I came through and I shall not return!

No, this is not a reenactment of General MacArthur fleeing Corregidor in the early days of WWII. But I imagine the sentiment of the title is in Mark’s mind.

But I know what you’re thinking:  Why does the boat have to “take off”? It’s not grounded on the beach any longer and the gators can’t jump into the boat. So, what’s the big deal, other than the need for Mark to climb in?

There is a casual familiarity these days where adults and parents no longer get to be called “Mr. Trail” or “Ms. Trail”. We’re all on the same level, regardless of age, education, or number of TikTok (or BikBok) followers. In any event, seems like this rescue is more for effect than reality; in spite of the sun ray effect in panel 3 that apparently symbolizes a significant action. I reckon the kids think so. If Mark is worried, he’s probably worried that Rusty will actually panic and gun the boat, leaving him behind. So, the kids have an adventure to tell their parents and friends. And most likely, those parents will wonder whether to bring a lawsuit against Mark for child endangerment. But that wouldn’t happen to Mark Trail, would it?

Leapin’ Lizards!

Okay, they are alligators, to be sure. But the Little Orphan Annie exclamation in the title has some basis in fact. According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia (but backed up by the Online Etymology Dictionary) the origin of the term “alligator” likely derives from the phrase el lagarto (“the lizard”), a term used by the Spanish conquistadors to refer to the reptiles because they were too busy taking over the New World to bother with taxonomy. Of course, they were not biologists and taxonomy had not yet been developed, anyway. So it is a clever comic strip pun.

As expected, Mark has to make a run for it before the gators wake up and attack him. Looks like one did in panel 3, “chomping” at Mark. Ah, but the term “chomp” means to bite, and it’s clear the gator missed Mark. Perhaps “Snap!” would have been more apt. Oh my, this is what happens when you get diverted into word origins. It’s like an addiction! I’ll give Rivera a pass for “triathlon“.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Did you happen to miss the strips for this week? Well, pick one day and you’ve got the gist. That is to say (and I’m saying it, er, writing it), this week featured Mark huffing and puffing and pushing that beached powerboat off the sandy shore and back into the water so the kids could safely get away from the gators. Oh, the alligators! We can’t forget them, can we?

Well, we could, based on how little they actually did, other than merely project a sense of danger. They certainly did little to attack Mark while he dug his feet into the sand pushing that big boat!  Maybe Mark had some conversations with them in the past, so they were not going to really do anything. In any event, we ended the week with the boat relaunched. All that remains now is for Mark to jump on before it gets too far away.

As for Cherry, you might recall that the week before, she figured something was wrong when Rusty’s tracking device didn’t move away from the alligator cove. She, Jeanette, and Duke piled into his truck and went off to rescue the boating party. But they didn’t show up. Perhaps they got distracted by last week’s Sunday nature strip. Will that happen again, today?

Interesting. Oftentimes, Rivera tailors the Sunday content to the location of Mark in the current story. But Lost Woods is like NeverNever Land. It’s never quite defined, so Rivera has the liberty to go whichever way she wants, as she has been doing.

Well, the scientific consensus seems to be that the probability of snowflake duplication is very, very, very small, based on varying water content, individual crystal development, atmosphere, and the location of the snowfall. And those pesky flakes keep changing their shape as they fall. Nobody can check all snowflakes, of course. So, it’s as much an issue of mathematical probability as it is physics.

Push, push, push your boat, gently down the stream . . . .

Seems to me that Mark could simply jump onto the foredeck of the boat as it moves out. What’s the big deal here? This would still qualify as a dramatic conclusion to the escape. But I am seriously concerned that Rivera appears to have dumbed down this mise-en-scène. I told you I’m serious, so I get to throw serious terms around. Sure, it’s just a fancy-shmancy name for “all that stuff in the panels.” But there are standards to uphold…!

Now what’s with these supposedly dangerous alligators? They behave more like some kind of honor guard or a ring of admirers, for all the danger they have presented. Since gators can’t normally climb vertical or obtuse planes (e.g. the sides of the boat), I don’t see much danger to the kids, other than boredom or exposure to the elements. Well, perhaps Mark is making the best of a bad situation and playing up the (not really) danger angle in order to give the kids some excitement, instead of getting bored waiting for a rescue. Didn’t anybody bring along a cell phone?! Incredible!

Well, I was truly wrong in thinking that Cherry would appear on the scene by today.

Design-wise, Rivera has crowded the panels with redundant caption boxes. It used to be that she used them rarely, and with more finesse. Here, they only perform a pedestrian role of repeating what we can already see. It’s not as if we cannot follow the art, even as she has resumed some of her sketchy style, as seen in panels 1 and 3.

Mark Trail and the no good, very bad night

I certainly don’t wish to kvetch too much, but maybe I will. Why pad the story line with unnecessary repetition, such as this rehash of yesterday’s strip? It isn’t as if this is that new adventure comic strip, “Mara Llave: Keeper of Time”, which only posts new strips every few weeks. I think Rivera should be able to depend on readers to remember what happened the day before! Surely, Rivera could have added some new story content to fill out the week (for example, Mark avoids a gator’s bite by kicking it in the snout. Uh, wait. Mark can’t do that, right? It would go against his ethics and mission, perhaps.) Anyway, I reckon we’ll see the rescue party show up in time on Saturday.

