Sometimes Rivera is pretty good drawing animals, and sometimes they come out looking more like a boy scout carved them out of a block of pine for a merit badge. But really, “a rocky start”, you say, Cherry!? Seems to me that threats and attempts at physical violence leave “rocky start” behind. Still, I suppose that Cherry is just trying to play down Mark’s fears, as he takes Cherry’s point about laying on the charm to Diana. Say, that was my advice a few days ago…Well, maybe not the best advice; it might have gotten him decked by Diana, now that I think about it.
As I was also reminded, Mark’s shirt is just the uniform for Cherry’s lawn and landscape service. I suppose he’ll return to his tried-and-true red check shirt, just like the old Mark Trail and his denim shirt with the dual button-down pockets. Clothes (and costume) create identity and status, as we see throughout history. Why shouldn’t comic strip characters have their own visual status and signifiers?
Rivera has been criticized for injecting too much humor into the strip, as if it were a standard gag-a-day comic. I’m not going to go through all of her strips to date to see if that is quantitatively true, because I believe the criticism is more based on perception. In an otherwise serious adventure strip, humor stands out. I believe the term for movies and tv shows like this is dramedy, something combining drama and comedy, but in more of an organic manner. That would be shows like Ally McBeal, Six Feet Under, and more recently The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Orville, and The Ranch. You could probably name 20 more, as I don’t watch that much TV. Anyway, my point is that I believe this is the approach that Jules Rivera has taken with Mark Trail: A basic adventure strip, with comedic or absurdist elements. Early on in Rivera’s tenure, I made a connection between her and the off-beat crime drama books of Carl Hiaasen. She read that remark I made and agreed.
Thus, I think readers who expect this strip to be the sober, all-business strip of old are going to continue to be put off. “Dramady” is the new Serious, unless you are Jason Bourne. For myself, I like the hybrid approach, though I hope that the serious aspects of the adventures do not get flattened by too many oddballs.
ANNOUNCEMENT: While I’m on the subject of oddballs, I have signed up for a class in Italian at the University of Minnesota (audit, only). It starts the day after Labor Day. Unfortunately for me, the class meets at 9 AM, which is around the time when I usually get up. I tried to get into a later section, but they were full. But that also means I won’t be getting this blog updated most days until at least Noon or later. Until recently, I used to post these strips after midnight, when Comics Kingdom updates their daily feeds. That’s not likely to continue, either. So, if you see bits of Italian starting to appear here and there, you’ll know why.
As for Cherry’s closing double-entendre comment, I have to admit it was well crafted. A Presto!