Are we finally done with the bee story?

I’m visiting my dad down in Virginia for the next two weeks, but I’ll do my best to keep posting. If I miss a day or post late, at least you know why. Otherwise, Happy New Year!

Well, the scam worked. Caroline and Honest Ernest have been humiliated and bamboozled. Cherry believes she found a kink in Violet’s personality that she can manipulate, whereas Violet must certainly know she has found a chink in Cherry’s ethical armor she can twist.

If Caroline and Ernest were not such grasping clods, it would be easy to feel sorry for them. As for the renewed relationship of Cherry and Violet, I’m not seeing anything to be proud of. “Saved budgets“? How about “Ripped off client“? Cherry should understand that, as she was also ripped off by Violet.

“Sure, contracts are void if one side backs out…because I said so!”

Perhaps this is not a symbolic court of law after all, but a court of royal decree, as Violet rules, ex cathedra. But as I thought, there is either some deliberate hanky-panky going on, or Victoria is simply acting like some politicians we know who start on one side, but jump to the other when money or power is on the line. Still, I’m surprised and disappointed that Rivera provided Cherry with morals as ambiguous and flexible as Mark’s. I figured at least one of those two would be a touchstone of integrity. And we’ve seen Mark cross that line more than once, already. Who’s left, Doc Davis!?

But there is something wrong here. What is the actual motivation for Violet’s change? I think Violet quickly got the lay of the land and decided to reshape it to her own benefit by pretending to side with Cherry in order to sucker her into helping scam Caroline and Ernest. If Honest Ernest and Caroline can get stiffed, so can you, Cherry!

Finishing up, bonus points to Rivera for once again adding some variety—compositionally speaking—to the strip by placing the viewer in panel one down at floor level. From this angular, off-center point, the drama between Violet and Caroline is visually enhanced. But in panel two, Caroline and Ernest are reduced to silent chairs (i.e. the drama is over) flanking Violet who sits in the dominant central location to issue her decree. To conclude this royal farce, we hear from the court jester.

Moot Court is now in session

Oh, here is Cherry attempting her “Perry Mason” routine to try and scuttle this impromptu investigation. It’s a transparently silly argument to make, given that Cherry is admitting—in front of Violet—to being present, along with Ernest and Caroline. The only way this makes sense is if Cherry knows Violet would just as soon not want to deal with this situation in the first place, or that Violet already secretly approved of Cherry’s rescue plans and is now put into this embarrassing position because Caroline and Ernest are too dense to realize they could have pocketed the fee for doing nothing. But we have already covered that ground. In other words, what does Jules Rivera have up her sleeve?

But aside from the tacky wallpaper and equally tacky antagonists, what struck me immediately today is the hatching on Violet’s dress. Is Rivera experimenting with old-school b/w techniques to model shading and volume? This is not common in her work, where it usually comes off stark and sketchy in b/w newspapers. In truth, many cartoonists avoid shading. Shading can make strips look darker and crowded because of their small size. That means they could be harder to see or read, making them less attractive to editors and readers. This is nothing new, of course. Back in the 1960s, Chester Gould, in his Dick Tracy comic strip, made known his displeasure at shrinking comic strip sizes by having one of his characters periodically draw a comic strip called Sawdust, whose characters were simply dots.

Is Rivera going “All In”?

(Sorry for another wordy posting, but I did edit it a lot!)

Traditionally, mainstream comic strips try to avoid being too politically partisan, as strong views can understandably limit circulation and the cartoonist’s paycheck.

There are exceptions to this tradition (such as Doonesbury, Shoe, The Boondocks, and Mallard Fillmore). This strip is shaping up to be another exception, as Rivera is getting more comfortable flexing her Left-leaning muscles. Thus, right-wing tropes continue to come into play, as seen not only in the Sunny Soleil Society, itself, but also in our two self-indulgent “victims”.

On the other hand, I don’t think Rivera is being completely one-sided in her political satire. Certainly, Mark has acted in strident, over-the-top behavior several times, whether it is spouting “environmentalist” platitudes while threatening violence; or destroying property and breaking the law for the sake of conservation or social justice.

As a comic strip devoted to nature conservation, Mark Trail has traditionally focused on issues popular with anglers, hunters, and campers (e.g., poaching, forest fires, animal abuse). Rivera has expanded those issues to include pollution, corporate corruption, and climate change. While the former items have tended to be more popular among those on the Right, the latter issues are usually more associated with those on the Left. One can argue the details, but they are common tropes in our society. And Rivera is clearly looking to expand Mark’s awareness and involvement in these latter issues, as he should be.