Moving on to the drawing, this segment of the story reminds me a bit of old comic book adventures of the ‘40s and ‘50s, at least in the melodrama and some of the exaggerated drawing. Mark’s arms in panel 4 look as if they had been run over by the boat, itself. But the shifting viewpoint in every panel does help reinforce the action and dynamics of the unfolding crisis.

Mark calls on his Inner Hercules

Mebbe Mark will and mebbe he won’t. But he better have some “Hercules” in his DNA, because these types of boats weigh a half ton or more! Still, I’m glad to see that Rivera at least recognizes that trying to push such a large water craft isn’t exactly like putting out your surfboard. So, mebbe Cherry, Jeanette, and Duke will suddenly pull up in the pickup and at least scare away those ‘gators?

This accidental grounding has definitely put a damper on time for the cryptid search, though we might expect it will be an acceptable substitute as prime storytelling back in school. Well, Rusty might have a different opinion, if the search does not continue.

Also, at some point those alligators have to get over their surprise and shock and start looking at Mark as a late-night snack. Push faster, Mark!

Look! Down on the beach! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s SuperMark!

I really thought things were coming along, well, swimmingly, with regard to resolving this pesky boat/gators problem, when Rivera decided to move the water farther back, then give Mark apparent super strength. And also a third-rate punchline that makes no sense (to me).

But no way is somebody going to manually push a 15-foot grounded powerboat stuck in sand back into the water without assistance. And if Rusty is going to drive out the boat, doesn’t he first have to turn it on? Does he know how to do that, with somebody else’s boat? Well, details.

So, will Cherry & Company show up by Thursday’s strip? It would be kind of pointless to show up as they spot the boat churning away in the distance. That might happen in real life, but who wants that? This is an adventure strip. If you want real life, go read Peanuts.

Schulz died almost 23 years ago, but his strips continue to be recycled, like the nonstop reruns on Me TV. I reckon that is just fine for fans too cheap to go out and buy all of the reprint books available, so that the newspaper can give the slot to an up-and-coming cartoonist. But that is not what editors care about.

Will a rising tide raise all boats? Or even this one?

Artistic license in play, or is the tide rising around Mark’s supposedly grounded boat? Let’s look at the evidence:

The January 14 strip (near right) shows the boat clearly on the beach, with the lapping water and gators around it. The boat is definitely grounded.

But in yesterday’s strip (far right), the water seems to be encroaching on the beach and around the boat. I hope I’m not all wet, but today, the water is clearly all around the craft! Clearly, they may be able to escape by simply waiting for the water to rise some more, whereupon they can then get out without having to get out (of the boat), if you catch my drift.

On the artistic front, Rivera has been pretty consistent in her work of late; perhaps not in the style old-time fans wish for, but at least, not indulging in the odd elongations and extremes that have infiltrated her panels. Rivera has even resumed working in different viewing angles and compositions like she did in her early days. In panel 1 she even uses a gradated fill for the background forest, something she rarely does. But it is night, so the fill takes on the illusion of a foggy background. Unfortunately, the mood is jarringly broken in panel 4, with that bright, sky-blue background. Perhaps that is done to underscore Mark’s positivity?

I don’t see any gators wearing tutus, so this could be a problem.

Okay, Rivera! Is this an alley or a horseshoe-shaped cove? Perhaps “cul-de-sac” would be more apropos?

I wonder if today’s strip is an insider-salute to Rivera’s predecessors. Why? All of the text entries end with an apostrophe! Anyway, I have to correct Rivera once again:  This is not Mark Trail’s cryptid hunt. It is Rusty’s cryptid hunt. Mark is simply the driver, who is screwing things up.

Since Mark can sometimes communicate with animals, perhaps he can convince some of the reptiles to give the boat a push.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

If you didn’t catch all of the dailies this past week, you really missed an in-your-face sex act in Monday’s strip. Hoo boy! It did not leave much to the imagination and I’m surprised it got past the comic strip censors! Maybe they really do spend more time scrutinizing Pearls Before Swine, as Stephen Pastis likes to imply.

In any event, the adventure this week focused on a growing realization that something might be wrong with the Bassigator Hunting Party, based on Cherry’s tracking device (surreptitiously dropped into Rusty’s backpack) showing a total lack of movement on Cherry’s tracking app. Seems the tracker stopped at an unknown horseshoe-shaped cove in the river (as Duke described it). Neither Cherry nor Jeanette knew about it, but de-bait team member Duke described it as a hot-spot for alligators.  Curiously, everybody seemed intent on referring to the cove all week long as “the horseshoe-shaped cove”, as if the shape, itself, was somehow important. Do alligators play horseshoes?  Is the shape symbolic of an alligator’s womb?

Cherry and Jeanette got more and more concerned (OK, Jeanette was starting to panic) about what was going on and what they should do about it. Surprisingly, Mark was never a topic of this discussion, even though he was “the responsible adult on the boat”. So, rather than attempt to do something novel, such as calling Mark or Rusty on their phones, Cherry, Jeanette, and Duke decided to drive to the horseshoe-shaped cove and see what they could do to save the kids. To make this closing scene dramatic in the way intended, we have to imagine cliff-hanger music reaching a climax as we cut to the Sunday nature presentation.

This is a fair demonstration of how one’s beliefs can be challenged when physical reality conflicts with tradition and superstition.