Did somebody forget to drop anchor?

As Duke’s boat seems to be floating away on its own, I’m struck by the portray of Ernie in panel 4, as I’m sure most of you are. I’ll agree ahead of time that his appearance more resembles some kind of Hallowe’en mask than anything else. That is, it doesn’t look “normal”, but very flattened for no apparent reason, whereas the kids behind him look very conventionally drawn, even the smirking face of Robbie. So what’s the deal? Is Ernie’s father Mr. Potato Head?

I think we might also agree that the caption box in panel 4 actually useful and provides new information, without being too obtrusive. Stylistically, I’d like to see Rivera use a different font for the narration boxes.

Anyway, this sure looks like the wrap-up for this adventure. Even Rusty looks like he had a nice time, in spite of not finding his Bassigator (frankly, that always sounded like a fishing lure sold by Ron Popeil).

Convergence

I’ve come around to the popular opinion that Rivera is getting a little too dependent on caption boxes to restate what is already being said or illustrated. Not saying she shouldn’t use them, but it would be nice to keep them to a minimum and use them when they add something new. Owing to the small size of the panels, caption (text) boxes too often crowd the scene, making it all look cluttered and jumpy. If a comment box is stating the obvious, it doesn’t need to be there.

Now, how the heck did Mark follow Cherry’s tracker from a boat? Was she moving away from Mark, as opposed to approaching Mark? By the way, Cherry drives a pickup, Mark, not a car!  As I indicated before, it has not been well established that Mark was actually lost in the first place; certainly not by simply bumping a few alligators. Since Mark has a smart phone, wouldn’t it have been simpler to just call Cherry (or vice-versa)? Or maybe call up Google Maps to find his position on the river. Too bad the otherwise tech-savvy middle school kids were too busy to think of that.

Finally, why would Mark plant a tracker in Cherry’s truck? Doesn’t he trust her? Talk about a paranoid family …!

Another failed cryptid search?

Rivera has an interesting way of drawing water that seems to be animated enough to qualify as a living thing. Kind of. Still interesting, though I think it will lose a lot of its exuberance when it is printed in b&w in the paper. But, what’s this “lost” business? They’re on a river! Unless there are lots of channels coming through, the river goes one way or the other. Unfortunately, it looks as if Rusty is once again going to come up empty in his cryptid searches. But there is still a bit of time for something to happen.

Again, how can they be lost or have this part of the river not known? It’s part of the waterway that runs by Lost Forest. Mark was plowing through these waters in the Zebra Mussels adventure. Mark should at least know which direction he was going. So why isn’t there a search light or running lights? Somebody might think that the de-bait team wants dark boats to make special pickups or drop-offs.

Ernie gets upset and demands answers!

Well, this is interesting. No, not the discussion of climate change; that’s a given for this strip. I should not be too surprised that Rivera has mostly kept direct discussions to the Sunday panels, from a practical point of view. That is, I could see the influence of the comic syndicate advising Rivera to ease into the subject, given ongoing political opposition and possible negative feedback on the strip, itself.

The interesting part is the suggestion that this location—and that of Lost Forest—is not as far south as has always been surmised. I’ve read that gators are found as far north as North Carolina. But Lost Forest could also be some place up the Mississippi River, given that cargo ships ply these waters. Well, perhaps I make too much of this geographic clue, which is really only here to give Mark a que to discuss climate change. But I think Mark is a little wrong. Alligators thrive in heat, which is why they are found in the south. If they are moving north, I would think it has as much to do with the decrease in original native habitat, due to the expansion of human land use.

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“.

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.