Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Arraigned in yellow bedtime regalia like Nero Wolfe, Rusty read his cryptid book and came across a cryptid called SurfSquatch. Formerly a surfer, the dude paddled into a wave the wrong way and come out as some kind of night-surfing wookie who met and fell in love with another such creature. But like Cinderella, she upped and disappeared, leaving him alone and horny.

Where did she go? Though surfsquatches live along the shore and eat seafood, Rusty’s Surfsquatch decided to search in the forest, whereupon he fell victim to hunger and fatigue. Being lost, he next fell into a cave, where an orchestra of crickets was hopping by. So, he ate them, as they reminded him of shrimp. “Shrimp?!” thought, Rusty, “Why, Dad calls crickets land shrimp!” With that light bulb moment, Rusty got an idea for attracting the Seaside Specter. Rusty sought out cans of cricket protein that Cricket Bro had stored in the house, to use as bait. Not yet explained is what Rusty intends to do if he meets the Seaside Specter. Oh, wait. We saw that, already:  He ran. Well, before you run off, check this out:

Hey, at least Mark is doing something with his time in Oregon, other than playing slap-hands with the Bunco Brothers. I bet Rivera had fun drawing these bugs, too.

But speaking of lady beetles, there is an amateur South Australian band called “The LadyBeatles”, something of a local thing, with a Facebook presence and a YouTube video. They don’t seem to be interested in invading America like their male namesakes did nearly 60 years ago (ye gads!).

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Hello, sports fans! Wait, if you really are a sports fan, you’re likely watching a game or a multi-hour pre-game program instead of reading this. That’s okay, I can wait a minute.

Right. So what happened this week, you ask? It was a week of basking in the sun of success for Mark, who overcame smoke, fire, and hostile readers to find and disable the power station that was sending dangerous voltage through downed power lines at the mill.  Not sure what happened to the fire, itself, though one panel suggested firefighters showed up to contain the blaze. Ultimately, an informal grievance committee of lumber mill workers complained to Mark that the Bogus Brothers were taking advantage of them by stinting on working conditions, fire procedures, and safety. They brushed off worker complaints, while even Pappy Happy could do nothing to help them. This started another fire, this time inside of Mark who grew even more concerned for his dad’s financial and legal welfare. Perhaps they would all feel better if they took a break and read today’s nature chat!

Yes, Mark. Go ahead and humiliate your son, just as you so often get humiliated these days. I notice that you did not mention your own (albeit reluctant) prior participation in a Yeti Hunt. Or was that one undertaken by your retired dad? It does get confusing.

Still, today’s Sunday strip seems like some kind of passive-aggressive putdown of Rusty’s ambition to hunt for the Seaside Spector. Why can’t poor Rusty get to enjoy his adventure without The Parents feeling the need to tell him there is no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny!? He’ll grow up to be cynical and anti-parent all too soon, Mark.

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

So, we finally had our first actual action and adventure episode in the Oregon Vacation story (Don’t blame me for that prose; it was Rivera and her alliteration a few days ago that tempted me). Sure, Rusty’s Seaside Specter hunt looked like it might have been the real deal, but we can’t deny first honors to Mark, can we? Still, I hold out hope Rusty gets his adventure.

This action-packed week saw Mark racing across the smoky, fire-infested grounds of the burning lumber mill to locate the main power supply. Mark shut down the power going to some dangerous downed electric cables that had trapped mill workers (and his dad) from escaping. With Mark surrounded by cheering employees, Cherry made a surprise appearance to hug her hero, as is expected in the Heroic Tradition.

Thus, we got a brief, but noteworthy, Mark Trail Saves the Day adventure, the kind that might have appeared in a vintage Mark Trail story. I think this is also the first solo Mark Trail adventure since Jules Rivera took over.  I’m glad to see that Rivera gave Mark that opportunity as well as a win that for once was not obscured by satire, goofiness, or chicanery. Hmm, well it was a bit goofy. Anyway, before you click off, let’s jump to today’s nature chat!

