Vitamin Flintheart was an actor and friend of Dick Tracy. He occasionally found himself on the wrong side of the law and he crossed paths with some of Tracy's more notable rogues, including Flattop, Blowtop, Measles, Influence, and Shaky.
Vitamin frequently ate vitamin pills and drank Bromo-seltzer, an antacid. He had a distinctive moustache and he habitually addressed Tracy as "Richard".
Early in his career, Vitamin appeared in a series of "B" Westerns as Blowhard, the sidekick of cowboy hero Vista Bill. Vitamin played the character of Police Chief Hartigan on the radio adaptation of The Scarlet Sting for many years. His television debut was as a monster on the TV series Captain Video.
- 1 Vitamin Meets Dick Tracy and Flattop
- 2 The Summer Sisters and the Brow
- 3 Snowflake and Shaky
- 4 Themesong and Influence
- 5 Vitamin in the 50s
- 6 Vitamin Returns
- 7 Vitamin Returns, Again
- 8 Further Adventures and a New Love
- 9 Appearances in Other Media
- 10 Notes
Vitamin Meets Dick Tracy and Flattop
Vitamin first met Dick Tracy when Vitamin became an unwitting accomplice of Flattop. At the time, Vitamin (age 50) was living in a cheap hotel and was considering a Hollywood comeback. Flattop, fleeing police, ducked into Vitamin's unlocked room to hide, and Flintheart introduced himself. When Flattop saw that Vitamin had a makeup case, he knocked the actor unconscious and disguised himself.
Tracy and Pat Patton were searching the hotel and found the injured Vitamin. Tracy tracked Flattop to a movie theater, where Vitamin incorrectly identified a young man wearing the wig Flattop had stolen, which nearly got the young man shot by police. Despite the fact that Vitamin was clearly overcome with guilt and remorse, Pat gave Vitamin Flattop's gun to hold.
With his nerves shaken, Vitamin went to a nearby bar where he had several drinks. Reaching into his pocket to get money to pay his bar tab, he unwittingly drew Flattop's gun. The bartender believed he was being robbed and panicked. Vitamin accidentally dropped Flattop's gun which went off and wounded the bartender. Vitamin then panicked and fled.
Vitamin later gave himself up and was put into a holding cell across from the recently-captured Flattop. Tracy's investigation of the shooting showed that it was a accident, which the bartender confirmed. Before Vitamin could be released, Flattop overpowered a jailer and escaped using Vitamin as a hostage. Vitamin was present while Flattop was hiding out in the replica of the Santa Maria where the notorious killer eventually met his end.
The Summer Sisters and the Brow
Later that year, Vitamin became smitten with the talent of the Summer Sisters. However the two girls refused to work for him because they mistakenly believed him to be a police spy, due to Vitamin's habit of spending time with his friend Dick Tracy at police headquarters. They refused his proposal by slapping him in the face, prompting Vitamin to follow them and takes down their address, which would later be helpful to Tracy in catching the Brow.
Snowflake and Shaky
Vitamin met and married the actress Snowflake Falls after she was freed from the influence of Shaky. On their honeymoon, the couple was confronted by the young criminal Measles, who was fleeing police. Vitamin was defiant, but did as Measles requested out of concern for Snowflake's safety. Measles eventually fled without harming the newlyweds.
Themesong and Influence
Vitamin later fell on hard times after losing a significant amount of money in a casino owned by Influence. Vitamin managed to purchase and operate a hamburger stand in the City, and became the performance tutor of the young girl singer Themesong. Vitamin and Themesong had an acrimonious relationship, but Vitamin carried on out of deference to his friend Christmas Early, who had become Themesong's guardian. Vitamin was eventually found by Influence, who hypnotized and humiliated Vitamin as part of a revenge plot.
