What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? What was in Pouch’s blue balloon? January – April 2021


The blue balloon was something with a secret message that The Pouch was trying to send to an unknown party. We haven’t learned what the message was. Nor who was to receive it. Nor why they shot Pouch over a couple-day delay of it? For this story, at least, it’s a MacGuffin. I expect that it’ll come back later. Staton and Curtis have enjoyed planting things for use months or years later. (But, they have yet to follow up on whatever was haunting the Plenty household years ago, too.)

That what we do see of the message is a binary sequence suggests it could involve “Matty Squared”. This is a digitally uploaded former henchman of Mister Bribery. He was last seen in 2018, heading for “the server farms down south”, after the arrest of Mister Bribery’s gang. But that’s a guess.

So this post should catch you up to mid-April 2021 on Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about July 2021, or if there’s news about Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy there should be a more useful post here. Thanks for reading.

Dick Tracy.

24 January – 17 April 2021.

Aquarius and his drug-dealers in the 1312 Bedwell commune had captured Tiger Lilly. Lilly was there to retrieve a stolen blue balloon for information broker The Pouch. Aquarius, meanwhile, wanted to harass The Pouch for chasing away his dealers such as “Dollar” Bill Dolan. (Pouch’s cover is selling balloons at the zoo, and wants disreputable crime like drug dealing kept away from his scene.) The Pouch had, in fact, told Tiger Lilly to take care of Dollar Bill. Lilly did this by killing Dollar Bill and disposing of his body in the woods. I’m not sure if Aquarius knew or suspected that, though. But that’s where we were in January.

Organic farmer Tim Wildman, evicted from the Bedwell Commune a year ago, gives backstory. The Commune’s organizer, and mansion owner, is Peggy Bellum, paraplegic since a car accident three years ago. Her nephew Aquarius was doted on until the accident, which “changed” him, though he still tends his aunt. But the changes brought drug use, and dealing, into the Commune. Meanwhile, Peggy Bellum’s brother Stephan — handling her money — wants to sell the mansion for “development”, which she can’t refuse hard enough. Stephan tells that Aquarius is drug-dealing, a revelation that convinces Peggy her brother is lying to scare her into selling out. So that’s the people with money or property think about all this.

Dick Tracy: 'Wildman's statement seemed on the level to me. If what he says is true about Ms Bellum, it might be a case of disability abuse. Indeed, I think that's grounds for another visit to 1312 Bedwell.' Sam Catchem: 'Right! I'll get us some help. Catch you later, Tracy.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 5th of February, 2021. One weakness to the story is that it’s unclear what’s not suitable for Peggy Bellum here. I suppose that there’s drug users on the property but it’s not obvious to me that implies Bellum’s being ill-treated. But this may reflect a department, or character, assumption that any sign of drug use is proof of abuse.

Where did we get from there? Well, a bunch of parties pursued their own Brilliant Schemes at once. This all makes sense, but it did make the day-to-day action harder to follow.

First party: Tiger Lilly. The Bedford Commune drug dealers caught him and tossed him into the root cellar out back. Not the basement and I’ll explain why that matters. He’s able to break the ropes tying him down. And to break through a ceiling vent (the door is too solid), in front of the cops. I’ll explain why cops are there, too. He doesn’t know that Dick Tracy Jr’s trail cameras spotted his dumping of Dollar Bill’s body. Still, you see why he’d figure he should run. But has the bad luck to try carjacking the truck that B O and Gertie Plenty are canoodling in. So he’s arrested for involuntary manslaughter.

Dick Tracy: 'Say again, Gertie?' Gertie: 'We were sittin' in our truck on date night when that Tiger Lilly came out of nowhere! And then!' --- in loosely stylized panels B O kicks Tiger Lilly, grabs a tree branch, and whacks Lilly unconscious. B O Plenty: 'Yep, that's how I done it, Mr Macy!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 18th of March, 2021. Have to feel for Tiger Lilly, getting beat up in a stylized flashback like that.

Second party: Pouch. He wants that blue balloon back. He breaks into the basement — not the root cellar — planting a device to release mercaptan. The residents figure it’s a gas leak, and all evacuate. Cheesecake, Aquarius’s girlfriend or possibly wife, takes Peggy Bellum to a hotel to wait the trouble out. Pouch breaks in, finds the balloon, and has to hide while Dick Tracy’s gang searches the place. I’ll explain why they’re there later. But he succeeds, and turns the blue balloon over to his contact. His contact shoots him. This seems like an overreaction even to being days late on the delivery. But we don’t know what the message — seen in black light to be a string of binary digits — was about.

Park cops, driving around: 'Slow night and no sign of Pouch all afternoon.' 'It figures.' We see Pouch handing the Blue Balloon over to his contact. The contact shoots him. Park cops: 'One more tour around the park and we're done.' They spot the unconscious Pouch.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 21st of March, 2021. The contact here also took Pouch’s money. He supposed it was further punishment for the delay getting the balloon delivered. I wonder if the contact didn’t just want it to look like a mugging. I suppose it depends whether the contact rifled Pouch’s wallet, a hard-cased thing that deflected the bullet.

Lucky for Pouch, his titanium wallet deflected the bullet, and park cops noticed and rushed him to the hospital. He won’t say anything about who shot him or why. Less lucky for him, he passes Tiger Lilly on the way out of the hospital. Lilly, reasonably but wrongly thinking Pouch left him for dead, slugs him. (Remember, Pouch couldn’t have seen Lilly, and had assumed Lilly had ditched him.)

