Spotlighting…

…appears to be a worldwide phenomenon…  a nice wiki article also indicates that it is referred to as lamping in some areas of the world, and a typical crew can consist of two or three people…  makes it sound almost legal and humane… but I think the point of our story here is that it is VERY BAD and that BIG MIKE is a VERY BAD PERSON who has surrounded himself with VERY BAD PEOPLE and engages with VERY VAIN AND INSECURE CLIENTS…

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Without a shred of compunction, with nary a second thought as to motive or potential impact, these two baddies are quite pleased with themselves… the object of their evil plan finds itself locked in a trance seemingly unaware of the threat that has befallen him!  Oh the injustice!  The hairs on the back of Mark’s smooth, Lilly-White neck must be bristling, but he can’t know why, only that there is no-good happening in his universe…

And since when to rifles go WHAM?!?  I thought they went BLAM, unless, the animal was actually RUN OVER…  and the rifle in the hands of Bad Guy #1 (played by Keanu Reeves) is just for show or to shoot humans who might happen upon their misdeeds…

Mr. Baker, have you no shame?

It would seem not…  Apparently he will be able to gaze upon his trophy, perched above the hearth in his study for years to come, knowing that he did not pull the trigger…  He might as well just go to a thrift store or find one in someone else’s attic…

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And then there’s that irritating ¾ profile close-up of “Big Mike” in panel two…  What- is this guy so difficult to draw that we have to one again copy/ paste?  And as “Sideburns McGreavy” gives Big Mike the Big thumbs-up in panel three, little does he know that he is about to meet up with his fate- the Fists-o-Justice- from one Mark Trail…  If these guys aren’t worth a punch, I don’t know who is!  So c’mon, Elrod, no open field tackles this time, let Mark’s sharpened knuckles do their job!

 

You can tell he has delivered this pitch over and over…

Big Mike has it down to a science… Fueling expectations, dealing with disappointment, playing off vanity and insecurity, and then delivering the Coup de grâce… “Let me put you out of your apparent misery, Mr. Baker, but it’s going to cost you…”  You can tell how upset Baker is in the first panel as he stands there, arms akimbo, looking terribly hurt and angry…  C’mon Baker, lighten up… can’t you tell when you are being played??  Why don’t you pour yourself a bracer, and take the ridiculous green outfit off.  Who told you that green hunting caps with tie-up earflaps were all the rage?

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Looks like Big Mike has his arsenal of gray guns at the ready…  paramilitary, that stuff is…

Time for your close-up, Big Mike…

Did I call that or what?  Playing on the vanity and ego of the “Powerful American Male…”  Bathed in insecurity, “Baker,” bedecked in Kelly Green, declares that he made certain promises, bordering on boasts, to his “friends” back at the club…  How can he dare show his face unless he has lusty tales of giant racks conquered?? Back in the city he probably trades credit default swaps, bringing down entire economies is a single stroke…  but out here, where men are men, he is feeling less than complete…  the hook is set!

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Of course, secrets revealed, below, of how we generate near perfect opposite profiles of our evil character Big Mike!  Copy from yesterday’s close up/ paste/ flip/ pan in and you get what’s in panel three above… I don’t know…  I guess a little of the old magic just went out of this for me.  And what is that in his ear?  Italy? Japan? What could the meaning of that be??

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That bear in panel two looks angry…

Hasn’t seen at thing…

“What?  You haven’t seen a thing?  Come a little closer my mealy mouthed friend, a little closer and you will be caught in my snare…  I will hit you with my ‘for a little more dough, I will show you where the big boys hunt,’ line.”  It has been pointed out that Rod Bassy and Mike Morrison bear a resemblance, and you can certainly see it in panel three…  look at the profile!  Certainly Bassy couldn’t have been his given name, I am guessing now it was Morrison!

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I love the bright green blazer that the sucker (I mean client) is wearing… unless he is hunting on a well-manicured gold course, he’s not exactly likely to blend into his surroundings…  And by the way Baker, ever take a gun safety course?  That not exactly the SAFEST way to be transporting your firearm

Big Mike…

…is apparently a Big Irishman who enjoys his whiskey neat and takes care of people who don’t “want to cooperate…” at the business end of a gun wielded by one of his many henchmen…  That’s quite a payroll, you have there, Big Mike…  not to mention the overhead of the lodge… You must have to get a lot of “Big City Boss” types to answer your ads…  Wall Street Journal?  Barron’s?  USA Today?  Certainly not in “Forest and Stream” or “Field and Forest” or  “Woods and Wildlife” or whatever Editor Bill Ellis/ Benefactor Wes Chapman’s Trail-rag is called…

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But wait a minute…  How did this story begin?  Oh, yes… Rusty with a CAMERA (familiar territory) taking pictures of OTTERS… So who was setting the traps?  Was it Ol’ Eddie?  I can’t see Big Mike having much interest in THAT… if his real interest is in BIG GAME…  the otters were mere pawns in the game that took mark to the sound of gun shots (meant to silence Ol’ Eddie) which did not do a very good job, since OE was still able to call the Newspaperman JASON instead of LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT, with Jason able to arrive at the scene faster than Mark could sprint through the woods…  But yet again I overthink these things…  is continuity of plot really that important?  Apparently it is to me…

Hold on there, Mr. Pulitzer!

