Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Volume One

A column article, Classic Comics Cavalcade by: Jason Sacks

5 stars

Writer: Chester Gould - Edited by Dean Mullaney
Artist: Chester Gould
Publisher: The Library of American Comics/IDW

Collecting all the dailies and Sundays from 1942 to 1944, The Complete Dick Tracy: Volume 8 takes readers through two exciting years where they are introduced to two of the most famous Tracy villains, Pruneface and Flattop. This volume has action, danger, heroics, and dastardly deeds all rolled together in one amazing book.

Dick Tracy, the greatest detective comic of all time? Most people would say yes. It’s a staple of pop culture; it holds a place in the hearts of many who grew up reading the comic strip. Now, for those of us who only got to watch the cartoon in reruns, and for those of us who have never seen anything but the Warren Beatty movie, the comics in their entirety are published in hardbound books that are worthy of any bookcase.

One must read this book cover to cover.

Most of the time, I skip past all that intro stuff at the front of collections; a lot of the time those things yammer on and are pretty self-congratulatory. The one for Dick Tracy, however, caught my interest--probably because it contained more history and less pats on the back. It has actual facts--hard, honest facts about American history that happens to relate to Dick Tracy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are historic bits of interest about the character and Chester Gould--but since this collection ranges from1942 to 1944, it's dead smack in the middle of World War II, which, of course would influence the goings on in the comic. When America went to war, so did it’s comic book heroes--even Little Orphan Annie began collecting scrap metals with the Junior Commandos AND she blew up a Nazi submarine.

Dick Tracy, on the other hand, stuck to a battleground he was familiar with--the corrupt streets of his city, which is how one of Chester Gould’s (and Tracy’s) most infamous and hideous villains came to life: Pruneface, a Nazi spy and mastermind behind a nerve gas plot. The character was truly one of the most disgusting villains, both physically and morally.

Like most of Gould’s bad guys, Pruneface’s ugliness wasn’t just on the inside; his face was deformed--giving him his trademark prunish appearance. We would expect nothing less from a man who mixed together batches of zyklon B AND choked puppies.

One of the most fascinating facts offered up in the introduction was that Pruneface’s appearance was inspired by a burn victim Gould came in contact with. Interesting, right?

Pure gold from cover to cover, this volume captures all that is Dick Tracy (the real heart of the series) just as the character began to evolve into what most of us remember him to be. H–owever, he did not yet have the watch radio (that came in 1946).

The period covered in this volume was the heyday of comic strips and radio shows, back when villains died in the Sunday funnies and racism ran rampant. The hero was a gruff cop who wanted justice, and he looked damn good in a yellow trench coat. The Complete Dick Tracy: Volume 8 is a collected volume worth its weight, and trust me this thing is heavy.

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