October 4, 1931 | Calling Dick Tracy!

 Dick Tracy, 1931
 

“I decided that if the police couldn`t catch the gangsters, I`d create a fellow who would.”

—Chester Gould, 1985

Chester Gould was a young cartoonist at the Chicago Tribune when he debuted Dick Tracy on October 4, 1931. Gould was living amidst the lawlessness and crime of the Great Depression when he said, "I decided that if the police couldn`t catch the gangsters, I`d create a fellow who would.” The symbol of American morality and straight-laced police work, Dick Tracy was an inspiration for years to come. Tracy’s still famous two-way wrist radio, which was introduced in 1946, has even been credited with inspiring modern smartwatches.

During his tenure, Gould was eager to imbue his creation with accuracy and authenticity. The cartoonist once said, “I work from stuff that has actually happened, to get realism into the strip. I couple this with something highly imaginative, or fantastic. When you combine realism and the fantastic, you’ve got a story every time.” Gould worked with members of the Chicago (IL) Police Department to understand their daily lives. He wanted to make Dick Tracy a fantastical, but truthful portrayal of law enforcement.

Dick Tracy’s continued appearance in American newspapers is owed, in part, to the topical stories introduced throughout the years reflecting the concerns and interests of old and new readers. Gould’s stories explored topics like juvenile delinquency, organized crime, and police corruption. Dick Tracy went to Space in the 1960s, explored Hippie culture and expressed Tracy’s frustration with the legal system. With each generation of writers and cartoonists, Tracy faces new challenges in his job and at home, but remains a stalwart police officer.