A calm before the storm?

There they are. Talking in short sentences. Like Jack Webb. Just the blab, ma’am.

To build up suspense, Rivera emphasizes the light-hearted bantering of parents and friends as of yet unaware of the plight of the frightened members of the cryptid search party, marooned on a boat, surrounded by crocodiles. Yet, I’m still perplexed how the campfire crew will affect a rescue, given that they apparently do not have another boat on hand. However, the de-bait team must surely have another boat or two that can be pressed into service.

But, man (so to speak), that is the neatest s’more I’ve ever seen. How did they get the melted marshmallow to conform to the graham cracker’s shape so cleanly? Don’t tell me that “Mr. Back-In-My-Day” trimmed his s’more!?

Let’s get it on!

Two squirrels get frisky in the foreground, but the threesome misses the action and the implied hint. They have their own priorities. Practical Cherry’s chatter also serves a purpose: To activate the premise for the rescue of Mark and the kids, even though she doesn’t realize it as yet. Golly, how could I forget the tracker she placed in Rusty’s backpack (see the blog for January 2nd)? No doubt, you did not! So how will they accomplish the upcoming rescue? And by the way, does Mark know about all of these wild men Cherry waited for?

I’ve noticed over time that Cherry’s face goes through several shapes. Not sure why. She looks a bit older in panel 3 than in panel 2, reminding me of somebody that might have come out of an old Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy comic strip. Sorry, my mind wanders.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Yeah, this is yet another weekly summary of the past seven dailies. But is this really a true summary, or have I fabricated alternate facts to create a phony deterministic weltanschauung in order to support my own philosophical and aesthetic biases and gain international Blog Fame? Frankly, I have no idea, so I hope you can figure it out.

Anyway, did you miss any days this past week? It was a rough and tumble time on the boat, as heated exchanges between Rusty and Robbie were replaced by heated reactions of several alligators. How did that happen? It seems that this nighttime boat ride was going well until eagle-eyed Mark bumped into a gator. Didn’t he know where he was going? Didn’t he know about the alligators?

Mark tried to gloss over this mishap with the kids, but the waters suddenly started getting rough. A growing swarm of gators who were none too happy with Mark’s piloting skills were making themselves known. Whether he was boating into rapids or churning waters somehow created by the gators, Mark was unable to keep a steady course or even pilot the boat away from the trouble. For someone claiming to know how to operate a power boat, that’s disappointing. Anyway, the boat ran aground onto a beach as if it was D-Day. Unfortunately, they grounded alongside a giant collection of upset gators! Good thing gators can’t jump.

Artistically, this has been a fairly good week, with more consistency and a return to more dramatic, creative scenes. It won’t convert old school holdouts, of course, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Now Mark talked about alligators last Sunday. Let’s see what’s got him interested today.

Is this a real problem today? I know that back in the colonial days of our country people kept squirrels as pets, especially youngsters. There are lots of paintings of the time showing this to be true. The painting of a boy with his flying squirrel by John Singleton Copley is one famous example.

The attack squirrel story mentioned here comes from a 2019 incident where an Alabama meth seller hoped to turn the squirrel into some kind of home defense attack dog. But this is a singular incident, not a trend. The bigger picture, though, is wild animals are wild and should be left that way. Too many knuckleheads want to give their lunch to deer, raccoons, and pigeons, thinking they are being nice or humane. This just makes the animals more and more dependent on human intervention, which is bad.

 Or is this Jaws XXIV?

Is Mark wearing some kind of inflated suit? It sure looks big and stiff. Okay, I suppose Mark sometimes does seem like a Gilligan (as faithful reader Daniel commented), but as for today, he is going all “Robin” on those alligators. But “holy sea cow”!? Not even close, Mark! The original Steller’s sea cow was discovered and hunted to extinction in the 18th century. Nowadays, “sea cow” is often used as a nickname for manatees, who are herbivores. Anyway, Mark should have yelled out something more appropriate, such as “Holy swimming luggage!”, so that the kids could at least have responded “Huh?

The gators certainly look threatening, like a swarm of hungry sharks. Of course, Mark has had some history, at least with the gator’s cousin, the crocodile. Here is one encounter, during his trip to Nepal, hunting the Yeti:

Talk about stiff. Well, at least the figures have some shading. Still . . .

Hoo-boy. I’m worn out just looking at all of the thrashing and krashing. I’m still confused whether the churning waters come from some weather incident or supposedly from the gators, which seems improbable. Mark must indeed be a Gilligan for piloting his boat into this dangerous area, losing control, and krashing. So, will the de-bait team win its bet to file an insurance claim for a lost boat?

What now — does a bassigator suddenly show up and save Mark and his passengers from the very hungry alligators?

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed

Artistically, a dramatically impressive panel 1. But where the hell are they!? The Atlantic or maybe Lake Superior? I don’t recall that the body of water that has always been depicted alongside the Trail’s cabin was anything other than a peaceful lake or river, assuming that is where they are. Then again, there is that river course somewhere near Lost Forest that has the capacity to hold cargo ships.

