Flattop (Dick Tracy villain)

Flattop (Dick Tracy villain)

Flattop Jones, Sr. is a fictional character, a villain created by Chester Gould for the "Dick Tracy" comic strip and is the most popular one in the strip's history. His nickname comes from his large head which is perfectly flat on the top like an aircraft carrier's flight deck.

Fictional character biography

Other than the public knowledge of his involvement in the Kansas City Massacre and the G-Men he killed during that time, little is known about Flattop's personal life except that he claims to be a freelance hitman from the Cookson Hills in Oklahoma, an origin he shares with real-life Depression-era gangster Pretty Boy Floyd. He has a gang of three hoods who help him-who are apparently based in Dick Tracy's unnamed city. As one newspaper headine announcing his death calls him an "Ace Killer"-he has apparentlycommitted five murders.

In the storyline in which he is the featured villain, he is hired by black marketeers to eliminate the police detective for a fee of $5000, five times his regular rate.

Flattop proves his value by quickly orchestrating a successful setup to capture Tracy in the killer's car, to be transported somewhere where he can be murdered undisturbed. Fortunately for Tracy, Flattop stops just short of doing the deed when he suddenly realizes that if his employers are willing to pay such a high price for Tracy's death, then they would be surely be desperate enough to pay much more. As such, Flattop decides to blackmail his employers for an additional $50000 lest he release the detective with the information Tracy needed to arrest them.

Hiding in a boarding room while the transaction is completed, Tracy learns that residents downstairs included a WAC who is learning morse code. Taking advantage of an available piano in the room, he plays it and stamps on the floor in code as if keeping time to his music, hoping that the residents below will recognize the call for help. Sure enough, the residents get the message and alert the police.

However, even as Tracy's partner, Pat Patton, is preparing for a rescue; Flattop, having closed his blackmail deal, prepares to shoot Tracy while he's surrounded by his henchmen. On Flattop's count of three, Tracy interrupts the assassination by lunging at the killer and wrestling for his gun. In the struggle, Tracy manages to kill a henchman with a Tommy gun, grabbing it and beginning to fire, and killing the rest of Flattop's gang even while the police are storming the hideout.

However, Flattop escapes and becomes a hunted fugitive hampered by his extremely distinctive appearance. This leads to a long chase, during which Flattop hides out in a boarding house while being extorted by the crooked child hiding him. That child drowns in a lake while skating with expensive new skates he's bought with the blackmail money. This leads Tracy to the boarding house, forcing Flattop to flee. {In a comic relief episode Flattop decides to hide his $5000 money in an old family album which he "hollowed out" in case he was "mugged"; the joke is that when Tracy comes to the boarding house to question dead boy's mother about her son "flashing" $50.00 bills around town, a reporter needing a good picture of the deceased-opens the album and finds the money!}. Eventually after hiding in a chimney, being stung by bees in a hive he has disturbed in there, murdering a street hawker to fake his own death and to steal his victim's ration cards, he is eventually spotted in a hotel. In desperation, Flattop hides in the room of Vitamin Flintheart, an aging actor.

After attempting to explain his trespass, Flattop assaults him and uses his makeup supplies for a disguise. Tracy, Patton and Flintheart continue the search and battle Flattop after almost being fooled by a child to whom Flattop has passed off his disguise in hopes of making him a decoy. Flattop is severely wounded, but is successfully treated in custody.

Loathe to let Flattop slip into oblivion, Gould managed to find a way to continue the story, despite Flattop's having been apprehended and jailed, by engineering his escape from custody, taking Flintheart hostage, and hiding in the harbor area. Eventually, Flattop drowns attempting to flee Tracy, after getting trapped between two struts of a dock.

