I see IDW is up to Vol. 14 in their hardback collection of Dick Tracy strips. The book came out this month, and I wish I could afford them all. The only Dick Tracy comics I own are the five issues of collected material published by Gladstone to coincide with the Warren Beatty movie and the tie-in mini-series to that film, drawn by Kyle Baker (and which also established me as a huge Baker fan). Other than that, I have a Dick Tracy history book (Dick Tracy: The Official Biography) that I snagged from an discount overstock book store on a family vacation when I was fifteen. I'm hardly an expert.
I didn't grow up with Tracy in my newspaper (we were a Houston Chronicle family), so it was really build-up to the 1990 movie that got me interested in the character. I actually liked the movie less than I probably would have when it was released because I'd primed myself for a completely different version of Tracy. I wanted to see the ruthless cop from the strips, up against horrifyingly grotesque psychos. Instead, I got a Steven Sondheim musical.
January has been a Dick Tracy month through sheer serendipity. First, I was sent a comp of the Tracy book for review, then the Alamo Drafthouse hosted a screening of the film, then Tracy made the national news by including a character in the strip based directly on George Takei. I'm not sure why everything's coming up Dick Tracy, but I like it.
It makes me consider Tracy's influence on other comics I love - Frank Miller's Sin City and Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon. Sin City is what the natural progression of Tracy's world would be without its square-jawed savior - a perverse collection of bizarre "only in the comics" grotesques committing unspeakable crimes. Sin City isn't without its own versions of a moral center, but the bad guys, like the Yellow Bastard, Manute, or Fat Man and Little Boy, are straight out of Chester Gould's wheelhouse.
Savage Dragon started with its title character as a square-jawed Chicago cop, wearing its Dick Tracy influence in a more obvious fashion. For the first few years of the book, the super-heroic cop put away a variety of Gould-esque villains like Skullface, Openface, and Cyberface (all unrelated to each other, btw). Larsen even kills his baddies on occasion in the same over-the-top manner that Gould would do away with his goons - very old school "crime doesn't pay" consequences for a comic book started in the early 90s.
Reading the strips in Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy Vol. 14, I'm reminded of the charm of Gould's work. The comic strips could vary day to day, from gentle cornpone humor on a Monday to cruelty and torture by Friday. Dick Tracy himself was a more elastic hero than most people suspect, able to accommodate almost any story (though my fandom for Gould's work cuts off right around the time Tracy starts interacting with moon men in the 60's). I'd like to see the character get dusted off and revitalized, but there's more than enough old stuff to keep me busy for now.