While we have some time to ponder…

Ah, Mark. Soon we’ll all make houses, furniture, and violins from adobe and papier-mâché. But let’s move on:

Recent comments by reader Obtuse Angle (and me) concern how Rivera sometimes depicts heads and necks (etc.) in odd ways. There have been lots of comments here and elsewhere about the strip’s art and writing. But is this just an issue of inconsistency, as OA suggests? Or is there more to it?

If you look back at her earlier work in Mark Trail, you will see that Rivera is clearly an accomplished illustrator and knows her way around a drawing board. If you need more evidence, go to her website (http://julesrivera.com/) and click the Portfolio link. Then scroll down through the “Storybook” and “Comics” areas. You’ll scratch your head wondering if this is the same artist that draws Mark Trail!

It all suggests that “distortions” and “inconsistencies” in Mark Trail are deliberate, not accidental, or simply incompetent. But why? Several hypotheses come to mind:

  • A deliberate avoidance, or dismissal, of old-school storybook illustration that Elrod, Dodd, and Allen championed (although they clearly had issues here and there).
  • An attempt to develop a more expressive (modernistic?) style that reflects the absurdist-influenced story lines and characters, or at least a style found in online comics and graphic novels. That is, a style relevant to people growing up in the 21st century. And most of us are stuck with 20th-century conventions.
  • The result of Rivera trying to design updated plots, new personalities, and a new art style, while trying hard to keep up with a more demanding, deadline-oriented job.
  • I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. That is, maybe I should just quit acting as if this is a serious, philosophic inquiry. Mark Trail is, after all, just a comic strip.

Well, I’m not even sure what the answer is.  And does it matter? For example, should I hate Garfield more because it is actually put together by an entire team of writers and artists (mostly excluding Jim Davis) and exists mainly to promote a huge merchandizing empire? (I can’t begrudge Davis’s success on that point.)