“Sure, contracts are void if one side backs out…because I said so!”

Perhaps this is not a symbolic court of law after all, but a court of royal decree, as Violet rules, ex cathedra. But as I thought, there is either some deliberate hanky-panky going on, or Victoria is simply acting like some politicians we know who start on one side, but jump to the other when money or power is on the line. Still, I’m surprised and disappointed that Rivera provided Cherry with morals as ambiguous and flexible as Mark’s. I figured at least one of those two would be a touchstone of integrity. And we’ve seen Mark cross that line more than once, already. Who’s left, Doc Davis!?

But there is something wrong here. What is the actual motivation for Violet’s change? I think Violet quickly got the lay of the land and decided to reshape it to her own benefit by pretending to side with Cherry in order to sucker her into helping scam Caroline and Ernest. If Honest Ernest and Caroline can get stiffed, so can you, Cherry!

Finishing up, bonus points to Rivera for once again adding some variety—compositionally speaking—to the strip by placing the viewer in panel one down at floor level. From this angular, off-center point, the drama between Violet and Caroline is visually enhanced. But in panel two, Caroline and Ernest are reduced to silent chairs (i.e. the drama is over) flanking Violet who sits in the dominant central location to issue her decree. To conclude this royal farce, we hear from the court jester.

Moot Court is now in session

Oh, here is Cherry attempting her “Perry Mason” routine to try and scuttle this impromptu investigation. It’s a transparently silly argument to make, given that Cherry is admitting—in front of Violet—to being present, along with Ernest and Caroline. The only way this makes sense is if Cherry knows Violet would just as soon not want to deal with this situation in the first place, or that Violet already secretly approved of Cherry’s rescue plans and is now put into this embarrassing position because Caroline and Ernest are too dense to realize they could have pocketed the fee for doing nothing. But we have already covered that ground. In other words, what does Jules Rivera have up her sleeve?

But aside from the tacky wallpaper and equally tacky antagonists, what struck me immediately today is the hatching on Violet’s dress. Is Rivera experimenting with old-school b/w techniques to model shading and volume? This is not common in her work, where it usually comes off stark and sketchy in b/w newspapers. In truth, many cartoonists avoid shading. Shading can make strips look darker and crowded because of their small size. That means they could be harder to see or read, making them less attractive to editors and readers. This is nothing new, of course. Back in the 1960s, Chester Gould, in his Dick Tracy comic strip, made known his displeasure at shrinking comic strip sizes by having one of his characters periodically draw a comic strip called Sawdust, whose characters were simply dots.

Is Rivera going “All In”?

(Sorry for another wordy posting, but I did edit it a lot!)

Traditionally, mainstream comic strips try to avoid being too politically partisan, as strong views can understandably limit circulation and the cartoonist’s paycheck.

There are exceptions to this tradition (such as Doonesbury, Shoe, The Boondocks, and Mallard Fillmore). This strip is shaping up to be another exception, as Rivera is getting more comfortable flexing her Left-leaning muscles. Thus, right-wing tropes continue to come into play, as seen not only in the Sunny Soleil Society, itself, but also in our two self-indulgent “victims”.

On the other hand, I don’t think Rivera is being completely one-sided in her political satire. Certainly, Mark has acted in strident, over-the-top behavior several times, whether it is spouting “environmentalist” platitudes while threatening violence; or destroying property and breaking the law for the sake of conservation or social justice.

As a comic strip devoted to nature conservation, Mark Trail has traditionally focused on issues popular with anglers, hunters, and campers (e.g., poaching, forest fires, animal abuse). Rivera has expanded those issues to include pollution, corporate corruption, and climate change. While the former items have tended to be more popular among those on the Right, the latter issues are usually more associated with those on the Left. One can argue the details, but they are common tropes in our society. And Rivera is clearly looking to expand Mark’s awareness and involvement in these latter issues, as he should be.

Anyway, who painted the once-gray statue?

Cherry, you have the right to remain silent.

I reckon we’re supposed to laugh at the naïve, self-defeating complaints of these two gomers who are too stupid to have simply reported “Job done!” and collect their paycheck. Instead, they are incensed that Ernie did not get to spray his poison and watch bees fall by the score. Nasty Cherry took away all the fun! Meanwhile, we see Rivera laying on that “decrepit privileged class” shtick pretty thick, and having these twits sit in big comfy chairs with doily crowns.

Reckon Honest Ernest had words with his wife!

How interesting! This time around, Mark’s story got just one week, while Cherry had two weeks before. Now, we’re back to the never-ending saga of Cherry and the Sunny Soleil Society. It’s interesting how Caroline’s face has changed from what originally looked like a stereotypic young Southern Belle to that of a middle-aged crone.

