With his distinctive hawk-like nose, narrow eyes and pointed chin, Dick Tracy is a symbol of law and order as well as being one of the world's most famous detectives.
Dick Tracy was born in 1909. His birthday was identified as September 24th (making his zodiac sign Libra).
Dick Tracy grew up in a small town called Baxterville. As a boy, Tracy worked in his father's dog kennels. During his first three years of high school, he exclusively dated a young woman named Betsy Deare. Betsy broke up with Dick during their Senior year because she wanted to get married right away after finishing school and Tracy did not share that goal.
As a young man, Tracy attended an unspecified college where his studies included the Russian language. His skill with languages would later help him in his service as a Naval Intelligence officer.
As an adult, Tracy worked as a Navy diver in New York harbor (See "Notes" below for Tracy's early career). He also taught SCUBA diving at one point. As a bachelor living in a big city, Dick Tracy had a beautiful girlfriend named Tess Trueheart and was adapting to life during an economic downtown when organized crime was rampant.
Tragedy at the Truehearts'
One night after Tess' father Emil closed his deli for the evening, Tracy went to the Truehearts' home for dinner. Tracy was about to announce his plans to marry Tess when mobsters broke into the house. They shot Emil Trueheart and stole the $1000 he had in his upstairs safe. The mobsters knocked out Tracy and abducted Tess, leaving Tracy stunned and Mrs. Trueheart in a state of shock. Over the body of his girlfriend's father, he swore that he would find Tess and bring Emil's murderers to justice.
The mobsters were enforcers for Big Boy, a powerful crime boss. Chief Brandon recruited Tracy into the Plainclothes unit and Tracy proceeded to infiltrate Big Boy's operation, rescue Tess and brought the mobster to justice.
Soon afterwards, Tracy adopted a young street urchin who later chose to call himself Dick Tracy Jr. Junior and Tracy's partner Pat Patton helped Tracy solve many crimes and encountered dozens of grotesque characters such as Pruneface, Flattop, B-B Eyes, Shaky, the Mole, The Brow, Mrs. Pruneface, the Blank, Influence, Mumbles, and many others. It is not uncommon for Tracy to be targeted by relatives of his enemies seeking revenge.
Early in his career, Tracy would often adopt some form of disguise and go undercover, but the approach was later abandoned in favor of more traditional police work and scientific investigation.
In 1949, Chief Brandon retired and Pat Patton was promoted to Chief of Police at Tracy's recommendation. Tracy got a new partner in the freckle-faced, humorous Sam Catchem. Tracy and Tess were married around this time.
Tracy endured several hardships during his extensive career, including hundreds of near death situations, injuries, and even a temporary divorce from Tess in the 1990s. City officials suspected at one time that Tracy was on the take because of his fancy car and big house, but these suspicions were unfounded. Tracy was able to prove that the car was a test model that he was testing for industrialist Diet Smith (which had special police features), and the money for his house had come from his thrifty saving during his bachelor years.
Tracy has been on many adventures and in many different places around the world and beyond. One of Tracy's earliest adventures was when Stooge Viller and Steve the Tramp followed Junior Tracy and his biological father Hank Steele to Halifax in Canada.
Later, Tracy was stranded for weeks in an Island in the South Atlantic with a Scotland Yard police detective during an adventure that also took him to (pre-Communist) Cuba. Tracy returned to Cuba several years later in pursuit of the fugitive known as Specs.
In 1986, Tracy was recruited by President Ronald Reagan to participate in the government exchange program where he was sent to Russia as an observer of their law enforcement with the KGB. His counterpart Inspector Ivanova worked with the members of the MCU in Tracy's absence. Tracy later returned to Russia to aid in the case involving Hammerhead and a nuclear submarine.
In the mid-1990s, Tracy became involved in a number of cases that took him to France and England. He sometimes used the French-speaking Jenny Saisquoi as an interpreter.
In 2016, Tracy and Tess took a vacation to Europe where they retraced the steps of the famous detectives C. Auguste Dupin, Hercule Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes (who were all real people in the world of Dick Tracy). Tracy was confronted by Abner Kadaver at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, which resulted in Tracy going missing.
In addition to different countries around the world, Tracy has been to the Moon along with Diet Smith.
Tracy is the most decorated police officer in America and also known for having killed the most criminals in the line of duty. He is a celebrity, and is probably the best-known law-enforcement officer in the country, having the same level of name recognition as Elliot Ness or J.Edgar Hoover. As such, the happenings in personal life are often the subject of national news stories. He has inspired at least one feature film (in which Tracy acted as a consultant as well as portraying himself in some scenes), and also as a popular song by the singer Themesong.