Vitamin in the 50s
Shortly before Vitamin met Blowtop, Snowflake passed away from an illness. Vitamin disguised his grief with his usual bravado. Vitamin then unwittingly became embroiled in Blowtop's revenge plot against Dick Tracy, though Vitamin annoyed Blowtop greatly with his affectations and habits. Vitamin narrowly avoided being killed by Blowtop before Blowtop was arrested.
When young Sparkle Plenty became a popular television performer, Dick Tracy recommended to B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie that Vitamin should act as Sparkle's manager. Gertie was charmed by Vitamin's flattery, but B.O. took offense. Sparkle sided with her father and voiced displeasure about working with Vitamin. In spite of this, Vitamin had the child's best interests at heart and acted on her behalf. Vitamin was targeted by the extortionist T.V. Wiggles, who threatened to harm Sparkle unless Vitamin paid him a percentage of her earnings. Vitamin agreed, fearing for Sparkle's safety. Wiggles later attracted the attention of the police and was killed while trying to evade capture.
After this, Vitamin was absent from Dick Tracy's life for a long period of time.
Years later, Vitamin enjoyed a renewed public interest in his work. This prompted him to lend his name to a line of vitamin pills, and he scheduled a television appearance in Dick Tracy's city to promote the product. At the television station, he became the target of a murder attempt by the Brow's Son (who was acting under instructions from Angeltop). Vitamin was shot, but survived.
Vitamin was instrumental in the safe birth of Tess Tracy's second child, and the boy was given the middle name "Flintheart" in honor of his benefactor.
In 1981, Vitamin opened a dinner theater in the City, and secured Hollywood star B.U. Tiffil for the first show. The production was plagued by sabotage attempts, but Vitamin was able to maintain composure.
In 1983, Vitamin seriously considered becoming a client of the cryogenics specialist Dr. Kryos Freezdrei after the aging actor began to have concerns about his mortality. This led to Tracy's involvement with the revived criminal Pruneface.
In 1984, Vitamin opened a health food concession stand in B. O. Plenty's Land of Plenty Amusement Park, and just for opening day, ran the concession himself. This meant he had to flee along with everyone else at the park when it was destroyed by the pollution landfill buried underneath the park grounds by Dye and Oxen Cixot.
Later that same year, Flintheart represented Sparkle for filming a commercial of Sparkle Plenty Designer Jeans. Vitamin got so angry with the commercial's director, that while driving Sparkle home from the studio, he was too busy complaining about the director to pay attention to his driving and rear ended the criminal Subtitle. When Sparkle pointed out to Vitamin that the accident was his own fault, Vitamin offered to contact the police. Instead, Subtitle gave Vitamin $200 to cover any damages to Vitamin's car and gave Sparkle a shoddy counterfeit pair of her own designer jeans. This suspicious behavior proved to be a crucial lead in helping Tracy track down Subtitle's boss, Murky Depps.
Flintheart didn't play any major role for the rest of 1984, or any of 1985, but he did still briefly show up in the Daily Christmas strips of both years, both times somewhat cut off from the main stories of those times, although the 1985 strip had a little relevance to the main story, as Flintheart is shown celebrating Christmas with Tess, Joe, B. O. Plenty, Gravel Gertie, Sparkle, and Junior, with Tess explaining that "Dick had to work today" (presumably thwarting the terrorist attack on Diet Smith Industries made by Quiver Trembly, Prunella, and Angeltop, the story going on at that time). Flintheart remarked, "God bless our selfless public servants- and God bless us everyone!"
In 1986, Vitamin, who had taken an interest in financial investments, nearly became the victim of an investment scam operated by Uppward Lee-Mobile and his wife Trendy. Tracy, already suspicious of the brokers over the strange death of one of their customers, alerted Vitamin to his suspicions and asked him to meet with the couple under the pretense of becoming a customer. At the meeting, the Lee-Mobiles found Vitamin to be too well-informed about investments to trick, thus enabling Vitamin to provide vital information to Dick Tracy about the suspects.
