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Dear fellow comics fan:
This week saw the debut of a new creative team on "Dick Tracy": artist
Joe Staton and writer Mike Curtis. Taking over a strip as venerable
and nationally known as "Tracy" presents its own challenges, and the
factors against the continuity strip are well known. Still, Staton--a
longtime favorite at Hogan's Alley for his work on Charlton's "E-Man"--
manages to bring an energy and style to the strip that evokes its
glory years, suggesting his longtime adulation of Chester Gould's
work. We recently caught up with Staton to discuss his work on
HA: How did the Dick Tracy opportunity come to your attention?
JS: The process was that the Trib called Mike and asked him if we
would like to take over the strip, and he called me and we agreed that
we would. The Trib said they had "become aware" of us, and that with
Mr. Locher's retirement, they would like to have a seamless
HA: It's nice when the work comes knocking! How long have you been a
JS: It's pretty well documented in family lore that I was following
"Dick Tracy" in the Sunday funnies before I could read. It seems that
I was drawn to Tracy by at least age 3. My early fascination with
Chester Gould's eccentric art is probably why I always wanted to draw
HA: What is the collaborative process with you and the strip's new
writer, Mike Curtis, like?
JS: Mike writes 'em and I draw 'em. We'll talk about what characters
we want to feature and what directions we want to go, but Mike figures
out how to pace things for the dailies and the Sundays and how it all
comes together. One thing that may be a little specific to us is that
Mike writes the strips as storyboards. He thinks visually, like lots
of good writers, and actually roughs out panels for me to see what we
HA: What are the challenges of drawing a continuity strip compared to
a comic book? Conversely, what are the advantages of the form?
JS: In a comic book, the unit of composition is the page. You can
break it down like a strip, one panel after another, or you can have
sweeping diagonals leading around the page and on to the next. In the
strip, the unit of composition would seem to be strip, but I'm finding
that is really the panel. It all adds up, but how each panel is staged
is much more important than in a comic book. I've followed strips for
so long, the discipline of working in three panels in a strip is
HA: I know you're not the strip's writer, but I wanted to ask about
the length of the stories you'll be telling. Some of Chester Gould's
went on for some time and became quite involved. Have you and Mike
talked about the length of the arcs you'll create? With three panels a
day, it must be challenging to advance the narrative significantly
JS: The way Mike has things blocked out, the stories will be averaging
a bit over a month each. The Trib agrees that this accounts for
attention spans being shorter these days. You'd be surprised how much
content you really can get into three panels. We're hoping to set a
whole new standard for pacing strips.
HA: Will the Sundays be part of the daily continuity, or will they
tell a separate story?
JS: I think what we're doing is the classic formula. We recap the
previous week and set up the following week, and if it works, we try
to have a bit of humor in the Sundays. And, of course, there is an
installment of the Crimestoppers Textbook…collect 'em all!.
HA: Newspapers today would never permit the sort of graphic violence
that Gould occasionally displayed. Have you discussed how you'll
depict criminals getting sent to their final reward? Seeing a bad guy
being put into a police cruiser lacks the visceral punch of seeing him
get impaled on a flag pole. I remember the Brow strangling that dog
for his sweater...hoo boy, you could NEVER show that today.
JS: When I was doing "Scooby Doo," the last shot was always the
crooked real estate developer being hustled into the cruiser. Dick
Tracy's villains don't say, "Drat! I would have gotten away with it if
it weren't for you pesky cops!" The Trib tells us that they see Tracy
as "a tough urban cop." They've put no restrictions on how we handle
that, other than to ask that especially gruesome deaths take place off-
panel. There is a death scene in our second continuity that we think
Chester Gould would have appreciated.
HA: You've worked on a number of iconic characters in your career. For
many fans, you're THE Green Lantern artist. And there's Scooby Doo,
Superman, Bugs Bunny, Richie Rich, and the list goes on. But one of my
favorite characters you did was E-Man. So who's stronger: E-Man or
JS: Oh, that's a hard one. I’m giving it too much thought here, but it
sort of depends on how much of the Oan energy Green Lantern could
focus through the ring, versus how much energy of that original
supernova attached to E-Man. I'll go with E-Man, though. Green Lantern
can only create whatever he can visualize, whereas E-Man can turn into
just about anything, whether or not he can think of it.
HA: The splash page you drew of E-Man's girlfriend, Nova Kane, go-go
dancing is permanently burned into my brain. Is there any way you
could arrange to have Nova Kane cross over into "Dick Tracy"? We old-
timers would surely appreciate it!
JS: I've heard that Nova had a similar effect on other young minds. I
don't think we'll have Nova appearing with Tracy, but the Trib does
have the rights to a couple of other adventuresome redheads, and maybe
we can arrange for them to show up sometime.
You can follow Joe and Mike’s work on the strip at http://www.gocomics.com/dicktracy/
TRIVIA TIME: Joe's work has put us in a frame of mind for some Tricky
Dick Tracy Trivia (answers below):
1. What do B.O. Plenty’s initials stand for?
2. Chester Gould lived most of his life in Woodstock, Illinois. But
where was he born?
3. Dick Tracy first appeared in 1931. In what year did Gould win his
first Reuben Award as the Cartoonist of the Year?
4. Who was the wealthy industrialist responsible for many of Tracy's
high-tech crime-fighting equipment (such as Wrist Radio and the later
5. What is Flattop's last name?
6. Who is Flattop's twin brother?
7. Who is the daughter of Dick Tracy and Tess Trueheart?
8. Who was Junior Tracy's first wife?
9. True or false: Dick Tracy is Tess Trueheart's second husband.
10. What cartoonist worked as Gould's assistant and later Frank King's
assistant on "Gasoline Alley"?
HOGAN IS TWITTERING: If you'd like to receive cartooning news and the
occasional cartooning-related observation from Hogan’s Alley, we’re
HOGANMAG on Twitter. We promise not to pepper you with inanities about
what we're having for lunch, etc. Our tweets arrive with judicious
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Hogan’s Alley will participate in Free Comic Book
Day again this year. On May 7 (and that date ONLY), send us an e-mail
with your mailing address, and we’ll send you a free issue of our
choosing. (We'll also send a reminder e-mail via this group closer to
ANSWERS TO TRIVIA: 1. Bob Oscar; 2. Pawnee, Oklahoma; 3. 1959 (and
again in 1977, the year he retired from "Tracy"; 4. Diet Smith; 5.
Jones; 6. Sharptop; 7. Bonnie Braids; 8. Moon Maid; 9. True; 10. Dick
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