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Flattop Junior’s Final Act

posted on February 15, 2016

Dick Tracy 1

Chet Gould could scare the hell out of me knew how to push all of my buttons. From the beginning I was drawn to his manic drawing style and his bravura story telling. He always managed to strike a chord deep inside of me, but never better than with the Flattop Junior story arc. In Junior High I subscribed to the Dick Tracy comic book reprints that Harvey Comics put out, and at one point they reprinted the Flattop Jr. story. During that story, FJ murders a young woman named Skinny and, in a brilliant stroke, Gould has her ghost haunt her killer by clinging to his neck every waking moment. It served to take FJ’s inner torment and haul it out onto the page for everyone to see. To say I was impressed doesn’t even come close to the way that powerful work affected me.

Dick Tracy 3

At the story’s conclusion following a final desperate effort to dislodge his tormentor, FJ dives into a creek running through a farmer’s field. In the penultimate panel, we see all that remains of FJ – the expanding eddies in the water and the words “the end” written in the lower right corner. Somehow that just didn’t feel right to me. Something was wrong. Gould wouldn’t just end it like that. It just seemed as if here had to be more. And it turns out there was.

Dick Tracy 4

Flash forward fifty five a few years to Volume 17 of the beautiful IDW Dick Tracy archive that reprints that particular opus. The story ends in the summer and Gould moves on to other things. Then in November, right after Thanksgiving, in what is almost a total non sequitur, Gould has Detective Liz stumble across a cabin where FJ has been hiding with Skinny still around his neck. His formerly jet black hair is now snow white and he’s been driven manically insane by his ghostly companion. Gould then ends everything in a mad shootout in which Liz shoot FJ in the forehead, and in the final scene, FJ lies dead on the floor – finally free as a laughing Skinny rises up from his lifeless form.

I knew it! That was more like it! That’s how it was supposed to end! Dropping that in out of nowhere like he did was pure Chet Gould. The master story teller was at the top of his game, and at long last, I finally got to see Flattop Junior’s final act.