Tracy has had an antagonistic relationship with reporter Wendy Wichel, who often accuses Tracy of police brutality and using excessive force. Tracy respects Wichel's First Amendment rights, but disagrees with her assessment of his tactics.
In 1994, Tracy was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom for his work with the FBI in preventing terrorist attacks orchestrated by the criminal Pig E. Bank. However, Tracy was not present to accept his award.
Tracy's squad has always been on the cutting edge of technology thanks to Tracy's friendship with billionaire industrialist Diet Smith, creator of the 2-Way Wrist Radio, 2-Way Wrist TV, 2-Way Wrist Computer, Wrist Geenee, and Wrist Wizard. For a while, various pieces of Moon Technology were incorporated in Tracy's arsenal, such as the Air Cars, but use of these devices was eventually discontinued.
In 1978, Big Boy launched a million-dollar Open Contract on Tracy's life after Big Boy learned he only had six months to live. A few attempts were made on his life, but the collateral damage resulted in the deaths of two of the would-be killers Louie Small and Little Littel, and life of Moon Maid Tracy (Junior's wife). After a final attempt was made on Tracy's life, Tracy and Sam went to Big Boy's mansion with a warrant for his arrest. Big Boy's anger and lust for revenge caused a fatal heart attack before the police could get to him.
The Tracy Agency
During the period of time following the non-fatal shooting of Chief Pat Patton, Tracy quit the force at the behest of the interim Chief Climer who looked down upon Tracy as a "relic" and brutal image of Law enforcement's outdated beliefs. Tracy investigated Patton's shooting himself after he opened up his own Private Detective Agency along with Johnny Adonis. Patton's shooter was revealed and Tracy returned to the force. Eventually, Tess Tracy took over the agency as a private investigator herself, occasionally working in conjunction in cases with her husband's police unit.
Tracy has occasionally been offered promotions, but he much prefers his position as Chief of Detectives and head of the Major Crimes Unit.
- In the early days of the strip, Tracy seemingly goes directly from being a civilian to working in the police department's plainclothes division. This would be an extremely unorthodox situation. A flashback story from the time of the strip's 80th Anniversary depicts Tracy as a uniformed police officer who had recently distinguished himself and gained Brandon's attention around the same time as the Emil Trueheart murder, thus prompting his promotion to plainclothes. This is logical, though the storyline was criticized by some fans who accused the modern creative team of dismissing Chester Gould's original story as "getting it wrong". Since the anniversary story was being narrated by Sam Catchem, who was not present when the events took place, it's possible that Sam (as an unreliable narrator) was mistaken about specific details. Tracy himself later repeated the story that he transferred from patrolman to plainclothes in the wake of Emil Trueheart's murder.
- Readers should note that in the original story, when Brandon offered Tracy a position as a detective, his exact words were, "Tracy - how'd you like to join the Plainclothes Squad?" This could be taken two ways. First, that he was offering to hire Tracy, then a civilian, for a job on the Police Force with an immediate appointment to the Detective Bureau. Or second, since he did not say, "How'd you like to join the Police Department," that Tracy was already an officer, and that Brandon was offering him a transfer to plainclothes.
- When asked about his family, Tracy referred to his parents in the past tense, indicating that they are deceased.
- In 1986, during his sojourn in Russia, Tracy stated that his father's name was also "Richard". This would seem to create a continuity error with the later identification of his father's name as "Chet".
- When asked, Dick Tracy identified his favorite comic strip as Fearless Fosdick. In the summer of 2016, he dreamed that he met Fosdick.
- Sam Catchem mentioned to his wife that while Tracy typically reads the newspaper, the only book he'd seen Tracy read was by Max Allan Collins (presumably a mystery or crime novel). Tracy is also fond of the stories of Sherlock Holmes, and Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
- Tracy once said his favorite cop movie was Blade Runner. He has also expressed a fondness for Japanese monster (or "Kaiju") movies. Tracy was not a fan of the film Sharky's Machine, saying he found it too violent.
- Among his favorite music, Tracy has listed Warren Zevon, Gordon Lightfoot, and The Talking Heads.
- Tracy expressed disdain for the science of oceanography, dismissing it as a "boondoggle".
- Tracy has a license to fly rotorcraft (helicopters) and fixed-wing aircraft.
