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Chester Gould's The Blank

Dick Tracy's Faceless Foe

The Blank by Chester Gould
 
The Blank by Chester Gould

Dick Tracy faced a new foe in 1937 -- a faceless gangster created by Chester Gould. The character was a criminal named Frank Redrum who was horribly disfigured in a shoot-out with police. Redrum creates a mask to hide his features and goes on a murdering spree as The Blank.

The Blank's mask was actually a flesh-colored cheesecloth that hid his features, but allowed him vision. The Blank's story ran for twelve weeks, branching off of a story about an insurance scam involving a gangster named Danny Supeena and an unwilling criminal playboy.

Arthur T. Broes, writing in the Journal of Popular Literature, describes the Blank as one of Gould's most successful villains:

The Blank is Gould's variation on the Phantom of the Opera, hiding his features, disfigured by police bullets, under a faceless mask. Unlike the Phanton, however, he directs his anger not at those who have maimed him but the members of his gang, a fastidious lot, who now reject him because of his appearance. Unable to accept this loss of group identity, the Blank methodically eliminates his former associates, two of them as they are about to kill Junior. Another he dumps from his speeding car, a note attached, in front of Tracy's stationhouse, recalling a similar scene in Scarface. He makes repeated attempts on the detective's life when he seeks to frustrate him in his desire for vengeance. Following his capture, Redrum points to what he claims is the fated nature of his actions, since his name is "murder spelled backwards" (Gould remained fond of these somewhat jejune spellings throughout his long career, his use of htem reaching its height in the late thirties and early forties). Despite the weak premise on which this episode is based, Gould succeeded in endowing the Blank with a real sense of menace during his twelve-week appearance, creating in him clearly the most effective villain of the decade.

The Blank also made an appearance in the 1990 Warren Beatty film Dick Tracy, though this time, it was Madonna's Breathless Mahoney hiding underneath the featureless mask.

Gallery

Sources

Broes, Arthur T. "Dick Tracy: The Early Years." Journal of Popular Culture, Spring 1992, Vol. 25 Issue 4, p97-122.