Did the boat really collide with a gator, or did they just run into some bad weather? Or maybe they hit a gator in rough water? You’d think Mark would have checked weather conditions before leaving, right?

Another interesting first panel on this one, again with a somewhat dramatic scene of the boat powering through rough water. Not to press a comparison farther than I can lift a house, it reminds me of some boating pictures by the 19th artist, Winslow Homer. Wait! Not in terms of artistic merit, but simply in terms of subject and dramatic effect. Check out Breezing Up and Gulf Stream. Again, it’s not a comparison of style or artistic merit. For that, no comparison can be made.

As for Mark, we continue to see how judgmental and out of touch he is, just like many parents. Mark is just an Everyman, I reckon. And maybe that’s the way Jules Rivera sees Mark Trail:  Not the heroic savior of nature who always makes women swoon and always knocks down the bad guys, but a regular guy with a job who only rises to the occasion when the situation calls. I think of James Stewart’s Destry Rides Again or Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies.

Pay no attention to the gator behind the boat!

Turns out that Rivera may just just be playing around with the “Mark Crashes Boat” meme, so “Krash!” now means “boat runs into gator!” From the size of the wake behind the boat in panel 1, I think Mark is running at a pretty fast clip, possibly too fast for nighttime boating.

Like many parents, Mark decides a lie is easier than the truth. But what’s the big deal here? The boys are old enough to deal with a bit of reality, unless Mark is worried one of them might turn him into the game wardens for running over an endangered animal. But if Mark wants to maintain that lie, he should be slowing down a bit. Perhaps he isn’t because if he did, they’d see how calm the waters are and then realize that he was telling them porkies. If you don’t know what that phrase means, you can bloody well look it up. I learned about it from an old British cop show.

On the graphic front, Rivera’s art has been pretty consistent in style and quality the past few weeks, in spite of the opinion many have about the quality (or lack thereof) of the art, itself.  But I do share the fear of the art becoming more cartoony over time. Don’t think that’s possible? Check out the panels on the left:

Those panels are from January 2021, just two years ago. Quite a difference, right? Looking back through our archives can be pretty educational. Notice how much more “painterly” the art looks, especially in panel 2, compared to current images. The shirt even looks like a real shirt, the way it lies on the body. Notice how the collars roll and how the shirt pattern tends to flow along the torso, The fire in the background actually creates reflections on Mark’s face. Amazing! But back then, Rivera clearly spent more time on the strip and created lots of creative scenes. Why did it change? I don’t know. My best guess has been the time commitment versus the deadlines.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

A brief recap: More squabbling between the boys this week, as Mark tried to distract them with questions about mythological creatures having a link to real creatures. I think. But you probably knew that, right? Of course, a boat ride to find a cryptid would not be terribly exciting without a crisis of some kind, and two boys wrestling on the aft deck will not do it. What could go wrong!?

In a bow to Mark’s well-earned reputation with boats (especially borrowed boats), our last view was on Saturday showing this borrowed boat crashing into something, with alligators nearby. Was Mark distracted by his own teacher pose, or perhaps by cruising at night without a search light? Reckon we’ll find out tomorrow, but for today, Mark presents the Sunday nature chat.

Reusing that “see ya later” joke so soon, Rivera!? I think panel 3 is hilariously ironic, showing Mark and the boys boating around gators while questioning how you would handle yourself. Mark answered that on Saturday.

Moving on, Rivera continues to customize the Sunday title panel each week, and this one is a pretty good take-off on the effect of trees reflecting in the water. This title panel is actually a sacrifice in time and imagination by Rivera, as newspaper editors sometimes edit how much of a strip to print or even how they display it. They need as much space in the Sunday Funnies as they can get for those preschool puzzles and fill-in-the-dot panels that eat up so much more of the page space. The title panel is thus a sacrificial panel.

Anyway, this is a curious theme:  alligator viewing in the wild. There really are not that many places you can do that in the US, outside of zoos. Still, if people like spending tons of money for the chance to get up close and personal with dolphins and whales, I reckon they can do it with gators. As for me, I’ll depend on the safe distance provided by my TV set.

Too much talking, not enough watching

Ian isn’t the only person confused. Mark creates a false comparison based on a faulty premise: “If the narwhal turned out to be real”. It is the unicorn that is the mythological creature that Mark (Rivera) should have said, of course. The narwhal(e)’s existence was not questioned in the past. Mark’s giving the wrong idea to these kids.

But what I had hoped would not happen, did. I suppose that every Mark Trail artist has to have a krack (or krash) at the “Mark Destroys a Boat” meme. And it would have to take place in some alligator-infested waters (unless that is a set of custom luggage floating in the river). Well, it would be a real bummer if it turned out that Mark ran over the last surviving bassigator!

Jokes aside, “krashing” a boat in dangerous waters is a bad deal. Did Mark run over an alligator? That could land him in real trouble with federal authorities! I wonder if this is this going to be a turning point in the story where we see some actual danger and suspense, rather than the usual outlandish situations.

A question to readers: Do you think my posts are too long, too short, or about right?