We’re off to see the Specter, the wonderful Spector of OR!

I reckon seaside property values have skyrocketed so much that the Seaside Specter had to relocate to the river. But where? The Columbia River is over 1200 miles long, and Portland is only along a small portion of it. Portland is 60 miles from the Pacific and 100 miles by river to the Pacific. That’s a lot of ground (or riverside) to cover. But why spoil things for Rusty? Kids should get to have real adventures, not just the kind you get on a phone. Fortunately, Rusty is used to the woods.

But what will you do if you spot it, Rusty? Did you bring a net? A stun-gun? A camera, even? Are you going to interview it for your vlog? Or, like your dad—who never seems to have a camera when on the job—will you rely on your memory and imagination to record your adventure?


Helicopter parent or dutiful Mom?

Clever! Cherry picked a middle course of action.  Question:  How did she just happen to have a set of walkie-talkies? I think Rusty will go with the “or so” option for communicating with Mom, right? 

Cherry takes a “Dagwood” (or a George Burns ) pose to commiserate directly with us. I think a lot of readers are already there.

Rusty’s neck in panel 2 is improbably long and skinny (as has been observed and commented on with other characters). Perhaps, though, it could be there to emphasize Rusty’s surprise reaction to see the walkie-talkie. But then again, I’d expect to see some supporting accent lines, as with the walkie-talkie.

Parents ruin everything!

As frequent reader Daniel P. acutely pointed out, Rusty’s adventure plot seems to roughly parallel that of Mark’s adventure with Dr. Camel’s search for The Yeti (see our September 2019-February 2020 archives). That is, both involve a search for a fictitious but believed creature. Reviewing the Yeti story reminded me of the talking heads clipart style that Allen favored. To give it its due, Mark’s adventure had plenty of action, frequent Mark outbursts, and a woman who could not make up her mind about him. On the other hand, the expedition seemed pointless and settled nothing.

Rebooting story ideas is hardly new in the history of Mark Trail adventures. What is important here is whether Rivera can carry it off. Because the protagonist is a minor and not a deluded adult, I think this story has a more plausible foundation. But that won’t be enough if the story does not contain enough action, suspense, and a decent resolution.

But Rivera immediately throws a monkey-wrench (momma-wrench?) into the adventure, just as it begins. I suppose we could see Cherry’s presence as a plot twist, in which she either gets involved or Rusty finds a way around her. Tune in tomorrow!

Let the Real Story begin!

Well, OKAY! Not a moment too soon.  Let’s hope that Rusty’s story has more excitement and suspense going for it than what’s going on inside the house with “the adults.” Not a high bar to get over. At this point, I think we all would rather be on the hunt with Rusty. Anything to stay out of that house!

Furthermore, let’s hope that when Rusty’s adventure ends, “the adults” will have finished their boring business and the Trails can then fly home.

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

One Big Happy Family! Another week flies by. And speaking of flying, we all spent this past week in Jadsen’s van, toting the surprisingly compliant Trail family from the airport to a location that was never brought up and never asked about. While Cherry had concerns, namby-pamby Mark said they should just go along for the ride and see what happens. Halfway through the trip, through the magic of comic strip magic, Cricket Bro suddenly revealed himself in the shotgun seat! Apparently, the Trails didn’t notice him when they all piled into the van. Real observant people, those Trails. Cricket Bro proceeded to humiliate Mark some more by telling him how Pappy Happy happened onto him and Bro Jadsen on a beach where they hit it off so well that Happy made a business deal with them and admitted he thought of them as family. This heartwarming scene took place at some point in the past, during the time Mark was ignoring his father (see Rivera’s first Mark Trail story in our archive for details.  It starts in October 2020). Of course, Happy didn’t bother to tell Mark about this arrangement back at the Florida cookout.

But if you remember, we did see clues of the relationship during the cookout sequence, where Mark was being made fun of, and was called “Markey”, the same nickname Cricket Bro taunted Mark with during their Palm Springs adventure.

Anyway, the Trails finally arrived at Jadsen’s house only to discover that Happy Trail somehow got there ahead of them! More comic strip magic. Happy confirmed his affection for the brothers, even though Mark had previously revealed—back in Florida—that the two brothers were scamming him. Now, Mark’s self-respect and self-worth hit a new low. Speaking of Low, will this story ever get off the ground?

Rivera gets top marks for her title panel. Well-conceived, with nice compositions! The topic, itself, is also well presented, even though Rivera insists upon using the metric system. If she would also include the common English system for comparison, the ignorant among us (ahem!) would have an idea how tall 80m is. Still, today’s strip provides good information. I’m sure there is the root of a truly interesting Mark Trail adventure here; and it would certainly be more interesting that the storyline we’re currently plodding through.

Another Family Reunion…?

I wonder if that gray squirrel is looking out at us thinking “Yeah, I like nuts, but these nut-jobs are sending me to the hospital. Blech!” So, how did Pappy get out here before Mark, and early enough to be waiting at Sterling’s house? Why not just fly out with Mark and family?