Later, Vitamin traveled to Russia where he performed in English-language productions of King Lear and MacBeth. Vitamin helped Tracy (who was also in Russia at the time) solve the mystery of the theft of the valuable artifact The Cap of Monomakh.
Some time later, Vitamin was co-starring in a production of the play Sleuth alongside actor Barry Moore when Moore was killed and and had his identity usurped by the revenge-seeking Harley Niav, aka Putty Puss. Niav's features began to "melt" on stage during a performance, which prompted Dick Tracy to interrupt the show and attempt to apprehend him. Vitamin tried to maintain the integrity of the production, but was unable to do so.
Vitamin had a wax museum at the Land O' Plenty theme park, which featured wax figures of many of his more memorable roles. Vitamin also sponsored a food stand at the park which featured items such as soy burgers and vegetable juices. He manned the stand himself on the park's opening day.
In 1990, Vitamin become involved with the production of the feature film The Dick Tracy Story. He also became engaged to Fame, a young starlet. Tracy suspected that Fame was using Vitamin to further her career. When Fame fell/jumped to her death from the Hollywood sign, she survived just long enough to tell Vitamin that she loved him before she died. Tracy had doubts about her sincerity, but he kept them from his grieving friend.
A year later, Vitamin became the public spokesman for a line of health supplements called Multi-Pills. Vitamin was unaware that the products had no legitimate health benefits (and that his own positive reaction to them was entirely psychosomatic). When the truth about Multi-Pills was discovered, Vitamin became embroiled in a plot involving blackmail and murder. He aided Dick Tracy in tracking down the criminal Fastlane, then resolved to return to his work in the theater to re-establish his legitimacy.
In 1998, Vitamin was living in New York City, appearing in a production of Hamlet. He discovered his friend Dick Tracy, who was suffering from memory loss after eating tainted food on an airline. Vitamin was subsequently drawn into the case of Sal Monella. Tracy regained his memory and tracked the tainted food to Monella's factory. Vitamin joined Tracy, and the two men were captured by Monella and his gang. The two men were locked in an industrial freezer, then placed in a large meat grinder. Tracy was able to free them, and they were joined by FBI Agent Kelley. The group tracked Monella and his gang to nearby landfill. Vitamin accidentally activated the trash compactor, not realizing that Monella and his men were hiding inside. The criminals were crushed into cube shapes, but apparently survived and escaped.
In 2005, Vitamin was seeking work from the U. Crumb Talent Agency, along with a failed stage magician, Moonrock. Crumb got a job for Vitamin, starring in a play opening in Dick Tracy's city, but turned down Moonrock. Moonrock mastered the art of mesmerism and was coerced by the criminals Cy Chotic and Scratchy into using this ability to commit robberies. They chose the theater Vitamin was performing at for their first robbery on the play's opening night.
Moonrock mesmerized the audience, whom the criminals then robbed. After that incident, the play was closed. Tracy then hired Vitamin to perform at a lavish police gala to be attended by the town's wealthiest citizens to lure the criminals into a trap. Tracy's plan was to trap Moonrock before he could mesmerize the police trying to arrest him. But the plan went awry, and Vitamin was trapped by mistake. Chotic and Scratchy were eventually apprehended, but Moonrock was killed by another criminal.
Vitamin Returns, Again
Later that year, Vitamin appeared at a retrospective/convention of Vista Bill films, where he discovered a murder victim, Arthur Curry. He did not hesitate to delay his personal appearance and notify his friend Dick Tracy.
Also in 2012, Vitamin met the winner of the Sunny Wheat cereal Vitamin Flintheart look-alike contest, an elderly gentleman named Walt Wallet. Vitamin introduced Walt to Tracy, and was surprised to learn that they were already acquainted. Tracy pointed out that Walt doesn't look much like Vitamin, but Vitamin disregarded this.
