Dick Tracy – The ‘Unprinted’ Stories #2 (Blackthorne Publishing, November, 1987).

This issue’s reprinted newspaper serial episodes begin excitedly mid-story as a man and a woman out hunting in a country field near a railroad trestle discover a dead body. The deceased person was an unfortunate old hobo who had identified his fellow freight car hopper as fugitive criminal Joe Period after reading about him in a newspaper article. Evidently, Joe pushed the old man to his death as the train went over a bridge in order to prevent the hobo from blabbing to the authorities. Meanwhile, police officers are searching at a railroad yard for Joe. In due course, they identify the freight car he hid inside but cannot work out where he went after the engine arrived at the freight yard.

In fact, Joe is hiding, ‘knee deep in brine’, inside one of a row of pickle vats that are parked at the yard and which have recently been emptied. With one arm in a sling he is unable to climb out of the vat, even after the police officers have departed.

Summoned by Dick Tracy, policewoman Lizz arrives at the freight yards. (Unfortunately, her fellow officers have forgotten to meet her.) Lizz bumps into two children who have heard someone yelling from inside a pickle vat. When Lizz looks into the vat and sees Joe Period, the end of her scarf comes within the criminal’s reach and he pulls her down into the brine. Joe tries to grab Lizz’s gun from her shoulder-bag but she repeatedly throws him, using judo moves, until he gives up the attempt.  Lizz then calls to the two children, telling them to fetch a policeman. However, another – rather distinctive-looking – youngster orders the kids to scram. This young man is none other than Flattop, Jr., the son of deceased criminal Flattop. Flattop, Jr. reaches into the vat, offering to pull Lizz out, but instead he snatches her bag and takes the police revolver from inside it. Keeping Lizz at bay with the gun, Flattop, Jr. helps Joe Period climb out of the vat.

Using a jack, Flattop, Jr. moves the car on which the pickle vats are standing until the vat containing poor Lizz is beneath a water tank. Flattop, Jr. then turns on the water so that the vat begins to fill. The two crooks depart, leaving Lizz to drown. And we’re only on page 12!

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Policewoman Lizz dunks Joe Period.

 

 

As these reprints are re-sized, panels on one page can be smaller than those on the next. This is a little distracting, but the reproduction is fairly sharp and once you settle in to reading the thing, you get used to the re-sizing. Another consequence of this re-jigging is that excerpts from Dick Tracy’s ‘Crimestoppers Textbook’ appear at the top of some pages to fill a gap. Many of these notes are quite mundane but they create a nice period feel. The one at the top of page 3, for example, tells Truck Drivers: ‘Do not leave your truck motor running to ‘keep the cab warm’ while getting that cup of ‘Java’. Cartage thieves are constantly on the lookout.’

 

Bibliographical note –

This Blackthorne series features ‘unprinted’ stories in that it continues from where an earlier Harvey Comics reprint series had left off. At the time the present issue appeared, about 20 years of Chester Gould’s work had never appeared in comic book format. The stories in #2, editor Shel Dorf acknowledges, had been printed in comic book form but only in censored versions. The Blackthorne series presents these stories ‘complete and uncut’.

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