BY Associated Press
May 12, 1985
11/16/09 at 12:16 PM
WOODSTOCK, Ill. – Chester Gould, who created the Dick Tracy comic strip from ideas spawned in the crime-filled streets of Depression-era Chicago, died Saturday. He was 84.
Gould died at home, said his daughter, Jean O’Connell, of Geneva. He had been in ill health for some time and suffered a heart attack in October.
Tracy was born in the days of the Depression, prohibition and gangsters. In “The Celebrated Cases of Dick Tracy,” published in 1980, Gould was quoted as saying: “I decided that if the police couldn’t catch the gangsters, I’d create a fellow who would.”
“He was very fascinated with crime and the idea of the strip came from that,” Mrs. O’Connell said in a telephone interview.
Gould created the character while a young struggling artist. He had worked for five Chicago newspapers and had tried to sell a variety of comic strip ideas since 1921.
Born in Pawnee, Okla., Gould “wanted to come to Chicago to make a success of himself and his goal was the Chicago Tribune,” Mrs. O’Connell said.
In May 1931, he sent drawings of Dick Tracy to a New York publisher, but the strip wasn’t published until March 22, 1932. It eventually appeared in more than 500 newspapers.
Dick Tracy was the first strip to depart from the “funnies” approach, delighting in graphic details such as bullets passing through heads and pools of blood.
Tracy battled no ordinary villains: “The Blank,” a faceless man whose name was Frank Redrum (murder spelled backward); Jerome Trohs, (short spelled backward) a midget who was scalded to death in a shower; the Mole, a miser who lived underground; B.B. Eyes, a World War II bootlegger, Flattop, a killer for hire; Pruneface; Hah-and-Haf; Angeltop and Torcher.
“I wanted my villains to stand out definitely so that there would be no mistake who the villain was,” Gould once said.
Tracy’s friends were no less remarkable. There was Gravel Gertie, who married B.O. Plenty, who begat Sparkle Plenty; Junior Tracy, the adopted street urchin who became a police artist; Diet Smith, inventor of the two-way wrist TV and the space coupe; Moonmaid, the lunar princess who married Junior but was killed by the bad guys; Vitamin Flintheart, the pill-popping actor, and Sam Ketchum, Tracy’s partner.
Tracy proposed to Tess Truehart in 1932 and married her on Christmas Day, 1949.
Daughter Bonnie Braids was born two years later and Joseph Flintheart Tracy 24 years after that.
In print and later in Saturday matinee movie serials and on the radio, Tracy was the tough detective who could gun down a gangster, then deliver a little sermon: “Johnny Mintworth paid the price for living a loose, careless life. He made his first mistake when he kept company with a girl who was a perfume thief. He thought she was cute.”
Gould had lived in Woodstock, a town of about 10,000 residents 40 miles northwest of Chicago, since 1936. He worked on the strip from his home for many years, his daughter said.
He retired in 1977. The strip is now done by Dick Locher and Max Collins.
In addition to his daughter, Gould is survived by his wife, Edna, and several grandchildren. Services are pending in Woodstock.