First Appearance:

May 15th, 1982 (from behind)
May 19th, 1982 (revealed)

Real Name:

Ed Vio

Known Associates:

V.H. Hess
Maxie Beta

Created By:

Max Allan Collins &
Rick Fletcher

The man known as Splitscreen (real name: Ed Vio, an anagram for "Video") was an electronics store owner in Dick Tracy's city. His business served as a front for his illegal video piracy operation.

Splitscreen was a tall man with short, spiky hair who typically wore eyeglasses.

Video Pirate

Splitscreen was the owner and operator of "Splitscreen TV", a store that sold televisions and other audio/video devices. Splitscreen was obsessed with TV, rarely leaving his own set in the store's back room. In spite of his sedentary nature, Splitscreen was an intimidating figure, prone to fits of rage.

Most of Splitscreen's store's day-to-day activities were carried out by his two criminal associates, Maxie Beta and V.H. Hess. These two men worked with Splitscreen's network of suppliers to obtain prints of newly-released films, then produce thousands of poor-quality bootleg home video copies which would be sold on the black market.

Splitscreen's video piracy attracted the attention of Dick Tracy and the Major Crimes Squad when Beta and Hess assaulted a local projectionist who had been supplying them with prints. The young man had attempted to sever his ties with Splitscreen, but Splitscreen demanded that he continue to cooperate. Tracy notified his FBI colleague Jim Trailer, and the men began building their case against Splitscreen.

At Odds with Auntie Freedom

While this was happening, the City had also seen the debut of the woman calling herself "Auntie Freedom", a woman who made a public show of destroying television sets. Splitscreen was horrified by this behavior, and bought television advertising time in which he offered a $1000 reward for information that would lead to Auntie Freedom's capture. Auntie Freedom saw this ad, and made Splitscreen TV her next target.

Tracy and Trailer arrived at Splitscreen TV shorty after Auntie Freedom began her rampage (as did Johnny Adonis and Lee Ebony, who had been investigating the Auntie Freedom case). Splitscreen, upon hearing the commotion, emerged from his back room and tried to stop Auntie Freedom from destroying her precious televisions. He grabbed her just as she struck a 26" set that was plugged into the wall. The electrical charge stunned both of the criminals and they were taken into custody. Beta and Hess were captured while trying to escape with some incriminating evidence.

In jail, Splitscreen entered a nearly catatonic state from being deprived of television. He did nothing but stare at a wall all day. He reportedly planned to mount an insanity defense.


  • The Splitscreen storyline shares several characteristics from the earlier storyline with Bernard Breakdown, including a reclusive villain with 2 subordinates and the intersection of 2 initially unrelated investigations. This format would also be used later with Lofty.
  • Splitscreen's store employed a staff of salespeople and clerks, but it is unclear if they were involved with or aware of Splitscreen's illegal activities.

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