- Tracy disapproved of casino gambling, and he expressed the opinion that it brought crime and immoral behavior to the places where it was legalized.
- Tracy is an avowed dog lover, but he is not opposed to animal testing for medical purposes, referring to it as a "necessary evil".
- Dick Tracy has a rare blood type, a trait he has in common with Diet Smith.
- In addition to signature yellow overcoat and fedora, Tracy typically wears a black suit with a red, white, and black striped necktie. The lack of variety in his wardrobe has been remarked upon occasionally.
- Tracy's fedora has often been colored green in various comic book publications and some Sunday strips.
- The Police Department also has a collection of at least 20 of Tracy's fedora hats that have been shot, crushed, or otherwise damaged in the line of duty. The earliest one is from 1931, and the collection includes hats shot by Stooge Viller, B-B Eyes, Flattop, Pruneface, Chameleon, and Blackjack.
- Tracy's skill as a marksman is renowned. During the 1960s and 70s (when creator Chester Gould indulged in less-than-subtle social commentary regarding the justifiable use of deadly force by police officers), it was often repeated that a criminal should "never shoot first at Dick Tracy". It was established that Tracy would not fire on a suspect unless that suspect shot at police first, and also that Tracy would always shoot to kill.
- In the TV series Perry Mason in the episode "The Case of the Sulky Girl" private detective Paul Drake's desk has a framed drawing of Dick Tracy.
- Tracy's handgun varied within the years-from a non-regulation .38 automatic pistol to a regulation .38 Colt detective special.
Throughout his career Dick Tracy has suffered several serious injuries, many of which could (or would) have resulted in death or other long-term consequences in real life. Tracy has proven to be extremely lucky (and durable) in this regard, and is often shown experiencing a faster-than-plausible recovery.
Among the Tracy's most serious injuries are:
- Hit on head with gun butt and struck on jaw with brass knuckles during Tess Trueheart kidnapping.
- Hit on head with suitcase full of bricks (resulting in a concussion) then kidnapped and burned on right foot by Broadway Bates.
- Shot in the hip by Dan "The Squealer" Mucelli.
- Shot twice by Steve the Tramp (once in the shoulder, once elsewhere)
- Shot 4 times by FBI agents while posing as a member of Cut Famon's gang.
- Caught in an explosion on Stud Bronzen's boat which knocked Tracy unconscious and he nearly drowned; then nearly killed by compressed air by The Blank in a decompression chamber.
- Suffered temporary blindness and partial lung paralysis after inhaling poison gas during the Karpse investigation.
- Shot in the arm/hand by Wolley and his gang.
- Abducted by Jerome Trohs' gang and had his right hand crushed by Mamma.
- Kidnapped by the Black Pearl Erad gang and received a cut on left cheek, later suffered severe burns when trapped inside a tank during the same case.
- Shot in hip by Selbert Depool.
- Broken right leg when slipping on ice after leaving Bea Thorndike's house.
- Nearly suffocated by burning sulfur by Duke and Sugar.
- In The Mole's tunnel, Tracy was nearly strangled by the Mole, then after the tunnel caved in, Tracy was nearly drowned by water flooding.
- Kidnapped and impaled with a spike by Mrs. Pruneface.
- Grazed in right side with a gunshot by Flattop Jones.
- Stabbed in right shoulder by lightning rod thrown as a spear by The Brow.
- Dragged on car bumper and set on fire by Measles.
- Poisoned by Breathless Mahoney.
- Kidnapped and starved by Kitty (Mrs. B.B. Eyes) and Itchy Oliver.
- Grazed in the chest by Wormy Marrons' car horn guns, then dragged a significant distance down an icy road behind Marrons' car.
- Shot in the arm/shoulder by Empty Williams.
- Nearly drowned after being shot with a high-powered rifle by Tonsils.
- Hit on the head and knocked unconscious by Odds Zonn. Subsequently, suffered starvation and frostbite while in the culvert death-trap.
- Hit on the head with a brick and knocked unconscious by Flyface.
- Knocked unconscious with a ski, then later beaten with a variety of exercise equipment by the Kitten Sisters.
- Shot in the head by Carduey McCoy.
- Suffered malnutrition/starvation after being stranded on Granite Island by Miss Egghead and The Dropper.
- Knocked unconscious by a 22-pound coping tile dropped on his head by an underling of Miss Intro, subsequently nearly frozen to death in an ascending Air Car.