Next, how is it this new “family” relationship was not brought up when Mark and Rob met up in California? Nor brought up by Pappy back in Florida?

Next, was this meeting with Happy supposed to be a surprise for Mark? What’s the big deal?

And what’s with Happy, anyway? One moment, he’s upset that Cricket Bro and Crypto Bro took advantage by engaging him in activities harmful to the environment. Now, he’s happily embracing them like they really are his sons. Well, if this is all part of the Big Act by Mark and Happy to fool and destroy the two Surf Bros, they’re doing a great job, so far. Otherwise, I’m with Squirrel Bro.

There’s no fool like a Trail fool!

Last time I checked the Oxford English Dictionary, the sound of a hand hitting the face is spelled “S-m-a-c-k”, Smack. “Smak”, on the other hand, is what somebody says when spewing BS to somebody or about somebody; as in “talking smak.”

If you’ve been keeping up, you’re doing better than I am in my Italian class. We’re still in the van, listening to the Jerk Bros and wondering why Mark agreed to this ride. Does Rivera hate Mark Trail? Or what he stands for? I think that is what a lot of Trailheads probably think, since Mark is almost always made to look and act like a hothead and a sucker. At least, that is the vibe I’m getting.

That’s right, Mark. Good ol’ Dad felt so bad not hearing from you that, after screwing over his friend and neighbor, Jolly, Happy just had to travel all the way to Oregon and drown his sorrows on the beach, only to run into Rob and Jadsen. One big ‘happy’ family, eh? Seems like ‘Sucker!’ is a family trait. But I sure understand their dad cutting them off.”

This would be a pretty good time for Mark to exercise his so-called “Fists Of Justice” on Rob and demand some answers. I doubt that will happen. Frankly, his FOJ outings have been weak.

Look at us now, Ma. Bros forever!

The thought bubbles that connect panels 1 through 3 provide a nice visual lead-in to the flashback, though I’m stuck wondering why Cricket Bro feels compelled to discuss this incident with Mark and Cherry. Did this event take place after he and Mark were school mates? Because the flashback suggests it took place on the coast (i.e. California or Oregon). Maybe not a big deal, anyway.

Okay, we have two parodies of nouveau entrepreneurs:  Young, aggressive, rich, narcissistic, and amoral.  Like Mark Trail villains of the past, these two have “Punch Me!” labels stuck on their foreheads. The question is whether Mark will be the agent of humiliation or Cherry. But I suppose it can be a team effort.

So, let’s move on, shall we? We’ve seen enough of their backstory. No reason to beat it to death, like the backyard barbecue that took three weeks to cover. It’s now Thursday, so there are just two days to get the Trails settled in. Wherever that is. After all, Rusty has to break out of his non-essential “extras” role and then get into his co-starring role to go hunting cryptids.

Is Mark playing the Long Game?

So, Mark disappointingly flaunts the impotence of his famed Fists O’ Justice and demurs over upsetting the feelings of The Scam Brothers. One has to ask:  Why!? What is going on here?

Why should Mark keep quiet about a kink in the eco-armor of Jadsen Enterprises? Seems to me that, with all of the passivity and weakness that Mark has been showing so far, he would want to try to balance the scales a bit in his favor. No?

But for the sake of fairness, let’s consider:  Is Mark’s behavior a deliberate strategy to only seem complacent and appear weak in order to throw off the brothers, until Mark suddenly turns the tables at the right moment? Well, we have not seen this strategy in his other stories (not even in the old Mark Trail). On the other hand, Mark might just rely on his usual emotional improvisation and extra-legal behavior to save the day.

Hey, one good thing that could come out of this:  Let’s hope that Rivera alternates Mark and Cherry’s storyline with Rusty’s adventure, just as she does when Mark and Cherry have their own individual messes. At least, Rusty’s story has the potential for real fun and mystery.

Imagine a world of spaghetti noodles…!

I was thinking of the 1950s Superman TV show. As a very young boy, I thought he was amazing. But by the time I was 7 or 8, I was a savvy TV watcher and started noticing details:  Nobody worked at The Daily Planet except for Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Mr. White. Superman’s muscles were just padding; everybody had to be really stupid to not see that Clark Kent was Superman. He had to keep rescuing Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen when they kept getting themselves into stupid traps. Superman also wasted too much time chasing down third-rate crooks and crackpots. Of course, I was not savvy enough to understand story development for kid programs was not important.

Once again, we see that Mark leads with his head and acts like Jimmy Olsen. Leave it to Cherry to have at least a lick of common sense, even if it is too late. But as for her concerns about the environment, Cherry, you just flew across country in a giant jet airplane! Show some humility! At least Rusty is wise enough to tune out the “grownups.”

But who is that sock puppet poking his head around the seats in panel 3? Oh, my lord, it’s Cricket Bro. Is he behind Mark? Where did that extra seat come from? If he is in front of Mark, why is Mark looking back? And how did all three Trails get into the van without noticing Cricket Bro was already there? Never mind that Cricket Bro looks and acts like he is Rusty’s age. It’s all too much.

Although this storyline has potential, the execution does not give us a lot of hope.