The big storyline in Dick Tracy was set off by “Time Drones”. That is, the kind of hovering aerial camera/microphones used to record viral videos of drivers attempting the new traffic circle. The Time Factory blew up, though we saw many drones hovering over the ruins. And Smith asks if Tracy remembers “what my first time travel drone, the ‘mystery ship’, saw”. Tracy does, and Smith says, “I think that future is now”. Tracy’s memory is better than mine, or those of most readers. jonahhex1, a GoComics commenter, identified what all this was about. The fleet of drones was not from our, 2021’s, future. By “The Future” what was referenced was this moment from 2014, the story introducing the time travel shenanigans into our strip:
These drones, then, are not a fleet of onlookers from the future gawking at a major disaster. They’re just contemporary drones gawking at a major disaster. Diet Smith has said he doesn’t plan to build new Time Drones, and nobody’s been shown trying to change his mind.
This should catch you up to December 2021 in Mike Curtis, Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. (Joe Staton stepped down from the strip in late October.) If you’re reading this after about March 2022, or any news about the comic strip breaks, I should have a more useful essay for you here.
And a last bit of self-promotion. While I’ve put my mathematics glossary project on a (brief, I hope) hiatus, I do still have what I think are quite nice discussions up there. And I’m bringing some older discussions out of the misty past, using the old-fashioned time-droning of going on at length. Thanks for considering my pop mathematics writing.
3 October – 25 December 2021.
Diet Smith’s newest super-invention is the Time Drone, able to bring aerial surveillance to anyone, anytime, through all history. I know, you’re busy thinking how “the past” includes split-seconds in the past. But I ask you to consider how much this could mess up Silver and Sprocket Nitrate’s forged-historical-movies business. By day it offers glorious opportunities to historical and archeological researchers. By night it offers Sterling Eliot, Smith Industries mole on behalf of The Apparatus, the chance to find lost loot for the crime syndicate. And, for himself, a chance to look at this coming week’s lottery numbers. At least until the Time Drone apparatus explodes, killing Eliot and two others, and wounding Diet Smith.
Diet Smith convalesces under the care of Daddy Warbucks, a man who knows how to not get in trouble when people around him turn up dead. (Fun fact: both Oliver Warbucks’s first and second wives died while with him at sea.) Tracy, meanwhile, pursues Briar Rose. She was the Law Enforcement Magazine reporter who’d interviewed him the previous month, and was going on to interview Diet Smith. She was a fraud, not affiliated with Law Enforcement Magazine or any other magazine. It’s a slender lead, but the only one they have.
It’s also a good one, as she is under The Apparatus’s protection, whether she likes it or not. She has some criminal “business” going on, that I can’t quite get clear. But The Apparatus is the bigger fish, so if they say she has to work from their hotel room, she has to work from their hotel room. Ace of Spades, the head of The Apparatus, decides she’s a good one to take the blame for whatever the heck happened at Smith Industries. He has her put somewhere Dick Tracy can find her after her shocking death.
Sam Catchem finds her, though, as she’s being moved in. It’s a lucky break; he happened to stop at the deli underneath the death-site apartment. He follows, catching and shooting the zentai-clad assassin holding Briar Rose. Rose is happy to flip, and I can’t blame her.
Dick Tracy moves fast, taking on the disguise of the Jack of Spades, Rose’s failed assassin. So he’s doing some actual super-detective work here. Mumbles takes him back to the Ace of Spades, who wants to know, where is Rose’s body? If Rose is dead, why was “Jack” unconscious when Mumbles recovered him? What about this makes any sense? And as it’s weeks away from my plot recap, they tear his hood off and reveal Dick Tracy. Meanwhile the cops, who’ve been listening over the two-way wrist radio, move in and grab everyone with a weird face or speech gimmick. Ace of Spades as well as Doubleup are able to escape through the plot tunnels, but otherwise it’s a pretty good catch of villains.
The next phase started the 11th of December. This with a museum exhibit on America’s Top Cop. That would be Dick Tracy, who’s been fighting The Apparatus (under various names) for 90 years now without clearing them out of the city. But then The Apparatus (under various names) has been trying for 90 years to kill Dick Tracy and that hasn’t taken. So Ace of Spades, from his new hiding place, hires Richard “Mr Bones” Bonhomme to take a shot at him. No rush, just, you know, succeed this time.
Mr Bones’s thoughts turn to Blackjack. You may know him as that guy who played Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumpin” (“I got knocked down/ but I get up again”) while robbing banks and being a Dick Tracy superfan. Blackjack’s storage lock of Dick Tracy memorabilia got stolen recently, and Blackjack broke out of jail to find it. Mr Bones — “From the DT Collector Forum” — hangs out at the exhibit until Blackjack appears, and admits: he’s the one who stole Blackjack’s collection. But he’s happy to return it … we don’t yet know what for.
Yes, it does seem like Mr Bones stole Blackjack’s collection before being hired to kill Dick Tracy. I don’t know whether this is because Mr Bones was hired long before we first saw mention of it. He did say he suspected Dick Tracy might be the target, but I don’t know when he got the idea The Apparatus wanted him to kill someone. It’s also possible (as I write this) that Mr Bones is bluffing about the stolen collection, to manipulate Blackjack.
Also I appreciate that the in-universe Dick Tracy Collectors have a Forum. I hope this means their main social group is on a charmingly semi-maintained phpBB forum rather than being a Facebonk or Reddit or Discord something bad like that.
Meanwhile, Patty Cure, a woman who’d been letting The Apparatus use her doorstep as a package drop, turned herself in. The Apparatus came to her looking for someone with “management experience to run an escort service”. And they didn’t stop pressuring her after the big raids. Lizz Worthington goes under cover as Cure, to learn what The Apparatus does want her to do. And that’s where we stand on the brink of the future.
Is that Halloween party still going on? Why aren’t we seeing more Santa Claus? I look in on Old Time Radio’s own Jim Scancarelli, and Gasoline Alley, to ring in 2022, I hope. See you then.