Okay, that’s about a minute.
This is one of the best arguments for vegetarianism.
Oh, bugger!
Shouldn’t Rob Bettencourt have been the one to present this topic?
Looks like Mark finally sold out to Cricket Bro, just like Dad!
It’s what’s for dinner.

I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a cricket burger today.

Crickets don’t look like hot dogs. Hot dogs look like sausage. Make cricket sausage!

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

I’ve been yakking a lot this week, so I’ll keep this summary brief (based on my normal standards, that is).

Mark and the two “Crypto Bros” drove to the burning lumber mill. The brothers stood around while Mark yelled a lot and finally ran down the slope to get employees out of the burning lumber mill. Mark must have figured they were too dumb to evacuate on their own. Mark discovered that Dad had beat him to the mill (just like he beat Mark to Portland!) and was up in a watch tower. Mark modified his priorities to include “saving Dad”, because Mark must save people, regardless of whether they can save themselves or even need saving. In spite of the fire, Mark climbed the tower. Meanwhile, the brothers remained up the slope. As the drama heats up, we pause for the Sunday chat.

Mark presses another case for recognition of the effects of “climate change.” I’m not getting into the philosophic/political side of that, because I have a brain. And this is a comic strip blog.

Certainly, Mark’s little testimonial is not going to sway a denier or skeptic. Not sure it’s meant to, anyway. Mark’s bland “Let’s hold hands and not breath” comment might incentivize younger people to get involved, but that’s about it. Perhaps Mark should start getting more emotionally charged on Sundays, as he does in his daily strips.

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Compared to prior weeks, this week was rather conventional, if unexciting. That will be taken as an insult by many (or most) readers, who keep hoping for more adventure. As a point of comparison, you might agree that the reprinted pet monkey story in the Mark Trail Vintage section on Comics Kingdom is little more than a maudlin collection of sappy clichés wrapped around improbable, if predictable, events. Hardly a ripping yarn from Dodd. Rivera likes to create her own clichés within storylines that favor outrageous characters, sometimes silly plots (like the current story), and satire that doesn’t always hit the mark. Some readers have contributed additional descriptions, such as lame, pointless, and infantile.

For the strips this week, we have Cherry taking Rusty on a day trip into downtown Portland for something fun to do. They did things Cherry thought were interesting, but Rusty was having none of it. In desperation, Cherry dragged Rusty into a comic store, though Rusty fretted over being made fun of for his weak super-hero knowledge. Wah! Wah! Anyway, two things occurred after they entered the store:  one predictable and one not so predictable. You decide which is which!

One:  Professor Bee Sharp suddenly popped into view from another room in the store, having overheard Rusty’s interest in the Seaside Specter. Not realizing who Cherry and Rusty are, Sharp offered Rusty some advice on trapping the Seaside Specter, then left.

Two:  Mark called Cherry to inform her of the fire emergency at the lumber mill. For some reason, Cherry believes they must return immediately. Why? While you ponder the possible reasons, direct your attention to today’s nature discussion.

Reader Charlie Oliver, who has reported on Pokémon references in Mark Trail might appreciate the pseudo-Pokémon reference in today’s otherwise straight-forward presentation on the porcupine. Instead of flooding our senses with lots of disparate porcupine data, Mark focuses only on the quills and their function. At first, I thought this was being lazy, but I get it:  Mark wants to inform pet owners of the potential danger and how to avoid a trip to the vet. Point made.

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Once again, a week filled with suspense, drama, and action!

Wait, sorry. I was thinking of the Vintage Phantom comic strip posted on ComicsKingdom, not the current Mark Trail adventure. I’m certainly not thinking of that stupid pet monkey adventure in the Vintage Mark Trail reprints. either.

While “the little woman and the brat” were left behind, The Four and a Half Men (Isn’t Mark more than just one man?) drove out to a bird/animal rescue center to which the Bird-Brain Brothers provide minor financial support. Presumably this support is to put a smiley face on their NFT business. They also hope the trip will distract Mark into thinking they’re good guys at heart and not trying to fleece Happy Trail or screw over his business.

