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Tracking Tracy

The Walt Disney Company is about to issue a trio of Dick Tracy “graphic novels” through Disney Comics--well-timed to re-introduce kids to the crime-fighting detective before the summer release of “Dick Tracy” in movie theaters.

Directed by and starring Warren Beatty, the pic’s got lots of big stars, including Madonna and Al Pacino. But it doesn’t have an instant recognition factor--a la the summer’s “Batman,” which capitalized on the hot-selling Batman comics and graphic novels of recent years. Once a prominent syndicated comic strip (29 million readers, more than 650 newspapers), the rather old-fashioned “Dick Tracy” today appears in fewer than 200 newspapers, and in a b&w; monthly comic that reprints the old strips.

Thus, the new graphic novels in which Tracy battles villains old and new is stylized artwork.

The first two books--to ship in February and April--will be “prequels.” The third, an adaptation of the pic, is due in June, along with the film.

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