Mark gets inspired!

Coming out of left field!? I’m pretty sure we all saw that coming. This sounds like the beginning of Mark’s next adventure; or maybe just a concern he’ll bring up with Cherry while he waits for his next assignment. Don’t know what he could do about, anyway. Alligators moving north is already old news in Wikipedia, but maybe Mark could find an angle for an article that he could sell to one of the magazines.

I don’t know about you, but every time I see Duke, I think he must be a wanted man in hiding, because his beard looks like a paste-on job. It doesn’t seem to sit right; it looks more like wool or yarn to me; anything but beard hair. Well, maybe it’s just that Rivera has a funny way of depicting beards. Or is it something else? Here is the beard on Cherry’s brother, Dirk, the survivalist.  These beards remind me of those fake beards you see on the guys in the movie, “O Brother, Where Are Thou?”, hiding out from The Law after skipping out from a chain gang.

Maybe it’s just me. What are your thoughts?

Killing Time

[edited down] Okay, the cryptid hunt was all downriver, not up. I reckon that, living along a river, you’d be more inclined to want to know what’s coming toward you (i.e., from upriver), so you might be less knowledgeable about what’s going on downriver. That might explain Mark’s lack of awareness regarding the croc cove, but I’m being kind. Many rivers flow north-south (more or less), so “downriver” matches what we inherently consider “down”. Maybe that’s from our reliance on maps? However, there are many rivers around the world that actually flow south-north. So, “upriver” is then moving south.

The most striking example is the Nile River in Africa, which flows over 4200 miles from the Sudan and Ethiopia, emptying out into the Mediterranean Sea after passing through Egypt. Reinforcing how geography influences our thinking, in pharaonic times, “Upper Egypt” meant the south, and “Lower Egypt” the north.

Otherwise, today’s strip is just a traditional Mark Trail Nothingburger:  superficial filler stuffed between two adventures, with cheese.

Mark can’t escape his boating history

Yes, looks like “Cryptid II: Foiled Again” is over and the kids are safely back home. I’m still waiting to read about the post-adventure lawsuits. Seems like Rivera wants to milk the “Exploding Boat” trope for all its worth. And as far as worth goes, I think she’s moved into the red. So, I hope she’ll move on and let that boat cliché float away on its own.

Panel 1 uses a flamboyant technique for linking dialog balloons to the speaker. The design, itself, is interesting, though I wondered if it was done purely for that reason. My thinking is that Rivera uses the close-up circle of Mark as a visual transition to the panel 2 flashback. That is, we have the scenic view of Mark and Duke in the boat, then the focus on Mark, then his flashback. And recall that Rivera often uses visual cues in her panels, such as this:

You have another take? Leave a comment!

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

As John and Paul sang “We’re on our way home” on the Let It Be album, so did we find Mark and the boys successfully escape the elderly crocodiles upset over getting interrupted in their retirement cove. Mark and the lads landed ashore where they found Duke, Jeannette, and Cherry. Cherry was surprised to find out that Mark had bugged her truck, supposedly so he could find his way back along the river that happens to run by Lost Forest. Yet Mark claims to be a woodsman.  As expected, the boys were none the worse for wear and really enjoyed the adventure. De-bait team member Duke expressed surprise his boat was still intact, even as it looked to be drifting off on its own.

Is this the end of Rusty’s second (failed) cryptid hunt adventure? I’m guessing it is, except for maybe a few more days to wrap up loose ends. But wait! Mark Trail stories rarely wrap up loose ends. In fact, loose ends form a standard part of almost every Mark Trail story, going back for years. I think most Trailheads are still wondering whatever became of Tricky Dicky, I mean Dirty Harry, er, Dirty Dyer. Will Rivera resurrect him some day? Probably not, since Dirty was a more serious bad guy than the goofball villains that inhabit Jules Rivera’s version of The Trailverse. And speaking of loose ends, I’m surprised we don’t see more of Kelly Welly. I really thought Rivera would latch on to Kelly and give her a more prominent role where she could hold her own instead of always winding up as Mark’s foil.

We’ve been here before. Rivera did a Sunday strip back on June 6, 2021 about mountain lines (aka pumas) in general, but did highlight P-22. Well, today’s nature talk focuses exclusively on the now-deceased mountain lion. But referring to the animal as “Hollywood’s Best Leading Man” is misplaced, owing to the biological impossibility, even if the comment was meant as an innocent pun. “Hollywood’s Coolest Cat” might have been a better moniker.

So, why P-22 again? Turns out that P-22 was struck by a vehicle last November as it tried to cross a highway in search of food. He was later captured by authorities and examined. Veterinarians noted that, in addition to damage from the collision, his advanced age, infirmities, and debilitating ailments (e.g., kidney disease) led to the decision to euthanize him this past December. Comic strips are written several weeks, if not months, in advance, so Rivera wrote this shortly after P-22’s death.

Did somebody forget to drop anchor?

As Duke’s boat seems to be floating away on its own, I’m struck by the portray of Ernie in panel 4, as I’m sure most of you are. I’ll agree ahead of time that his appearance more resembles some kind of Hallowe’en mask than anything else. That is, it doesn’t look “normal”, but very flattened for no apparent reason, whereas the kids behind him look very conventionally drawn, even the smirking face of Robbie. So what’s the deal? Is Ernie’s father Mr. Potato Head?

