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Publication information
PublisherTribune Content Agency
First appearanceSeptember 4, 1942
Created byChester Gould

Pruneface is a fictional character in the long-running comic strip Dick Tracy, drawn by cartoonist Chester Gould. He is one of the series' main villains and notable for his wrinkly face.[1]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Pruneface's surname is Boche, a typically Dickensian-style naming of a character by Gould, since "Boche" is a French derogatory term for "German." He 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 apparently died) in 1942, having nearly frozen to death due to exposure during a shootout with the police. The character was revived in 1983. The 1983 story explains that he had been used in an early cryogenics experiment by Dr. Kryos 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. [2]

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, Mrs. Pruneface, Shaky 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 several of the bombs, all of which but one is seized by Tracy and FBI 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 Wichel 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.

Pruneface made one final reappearance in 1999, being held in a Mossad prison. He was the target of a liberation attempt by his granddaughter and great-granddaughter Prunella and Prune Hilda, but the plan failed at the last second, and Pruneface was sent plunging to his death from a mountain gondola. His final words were "Sieg Heil".

In other media[edit]

Pruneface is a featured villain in The Dick Tracy Show, a syndicated animated children's program which aired in the 1960s. He is voiced by either Mel Blanc or Paul Frees, and his appearance is modeled after that of 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.

The character also makes 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 Looney Tunes cartoon short Porky Pig's Feat by Frank Tashlin, 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 intensely that it is pushed inward, making it resemble a prune. Daffy, noticing this, says to the audience, "Hey, look! A Dick Tracy character: Pruneface!" Another Looney Tunes short, 1946's The Great Piggy Bank Robbery by Bob Clampett, has Daffy (as "Duck Twacy") encountering a pack of Dick Tracy-style villains, including an obvious Pruneface spoof called "Pickle Puss".

Pruneface appears in Jason Yungbluth's 2002 graphic novel Weapon Brown, which reimagines many syndicated comic strip characters in a post-apocalyptic setting, as a member of The Syndicate, a group of crime lords and scientists ruling over a post-apocalyptic America. The group also consists of "Chairman Horns" (the Pointy-Haired Boss from Dilbert), Mary Worth, Duke from Doonsbury, and (until Horns brutally kills him) Mr. Dithers from Blondie.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Dick Tracy's Fiendish Foes! A 60th Anniversary Celebration - 1991, St. Martins Press, page 272.