Friday, July 12, 2013

Dick Tracy 1935: A Year In Review

Well, it didn't take Junior very long to discover that the strange woman who keeps lurking in the shadows is his mother. He compares the photo in a locket, left to him by his father, Hank Steele, to the mysterious woman and observes a resemblance. When he approaches the woman with the locket, she breaks down and cries. A fond family reunion.

Meanwhile, Boris Arson is still behind bars and his fiendish sister, Zora, masquerades as his attorney to get the lowdown on his arrest. As a result, Zora attempts (and fails) to shoot and kill Dick Tracy, Junior and his mother. She hires a criminal to create a "pineapple" and almost blows up Junior's mother. When she discovers that spilling iodine on potatoes makes them turn black, she gets an idea and sends a message to Boris, who uses this information to create a fake gun (ala John Dillinger and the famous potato gun) and escapes jail.

Chief Brandon becomes the ridicule of the press and the mayor promises to clean up the police department, even if it means he has to fire Brandon. Dick Tracy takes the blame for the potato and accepts responsibility. The mayor orders Brandon to fire the famous detective. With the police blocking all roads leading in and out of town, Boris Arson arranges a fake marriage between Yellowpony's daughter, Sunset, and Boris Arson has the American Indians handle the transportation. When Yellowpony becomes suspicious, Arson draws out a gun and Yellowpony is forced out of his car. The police give chase, leading up a treacherous mountain road. Zora Arson has guided the Indian's commandeered car toward the mountain hideout of "Cutie" Diamond.

Along the side of the hill is a hideout inside a secret entrance, guarded by vicious mountain wildcats. A caged runway prevents the criminals from getting mauled and torn to shreds. After all efforts to get inside the cave fail, Dick Tracy and Pat Patton drill a hole into the cave and push a tube inside, from the automobile, forcing carbon monoxide gas into the hideout. Diamond, angry, races to the exit to shoot at the cops but his body is drilled with bullets. Zora charges out and is shot to death in an exchange of gunfire. Pat Patton is forced to shoot the wildcats. Diamond, wounded, blinded by so much blood on his face, finds the rear door of the house and stumbles blindly up the stairs to the second floor of his mountain home. In one last feeble effort to ward off inevitable capture, he enters the room furthest down the hall and fortifies himself behind an overturned chair. With automatic poised and aimed toward the door, his body stiffens. Fingers that sent leaden death into his fellow men, grow white and rigid. He dies before the police charge in to clean up the mess. 

Boris Arson remains behind in the cave shooting through the door. Dick Tray, spotting the end of Arson's gun, makes a quick decision. Figuring from the position of the criminal's firearm, about where his body would be, Tracy presses the machine gun against the cave wall and pulls the trigger. Arson is shot and wounded. His body is carried out for identification, wrapped in a blanket and flown back to the city where the criminal demands his constitutional rights. "You can't cross state lines. You've got to extradite me!" he cries to deaf ears. "A murdering rat like you has no constitutional rights," Tracy tells him.

All of this takes place during the first five months of 1935, perhaps the longest story arc to date for the comic. In June, Junior's mother has had a "coffee pot-shaped" hot dog stand like the one she had in California. She is back in business and she even hires a young lady to help behind the cash register... Toby... with eyes for the cute Dick Tracy.

Toby, it turns out, has a secret. She places the races with Mrs. Steel's daily cash receipts. Toby's boyfriend, Mark Masters, makes a career betting on a sure thing and every day the two use Mrs. Steel's money to make $12 dollars into $200. Toby then deposits the $12 into the bank before Mrs. Steel learns what happened. With Toby wearing expensive clothing, Tracy and Mrs. Steele question where the new cashier gets the money but an investigation of the bank account reveals nothing. When Junior finds a ticket on a horse race, which belonged to Toby, he takes the evidence to Dick Tracy. For weeks the two crooks uses Mrs. Steel's money to bet on the horses and eventually Mark receives what he believes is the biggest tip of the year.

Intoxicated by his own success at playing the ponies, Mark, the bank teller, decides to make one final plunge -- this time on a big enough scale to make himself independently wealthy. This involves embezzling $5,000 from the bank. But when the horse doesn't pull through, Mark, desperate, turns to Bookie Joe. Joe won't help and a struggle ensues. A gun goes off and Mark shoots Bookie Joe dead. He steals $5,000 and Toby was witness to the crime. When Toby discovers Joe is still breathing, she asks a cabbie to help her transport the body to the hospital and then flees before the police can discover who she is. Joe recovers and sends one of his men to the bank to deposit a roll of quarters. The roll turns out to be a bomb and Mark is killed instantly.