- Badly burned and lost his hair while rescuing a cab driver from being burned alive in the Pucker Puss case.
- Burned and suffered temporary blindness after a firebombing at his home committed by agents of the Apparatus.
- Stabbed in the arm with an ice pick thrown by The Iceman.
- Suffered head trauma when knocked unconscious by Climer.
- Frozen "dead" by Dr. Freezdrei but revived by Sam Catchem.
- Struck over the head with a garbage can lid and knocked unconscious by Dr. E.N. Amuhni.
- Inadvertently poisoned and rendered unconscious by Sal Monella.
- Hit on the head and knocked unconscious by Tons, an agent of One-Eyed Jack.
- Suffered injury to his larynx from being garroted by Bardoll.
- Hit over the head and back with a chair by Tabby Angus.
- Suffered stabs wounds and other injuries from a fall from a great height during a confrontation with Abner Kadaver at Reichenbach Falls.
- Shocked unconscious with a cattle prod by Selfy Narcisse.
- Shot by Little Doc.
- Shot in the upper arm with an arrow by Abner Kadaver.
Dick Tracy has a reputation for having killed more people in the line of duty than any other law enforcement officer in the United States of America. However, many of his notable adversaries have died by other means, often at the hand of their criminal compatriots, at the hand of other law enforcement officers, at the hands of law-abiding citizens acting in self-defense or in the defense of others, in accidents, and/or while attempting to escape capture.
Below is partial list of Dick Tracy's confirmed kills.
An asterisk (*) indicates an instance in which the criminal was killed during a shootout with multiple police officers and/or others including Tracy, meaning that Tracy may or may not have been the person who fired the kill shot.
- Unnamed farmer* (Steve the Tramp/Hank Steele storyline during car hijacking)
- Della (Della is the first "confirmed kill" shown in the strip where there is no uncertainty that Dick Tracy is the person who killed them.)
- Boss Jim Herrod
- Sal Famoni*
- Tony the Bomber
- Zora Arson*
- Cutie Diamond*
- "Muscle" Famon*
- "Maw" Famon*
- Stud Bronzen
- Louie "Jake" Enalio*
- Jojo Nidle
- Meg "Nibs" Urhe*
- Jim Zess*
- Junky Doolb*
- 88 Keyes
- Ed D. Edd
- Unnamed member of Flattop's gang (killed by Tracy and Flattop the same way Ed was)
- Charlie (Flattop's gang)
- Barny, aka "Shorty" (Measles' gang)
- Itchy Oliver
- Eddie (Gargles' gang)
- Joe* (Gargles' gang)
- Joe* (Mrs. Volts storyline)
- Sketch Paree
- Dr. Plain*
- Ed Moppet*
- Hank Timer, a killer in the employ of Mr. Crime*
- Unnamed professional killer driving a stolen auto transport during an attempted hit on Tracy (Mr. Crime storyline)
- George Alphanone aka George Alpha aka Mr. Crime I*
- Sticks Hepbeat
- Sid Jonah*
- Hank "Happy" Larson
- Eddie and 2 other unnamed drug dealers* (Elsa Crystal storyline)
- 2 members of Pantsy's gang*
- Duo, Trey, and Quad Hardly*
- Simmy Colon aka The Ten of Spades
- The King of Spades
- Smallmouth Bass
- Unnamed spy associate of Eric Von Rhino
- "Bulldog" Kerson
- Yolly Times, an assassin in the employ of Mr. Bribery
- George Chin Chillar*
- Mr. Intro & his associates (at least 17 people)
- Unnamed accomplice of Mr. Litter
- Taurus, a member of the Zodiac gang
- Unnamed assassin sent by Diamonds to kill Groovy Grove
- Chameleon I
- Duzzin Matta
- Marvin Barley*
- 2 unnamed members of an armored car robbery gang*
- 3rd member of the armored car robbery gang in a helicopter
- Johnny Snow, aka the Iceman
- Unnamed operatives in the employ of Miss Fortune*
- Fastlane (thrown off an overpass during a struggle with Tracy)
- Quark (Bee Bee Orwell storyline)
- Unnamed gunman acolyte of the Mistress of Death
- Unnamed prison escapee (killed with his own gun while struggling with Tracy)
- One member of Pinhead's gang*
- At least one henchman of Mousse II*
- Sythe and Furrow
- Pilfer Patty*
- Unnamed henchman of Big Ace
- Bardoll (thrown from the top of a tall building)
- Pauly* (son of Crutch, Polar Vortex storyline)
Additionally, Scardol, Danny Supeena, the Brow, Gargles, T. V. Wiggles, Empty Williams, Louis Small, Dr. Kryos Freezdrei, and possibly Shoulders all died as a result of actions that Tracy took, but in those cases it was clear that Tracy did not necessarily intend to employ deadly force. Mr. Kroywen died during a struggle with Tracy, but an autopsy revealed that this was due to a heart condition and Tracy was not directly responsible.