Since Rivera brought it up in panel 4, there is talk on CK that Cherry’s statement might be a reference to the song “I don’t like Mondays”, which was inspired by Brenda Spencer, the teenager who shot up a school in 1979, killing at least two people. This really doesn’t make much sense. A better suggestion is from commenter djed, who points out the orange tabby cat in panel 4, and notes that comic cat Garfield is well-known for his dislike of Mondays. So, this certainly works as a comic strip “in joke” and fits into Rivera’s occasional employment of the gag-a-day strip format.

The Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Well, the mailbox was not exactly overwhelmed with responses to my little contest. So unfortunately, nobody had the winning answer for the new car. I may have forgotten to mention that. Well, better luck next time.

Speaking of unfortunate, this past week was like watching a man haunted by his own frustrated sense of justice and need for revenge, and… oh, that is what this past week was, come to think of it. Cherry dropped Mark back off at his fortress of safety (Cliff’s fishing lodge). Aside from some campy innuendoes, Mark spent time this week grumbling about how the world would be so much better if Duck Duck Goose ships quit bringing zebra mussels into the waters of Lost Forest. The week ended with the lightbulb in Mark’s brainpan flashing on as he came up with an idea for frightening either the ship(s) or the ship’s owners into vacating Lost Forest waters. Mark was not talking about stopping boats everywhere; just in his own backyard. Does this make Mark a NIMBY? Well, he certainly knows that he can’t save the entire world in one fell swoop, so maybe cleaning up his own neighborhood is a good enough place to start. But it still looks like “kick the can” down the river. In the meantime, check out today’s Sunday nature chat.

Another clever title panel, based on a not-too-surprising subject. Today’s topic provides the context to Diana Dagger’s remark yesterday about poinsettias being stolen from Mexico in the early 1800s. The name “Poinsettia” certainly shows a Eurocentric bias that ignored its contemporary Mexican roots, so to speak. We can give the Aztec name a pass, but the Mexican name above (or its translation, “Christmas Eve Flower”) is quite nice and a shame to not be retained north of the border. The history of the plant’s distribution, naming, and cultivation is a complex topic. It is possible that the Americans and Europeans were ignorant as to whether Mexicans cultivated the plant. It’s also likely that Poinsett sent back a cultivated version of the plant without making that clear. But just as likely he didn’t care. It became a source of long-running national animosity. A good discussion can be found here: https://www.actahort.org/chronica/pdf/ch5103.pdf#page=23

Score one for The Dagger. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Nice snark, Diana! Okay, maybe Mark has been smoking a little too much nature. What is his plan? Does he get everybody to dress up like poinsettia sharks and swim around to scare off the cargo ships? Do they dress up like old-school pirates and threaten to hijack the next ship that comes through? Cargo ships do not ply rivers for fun, but for business with inland ports that are not usually approachable from other waterways. Thus, does Mark want to kill off the zebra mussels or the shipping company?

Still, I’m intrigued. Remember, the earlier actions of the Duck Duck Goose company suggest that they have something else (likely illegal) they are more concerned about than zebra mussels. Yet, Mark and Diana are not aware of that fact. In reality, the shipping company would have already filed injunctions against Mark and the magazine to stop this investigation. So, any ideas what Mark has in mind? Submit your thoughts in the comments section and we’ll see who is closest.

Keep it down, Bubba!

Now, now, Mark. It’s late. Just have a glass of warm milk and go to sleep. If you start getting too cranky at this time of night, you might accidentally activate Big Mouth Bill-E Bass on the wall, behind Cliff. You know what that means:  The fish will swing its head back-and-forth as if it had a real neck and sing terrible novelty songs for 30 minutes. Then everybody in the lodge will wake up and get pissed at you. You’ll wind up outside, preaching to that young buck.

Really, Mark, use some imagination. Until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Byzantine capital city kept a large chain across the Golden Horn to prevent foreign ships from sailing up-river to attack the city. This could give the De-Bait Team something useful to do again:  not to protect America so much as to protect Lost Forest! You might even charge tolls for big ships to enter the waterways.

So, Mark, what if that ship did not intend to be there in the first place? What if it was just a navigational error? Did you even bother to ask them?

Ménage à deux?

I like the artwork today. The back view of Mark looking over his shoulder in panel 3 is a well-drawn complex pose. The buddy+buddy compo in panel 1 is a bit of something else.

Diana might be onto something. I think I can safely state that Rivera is clearly tweaking the nose of Trailheads with this sexually ambiguous camp, reminiscent of the 1960s Batman TV show or the later SNL animated parody. I wonder if this is just a one-off, so to speak.

Of course, we used to poke fun at Mark’s real or assumed disdain at every babe who threw herself at him (and there were plenty), other than Cherry. And even that sometimes seemed reserved. Rivera has jettisoned most of that male fantasy baggage, and that’s okay. But we never really questioned Mark’s male bona fides, just his testosterone level. Until now.