Angry, Tracy leads police on Joe's gambling houses and the raids force Joe to order Tracy's sweetheart, Tess Trueheart, to be kidnapped. Driving Tess Trueheart out to the country, the criminals tie her wrists from behind and tosses her into the old fairground stables. Using telegraph wires in the loft, Tess sends an S.O.S. which alerts the police. To clear her name, Toby agrees to be the police intermediary in negotiating for Tess' safe release. The plan doesn't go in favor of the police and the criminals throw a lantern onto a pile of hay. The stables catches on fire and Tess is still trapped in the hayloft. Tracy and Pat Patton arrive on the scene to find the criminals racing out of the burning building. After knocking the men unconscious to the ground, Tracy witnesses the stables falling to the ground. The flame-weakened beams crash and splinter. But Tess survives because the wall she was leaning against fell back away from the burning structure. Bookie Joe attempts to flee the scene, running through the loft of the stables and out the other end. Pat fires and misses. Coming unexpectedly to an open place in the floor, Joe's body is hurled downward. His head meets something hanging to the rafter. Leather straps and a harness. His body comes to a sudden stop and suspended by the neck, dies in the fire.

With Bookie Joe out of the way, victim of the fire which swept the racing stables, Blake, Joe's partner, is still held in custody along with Toby. Blake opens a slot in his thick-soled shoes and removes a fountain pen gun and frames Toby for the murder of Donovan, a police officer. Toby discovers the frame is too perfect and she will remain behind bars for many years. Dick Tracy, hoping to prove her innocence, eventually finds the secret compartment in Blake's shoe, but not before it's too late. Toby was sentenced by a court of law and sent to a women's prison. Cold-grey walls that mean bitter, monotonous confinement to all who enter. Armed with papers for Toby's release, Dick Tracy in company with Pat Patton, speeds to the women's prison. A prison riot has broken out and Toby finds herself trapped and confined inside a closet with a tear gas bomb so potent that when she is saved, the doctors report a tragic diagnosis... she is blind in both eyes.

In September, Junior tries to train his dog to be a seeing eye dog. His efforts fail but as Toby tells the boy, "Misfortune has its good points, Junior. It teaches us how much sweetness and human kindness there is in this old world after all." Dick Tracy, meanwhile, receives a letter from Mayor Waite Wright of Homeville, Illinois. It seems"Cut" Famon, the famous gangster, just finished serving a three year income tax sentence at Alcoretz Prison. Famon plans to return to town. But that is only half the problem. The mayor finds himself surrounded by conniving and corruption to such an extent that his law enforcement machinery is practically paralyzed. Tracy, after explaining the scenario to Chief Brandon, secures six months leave of absence.

As the new chief of police in Homeville, Tracy enforces a new and strict police force, arresting traffic law violators, arrests a hit and run driver and investigates a secret room underneath a filling station where Cut Famon is busy preparing for a big haul. The aldermen of the town are not happy with Tracy's new law enforcement and while the new chief of police finds himself fighting politics, Cut Famon decides to eliminate Tracy by framing him with a fake promissory note on a business deal that will split the town wide open. "Bail" Gordon, a member of Famon's gang, turns out to be a G-Man named Jim Trailer and Famon alerts his mother, who races to the secret hideout with her Tommy Gun. The police are also armed and in the fashion of Ma Barker and her boys, a bloody exchange of bullets riddle the house as "Maw" Famon and her boys are cut down one by one.

With the crook situation in hand, the Famon boys and "Maw" Famon no more, the crooked aldermen who joined Famon in framing Dick Tracy now exposed and in jail, the only sour note is that "Cut" Famon is still at large. He deserted Homeville. Hiding out in an old silo with two notorious crooks, "Cut" Famon's hideout is soon discovered and Jim Trailer and Dick Tracy race out to apprehend the notorious criminal. Tracy tells Jim to hold the gangsters' attention by firing at the silo from the road while he circled around the back and throwing the throttle open, allows a truck to head down the hill directly toward the silo, smashing it wide open. Somewhere under the brick debris is "Cut" Famon... or so the boys think.

What will happen next? We'll have to wait for a review of 1936.