|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
|Publisher||Tribune Media Services|
|First appearance||September 4, 1942|
|Created by||Chester Gould|
Fictional character biography
Pruneface, whose code name was "Boche" (French derogatory term for "German"), is a brilliant industrial engineer with a horribly deformed face. He sells out to the Nazis and is involved in espionage against the United States, as well as the development of nerve gas.
Pruneface first appeared (and died) in 1942, having nearly frozen to death due to exposure during a shootout with the police. He would have been executed for espionage, but the character was revived in 1983. The 1983 story explains that he had been used in an early cryogenics experiment by Dr. Cyros Freezdrei, and is reanimated using modern medicine. Freezdrei uses Pruneface's revival as a publicity stunt, however, to advertise the services of his cryogenics institute to the wealthy and gullible, whom the doctor and Pruneface plan to bilk for millions which would go towards neo-Nazi groups. This storyline ends with the bombing of the institute, Freezdrei's apparent death, and Pruneface's disappearance, all at the hands of a Mossad agent. A cryogenics tube containing the frozen body of Adolf Hitler can be seen in the background as fire destroys him and the institute. (From Page 272 of "Dick Tracy's Fiendish Foes - A 60th Anniversary Celebration" - 1991 St. Martins Press)
A later story arc explains, mostly through an extended flashback, that prior to his first meeting with Tracy, Pruneface led an espionage ring for the Axis powers to acquire a new secret formula for the deadly Xylon Bomb, a non-radioactive explosive capable of devastating ten city blocks. Xylon was developed by Professor Roloc Bard, a mad scientist who was taken hostage by a fake swami named Yogee Yammi during an earlier storyline of the 1940s. The ring consisted of Pruneface (hidden from the readers, going by Boche until halfway through the storyline) and his wife, Shakey Trembly, Flattop Jones and his gang, and Frieda Smith (the professor's love interest and a secret Bundist). Pruneface kidnaps Bard and forces him to build the bombs, all of which but one is seized by Tracy and F.B.I. agent Jim Trailer, hence the reason for the story being "suppressed" during the actual war. Returning to the present, de-classified documents on the Xylon case show that the case was still unsolved and that one final bomb was still out there as potent and deadly as ever. This leads Tracy, Wendy Wichell and FBI Agent Jim Trailer to finding the last bomb hidden 10 blocks away from the Oval Office in an elderly Frieda Smith's basement. Right after she is arrested by Tracy and Jim Trailer, the bomb is defused. Her empty house soon after receives a telephone call from Pruneface to set the bomb off, causing him and Dr. Freezdrei to change their plans and go back into hiding. Freezdrei would eventually die in an explosion.
In other media
The character is also a featured villain in the animated version which aired intermittently in the U.S. as a children's program, primarily in the 1960s. He was either voiced by Mel Blanc or Paul Frees, and was modeled after Boris Karloff. His complexion is lavender, lending him the color and wrinkled look of an actual prune. He is nearly always partnered with Itchy Oliver.
He also made a brief appearance in the 1990 film adaptation of Dick Tracy, in which he is portrayed by R. G. Armstrong. In this adaptation, he is an American mobster, operating in Tracy's city, who accepts Big Boy Caprice as his superior. He is eventually gunned down by The Blank.
In Kyle Baker's graphic novels that served as prequels to the movie, Pruneface's real name is given as Lorenzo Prunesti.
In the 1943 cartoon "Porky Pig's Feat", Daffy Duck confronts the manager of the Broken Arms Hotel, pretending to be intimidated by something he said. Daffy moves closer to his face so intensly that it is pushed inward, making it resemble a prune. Daffy, noticing this, says to the audience, "Hey, look! A Dick Tracy Character! Pruneface!"