I have to admit, I know next to nothing about Chester Gould or his comic strip creation Dick Tracy. Most of what I do know comes from reading a collection my dad had when I was a little kid. And, of course, that wretched, almost unwatchable movie directed by Warren Beatty. But judged fairly, in his own time, Gould both pushed the limits of his art form and gave birth to one of the great icons of comics history.
This biography, based upon interviews conducted just prior to Gould’s death and lovingly written by his daughter and creator of the official Dick Tracy Museum, present the highlights of Gould’s personal and professional life. The book traces all the steps Gould made, tracking his humble beginnings in the rural town of Pawnee, Oklahoma to his early cartoons for college bulletin boards and all the way up to his most prestigious successes and awards.
Early in his career Gould worked hard in contract positions for a number of different papers, working fill-in jobs, political cartoons and even theatre reviews in comic strip form. But Gould’s dream was to write and draw his own strip for the Chicago Tribune. The editors of the Tribune paid him little attention until Gould came to them with the fresh idea of a comic strip illustrating the increasing battles between police and organized crime. This was the 1930’s when this was the sexy topic of the day, a topic that made headlines and launched a style of films that still lingers today. Through serious research, colorful characters and a keen sense of drama the fledgling strip grew into a mainstay of comics that at its height was carried by hundreds of newspapers across the world.
This bio includes dozens of photographs of Gould throughout his life, but the real gems of this book are the black and white reproductions of his artwork. From his childhood drawings to drafts of Dick Tracy strips we witness the evolution of Gould’s art as he continually improved his craft at drawing and storytelling. Serious readers will be disappointed that Gould-O’Connell misses several opportunities for real critical thought. But I don’t think that was her intent. This book was written for fans, and fans will find her unique insider view carries us to a delightful, albeit somewhat light, portrait of a man who succeeded through that rare combination of talent, innovation and hard work.