Dick Tracy by Dick Locher

Dick Locher was an American cartoonist, best-known for his editorial cartoons for the Chicago Tribune, and for his long association with Chester Gould's 'Dick Tracy' (1983-2011) newspaper comic. He did his political work simultaneously with his comic strip work for almost thirty years, drawing an editorial cartoon in the morning, and then a 'Dick Tracy' strip in the afternoon, both in completely different styles. 

He was born as Richard Earl Locher in Dubuque, Iowa. He got his artistic education from the University of Iowa, the Art Center of Los Angeles and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He assisted Rick Yager on the daily strips of the space opera newspaper comic 'Buck Rogers' for the John F. Dille Company in 1954-1955. He left Yager to enlist as a test pilot in the Air Force, and was on active duty for two years. During this period he also worked as a freelancer for the military magazine Stars & Stripes. Locher then spent another 18 years in the Air Force Reserve. While in Chicago, he worked for Chester Gould as an assistant on the hardboiled crime strip 'Dick Tracy' (1957-61) for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, mainly as a character inker and Sunday page colorist. An aeronautics enthusiast, Locher suggested the ending of the 1958 storyline involving the villain Miss Egghead and the Granite Island death-trap, in which law enforcement officials (in this case Tracy) were dropped on an inhospitable deserted island near Cuba.

comic art by Dick Locher
Political cartoon depicting U.S. President Ronald Reagan's failed attempt to continue diplomatic ties with Central America in the mid-1980s, referencing the U.S. military support of the Contra rebels in overthrowing the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua in 1984.

Dick Locher moved on the head an the Novamark art studio in Oak Brook, through which he did advertising work. Notable work were character designs for the McDonald's fastfood chain, and among his other clients were Standard Oil, Allis Chalmers and Cessna Aircraft. Through a recommendation by Gould, Locher established his reputation as one of the nation's leading editorial cartoonists at the Chicago Tribune after the retirement of cartoonist Joe Parrish in 1973. He eventually sold his commercial art studio to his partner and remained with the Tribune until his retirement on 1 May 2013. During his 40-years career with the paper, he has produced over 10,000 drawings. His cartoons have additionally appeared in magazines like Life, Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Hugh Hefner's Playboy and hundreds of newspapers around the world. Dick Locher's ability to capture the absurdities of life through political cartooning is known worldwide. He managed to cover the hard and often angry tone of his messages in elegant, funny and highly detailed artwork. His impact as a cartoonist and commentator on American life is seen in the numerous awards he has received, including the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, which he won with work that weighed in on President Ronald Reagan, home computers and the Middle East.


1987 political cartoon depicting U.S. President Reagan and U.S. Democratic Party politician Ted Kennedy. 

Dick Locher returned to the grotesque world of 'Dick Tracy' after the death of Gould's successor Rick Fletcher in 1983. His first strip appeared in the newspapers on 9 May 1983. The artist worked on new storylines with Gould's plainclothes investigator for nearly three decades. Influences from Locher's editorial work appeared in the 1987 storyline with the criminal Putty Puss, who could assume the appearance of famous people. Locher worked with the writers Max Allan Collins (1983-1993) and Tribune staff writer Mike Kilian (1993-2005) before assuming writing duties himself in 2005. Art assistance was provided by the artist's son John Locher from 1983 until his death at age 25 in 1986. Dick Locher subsequently started drawing Junior Tracy as resembling John as a tribute. The Locher family also established the John Locher Memorial Award in support of college cartoonists. Ray Shlemon assisted Dick Locher on 'Dick Tracy' throughout the rest of the 1980s. Jim Brozman took over the artwork on 16 March 2009, while Dick Locher continued to write the strip until 13 March 2011. The 'Dick Tracy' comic was then continued by writer Mike Curtis and artist Joe Staton.


Marriage problems for Tracy and Tess Trueheart in 1994

All in all, Dick Locher is the artist with the longest involvement in the 'Dick Tracy' comic after its creator Chester Gould. He is generally praised for his consistency and dedication, but also criticized for lacking the artistic dynamism of his predecessors. Over the years, Dick Locher's longtime hometown of Naperville became closely associated with the 'Dick Tracy' strip. The city's police station placed large displays of both the cartoon and the 1990 film with Warren Beatty in its lobby. In 2010, a large statue of the famous crime fighter was placed on the Riverwalk in Naperville, for which Locher created an 11-inch model. Locher also designed a sculpture of Naperville founder Joseph Naper, which stands at the site of Naper's homestead. Locher has also made several small bronze sculptures of presidential candidates. He designed the Land of Lincoln Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Illinois-Northwestern college football game. He was also active as a painter.

The artist passed away of complications from Parkinson's disease at the age 88 in his hometown Naperville on 6 August 2017.

Dick Tracy, by Dick Locher

Dick Locher interview by The Comics Journal

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