Vitamin later became the object of a confidence scam by the film "archivist" Silver Nitrate and his sister Sprocket who approached him claiming to have recovered the film of Vitamin's first-ever television appearance on an episode of Captain Video. Nitrate showed Vitamin (and his associate Mary Perkins) a short clip which seemed to validate his claim. Nitrate then offered to restore the complete episode for $300,000, which Flintheart accepted, seemingly eager to obtain the memento from that time in his career.
It was later discovered that the film clip was a fraud produced by Nitrate using a look-alike of Vitamin. It was further revealed that Vitamin himself was aware that the clip was not genuine. Vitamin noted that one of his friends had fallen victim to an identical scheme, and Vitamin had subsequently recognized Nitrate's name when the con-man had approached him. Vitamin had pretended to fall for the scheme in order to help Tracy catch the Nitrates.
Further Adventures and a New Love
In 2014, Vitamin dressed his financial adviser (Coffee Grounds) as Vista Bill to visit an ailing child in the hospital. On leaving the hospital, Grounds fired his prop gun to scare an attacker away from a young woman in the parking lot. Unbeknownst to them, the "attacker" was Gruesome, who was attempting to return the woman's dropped car keys but inadvertently frightened her by his appearance.
Shortly thereafter, Vitamin began rehearsal for a production of the play Arsenic and Old Lace. The cast also included Gruesome and Agate Aggie. Vitamin was approached by the young filmmaker Kandikane Lane, who wanted to make a documentary about the actor. Vitamin agreed, and he soon found himself having romantic feelings about the younger woman. The two began a relationship, and Vitamin surprised the younger woman with his virility and stamina.
Vitamin and Kanidkane later became engaged to be married, announcing this new development to their friends at the MCU at the same time that they revealed that Kandikane was pregnant with Vitamin's child. She later gave birth to their son Kane Flintheart. He later starred in a production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Patterson Playhouse.
Appearances in Other Media
Dick Tracy in B Flat
Vitamin Flintheart was a character in the humorous radio play Dick Tracy in B Flat, produced for Armed Forces Radio in February of 1945. He was played by Frank Morgan.
1940s Feature Films
Vitamin Flintheart was a character in 2 of the theatrically-released Dick Tracy movies produced during the 1940s, starring Morgan Conway and later Ralph Byrd. Vitamin was played by actor Ian Keith in Dick Tracy Vs. Cueball (with Conway) and Dick Tracy's Dilemma (with Byrd).
Dick Tracy in the Case of the Midnight Marauder
Vitamin was a supporting character in the audio story The Case of the Midnight Marauder, which was released as a double-78 rpm record set by Mercury Records in 1947. In the story, Vitamin meets Tracy and Pat Patton (apparently for the first time) in Miami, then becomes embroiled in their encounter with Flattop. Vitamin was played by Cliff Sobier.
1950s TV Series
Vitamin Flintheart appeared as a character in the 1950s Dick Tracy television series starring Ralph Byrd. Vitamin was played by actor Richard Kean.
In one episode, Vitamin was framed for murder by B-B Eyes, with whom he had been operating a drama school.
Vitamin Flintheart did not appear as a character in the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film or the comic book tie-in. He was, however, a character in the novelization by Max Allan Collins, and in Collins's two follow-up novels Dick Tracy Goes to War and Dick Tracy Meets His Match.
In Goes to War, Vitamin had purchased the nightclub formerly operated by Big Boy and had turned it into a venue for the USO called the Stage-Door Canteen. He employed several musical acts including the Summer Sisters, 88 Keyes, Spike Dyke and his band, and the singer Black Pearl.
Unbeknownst to Vitamin, his club was also the headquarters for the subversive Mrs. Pruneface. When a rift developed between Dick Tracy and Tess Trueheart, Vitamin observed Tess' activities in the company of 88 Keyes and reported this to Tracy.