But is Mark getting himself involved in something that is not really his business? And isn’t he supposed to be on a family vacation? No wonder he left Cherry behind!

Anyway, the only other notable event of the week is that the secret lumber mill Jadsen owns appears to be on fire and he doesn’t know how to respond to it. So, he turned to Mark for advice. I think Rivera has the right slant on NFT crackpots.

Enjoy today’s Sunday nature talk and have a nice Easter, however you observe it.

Dang! I think a beaver must have eaten my Easter basket, because I can’t find it anywhere!

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

For those who missed this exciting week, allow me to summarize it for you as succinctly as possible: Nothing happened.
Well, in terms of action or story development, nothing happened. Instead, the week was spent with Pappy Happy and the Bunco Brothers trying to convince a skeptical, if confused, Mark about the validity and viability of their need to work with NFTs and their originators in order to attract NFT Influencers and gain their support to sell Cricket Powder. Got it? Sounds like a crock? Of course it does!

And Mark almost came to blows with Cricket Bro over a lame joke/insult. That part sounds rather topical, doesn’t it? Except that these strips are submitted many weeks in advance, so it is just an interesting happenstance. Cherry’s just-in-time arrival on the scene Saturday silenced the nattering nabobs, freezing them in place while demonstrating once again that…uh, that is to say, men don’t like to be caught out by women acting in ways they likely think women act. Of course, squabbling and name-calling are signs of weakness!  But once again, Mark is out of his depth and unable to respond properly or take charge of the situation. Best he makes a tactical retreat and reconsiders his options. One of those options has to be the Sunday nature lesson:

Aside from Mark’s silly closing question (and by the way, beavers don’t need chainsaws. They do just fine), logging is certainly a contentious problem in Oregon, where it has been the state’s leading money-maker and export. The official Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) states that “cars and trucks are the number one source of air pollution in Oregon.” But are they biased?

Other sources support Rivera’s position (feel free to repeat my Google searching). No doubt, it depends upon how you slice and present the data. And the difference seems to be minor. No matter what, logging is still a significant factor. But it also has a significant impact on local and state economies. The politics of the industry are equally complex and protected. While new trees are planted to replace old ones, they may not have the durability or capability to absorb/synthesize carbon dioxide the way old growth trees do. Still, the more trees that can be planted, the better. Not just for their visual appeal, but because they contribute to scrubbing CO2 out of the environment.

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

It’s a sunny, but windy Saturday (as I write this recap). I should be working on my Italian or even taking a walk. Instead, I’m writing this and studying Italian. Probably not a good idea for either. But here we go…

Here began what I hoped would be (and still hope will be) the highlight of this current storyline:  Rusty’s hunt for the Seaside Specter. This week we saw Rusty take off in the woods at night, on his own, only to be corralled by a pursuing Cherry. She insisted he bring along a walkie-talkie while she “hung around” the woods, looking for edible mushrooms. Rusty continued on his path, hardly going very far when he saw something down the path that he immediately thought might be the specter. He fumbled with his pack to don the mask his Aunt Olive lent him (to protect his eyes). After putting it on, he started complaining about his eyes(!) and then everything went bad. He hollered for Mommy, who immediately showed up and suggested they return to the house to eat mushrooms and have a rethink. What a disappointment.

Is this the end of Rusty’s adventure? I hope not, because the other so-called storyline with Mark, Dad, and the Goofball Bros is less an adventure and more of a business meeting (YAWN!).  And heaven forbid if one of those Bozo Bros volunteers to accompany Rusty on another attempted hunt. Yet, I suppose it could add some madcap action to a story that still has not gotten off the ground. Something needs to happen, and soon. But we won’t know anything until at least Monday. For now, time to relish the Sunday nature chat. (BTW, I did go biking this morning, so there!)

I don’t suppose Rivera is going to win over viewers sliding in some social gender typing, and I’m not sure it scientifically applies here. However, I don’t think Rivera cares. The term “crab” is not really fluid, just too often used. I’ll stand corrected on that, if necessary.

