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Boris Arson was an ambitious criminal. He had prominent cheek bones, light eyes, a full head of thick dark hair and occasionally wore a beard.

Arson's Initial Plot[]

Arson's plan was to plant nitro glycerin in six safes around the country and simultaneously rob them before authorities could act. The government was notified by Mary Steele, who was working as Boris' maid at the time, and Dick Tracy was deputized as a federal agent to help apprehend Arson.

When Boris realized that Tracy was closing in on him, he tried to kill Tracy but failed. He and his gang then attempted to escape, but Tracy and Pat Patton caught up to them at the airport. One of Boris' men, B-2, captured Tracy and Patton. However, Pat was able to trade places with one of Boris' men, board the plane and stop their escape. Enraged, Boris went to kill Tracy, but Tracy managed to get free and subdue Boris' gang.

Escape From Jail[]

Later, in jail, Boris managed to get hold of Pat's gun and shoot his way out of headquarters. He made his way to a hideout and had one of his men bring Mary Steele to him. He had Mary call Tracy to the hideout, but Tracy came prepared with a police squad and Boris was arrested.


Shortly thereafter, Boris began to receive coded letters while in jail from his sister Zora who advised him to carve a gun out of a potato and dye it black with iodine. Using this idea, he was able to break out once again, much to the dismay of Chief Brandon who had agreed to let Boris cook in his cell, thus providing the necessary materials.

Boris and Zora then decided that the best way for Boris to get out of the city would be to marry the daughter of Boris' old acquaintance, the Native American law enforcement official Chief Yellowpony, and leave as a married couple. Yellowpony quickly saw through their scheme and found himself taken hostage along with his wife and daughter. He bailed out of Boris' car and alerted Tracy, while Boris and Zora dumped the two women and went to hide out with another associate.

Mountain Hideout[]


Boris and Zora made their way to the hideout of Cutie Diamond in the Ozark Mountains. Heavily fortified, Cutie had been hiding out there for years. He was showing the Arsons his hideout in a cave guarded by two wildcats when Tracy, Patton and Yellowpony showed up.

Unable to get past the wildcats, Tracy connected a hose to his car's exhaust and pumped it into the cave. Zora and Cutie came running out, guns firing, and they were shot and killed. Boris hid in the cave behind a wall of stone and mud until Tracy fired a machine gun into it. A ricochet bullet struck Boris at such close range that (despite his his bullet-proof vest) he was wounded and taken away.

Further References[]


Boris Arson in Doubleup's memory (art by Joe Staton)

Many years later, the criminal Doubleup revealed that Boris Arson was his uncle. Doubleup claimed that Arson had provided legal representation that freed Doubleup after he seriously injured some other children who had been bullying him. It was not established if Arson was Doubleup's uncle on the paternal or maternal side (or if Doubleup was possibly Zora's son), or if this encounter took place before or after Arson's interaction with Dick Tracy.

Appearances In Other Media[]

Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939 Republic Serial)[]


According to Max Allan Collins' introduction on the Republic Serials DVD collection, Zarnoff - villain of the third serial - was based loosely on Boris Arson. Zarnoff resembles Boris in many ways: his eloquent speech, his penchant for elaborate plans and death traps, as well as his appearance.

1990 Feature Film Continuity[]


Boris Arson does not appear in the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film.

He was a character in the comic book tie-in produced by Disney. In the comic, Arson was one of several petty criminals operating in the City. Arson was a member of Lips Manlis' gang, and was shown working with the Brow in extorting protection money from a newsstand owner. Arson was not present for the massacre at the Seventh Street Garage.


  • Many elements of Arson's story (i.e. the multiple captures and escapes, the embarrassing front page photo that suggests Arson is friendly with a high-ranking law enforcement official that jeopardizes that official's career, the jailbreak involving a fake pistol that Arson carves in his jail cell, Arson's appearance when he's clean-shaven) seem to have been inspired by similar elements from the real-life story of Midwest gangster John Dillinger. Arson may be regarded as Chester Gould's fictional analog for Dillinger in the same way that the Big Boy is a fictional analog for Al Capone.
  • Readers may find it odd that Tracy's pursuit of Boris Arson and his sister does not also involve the U.S. Marshal Service (since Arson was a fugitive) or the FBI (since Arson was known to have planned and committed several crimes in multiple states). This can be seen as an example of the strip treating Tracy's jurisdictional authority as fluid and based on what the circumstances require.
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    At the conclusion of the story, Arson demands that his constitutional rights be recognized. This was an early instance of a theme that would later become a frequent issue that Gould addressed (see social commentary).
  • A later Rogues' Gallery feature indicated that Arson received a life sentence for his crimes. This entry referred to Arson as the "King of the Safecrackers" and identified his crimes as being politically-motivated.
  • In the fictional world of the Midnite Mirror, Arson was a member of the city police force, serving as a uniformed patrolman.