Dick Tracy (7/2/10)

As a serialized strip, Dick Tracy is obliged to repeat the same scenes over and over again until even the most casual readers have caught up. Unfortunately, this static narrative seems to scramble everyone’s sense of time and place, causing otherwise articulate characters to mangle their tenses. Take the villain in this strip, for example. If she had been speaking of the past, she would have said, “I wanted to kill you first, but The Blank here jumped in ahead of me.” If she had been speaking of the present, she would have said, “I want to kill you first, but The Blank here jumps in ahead of me.” As it’s written, though, she uses both past and present tense in the same sentence. William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Somehow, I don’t think this strip is what he had in mind.

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