I think we might also agree that the caption box in panel 4 actually useful and provides new information, without being too obtrusive. Stylistically, I’d like to see Rivera use a different font for the narration boxes.

Anyway, this sure looks like the wrap-up for this adventure. Even Rusty looks like he had a nice time, in spite of not finding his Bassigator (frankly, that always sounded like a fishing lure sold by Ron Popeil).

Convergence

I’ve come around to the popular opinion that Rivera is getting a little too dependent on caption boxes to restate what is already being said or illustrated. Not saying she shouldn’t use them, but it would be nice to keep them to a minimum and use them when they add something new. Owing to the small size of the panels, caption (text) boxes too often crowd the scene, making it all look cluttered and jumpy. If a comment box is stating the obvious, it doesn’t need to be there.

Now, how the heck did Mark follow Cherry’s tracker from a boat? Was she moving away from Mark, as opposed to approaching Mark? By the way, Cherry drives a pickup, Mark, not a car!  As I indicated before, it has not been well established that Mark was actually lost in the first place; certainly not by simply bumping a few alligators. Since Mark has a smart phone, wouldn’t it have been simpler to just call Cherry (or vice-versa)? Or maybe call up Google Maps to find his position on the river. Too bad the otherwise tech-savvy middle school kids were too busy to think of that.

Finally, why would Mark plant a tracker in Cherry’s truck? Doesn’t he trust her? Talk about a paranoid family …!

Another failed cryptid search?

Rivera has an interesting way of drawing water that seems to be animated enough to qualify as a living thing. Kind of. Still interesting, though I think it will lose a lot of its exuberance when it is printed in b&w in the paper. But, what’s this “lost” business? They’re on a river! Unless there are lots of channels coming through, the river goes one way or the other. Unfortunately, it looks as if Rusty is once again going to come up empty in his cryptid searches. But there is still a bit of time for something to happen.

Again, how can they be lost or have this part of the river not known? It’s part of the waterway that runs by Lost Forest. Mark was plowing through these waters in the Zebra Mussels adventure. Mark should at least know which direction he was going. So why isn’t there a search light or running lights? Somebody might think that the de-bait team wants dark boats to make special pickups or drop-offs.

Ernie gets upset and demands answers!

Well, this is interesting. No, not the discussion of climate change; that’s a given for this strip. I should not be too surprised that Rivera has mostly kept direct discussions to the Sunday panels, from a practical point of view. That is, I could see the influence of the comic syndicate advising Rivera to ease into the subject, given ongoing political opposition and possible negative feedback on the strip, itself.

The interesting part is the suggestion that this location—and that of Lost Forest—is not as far south as has always been surmised. I’ve read that gators are found as far north as North Carolina. But Lost Forest could also be some place up the Mississippi River, given that cargo ships ply these waters. Well, perhaps I make too much of this geographic clue, which is really only here to give Mark a que to discuss climate change. But I think Mark is a little wrong. Alligators thrive in heat, which is why they are found in the south. If they are moving north, I would think it has as much to do with the decrease in original native habitat, due to the expansion of human land use.

I came through and I shall not return!

No, this is not a reenactment of General MacArthur fleeing Corregidor in the early days of WWII. But I imagine the sentiment of the title is in Mark’s mind.

But I know what you’re thinking:  Why does the boat have to “take off”? It’s not grounded on the beach any longer and the gators can’t jump into the boat. So, what’s the big deal, other than the need for Mark to climb in?

There is a casual familiarity these days where adults and parents no longer get to be called “Mr. Trail” or “Ms. Trail”. We’re all on the same level, regardless of age, education, or number of TikTok (or BikBok) followers. In any event, seems like this rescue is more for effect than reality; in spite of the sun ray effect in panel 3 that apparently symbolizes a significant action. I reckon the kids think so. If Mark is worried, he’s probably worried that Rusty will actually panic and gun the boat, leaving him behind. So, the kids have an adventure to tell their parents and friends. And most likely, those parents will wonder whether to bring a lawsuit against Mark for child endangerment. But that wouldn’t happen to Mark Trail, would it?

Leapin’ Lizards!

Okay, they are alligators, to be sure. But the Little Orphan Annie exclamation in the title has some basis in fact. According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia (but backed up by the Online Etymology Dictionary) the origin of the term “alligator” likely derives from the phrase el lagarto (“the lizard”), a term used by the Spanish conquistadors to refer to the reptiles because they were too busy taking over the New World to bother with taxonomy. Of course, they were not biologists and taxonomy had not yet been developed, anyway. So it is a clever comic strip pun.

As expected, Mark has to make a run for it before the gators wake up and attack him. Looks like one did in panel 3, “chomping” at Mark. Ah, but the term “chomp” means to bite, and it’s clear the gator missed Mark. Perhaps “Snap!” would have been more apt. Oh my, this is what happens when you get diverted into word origins. It’s like an addiction! I’ll give Rivera a pass for “triathlon“.