The man known as Steve the Tramp (last name alternately given as Maddis and Brogan) aka Prisoner Number 27604 was a vagrant and a drifter for much of his life. At some point, he lost one leg and in prison one eye. During his days on the street, he typically wore a checkered coat and a battered cloth cap.
The Tramp and the Kid[edit | edit source]
Steve the Tramp was first seen as the brutal and abusive guardian of the Kid, later known as Dick Tracy Jr. Steve had Junior steal for him, leaving the boy with nothing but scraps for his supper. He had a habit of hitting the child and verbally threatening him. Both of them were homeless and Junior was eventually taken off the street by Dick Tracy.
Steve traveled west to Colorado, where he came upon the home of Hank Steele. Steve took a job as Hank's hired hand, and he learned of Hank's desire to be reunited with his long-lost son. Steve realized that Hank's missing son would be about Junior's age, and he hatched a plan to kidnap Junior and present him to Hank as his missing heir. Steve was unaware that Junior actually was the missing Hank Steele Jr.
Steve returned to the city and kidnapped Junior, who was able to leave clues for Tracy about who had taken him and in what direction they were heading. Steve killed a US mailman in an unsuccessful attempt to intercept a postcard Junior left for Tracy. Steve also recruited an criminal crony Dippy McDoogun to help him go west on a stolen railroad handcar. The handcar was struck by a train. Junior and Steve survived while McDoogun was assumed killed.
Tracy managed to deduce Steve's plot and arrived at the Steele home before Steve did. Steve hijacked a truck driven by a local farmer, forcing the farmer at gunpoint to drive him and Junior to Steele's estate. Tracy and a local Sheriff approached the truck, ordering the driver to halt. Steve forced the driver to speed past them. Tracy and the Sheriff opened fire, at least one of their shots hitting the driver, who slumped forward onto his steering wheel. Steve exclaimed the driver was dead.
Tracy delayed his confrontation with Steve so as to avoid the risk of endangering Junior. Steve discovered Tracy's presence and fled, enlisting the unwilling aid of Steele's cook Della who fired a shot at Steve and missed. She was mortally wounded by Dick Tracy. Steve was seriously injured in a fall off a cliff, and was later taken into police custody.
Steve was returned to the city for trial, where he was represented by J. Peter Twillbrain. Steve was sentenced to prison, where he later made the acquaintance of Stooge Viller. The two men made a daring prison break and once again plotted to gain Junior's inheritance and get revenge against Dick Tracy. After several failures, Steve and Viller eventually parted ways.
Steve escaped from prison again by fashioning an imitation pistol out of scraps from the prison's machine shop. He used it threaten a guard, then took the guard's genuine firearm and forced his way out of the prison (reportedly killing four guards in the process). Steve briefly partnered with Larceny Lu, and later with Doc Hump. As an enforcer for Larceny Lu, Steve murdered two rival gangsters- Jerry O' Marra (June 24, 1934) and Mickey Dunn (July 2, 1934).
Steve beat up and threw J. Scotland Bumpsted into the bay to drown (July 9, 1934), but Dick Tracy rescued Bumpsted. During the course of a subsequent crime, Steve was once again severely injured. He lost his left eye and lost his left leg to gangrene. Steve was eventually returned to prison, where he encountered Stooge Viller and a fistfight ensued.
It was eventually revealed that Steve the Tramp was the charismatic traveling man that had lured Hank Steele's wife Mary away from their home. Mary had run away with Steve, bringing her infant son with her. They were supposedly married, though it is unclear if Mary was ever officially divorced from Hank. When Steve and Mary parted, Steve kept the boy, who grew up to be Junior. This meant that Junior was actually Hank's long-lost son, though Steve did not seem to realize this when he first returned the boy to Hank. Steve revealed this information to Larceny Lu, which eventually led to Mary being reunited with her son.
Steve's Reform[edit | edit source]
In 1941, Steve was released from prison, and wondered if people would believe that he had been rehabilitated. His former ward and Dick Tracy met him and made amends. Tracy later helped Steve get a permanent job by buying a fruit stand for him.
However, Steve was framed by Duke after a truck accident (during the Mole storyline) and Tracy had to establish Steve's innocence. Tracy received the help of the truck driver Steve had been riding with at the time of the collision, who was well enough to come to the jail to explain the situation. Steve would later be revealed to the second husband of Mary Steele and the step-father of Junior. Steve eventually left town to pursue a life as a carnival worker, because he loved to travel.
When Junior was an adult, he would encounter his step-father again, who was now working in a soup kitchen for the local mission. The pastor was pleased with all that Steve contributed. The pastor mentioned to Junior that Steve had yet to forgive himself for the abuse he put Junior through in those early days, despite the fact that Junior had forgiven him. Junior showed signs of affection to Steve and enlisted his aid in an investigation of local homeless people who were going missing.
Appearances in Other Media[edit | edit source]
Movie Continuity[edit | edit source]
Steve the Tramp was a character in the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film. He was played by actor Tony Epper. Steve's portrayal in the film is very close to his comic strip story. He was the "protector" of the Kid, sending him out to steal and then taking most of what the Kid obtained. When Dick Tracy tracked the Kid to Steve's rail-yard shack, a brutal fistfight ensued, with Tracy knocking Steve through the wall. Steve was presumably taken into police custody and the Kid became Tracy's ward.
Tie-In Comic Book[edit | edit source]
Steve briefly appeared in the comic-book prequel story, in which he and the Kid narrowly avoided crossing paths with some mobsters (who were subsequently killed).
Tie-In Video Games[edit | edit source]
- Nintendo Entertainment System- Steve the Tramp appears in Dick Tracy's mug shot files. Tracy does not encounter Steve during gameplay.
- Sega Genesis- One level of the game takes place in Steve the Tramp's railyard, but Tracy does not encounter the character during gameplay.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- In 1941, Steve commented how for seven years he had had a number rather than a name (which roughly matches up with his 1933 sentence to prison), though Junior clearly had not aged seven years. Also, during one of his previous prison breaks, Steve had reportedly killed 4 prison guards. For him to be released after only serving 7 years of his sentence seems like a miscarriage of justice, though it is possible that his exploits were exaggerated.
- While Steve was often cruel and violent, he was also shown to be charming and very loyal to his confederates. This inspired them to be loyal to him in return, and Steve was often able to call upon old friends to help him.
- Steve was an extremely resilient and durable man, surviving numerous critical injuries during his encounters with Tracy and the law. Larceny Lu claimed that she had removed 7 bullets from Steve's body and head when he arrived at her hideout.
- During the 1961 storyline in which Mary Steele died, Tracy indicated that Steve had died of a heart ailment in 1953. This was contradicted by the later soup kitchen story, resulting in a difficult-to-reconcile continuity error.
- The action figure of Steve the Tramp produced by Playmates Toys for the 1990 feature film attracted the criticism of homeless advocacy groups, and it was subsequently pulled from shelves. As a result, the toy (especially on the original cardback) is more sought after by collectors than most of the other toys produced (though it is not as rare as The Blank).