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Biographies of the Stars

Chester Gould

Born in Pawnee, Oklahoma on November 20, 1900 his first commercial illustrations were published in a local paper at age 7. Gould went to Oklahoma A&M from 1919 to 1921 when he decided to move to Chicago to attend Northwestern University, graduating in 1923.

He did his first strip "Fillum Fables" for the Hearst syndicate in 1924 and several others strips including "the Girlfriend" for the Chicago Tribune before he had an idea to create a new type of comic strip lead. At the time mobsters were kings in Chicago. It was the heyday of Al Capone and these criminals were revered in the press and in public. Gould had seen enough! The public needed heroes to look up to not crooks. So he created a detective to do battle with them.

When he showed his square-jawwed trench- coated cop to his publisher, Joseph Patterson, Patterson suggested that he change the name from "Plainclothes Tracy" to "Dick Tracy" and history was written. The first detective hero in the strips, Tracy became a model for a variety of comic strip detectives including "Dan Dunn" and "Red Barry".

From the first the villains that populated Tracy's world were the prototypical super villains of today. These seedy characters were often grotesque fiends whose very image foretold of their heinous crimes and their internal, moral bankruptcy. Stooge Viller, Doc Hump, Boris Arson, the Blank, Littleface Finny, Pruneface, the Mole, BB Eyes and of course the immortal Flattop. So famous were some of these villains that even though they each appeared in only one episode (the Mole returned for a second), they were each indelibly burned into the American psyche. Forty five years after Flattop died drowning in a daring escape from the detective, Gould still received mail from fans. He still stands as an icon of evil.

But the character was not all that Gould contributed to the medium. He created an artistic style all his own that would be copied by dozens of artists over the years. Heavily dependant on huge swathes of black ink, his chiaroscuro extended to the psychic battle of good versus evil. Black ink versus white space was his tool.

The morality of Dick Tracy was inescapable. The Brow in his own attempt to escape Tracy plunges out of a window and is impaled on a flag pole, Boris Arson and his gang are gored by tigers guarding their own hideout, 88 Keys trying to hide in a small hole during a Chicago ice storm is sealed in to suffocate & freeze to death. That was the Gould way of retribution for your crimes against society at large.

The popularity of Dick Tracy did not go unnoticed by many. As early as 1936 he appeared in movies, he had a radio show and toys toys toys. There was not a single piece of merchandising that did not exploit his fame.

But after many years Chet Gould finally decided he had enough and the creative team of Max Allan Collins & Rick Fletcher took over the strip in 1977. Since then Fletcher has been replaced by longtime Gould assistant Dick Locher (Fletcher was also a Gould assistant).

Gould died on May 10, 1985 but his visage of justice lives on in four colors every Sunday somewhere in the world. Thanks Chet..

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