mustache, whose left arm had been severed at the elbow. Dr. Plain appeared from Friday, December 8, 1950 to Monday, February 5, 1951.
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Bribery’s real name was Joe Packet, a.k.a. Mr. Bribery. He was a dope runner, blackmailer, confidence man, extortionist and killer. Bribery was a small thin man with wide eyes and a perpetual evil grin on his face. Bribery appeared from Friday, July 2, 1965 to Sunday, July 2, 1967.
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Black Pearl’s real name was Pearl Erad. She was an inventor, bomb maker, gang leader, thief and builder of war machines. Black Pearl appeared from Thursday, September 26, 1940 to Sunday, October 27, 1940.
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Benny-The-Grip was a member of Oodles’ gang and a killer. He was a short balding man with a small mustache, who killed George Vulcan in 1936 on orders from Oodles. Benny appeared from Thursday, September 8, 1955 to Monday, November 7, 1955.
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Big Brass was a confidence man and a murderer. He was a blond man who played the guitar. Big Brass appeared from Monday, April 15, 1974 to Sunday, September 15, 1974.
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Nifty Wreath was the father of little Johnny Wreath and the separated husband of Johnny’s mother, Myrtle Wreath. Nifty, a dark-eyebrowed, squint-eyed, little man, was angry that the court had given his child to Myrtle, and he was determined to get Johnny back. Nifty appeared from February 12, 1943 to April 14, 1943.
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Pear-Shape Tone was also known as P.S. Tone and was a racketeer and killer. Pear-Shape had blond hair, glasses, smoked cigars and his shape was the shape of a pear, with a large round stomach and rear. Pear-Shape was president of the “Reduce-U by Mail Institute” which offered a correspondence course in weight reduction. It was a lucrative racket and Pear-Shape used it to steal jewelry from his wealthier clients. Pear-Shape appeared from April 14, 1949 thru July 4, 1949.
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“Sketch” Paree was a crazed fashion designer and a killer. He had slick dark hair, a small mustache and spoke with a French accent. One of “Sketch’s” inventions was a huge face mask that held a large supply of water. He used the water mask to drown his victims by pressing their faces into it. Sketch appeared from August 4, 1949 to Monday, September 19, 1949.
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Sugar was a young, dark-haired woman who was associated with Duke, a pickpocket and thief. Sugar appeared from October 14, 1941 to November 11, 1941.
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Texie Garcia was a gunwoman, blackmailer and Big Boy’s gun moll. Texie was a slender, fiery, dark-haired woman with sharp features. She was referred to by “Ribs” Mocco as Big Boy’s “real dame”. Texie appeared from October 11, 1931 to November 27, 1932.
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The Summer Sisters were two identical twin pickpockets, whose names were May and June. The Summer Sisters were about nineteen years old, blond hair and dressed alike. The Summer Sisters appeared from May 21, 1944 to August 6, 1944.
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Edward Nuremoh was a former N.Y. Blue Sox baseball player, heir to the Nuremoh fortune, former husband of Tess Trueheart, and a murderer. Edward Nuremoh appeared from July 5, 1939 to August 26, 1939.
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Professor Emirc was a scientist, inventor, and a member of Stooge Viller’s gang that included Iggie, Munny and Burny. Professor Emirc appeared from November 1, 1939 to December 27, 1939.
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Flyface was a lawyer and member of Fifth’s gang. He was portly, with a shock of white hair and a grimaced expression on his face, and flies were constantly flying about his face. Flyface appeared from October 13, 1959 to May 8, 1960.
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Empty Williams was a hijacker, gang leader, and killer. He had big lips, half closed eyes and had a large indentation in the back of his head. Empty appeared from February 6, 1951 to May 14, 1951.
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Jacques was the crooked owner of a night club called The Bird Club, and brother of B-B Eyes. He was short, with slick black hair and a small black mustache. Jacques appeared from January 3, 1942 to January 27, 1942.
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Mumbles was a humming guitar player and leader of the Mumbles Quartette. He also was a thief and a killer. Mumbles appeared from October 16, 1947 to July 30, 1955.
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The Mole was a former gang leader and killer who, for a hefty fee, provided a hideout for gangsters on the run from the police. The Mole was a stooped, pointed-faced, hairy little man, who had strong hands and fingers from “digging in the earth”. Mole appeared from November 16, 1941 to August 15, 1971.
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Shaky, also known as Mr. Pappy, was a confidence man and a killer. He had an elongated head, swollen eyes, thick lips and a terrible case of the shakes, which he treated with liquid nerve tonic. Shaky appeared from September 27, 1944 to May 18, 1945.
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A racketeer, gunman, gang leader and killer, B-B Eyes was a short gangster with tiny eyes and a face that looked like a truck had run over it. He appeared from Tuesday, january 27, 1942 to Sunday, April 19, 1942
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Influence was a former casino owner, a hypnotist and a killer. He had a gaunt face with deep round eyes and could hypnotize anyone simply by looking into their eyes. Tracy called him “the most mentally vicious criminal in the world”. He appeared from Thursday, November 28, 1946 to Sunday, March 9, 1947.
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Prune Face, aka Boche, was an enemy agent, spy and a saboteur during World War II. He was a light-haired, wrinkle faced man who tried to disrupt the United State war effort in any way he could. He appeared from Sunday, October 18, 1942 to Sunday, February 7, 1943.
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The “head fix” for local street criminals and a killer, Shoulders was a handsome, large-eyed man who had massive shoulders and a twisted left ear. He appeared from Friday, June 14, 1946 to Wednesday, July 31, 1946
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Stooge Viller was the king of the pickpockets and a sleight-of hand wizard. He had black hair and sleepy eyes. Stooge Viller was called to the city by Ribs Mocco to frame Tracy and discredit him with the authorities. He appeared from Tuesday, January 3, 1933 to Monday, January 8, 1940.
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Stay tuned, Crimestoppers! More Villains will be rolled out in the months to come!