Cherry’s greenhouse makes a brief appearance

Editor’s Note: After reading this, please scroll down to read the post for last Sunday (February 12th, 2023) that I wrote but forgot to post. Sorry about that!

Mark (again) misses the unintended hint from Bill Ellis about how to further his career while staying close to home. But I suppose keeping up with modern times has never been very important in Mark’s work ethic. He’s been getting slapped in the face by characters monetizing themselves on the Internet for a few years now. Still, no awareness in Mark. It’s as if he believes that he still exists in a comic strip universe drawn with a Winsor & Newton #7 sable brush and Higgins Black Magic India ink. Okay, so a lot of Trailheads would like that, too.

Contrary to some opinions, I don’t think going back to Teen Girl Sparkle is a great idea. As there are many magazines owned by one parent company that hires Mark, how about having Mark work for magazine #6 or #9, for example? I thought one of the interesting notions of this multi-magazine concept was that Mark would get a variety of assignments from a variety of chief editors and trying to fit his work into different magazine formats. Lots of opportunities for variety and drama in that concept.  Only, most assignments have come from Amy Lee at Teen Girl Sparkle, with one from  Rafael Suave of Hot Catch magazine (the zebra mussels affair).


Mark gets schooled in what sells

I try to keep my snarky tendencies to a minimum, so I’m not going to go on a rant about how Bill Ellis always seems to look like some kind of puppet.  Still, why does Mark take this guff from Bill Ellis?

Maybe Mark should start marketing himself to a wider range of nature magazines (such as National Geographic) that don’t depend on a tabloid luridness scale to evaluate worthiness. On the other hand, while gator migration is an issue, it is not a new one; so Mark’s story idea will go nowhere, unless he takes a hint from Ellis and finds an interesting hook.

I have a few slants to gin up some excitement, should Mark be interested:

  • Gators:  It’s what’s for dinner
  • Another way global climate change can hurt your pets
  • They’re coming to eat your children!
  • Is alligator migration just a croc?

Bet you can come up with even better ideas.

And Mark’s basket of eggs comes a-tumblin’ down.

As Mark sits at his All-in-One (I wonder if that’s a visual pun?), Bill Ellis delivers the bad news we pretty much expected. I’m surprised that Rivera didn’t draw Mark in panel 4 with a big fried egg on his face. That would have been great, and a welcome return to Rivera’s earlier, more creative panel designs.

To twist the Comeuppance Knife, for example, Bill could follow-up this letdown by proposing Mark assist Kelly Welly on her climate change assignment. That would be the proper sitcom solution that puts the dad/husband in his place and forces him to confront his arrogance. A soft-pedaled arrogance used to be a Mark Trail virtue, but Rivera has been body-slamming that punching bag ever since she started. It’s pretty beat up by now (cue Simon & Garfunkel), so I’m hoping for a more creative and empowering—to borrow a term—adventure to come out of this.

Mark gets preppy with a colorful undershirt

Well, on the plus side, Cherry is keeping busy, now that her gardening and landscape business seems to be in a slump after that she spilled the beans on that ugly Ernest-Violet love affair. Also, the artwork has remained at a consistently good level. So, I hope that Rivera moves quickly past this “hallmark” period.

As far as help around the house goes, what about Rusty and Doc? They’re around a lot more than Mark.

Anyway, if Rivera is going to emphasize their luvy-duvy ways, it might be even more interesting to see how it progresses. After all, Rivera did once show them both in bed down in Florida—exhausted and sweaty—in Mark’s very first adventure. Perhaps the syndicate came down on that. This is a family comic strip, right?

Mark gives himself a fist pump

I wonder if the bald eagle might be saying “Enough, Mark! You’re not 10 years old!” But that’s not enough to stop Mark from blathering on, repeatedly, about something he wants but doesn’t yet have. This looks like an update to the old maxim, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

Meanwhile, Cherry must keep pretty busy, constantly landscaping the property; perhaps getting some cabin remodeling along the way, as well. Of course, we do have to keep scale and distance in mind. Anyway, here are some lookbacks over the past 2 ½ years:

October 2020
August 2021
February 2022

The earliest shows a good-sized cabin with greenhouse in the back and prominent steps in the front. The middle example shows the greenhouse gone, with some kind of pavement sidewalk. The next example has no steps at all, and a dirt path-cum-driveway. Today’s representation has embedded flagstones. Yeah, I’m being pretty nerdy. So, what’s the point? I don’t know: Is Rivera making changes simply to suit the story? Does she just not worry about it? Or do I need another hobby?

A new meal ticket for Mark?

