Mark leads with his best material

In other words, “I do not think it means what you think it means”, as Inigo Montoya opined to Vizzini. But names—however misapplied—have a habit of sticking around, like the “Canary Islands”, named for wild dogs, not tweety birds. I wonder if Stump is such the genius that he expects Mark to have immediately formed an opinion of his retreat, or if he is just testing Mark for some reason.

I’m thinking Rivera does not do 3/4, rear-facing heads very often; hence Mark’s profile face in panel 2. Also, the broad space and scale that Rivera seems to be trying to suggest in panel 1 could have been improved by putting the station wagon farther “back”, so that we only see its front extending out from the lower left corner of the panel. It would then set a scale to more dramatically emphasize the receding space and avoid the question of why Mark is walking from the right side of the vehicle.

Of course, Rivera may not have intended any of this, anyway.


Go ahead, Mark. Rub it in!

Here in the Twin Cities, we’ve had a miserable day of cold, rain, and ice, as if we were on the east or west coast! So, hooray for Mark and his splendid view!

Well, some of Rivera’s best work is her landscapes. Even Mark is well drawn, approaching her early strips in quality. Maybe the joy of drawing the landscapes rubbed off on her depiction of Mark. But I do wish she would resist the popular trend of drawing heavy outlines around objects, such as the squirrel. Totally unnecessary and distracting, I think.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

We are moving deeper and deeper into Mark’s newest adventure, babysitting a crowd of tech workers at some nearby mountain retreat. I might be overstating the case. This past week Mark kept trying to get the right information from editor Rod Radagast about a matter of fighting bears. Turns out that under cross-examination, the original investigative journalist might have been talking about water bears. Mark explained the difference between real bears and water bears, but to little avail, as the editor clearly lacked the proper educational background. Well, this was the week that was, I reckon. With luck, Mark will end this tortured interview and get on with the project. Until then, check this out:

Water bears? What a surprise! Clearly, the outer space gimmick has Rivera’s attention, since she repeats the assocation. But what else can one say about tardigrades? They don’t make good pets. They are food for other tiny creatures.

Wikipedia reports that their very taxonomy is still an ongoing concern. Yet, in spite of their small size, there seems to be some fossilized examples from the Cambrian and Cretaceous eras. I think we have to give special awards to the paleontologists who found these examples, given that the average size of a tardigrade is only 0.020 in.

Run for your life! Giant radioactive water bears!

Rabid Rod continues to emote like Charles Nelson Reilly, as Mark probably starts thinking that working-from-home ain’t such a great idea. It sounds quite possible that naïve Rod just got things totally mixed up from the start.

For example, it could actually have been a real bear chasing the journalist in the water who called in while he was being chased. Rod might have misheard his call: “Bear!<huff> Water! <puff> Bear…” or something incoherent like that. Or it could be actual ginormous water bears that inadvertently grew 10 feet tall because of radioactive pollutants in a nearby river. Either way works for a Mark Trail article.

But finally, let’s not overlook the message box in panel 4:  A hint for the Sunday nature chat?

Distance Learning

Preppy dresser Mark schools editor Rod Radagast in a fundamental biological difference between ursidae and tardigrada. If nothing else, Mark should feel relieved in the same way Rod should be embarrassed. Then again, any dude wearing granny shades is probably immune to such feelings.

What we have here is failure to communicate

So, we were all set up by Rivera with that “fighting bears” gag. I reckon either Rod Radagast (okay, so we see Rivera has read some Tolkien) did not properly explain things to Bill Ellis, or he thinks a water bear and a bear are the same thing, so no reason to bother being specific in his explanations. Not a good take for a magazine editor, he could have looked it up.

Optional visual analysis follows for those with more time and interest: Rivera employs yet another visual technique (Rod’s extended hand) linking present-time (panel 1) to a past action (panel 2). Rivera employs various solutions for presenting past events within the context of current time. Here are the ones I tend to see. Maybe you’ve seen others?

As we recently saw in the Texas roadside zoo adventure, the white-bordered image of Mark superimposes itself over the background scene to underscore that the latter is a recalled event. This is one of Rivera’s most common techniques.

From the family vacation in Oregon (03/24/22) comes another technique involving thought balloon bubbles floating across multiple panels to illustrate a past sequence of events. The narrated past action begins in panel 2 and continues into panel 3. Obviously, the amount of dialog and action meant that Rivera could not use the prior technique. Rod Radagast’s overlapping hand in today’s strip is a variant of this one, reinforced by the “quoted dialog” in the textbox.

