on this U.S. postage stamp, Dick Tracy, wearing a black suit and yellow hat, checks his two-way wrist TV

Dick TracyChester Gould

Tracy the untouchable

Based on Eliot Ness, who led the group of agents at the U.S. Bureau of Prohibition known as the Untouchables, Dick Tracy proved fearless and incorruptible, efficient at capturing criminals, and relatively immune to bullets.

Two-way wrist radio

Invented by Brilliant and financed by Diet Smith, the iconic two-way wrist radio helps Tracy and other men on the force put the squeeze on the bad guys, and it has its own back story.


Dick Tracy is a dick, that is, a plainclothes detective. Many of Tracy’s enemies have humorous names that reflect physical or psychological traits such as Breathless Mahoney, B. O. Plenty, Mumbles, B. B. and B. D. Eyes, Flattop Jones, Pruneface, and Shaky Trembly. Some names remind us of real people, such as Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice (Al Capone) and Texie Garcia (nightclub singer Texas Guinan). And some refer to their M.O.: Alec Penn (penman is a forger), Danny Supeena (a crooked lawyer), Chameleon (a master of disguise), and Jules Sparkle (a jeweler).

Action and reactions

Violent, grotesque, and full of pathos with exaggerated virtues and evils, it’s just a comic strip, folks, but when fans saw Tracy living ostentatiously on the salary of a policeman it was hard to convince them no corruption was involved.