Mark’s discussion of crab evolution is interesting and something new to me. I also found it interesting (with some futhter reading) that young crabs go through lots of molting stages on the way to adulthood. The process takes a long time and is neither simple nor free from danger. In fact, while attempting to escape from its old shell, a molting crab can be caught betwixt the shell and the deep blue sea and die! Crabs also have a complex and populous taxonomy, with some 7000 species, if I’m reading the data correctly.

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Cherry, Mark, and an unseen Rusty spend the week flying cross country to Portland, OR. Along the way, Mark is fixated on the mysterious stepbrother of Cricket Bro, who goes by the gold-plated twit’s name of Jadsen Sterling; so much so, that he leaves a slice of pie Cherry brought along unfinished, as he searches the Internet for information on Sterling’s business interests.
After the Trails enter the terminal, a person who looks like a younger brother of Svengooli appears, identifies himself as Jadsen, and says he is their ride. What ever happened to the actual vacation, itself, seems to have been put aside. Rusty, who had been invisible for the flight, made a brief appearance (I think) in a long shot of the Trails’ arrival in the terminal. That’s pretty much the activity for the week. I won’t rehash the details of my diatribe on the art, though I probably should have just posted them all here, instead. You can scroll down to read the prior posts, if you like. Even though I do have concerns, I still support the strip’s general direction. I still believe that many of the changes Rivera has brought into the strip are a positive contribution (including the imagery), but they are endangered by the appearance of artistic inconsistency, sometimes weak plotting, and an over-indulgence in self-parody. We’ll have to see how Rivera—now in her second year—manages to overcome them. That’s assuming she also believes there are issues to resolve. Otherwise, on to the Sunday strip, which seems to enjoy more consistent output:

Okay, if Mark is only talking about the Western Gray Squirrel, I’ll buy the “forest” argument, because just every other kind of squirrel can be found just about everywhere, including cities, suburbs, and my wife’s bird feeders. The art in the Sunday panels tends to have a more consistent quality than the dailies. A practical reason for this is the size of the Sunday panels, both in the original format and published format, is larger than the dailies. But that’s not the whole story.  Part of the difference is that Sunday panels are not linked to the dailies, so story continuity is not an issue. Also, I’m not going too far out on a limb here to think that Rivera might simply enjoy drawing Sunday more than the dailies. 

The Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

The family melodrama continues, as Cherry abandons Mark so he can have a hear-to-heart with Happy about NFTs. Turns out Happy Trail got himself into an NFT business arrangement with the stepbrother of Rob Bettancourt (aka Cricket Bro). Mark is going through his “disaster déjà vu” meltdown again. How is it that the Trails keep getting involved with these weirdos in California (and now, Oregon)? It’s not like they’re just down the road. I like the concept of overlapping storylines; it has a better ring of authenticity than the usual linear approach with the clean breaks. I think the only people who have not resurfaced are the members of the Herp Hacienda Gang (Reptilionnaire, excepting).

Unless you have a squad of writers and artists who do the actual daily work that bears your signature (and I think we can all name a few of those strips), then you have your work cut out for you. I know Rivera is capable of creative, quality work, as we can see in her earlier panels. And even now, I think that still comes through, as these two panels from Tuesday show. What I like here are: 1) the “lookback” view as we see Cherry exit towards us and looking back at Mark; and the 2) alternate “lookback view”, as we now view Cherry more or less from Mark’s point of view. There is a nice balance between people and space. Rivera keeps implied motion moving in the first panel by arranging the figures so that Cherry is exiting off to the right, as Westerners implicitly follow. This is continued in panel 2. It might not seem like a big deal, but all of these bits contribute to the overall composition and flow. That kind of planning and drawing takes time and effort to put together. I don’t know what KFS pays Rivera, but they should pay her enough to hire an assistant. Then maybe Rivera can spend more time on the drawing.

And now for something relatively different… an animal not seen before or part of the story. Interesting that the moth has such a long transformative period, yet such a short time to make its moth-mark in the world. And who would have figured scales on a moth? But that large 3-5” wingspan is quite something. I have to admit that after reading these Sunday panels, I almost always feel inspired to find out more information.