Anyway, who painted the once-gray statue?

Cherry, you have the right to remain silent.

I reckon we’re supposed to laugh at the naïve, self-defeating complaints of these two gomers who are too stupid to have simply reported “Job done!” and collect their paycheck. Instead, they are incensed that Ernie did not get to spray his poison and watch bees fall by the score. Nasty Cherry took away all the fun! Meanwhile, we see Rivera laying on that “decrepit privileged class” shtick pretty thick, and having these twits sit in big comfy chairs with doily crowns.

Reckon Honest Ernest had words with his wife!

How interesting! This time around, Mark’s story got just one week, while Cherry had two weeks before. Now, we’re back to the never-ending saga of Cherry and the Sunny Soleil Society. It’s interesting how Caroline’s face has changed from what originally looked like a stereotypic young Southern Belle to that of a middle-aged crone.

Since Rivera brought it up in panel 4, there is talk on CK that Cherry’s statement might be a reference to the song “I don’t like Mondays”, which was inspired by Brenda Spencer, the teenager who shot up a school in 1979, killing at least two people. This really doesn’t make much sense. A better suggestion is from commenter djed, who points out the orange tabby cat in panel 4, and notes that comic cat Garfield is well-known for his dislike of Mondays. So, this certainly works as a comic strip “in joke” and fits into Rivera’s occasional employment of the gag-a-day strip format.

Let’s cut back to the action, Bob…uh, did we miss something?

Is this a highlight reel? Is this what we’ve waited for over the past two weeks? It is disappointedly anti-climactic. Okay, Mark doesn’t exactly hit Ernest, so much as sweep him off his feet. Then, suddenly, we’re in a truck going home, victory in hand. It seems strange that simply getting tripped would be enough to end the confrontation and allow the bees to be moved to safety. Frequent observant reader Daniel pointed out yesterday that Mark did not hold the shovel in the last panel of yesterday’s strip. So why didn’t Mark simply slug Ernest in the grand Trail Tradition? So far, Mark’s beloved and legendary “Fists of Justice” have made a poor showing this past year.

Cherry’s good question notwithstanding, I have a few questions, too:

1) What did Mark do with his car?

2) If Mark is supposed to be the good guy, how come he’s the one skirting the law, time after time?

Submit your answers now! Readers are standing by.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

As predicted, trotting out the “climate change” argument to a caricature of a person like Ernie was a waste of time. Blah! Blah! Blah! Yes, it certainly does seem as if Rivera is making the proverbial mountain out of a mole hill, as these two fight over a hive of bees. Not that saving the bees for their own sake or for the sake of their pollinating is trivial. But it does seem to me that trying to fight the ideological war of The Left and The Right over the environment could have been portrayed more realistically without resorting to the extreme memes of each side. Polluting corporations are not the issue here at all, Mark. As for Ernest, sorry but this is not about Capitalism or “the American Way”, either. But this is a comic strip, after all, even one dedicated to nature and the environment. No time or space for nuance.

As for Cherry and the Garden Club, they seem too preoccupied watching for Mark to unleash his FOJ to get their job done. The way you two women natter, Mark is going to have to trade punches for the rest of the night. Finally, what forest are we talking about (we’re in a garden, remember), and explain what “not” refers to, Mark. I don’t think you hold the deed to the Sunny Soleil Society’s land, do you?

The garden club members see an opportunity and…

[edited] Though the crew is a bit slow on the uptake, they’re moving now, and…wait, they aren’t moving now. They’re wasting more time with pointless observations. Okay, you two, don’t make Mark waste his marksplaining skills while you all stroll back to the bees. It’s already Thursday and time is against you. So, leave snarkin’ to the pros and get going!

First you had me, then you lost me

For some reason, this week is going by fast. It might be because I have my first semester Italian final oral exam this coming Friday. Sono nervoso! I imagine I’m not the only one nervous; I expect a lot of the actors at this nighttime showdown are wishing they could bee someplace else. Okay! I did a bee pun. I tried to avoid it. I really did.

So, no surprise Ernest is portrayed as a far-right wingnut who thinks a fox is somebody who works for Rupert Murdoch. And did I poke fun at Mark’s histrionics? I was premature. Well, of course there are people like Ernest who see life as simplistic superlatives and ultimatums based on faulty information (something not limited to people on “the right”). Perhaps Mark could have presented a better case to Ernest by not bringing up climate change.

Anyway, I just hope Cherry’s crew is using this distraction to capture the bees!