You can’t run that story!  Ever hear of corroborating evidence?  Make a habit of capturing hearsay and running with it?  Good Lord, Man, where did you learn your craft??  The look on Jason Smith’s face can only be described as “I really hate my work… I really wish I could go full time with my worm farm and leave all this chasing around to the younger set…”

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The shocked look on Ol’ Eddie the Small Time Poacher’s face is great, as Mark HOLDS HIS HAND in a display of genuine care and concern…  OK, this is weird.  Mark doesn’t have an empathetic bone in his body, yet here he is comforting a Craggy Faced Codger… 

Graft! Corruption at the highest levels!!

A Deputy Sheriff on Big Mike’s payroll!! What these Baddies won’t do to ensure that their little money making schemes pan out!  Well, that means, as usual, that Mark will have to take the law into his own hands (again) since he can’t be sure who Big Mike is paying or not- how far up the chain does the corruption go?  Maybe there’s a United States Senator involved!  There is obviously SO MUCH MONEY involved in a high stakes poaching ring the possibilities are endless!

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The deer in the first panel are obviously very concerned with the outcome of this story, since it is they who are being “spotlighted” and taken out…  Good Heavens.  Just how big IS Lost Forest anyway?  It seems as though its fingers reach into every nook and cranny of civilization…  Rather than the city encroaching on protected lands it would seem to be the other way around!

Return to the Trail-verse! REAL POACHERS from OUT OF STATE!

Oh. My. Goodness.  That is the ugliest man I have ever seen in my life.  “I am not an animal, I am a human being!”  This is almost more than I can take…  three strips at once…  so much of the plot unfolding before my eyes that I can barely take it all in!

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So that is “Ol’ Eddie…”  And it’s suddenly clear why he don’t want no coppers involved… Hospital bed confessions are the best kind, although I don’t know that he is in imminent danger of shuffling off this mortal coil, but still, he starts “his story” with the admission that he has “done a little poaching,” as Mark “knows (yes he does, for Mark sees and knows all…)  I guess this is what amounts to a capital offense in the Trail-verse.  Apparently, though, Eddie has done more than a “little” poaching otherwise how could he have become “Ol’?”

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REAL Poachers, from OUT OF STATE!  KILLED a RANGER!!  BIG MIKE!!!  But already the logic escapes me.  So they have hunted their own preserve to extinction, and therefore have moved onto other grounds, found a virtual Valhalla in Lost Forest, and would now have Eddie gunning down anything with four legs…  What, so they can drag it back to their preserve and dupe a client into thinking that he shot it?  That’s not giving the big game hunter very much credit for intelligence.  Sort of like suggesting that a farm raised bass could pass for one that came to trophy size on its own in the wild…  You suppose that Rod Bassy and Big Mike work for the same conglomerate??

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Ah, the O’l Bait-n-Switch…  counting on the fact that no big game hunter worth his salt would ever want to return empty handed…  The stakes are raised and the fleece is on!  An additional $1,000?  Hah!  Chump change!  Let’s go get that Buck!  Male vanity is a terrible force, one that can be turned to advantage by one who knows how to pull that string (or would it be push that button??) “Quick Jason, get Eddie a glass of water, we don’t want him expiring on us, and oh by the way, I don’t share by-lines…  so you will just have to go get your own story.  This one is unfolding on my father-in-law’s land, so I have dibs, even though Eddie called you first!”

 

Dr. Howser Call Surgery, Dr. Howser…

What the…  What is Doogie Howser doing in the Trail-verse???  At least he has hair, unlike that poor chap in panel two…  Random as that is- again what does an extra get paid to fill in the blanks of the story line- but at least he is a real person, not just a picture on a nightstand

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What continues to strike me as funny, comical almost, is that this is clearly a crime scene- one man shot, two men leaving the scene of the crime, and not a police car, not a sheriff, just Mark and Jason, to brothers in the bonds of ink stained fingers, carrying (presumably) Ol’ Eddie like a bag of Portland cement out to the waiting vehicle and to the hospital…

“So you’re Mark Trail…” of course you have heard of him, “Jason,” but please Mark, spare me the lies… you aren’t home enough to even know what the local paper looks like…