Dick Tracy is a long-running comic strip featuring a popular and familiar character in American pop culture, Dick Tracy, a hard-hitting, fast-shooting and intelligent police detective. Created by Chester Gould, the strip made its debut on October 4, 1931, in the Detroit Mirror. It was distributed by the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate. Gould wrote and drew the strip until 1977.
Chester Gould introduced a raw violence to comic strips, reflecting the violence of 1930s Chicago. Gould did his best to keep up with the latest in crime fighting techniques; while Tracy often ends a case in a shootout, he uses forensic science, advanced gadgetry and wits to track the bad guy down. It has been suggested that this comic strip was the first example of the police procedural mystery story. Others have noted that actual "whodunit" plots were relatively rare in the stories since the comic strip format is not suited for that kind of plot. The real focus, they argue, is the chase, with a criminal seen committing the crime and Dick Tracy solving the case during a relentless pursuit of the criminal, who becomes increasingly desperate as the detective closes in.
The strip's villains are arguably the strongest appeal of the story. Tracy's world is decidedly black and white. where the bad guys are sometimes so evil that their very flesh is deformed to announce their sins to the world. The evil sometimes is raw and coarse, like the criminally insane Selbert Depool ("looped" spelled backwards—typical Gould). At other times, it is suave, like the arrogant Shoulders, who cannot help thinking that all women like him. It can even border on genius, like the Nazi spy Pruneface, a machine design engineer who dabbles with a chemical nerve gas.