A continuity error is a phenomenon that is common in long-running fiction series. A continuity error occurs when a piece of information conflicts with a previously established piece of information.
Chester Gould rarely planned his storylines far in advance. As a result, several errors in continuity have appeared in the history of the strip, from both Gould and subsequent creative teams.
- Chief Brandon's first name has been given at different times as being "John" or "Jim" or "George". At one point, he signed a document as "G. R. Brandon". The G could stand for George, but there's no J initial to stand for John or Jim, and nothing to indicate what the R is supposed to stand for.
- The criminal Duke is shown in several panels with a automatic pistol which changes in succeeding panels it is a revolver.
- Agent 20 is shown in one panel with a automatic pistol, and in the next panel it is a revolver. Likewise, his escape hatch is shown to be padlocked on the inside after failed escape attempt, yet the Police are able to break the lock from the outside.
- In the Sunday after Tracy's fight with Flattop Jones Sr. and his gang, Tracy claimed to be wounded in the side, explaining that when he was first struggling with Flattop the latter's gun went off, the bullet going through Tracy's side and ending in the skull of Flattop's main henchman, Ed. But in the Dailies, not only is the bullet not shown going through Tracy's side, but from the angle Flattop was aiming his gun and from the angle Tracy was grabbing Flattop's gun hand, there's no way the bullet could have wounded Tracy in the side.
- The name "Shorty" is used for 2 of Measles' henchmen, one Tracy recognizes and identifies as "Shorty the Dip", the other is the driver of Measles' car, whom Measles had previously called, "Barny".
- When Itchy fatally shot Elia Mahoney in the Dailies, it's said she was "killed instantly", but in the next Sunday strip, it's said she survived being shot long enough to tell Tracy that Itchy was holding B.O. Plenty captive and give Tracy Itchy's address before she died. The idea that Mahoney told Tracy Itchy's address is the only explanation given for how Tracy was able to track Itchy back to his apartment.
- When Pruneface was brought back from the dead in 1983, it was claimed that he had frozen to "death" only to be revived by Dr. Kryos Freezdrei by un-thawing him. Upon being revived, Pruneface claimed his last memory was of aiming his gun at Tracy from a second story window, implying that was when he was frozen. But in the original story, while Pruneface had aimed his gun at Tracy from a second story window until it got so cold for him he dropped his gun, he was still conscious and even talking when Tracy arrested him. His death was mentioned a few months later without specifying how he died.
- During the "Death of Mary Steele" storyline, Dick Tracy specifically states that Steve the Tramp had passed away. During a later storyline, Steve was shown to be alive and working at a local soup kitchen.
- The 1994 "Death of Mumbles" storyline by Mike Kilian includes several continuity errors. It disregards Mumbles' previous 3 appearances in the strip, and presents Bonnie Tracy as high-school aged, when she had previously been shown living on her own and working as a teacher.
- Mumbles' death has since been ignored by the later creative team of Mike Curtis and Joe Staton. They have also undone the aging of Joe Tracy, who is now shown to be pre-adolescent when he had previously been presented as being in his early teens.
- Prunella has been identified as being Pruneface's daughter AND his granddaughter (with subsequent confusion about Prune Hilda's relationship as well).
- In 2014, Dick Tracy's father's name was given as "Chet", when it had previously been established as "Richard".
- A continuity error is not the same thing as a plot device, contrivance, coincidence or implausible occurrence.
- Likewise, a speedy recovery from a supposedly serious injury is not necessarily a continuity error.
- A continuity errors can be "undone" through the application of retro-active continuity, also known as a "retcon".
- A flawed or faulty premise (as in "Why would a character do something so complicated or illogical?") does not qualify as a continuity error.