Later, when Tracy learned of Mrs. Pruneface's activities, he acquired the keys to the building from Vitamin in order to stage an early-morning raid. Vitamin, distraught over learning how his club had been used, turned over management to the USO.
In Meets His Match, Vitamin had enjoyed a brief career resurgence on television. However, the ratings for his show had declined, resulting in its cancellation. Vitamin then became the talent agent for the newly-popular Sparkle Plenty, which embroiled him in the case of the murder of Ted Tellum and the extortionist T.V. Wiggles.
- At the time of Vitamin's first encounter with Dick Tracy, he stated that he was 50 years old. He also claimed that 30 years previously he had been one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, earning $500 a week.
- When Vitamin was hiding with Flattop in the Santa Maria replica, he declared that he had never learned to swim after he nearly drowned when he accidentally fell into his aunt's lily pond at a young age. It is not clear if he has learned to swim since.
- Among his other film credits, Vitamin lists English Summer, The World's A Stage, The Lewis and Clark Story, The Bowery Boys Meet the Bard, Abbott and Costello Meet Columbus, The Mummy's Brother-in-Law, and Dracula Meets the Bowery Boys. He has also listed many stage credits, and said that he had refused to appear in a production called Hearts a' Poppin.
- Vitamin claimed to have known the famous Gish sisters, Lilian and Dorothy.
- To some degree, Vitamin was inspired by real-life actor John Barrymore, who was a highly-regarded (if scenery-chewing) Shakespearean actor.
- Vitamin's physical appearance is seemingly based on that of Charles Aubrey Smith, a British cricketer turned actor famous for his appearance as the grandfather in the 1936 film version of Little Lord Fauntleroy.
- Perhaps more than any other character, Vitamin has gone through several alternating periods in the strip as a prominent supporting player followed by long periods of years (and in one case, decades) of total inactivity where he's neither seen nor mentioned.
- In his debut year of 1944, he was involved in cases with all three of that year's major villains: Flattop, the Brow (the only one of the three Vitamin never actually met), and Shaky. In early 1945, he and his young bride Snowflake took a train to Hollywood where, on the train, they had a brief encounter with Measles, then resumed their trip to Hollywood.
- Vitamin turned up again a year and a half later in late 1946, running afoul of Influence. The Influence case stretched into the early months of 1947, at the end of which case, Vitamin returned to Hollywood.
- Vitamin wouldn't be seen again for another three years. When he did turn up again in 1950, he was involved in two back-to-back cases with Blowtop and T. V. Wiggles.
- During the Wiggles case, Vitamin became Sparkle Plenty's manager, suggesting he was gaining a semi-permanent role in the strip. Instead, Vitamin abruptly vanished without explanation at the end of the Wiggles story. He wouldn't be seen again for the remaining 27 years Chester Gould was working on the strip.
- He was mentioned in the Flattop Jr story when Tracy remembered Vitamin starring in the rundown theater in which Flattop took refuge.
- When Gould's successor, Max Allan Collins, took over, he made bringing back Vitamin a top priority, making Vitamin a semi-regular supporting character from 1977 to 1991.
- Collins' successor, Mike Kilian used Vitamin only twice: in the first Sal Monella case in 1998, and in the Moonrock case in 2005.
- Kilian's successor, Dick Locher, did not use Vitamin at all during his entire five year run (2006-2011).
- Locher's successor, Mike Curtis brought back Vitamin in 2012. He is once again a prominent, semi-regular supporting player.
- A character resembling Vitamin appears in the prequel tie-in comic book for the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film, but the character is not identified by name. It is a grey-haired man with a distinctive moustache who nearly has his pocket picked while attending a high society function.
- Vitamin is one of very few characters who have appeared to break the fourth wall in the strip and address the readers directly. He did so as an introduction to the storyline that resolved the mystery of Mysta Chimera's identity, and again to prepare readers for the format alteration of the first Minit Mystery. He was not involved in either story. He introduced the storyline involving the return of Shaky.