Monday, March 3, 2014

YEAR 1955: POLICEWOMAN LIZZ



I can't top author Jay Maeder's observation from his DICK TRACY: THE OFFICIAL BIOGRAPHY on the subject of Lizz's introduction. She was not just the first policewoman to become a regular fixture in the Dick Tracy strip, but also an indicator of author Chester Gould's awareness of changes in the air.

Lizz (whose married surname was "Worthington," though it wasn't regularly used) first appeared in 1955.  She began as a nightclub photographer whose husband was killed by petty leather-jacketed hoodlum Joe Period.  Period was an unmistakable clone of Marlon Brando's character from 1953's THE WILD ONE, but cast as an unmitigated lowlife.  The Joe Period arc, ending with the villain's capture, concluded after a few months, but this swaggering embodiment of 1950s "edge" didn't come back. Lizz, however, was inspired to become a policewoman by Dick Tracy's example, and she remained a regular supporting character throughout the remainder of Gould's tenure and continued to appear regularly thereafter.  Gould created many one-shot characters, and Lizz easily could have been one of these.  The fact that she stayed around, even in the years prior to the development of "second-wave feminism," suggests to me that Gould valued, either personally or professionally, the representation of women in the police force.

Admittedly, Lizz is not a great femme formidable in the mold of Gould's villainesses, particularly Breathless Mahoney.  But she was consistently represented as a tough customer, skilled both in judo and firearms. Oddly, since she was first introduced as an adversary to a "fifties rocker," she was later married to a sort of "hippie cop" with the painful name of "Groovy Grove." But Grove disappeared from the strip, and Lizz remained-- again, rarely if ever using her married name.

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