Editor’s Note: Apologies for initially uploading yesterday’s strip. That’s what happens when you look at the original strip and forget to double-check what you are loading, yourself. I’ll blame it on my mind, distracted by an Italian conversation with a person in Italy that I was preparing for earlier today. Okay, on with the show:

Golly, gee! This is just like the “Mr. Wizard” show: “Mr. Wizard, so you are saying that if I hold my finger on a hot stove, I’ll burn my finger?” “That’s right, Kathy. We’ll do an experiment. Grab a snail from that terrarium and place in on that hot plate. Let’s watch what happens…

I’m not sure about Duke’s assessment in panel 4. Seems to me that many people have been looking for a “ticket” to work from home and have done so. Only now, the pendulum is swinging the other way, and companies want them back. If Mark wants to work around home more often, perhaps he should quit his job of being the errant nature journalist and get a job at a local nature preserve. Otherwise, he can try and become a money-making Youtuber.

Frankly, I’m surprised Rivera has not made Mark think about this money-making possibility, especially after learning that some of his antagonists have been making dough that way. Anyway, I bet he gets his idea turned down; it sounds like that kind of setup.

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to work we go!

Rivera’s style has been heavily criticized both for not upholding the traditional storybook style pioneered by Ed Dodd, and for its inconsistent quality. But it’s clear to me that she is taking more time in her compositions and execution. I think we’re seeing better quality and consistency, at least since the Texas roadside zoo massacre story ended back in December. And this a good direction to be moving in.

And as I (or we) suspected, gig-worker Mark took this boat trip to gather data for a story he will shop to his editor(s). His angle will likely be the effects of climate change, while hopefully excluding the erroneous notion of Arctic pack ice and rising water. Regular reader and commenter Downpuppy has provided knowledgeable comments on this point. But another reason for northern migration of alligators is loss of habitat due to human development.  

You know, if this was a pre-Rivera story, it would almost certainly center on illegal gator poaching. That’s still a significant problem and it would be great to see Rivera combine the two.

This will be on your quiz next week

Okay, Mark. get what: Climate Change creates rapids (as in panel 4)? I don’t see an obvious connection. More water just makes deeper rivers. As far as I am aware, rapids are due to changes in the inclination of the riverbed, along with the narrowness of a river section and the state of the riverbed (i.e., rocky). More water could lead to rapids, I presume, if there was not enough water to begin with. Have to agree with Mark about the gator migrations.

Still, I’m surprised Duke didn’t push Mark into the river after going into “Professor Trail” mode. Too pedantic and patronizing. I know, because my wife feels the same way about me.

Of course, Duke gave Mark his opening, as if he was one of those kids that used to show up on the Mr. Wizard television shows of the 1950s. This passage should have been presented in a more conversational or story-telling manner, rather than as an abbreviated version of the Sunday lectures.

Mark gets inspired!

Coming out of left field!? I’m pretty sure we all saw that coming. This sounds like the beginning of Mark’s next adventure; or maybe just a concern he’ll bring up with Cherry while he waits for his next assignment. Don’t know what he could do about, anyway. Alligators moving north is already old news in Wikipedia, but maybe Mark could find an angle for an article that he could sell to one of the magazines.

I don’t know about you, but every time I see Duke, I think he must be a wanted man in hiding, because his beard looks like a paste-on job. It doesn’t seem to sit right; it looks more like wool or yarn to me; anything but beard hair. Well, maybe it’s just that Rivera has a funny way of depicting beards. Or is it something else? Here is the beard on Cherry’s brother, Dirk, the survivalist.  These beards remind me of those fake beards you see on the guys in the movie, “O Brother, Where Are Thou?”, hiding out from The Law after skipping out from a chain gang.

Maybe it’s just me. What are your thoughts?

Killing Time

[edited down] Okay, the cryptid hunt was all downriver, not up. I reckon that, living along a river, you’d be more inclined to want to know what’s coming toward you (i.e., from upriver), so you might be less knowledgeable about what’s going on downriver. That might explain Mark’s lack of awareness regarding the croc cove, but I’m being kind. Many rivers flow north-south (more or less), so “downriver” matches what we inherently consider “down”. Maybe that’s from our reliance on maps? However, there are many rivers around the world that actually flow south-north. So, “upriver” is then moving south.

The most striking example is the Nile River in Africa, which flows over 4200 miles from the Sudan and Ethiopia, emptying out into the Mediterranean Sea after passing through Egypt. Reinforcing how geography influences our thinking, in pharaonic times, “Upper Egypt” meant the south, and “Lower Egypt” the north.

Otherwise, today’s strip is just a traditional Mark Trail Nothingburger:  superficial filler stuffed between two adventures, with cheese.