As the modern comic book industry attempts to stay alive through gimmicks, cross overs, summer events and reboots, possibly the greatest comic book story is being told in the newspapers and on-line. Forget Age of Ultron and Trinity War. Mike Curtis and Joe Staton have brought back Mysta the Moon Maid to Dick Tracy! In a story filled with nostalgia, mystery and high emotion, the current Dick Tracy storyline is thrilling its niche audience daily in only three panels (more on Sunday) at a time and the best thing is, it’s free to read on-line!
Times have been tough for the classic newspaper comic strips from the past. With staples such as, Little Orphan Annie and Brenda Starr coming to an end in the last decade, it takes the loving touch of the creative team paired with the passionate commitment of the daily audience to keep a comic strip going. In its eighty plus year history, Dick Tracy has seen its share of highs and lows, but the team of Curtis and Staton have ushered the strip into a new golden age. Long-time fans of the original strip, Curtis and Staton understand what some of the major comic book companies do not. You don’t need to reboot a property to make it good. You just need to be true to your characters, write exciting stories, and give the audience something they recognize and love. Bringing favourite characters from other comic strips, reintroducing old characters dating as far back as the classic days of Chester Gould, and even bringing real life celebrities into the plot has been some of the story devices that have caught long time Dick Tracy readers’ attention, but nothing has prompted more discussion than the return of The Moon Maid.
For those who may not be familiar with The Moon Maid, let’s bring you up to speed with a quick history lesson. Always creating new devices and gadgets for Dick Tracy to use in his war on crime, creator Chester Gould decided to introduce science fiction elements to the comic strip in 1964. As a result, long before man had stepped on the moon, Dick Tracy and his adopted son Junior, joined by friends Sam Catchem and Diet Smith, journeyed to the moon via Diet Smith’s magnet powered Space Coupe. Once there they encountered the mysterious moon people, including the beautiful and exotic Moon Maid. Acting as a liaison between her people and our heroes, Moon Maid eventually fell in love with and married Junior, much to her father’s disapproval. Relocating to Earth, Junior and Moon Maid eventually had a daughter, named Honeymoon, and were to live happily ever after. When Apollo 11 finally landed on the moon in 1969 Chester Gould wisely stopped the moon people stories, but the Moon Maid was now a permanent fixture in the strip. Loved by some, but loathed by many, the Dick Tracy moon stories have always been a controversial era of Dick Tracy history. As a result, when writer Max Allen Collins took over the strip from Chester Gould in 1978, one of the first things on his agenda was to kill off the Moon Maid. Borrowing a sequence form the classic film noire, The Big Heat, Moon Maid perished in a car bomb meant for Tracy in one of the most powerful and memorable sequences in the comic strip’s long history. Life would go on for Tracy and friends, and Junior would eventually marry popular Dick Tracy character Sparkle Plenty, and the two would have a daughter of their own, Jewel, who they raised as a sister to Honeymoon.
The story continued in this direction until August 1, 2012 when Curtis and Staton teased readers with the silhouette of a vigilante that oddly resembled the Moon Maid. For a year they taunted and built up to their current epic which began on April 26th when shady scientists, Dr. Zy Ghote and Dr. S. Tim Sail were introduced as the keepers of Mysta. Answers that are yet to be revealed are exactly who, or what, is the Moon Maid and what emotional impact will her return have on Junior Tracy and his family? Is she a clone? Is she an imposter? Is she the real deal? Whatever the case, The Moon Maid wants to return to the moon, but it doesn’t seem like she plans to leave without her former family. From assaulting Sparkle outside a radio station to an emotional reunion between Mysta and Honeymoon, Curtis and Staton have weaved a mysterious and emotional story which is sure to bring shock and tears to readers in the weeks to come.
In his lifetime Mike Curtis has done a little bit of everything. Deputy Sheriff, movie theater manager, TV horror host and comic book publisher, Curtis has also become known as one of the world’s foremost authorities on Superman and is credited with accumulating one of the largest Superman collections in the world. Entering the world of comics in the 1980’s, Curtis began his career writing Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost for Harvey Comics before penning his own series, long time cult favorite Shanda the Panda. In 2011, as part of Dick Tracy’s 80th anniversary, Curtis teamed up with Staton to do their own take on Dick Tracy for an internet project which was noticed by Tribune Media Services. With the upcoming retirement of long time Dick Tracy writer and artist Dick Locher, the pair was invited to be the new full time writers of the fabled detective in yellow. I was excited to talk to Mike Curtis about a niche franchise that I have loved for half of my life, as well as what has possibly become my favourite comic being published today. But as Curtis reveals, the return of The Moon Maid is just the beginning. Curtis, Stanton and Team Tracy are heating things up to create another pair of Dick Tracy epics that will not only change the history of the strip, but potentially the newspaper comic pages as a whole, forever.