Appearances In Other Media
- 1937 - Dick Tracy, 15 part serial starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy
- 1938 - Dick Tracy Returns, 15 part serial starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy
- 1939 - Dick Tracy's G-Men, 15 part serial starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy
- 1941 - Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc., 15 part serial starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy
- 1945 - Dick Tracy, starring Morgan Conway as Dick Tracy
- 1946 - Dick Tracy vs. Cueball, starring Morgan Conway as Dick Tracy
- 1947 - Dick Tracy's Dilemma, starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy
- 1947 - Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy
- 1990 - Dick Tracy starring Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy
- 1950 - Dick Tracy, starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy
- 1961 - The Dick Tracy Show, animated series featuring Everett Sloane as the voice of Dick Tracy
- 1964 - The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo - animated series featuring Everett Sloane as the voice of Dick Tracy
- 1967 - Dick Tracy (pilot for unproduced live-action TV series) starring Ray MacDonnell as Dick Tracy
- 1971 - Archie's TV Funnies, animated series featuring John Erwin as the voice of Dick Tracy
- 2010 - Dick Tracy Special starring Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy
On Radio & Other Audio
- 1934 - Dick Tracy, starring Bob Burlen, Barry Thompson, Ned Wever & Matt Crowley as Dick Tracy
- 1945 - Dick Tracy in B-Flat, starring Bing Crosby as Dick Tracy
- 1947 - Dick Tracy in the Case of the Midnight Marauder, two-record set featuring Jim Ameche as Dick Tracy
- 1990 - Dick Tracy, audiobook of the Max Allan Collins novelization, read by James Keane
- 1990 - Dick Tracy: Big Boy Turns Up the Heat, movie tie-in "read-along" featuring Charles Howerton as Dick Tracy
- 1990 - Dick Tracy: Everything Comes Up Blank, movie tie-in "read-along" featuring Charles Howerton as Dick Tracy
- In 1966 Tracy appeared in Popular Mechanics/Readers Digest magazines in a series of advertisements for Autolite, an automobile parts manufacturer. Among the criminals captured by Tracy were Chuck Hole, Piston Puss, Strip Gear, Short Circuit, Rod Bender, & Miss Fire.
- 2 follow-up novels to the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film novelization were published- Dick Tracy Goes to War and Dick Tracy Meets His Match, both written by Max Allan Collins. Additionally, the short story collection Dick Tracy - The Secret Files was published in conjunction with the film.
Comics and Graphic Novels
- Dell Comics published a monthly Dick Tracy from 1947 to 1949. The first 18 issues consisted of reprints of the daily newspaper comic strip. Issues #19 to #24 contained original stories produced by unknown creators. In these stories, Tracy was depicted very similarly to his portrayal in the comic strip at the time, with Tess as his love interest. In 1949, the license changed hands to Harvey Comics, which published Dick Tracy comics until 1961. Harvey Comics reverted to the practice of re-printing the newspaper strips, though some original supplemental material (primarily text stories or 1-page Minute Mysteries) was produced.
- In 1958, an exclusive original comic book entitled Dick Tracy: The Case of the Purloined Sirloin was produced by Harvey Information Press for Esso service station workers. It does not credit the creative team, and Dick Tracy is only character from the comic strip to appear in it.
- Disney released a 3-issue comic book prequel and adaptation to the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film. Titled True Hearts and Tommy Guns, it contains additional background information about many of the main characters, and shows how Tracy came to be partnered with Sam Catchem and Pat Patton.
- In 2018, IDW released a 4-issue miniseries entitled Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive. It is essentially a reboot of the Dick Tracy mythos. In it, Tracy is an incorruptible though often violent police detective whose methods have resulted in his being removed from his position at several police departments around the United States. He is brought to Chicago by the Governor of Illinois in an attempt to eliminate the corruption in the local government and the strong presence of organized crime.
- Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive was followed by the 4-issue miniseries Dick Tracy: Forever. Each issue of this series featured Dick Tracy in a different time period, including the future.