Third party: Dick Tracy. He’s got the corpse of Bill Dolan. He and Sam Catchem suspect a link with 1312 Bedwell, since look at those numbers. But the only tie they can find is Tim Wildman. He’s an organic farmer who gave Catchem the tip that the Bedwell Commune was even in this story. He’s glad to give them backstory about the Commune and his eviction from it. Tracy figures there’s at least enough to do a wellness check, in case there’s any abuse of a disabled person going on. And a stray witness is able to tell Tracy and Catchem that Pouch is in this story too, so they hope to interrogate him.

Tracy arrives at 1312 Bedwell with the representative from Child and Family Services. In case you wonder why marginalized people will refuse the civil benefits to which they’re entitled for their protection. They all get there as Tiger Lilly escapes the root cellar. Also, by coincidence, shortly after Pouch sets off his mercaptan bomb.

Family and Child Services investigator: 'From what I've seen today, if Peggy Bellum is living here, she shouldn't be.' Pouch, hiding in a dumbwaiter, thinking: 'Lousy cops! LEAVE already! I'm dyin' here!' Investigator: 'The DFCS will be in touch. I'll go make my report.' Dick Tracy: 'Alright. Thanks, Ms Han.' In the root cellar, Tiger Lilly jabs at the ceiling and thinks: 'That door was rock solid, but this old vent was easy to break through!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of March, 2021. Oh, using the dumbwaiter. OK, great plan but letting everyone else on the expansion set to Betrayal at the House on the Hill know; the dumbwaiters connect you to the next landing one floor up or down. They don’t connect to other dumbwaiter rooms. I know, it’s not what we expected either and we kept making that mistake.

So. Pouch is able to hide from the cops, and gets to his appointment to be shot. Tiger Lilly escapes his confinement, only to get clobbered by B O and Gertie Plenty and arrested. Ty, the drug dealer who took up Dollar Bill’s beat, comes back to the house in time to get arrested. And while they’ll get to interrogate Pouch in the hospital, he won’t say anything about anything.

Fourth party: Oscar Grubbard. I know, who? I’m not positive, but he seems to be working for Peggy Bellum’s brother Stephan. But after Stephan tells Peggy about Aquarius’s drug-dealing she fires him. This as he’s bringing tea to her. My best guess is he’s meant to be Stephan’s caretaker for Peggy?

Anyway, with Peggy declaring she’ll revoke the power of attorney given Stephan, Grubbard acts. This in drugging Peggy Bellum (and incidentally Cheesecake). His brilliant plan: smother Peggy Bellum, let Stephan inherit all the money, and then abscond with the money to Bogota. It feels like an improvised execution. Aquarius’s unexpected visit to his aunt foils it, starting a fight that Tracy and company are luckily on hand to interrupt.

Oscar Grubbard, holding a pillow over Peggy Bellum: 'I had a more leisurely exit planned, but you forced my hand, with your threats of investigation, old hag. In time, Mr Bellum will see it was for the best. In a few minutes, he'll have the family fortune. His drug-dealing son will be in jail within the week, and I'll be in Bogota.' [ Elsewhere ] Aquarius rides the elevator up to Peggy Bellum's room.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 3rd of April, 2021. I guess Grubbard doesn’t quite say he’s going to make off with the Bellum fortune, but it would be odd for him to kill Peggy Bellum and flee to Bogota without it. But Grubbard here is an embezzler, so maybe he’s overestimating his skills at opportunistic murder.

So this gets things resolved as well as they could. Tiger Lilly’s arrested for manslaughter. The cops would like to ask Pouch about his “I am innocent of the crimes you are investigating” T-shirt but he refers them to his T-shirt. Oscar Grubbard’s arrested for assault and attempted murder. Most of the 1312 Bedwell residents get charged with drug possession or trafficking. Aquarius also gets a false imprisonment charge. The strip doesn’t specify if this means imprisoning Tiger Lilly or imprisoning Peggy Bellum. Peggy Bellum donates the house “to charity”, and moves in with Tim Wildman.

I’m sympathetic to people who didn’t follow the story as it unfolded. There are a lot of threads, and they were woven together. And the plans of some parties interrupted plans of others. If you have a GoComics membership I recommend going back and rereading it all at once, though. The pieces do fit together well. It’s easy to imagine this as a competing-capers-gone-wrong movie.


So the 11th of April finished off that story. The current story began last week, the 12th of April. Abner Kadaver, back from the dead, breaks his accomplice Vera Alldid out of jail. That’s as much as I can tell you now.

Next Week!

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley did nothing for the centennial of Walt Wallet discovering Skeezix! Has the strip recovered from this strange anti-nostalgic blow? If all goes well next week we’ll see what the Wallet family has been doing.

Today’s Reason For Not Doing Anything Useful


I’m sorry, Uncle Albert, but I’ve been stuck thinking about something I witnessed when I was getting my car registration renewal and license plate tags at the Secretary of State office nearby. I avoided any embarrassing presumptions about what one might or might not do at a Secretary of State office. What’s interesting is as I was leaving, a woman came storming out, telling her companion, “My license is suspended — indefinitely!” And he then made this into my favorite genre of accidentally overheard conversation, People Telling Other People They Totally Have To Get A Lawyer. “They can’t do that to you. You should get a lawyer.”

“I haven’t even been in trouble,” she went on to explain, “not since I got those three tickets in one day.” And he agreed that this was outrageous and he bet any lawyer would love to take the case, since this could get a million-dollar settlement. “I’m not even dealing anymore!” And that’s when I realized that I was one of the background characters in the establishing scene of a comedy about a couple people who are about 75 percent capable of handling the caper they’re about to undertake.

So I want to know what the plot is, and whether the movie turns out to be any good. I think I’d make a great background character in this sort of story, what with how I have nice expressive eyebrows and always look like I don’t know why I was brought in to this meeting.