In 1986, reporter Wendy Wichell approaches Dick Tracy with new information concerning Flattop and an incident in World War II which was kept secret, and in which Tracy was involved. Before Flattop enountered Tracy in 1944, Flattop was hired by the Nazi spy Boche, aka Pruneface, to kidnap FBI Agent Jim Trailer, a close friend of Dick Tracy's, and a scientist Trailer and Tracy were protecting; Professor Roloc Bard. Flattop's instructions were to kill Trailer and hand the Professor over to Prunefacer. Bard warns Flattop that he will be shipped overseas to make deadly weapons for the Axis cause, causing Flattop to double-cross Pruneface and auction Bard and Trailer off to highest bidder. Authorities in Washington, DC, ostensibly participating in the auction, authorize Tracy to negotiate while tracing Flattop's call). Tracy and his partner, Pat Patton, break in to Flattop's hideout and free Trailer while Flattop escapes with the Professor. Flattop ties Bard up in the same replica of the Santa Maria where he would later drown. Flattop's last appearance in this storyline was his meeting with Pruneface to collect his 50,000 dollars and tell him where to find Bard. Pruneface swears that he'd kill Flattop if he ever dared to betray him again.


Given the popularity of the villain, it was later revealed that Flattop had numerous relatives who were equally bizarre and hardened criminals. These villains have included:
*Flattop, Jr. - The son of Flattop, an engineering genius who had customized his car into an arsenal of equipment designed to keep him ahead of the law. His accomplice during his crime wave was Joe Period, who Flattop left to be captured by Dick Tracy and partner Sam Catchem. Flattop was driven insane after the ghost of a girl he killed clinged to him, to the point that his hair turned white. He was killed in self defense by Tracy's new partner Lizz Worthington.
*Unnamed sister- Looks exactly like Flattop, real name was never given, but was referred to by Tracy as "Auntie Flattop". Took care of her nephew Flattop Jr. after Flattop drowned and seemed like a law abiding person who really cared about her nephew.
*Blowtop - A brother of Flattop whose distinctive feature was an explosive temper that caused him to rage at the slightest provocation. Blowtop was responsible for the kidnapping of Junior Tracy and the arson of Tracy's home. Like his brother Flattop, he has dealt with Vitamin Flintheart, who traded his shirt full of money for a shrunken head. Currently serving life sentence.
*Angeltop - Angelica "Angeltop" Jones, the daughter of Flattop who has a head of equivalent dimensions, not including her fuller hair, sought to murder Dick Tracy in revenge for the death of her father and Policewoman Lizz for killing her brother. She worked with her boyfriend, The Brow's son, who shot Vitamin Flintheart. He double crossed her later on. After a fire on the Santa Maria Replica in the lake (the same place where her father drowned under) nearly killed her after an attempt to murder Tracy, she had plastic surgery by crooked Doctor Willis Carver, whom she later killed. She was arrested later and driven insane.
*Hi-Top - The illegitimate son of Flattop Jr. and an unnamed African American girl with whom he had an apparently off-stage affair. Hi-Top is, consequently, the grandson of Flattop. He is the leader of a black street gang in Tracy's city.
*Sharptop - A third Jones brother who grew up right, became a college professor, and was apparently possessed by the ghost of his brother during a seance held by Gravel Gertie's new age enthusiast niece, Crystal.
*Poptop - The beer-guzzling father of Flattop, Auntie Flattop, Blowtop, and Sharptop, the grandfather of Flattop Jr. and Angeltop, and the great-grandfather of Hi-Top. Considered the entire family a disgrace and kept his distance from them.

Other media

*An episode of the Dick Tracy radio show featured Flat Top. Titled Flattop, this broadcast is now available for free from archive.org. http://www.archive.org/details/dicktracyOTRKIBM

*In an episode of the early TV series starring Ralph Byrd, John Cliff portrayed the hit man in a half-hour episode based fairly closely on the comic strip story. Rather than giving the actor a flat head, or a hair cut that made his head look flat, Cliff wore a large beret that suggested a flat top.

*In the film adaptation of the comic strip, he is played by William Forsythe. In this adaptation, he was a henchman of the main villain, the Big Boy. His weapon of choice was the machine gun.

*The character has appeared in the two animated adaptations of the comic strip.

*In the Daffy Duck short "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery", the animators showed him with several mini-aircraft taking off from his head.

*In "The Dick Tracy Show", he was paired up with B.B. Eyes in all his heists.

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