Looking back to the Zebra Mussels story comes the following depiction (11/11/21). It may be unique but requires context. Earlier in the story (11/04/21), Diana Daggers lamented to Mark that she was angry to discover that her boss—Professor Bee Sharp—was investing her salary in NFTs and converting it into digital currency. Note that nowhere else in the strip for 11/11/21 is Diana mentioned or shown!

While Sharp reviews new photos for NFTs, the background scene is his own visualization of what Diana revealed to Mark. The link between present and past is not a highlighted body or thought bubbles, but the use of color and silhouette. And Sharp is clearly in the room twice: as a silhouette in the past and himself in the present (note the light on his shoulders). Perhaps Sharp’s “No problems on my end!” comment textually applies to the photos as well as his talk with Daggers as he recalls the earlier encounter.

But will the answer bear up?

So, is Rivera now setting up Mark just to get in her own snarky comments (panel 4)? Not sure that’s fair to the rest of us, Jules, unless we get a chance to write some of the plot in return. Otherwise, panel 2 shows us that the North America Syndicate has certainly opened its Mark Trail archives to Rivera to provide the necessary “prior knowledge” Bill Ellis mentioned earlier.

Still, we seem to finally be moving past this four-day-and-counting “I have to fight bears?” meme. We get it, Rivera! Let’s just move this train down the line.

Catching up

I can tell you that the Paxlovid regimen has greatly shortened the intensity of my misery and pain. I can even walk up/down the stairs. But I’ll be officially isolated until at least Friday. I fear COVID will join the yearly vaccine lineup, along with pneumonia and the flu. But, on with the show!

Monday: Yes, exactly where did the STEM nerds set up their retreat? And what are they doing—leaving their food out in the open in picnic baskets? I don’t know about you, but if this strip was animated, I’d bet that Bill Ellis would come off like Max Headroom, the pioneering “A.I. TV avatar” of the 1980s. Otherwise, I think we’re back to another adventure in Crazy Time.

Tuesday: Somehow, I’m getting the feeling that Bill Ellis will say or do just about anything. But really, this is nuts. If there actually was a bear issue, wouldn’t somebody have already called a game warden or local park service? Somehow, “nature journalist” doesn’t come to mind when I think “RAMPAGING BEARS!” Then again, maybe it’s the result of the STEM nerds getting plastered every night and doing really stupid things, such as posing for selfies near bears, petting bear cubs, etc., like tourists sometimes do at Jellystone, er, Yellowstone Park. Anyway, this could be a prime audience for some Mark Trail Outbursts Of Rage!

By the way, I overlooked a prior bear engagement that Mark Ellis may have referred to. It began back around mid-April 2014 when Mark had a jeep accident by Obie Falls in Lost Forest and was pursued by a black bear. Adventure ensued. Check it out on our archives.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Editor’s Note: I came down with COVID on Saturday and feel like crap. But I’m also taking those paxlovid pills and hope they shorten this misery. Depending on how things go, I may have to post several days at once, later in the week. Just so you know, I wrote most of this stuff before the COVID hit me.

Despite an error-prone week of mixed up and missed postings on my part, I think we were still able to get the gist of Mark’s recent travails. Thinking he had a million-dollar idea for working from home, Mark’s attempt to sell an article on alligator migration and climate change met with sober disinterest from editor/corporate avatar, Bill Ellis.

Cherry, led to believe Mark’s idea was already a done deal, was surprised to learn otherwise. But Rivera cut away before we could learn whether Mark suffered the sometimes fate of Jiggs, the beleaguered husband in the old “Bringing Up Father” comic strip (which would likely not get published these days. Ah, the good ol’ days of slapstick humor).

Throwing a bone to Mark, Ellis suggested he take on an assignment to nursemaid a bunch of STEM “professionals”—presumably public school teachers of science, tech, engineering, and math—at a nearby mountain retreat. This will supposedly allow Mark to come home every night. Anyway, it’s clear enough Mark was around long enough to put together today’s nature lecture. So, check it out!

So, what I get from this is that the former versions of Mark Trail were the traditional alpha male type now in disrepute. Rivera’s take on Mark clearly fits the newer standard. Some quick online searches seem to confirm Rivera’s (Mark’s) explanation.

Is Bill Ellis a Minnesotan? Readers want to know!

Mark finally does have a chance to work for a different magazine in F.E. & Cook’s bullpen of 17 magazines, “True Tech”. Hooray, at least. I wasn’t aware that Mark had any “Davy Crockett” in him, however. Ah, perhaps Bill indulges in some sarcasm, recalling Mark’s recent petting zoo investigation that involved a meeting between Rex Scorpius and a loose bear?

Well, this assignment does sound like something more in the line of a traditional Mark Trail story. I don’t know how the logistics are going to work out if this is some kind of mountain retreat, but I’m sure we’ll find out pretty soon. Home every night? I doubt it.