Hickey was a cartoonist during WWII for the US Army newspaper Stars and Stripes. After the war, he resumed his comic art career as a freelancer. The Dick Tracy comic book included a one-page feature called “Girl Friday,” drawn by Hickey, showcasing the adventures of Tracy’s assistant solving some minute-mysteries.
I wanted this page because I thought it contained direct evidence of the censoring done soon after the introduction of the Comics Code Authority (CCA) in 1954.
First, a little background. The code was created to allow comic publishers to self-regulate content in lieu of government regulations. Congressional hearings had demonized adult-themed, war and horror comics as contributing to juvenile delinquency (think of the modern-day vilification of video games), not to mention the normalization of skeevy same-sex relationships (Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson being the most popular scapegoats). Visions of 2019: The more things change….
Comic pages were submitted to the CCA for scrutiny, needed edits, and finally the stamp of approval. Comics that were approved prominently displayed the CCA “stamp” on their covers once the issue was in compliance. Stan Lee famously thumbed his nose at the CCA in 1971 with the publication of a cautionary drug-abuse story involving Spider-Man (#96-98), which appeared without the CCA logo. In 2001, Marvel withdrew from the CCA. The last two publishers abandoned it in 2011.
In the original art on this page, I have always suspected evidence of CCA intervention. In this case, there are four changes that were made (by inspecting the penciled in margin notes and the white out): (1) panel 2: a “Bang!” sound effect of the gun is replaced by an exclamation point; (2) panel 3: the body is gone, completely, although its feet reappear in panel 4; (3) panel 6: too much accentuation of the left breast; (4) panel 7: too much leg showing with a slit skirt.
Dick Tracy #89 p 29 (July, 1955)
by Tom Hickey (1910-1984)
13 x 20 in., ink on board
Admittedly, this is speculation, but when I was looking up the background of this page for this post, I just found out that the appearance of this episode in the code-approved issue #89 (July 1955) is actually a reprint of the page, and it originally ran in issue #61 (March 1953).
What geeks me out is that March 1953 is pre-code, so I predict that all four of these speculative changes are present, in their original form, in the published 1953 issue, and the changes that were made were done in 1955.
Yes, indeed: I immediately raced to eBay and ordered me some copies of Dick Tracy #61 and #89.