What? Mark has Friends?

I know it’s an old bit… “Mark and his Friends are watching…” and the immediate reaction is, “What?! Mark has friends?” Sure he looks up or stumbles upon “Ol’ Friends” as the story arcs are set up, but we never really take that phrase literally. His reputation for Emotionally Unintelligent is legendary, and certainly Mark’s ability to have actual friends would be quite limited… Yet, here we are, looking in on “Mark and his friends,” who actually are just his family…

With the Awards Program on the Color TV, gloriously wrapped in furniture grade cherry wood, Bill Ellis is about to take the stage and explain to the (30 or so) people watching across this great land, that the “must be there to win” policy is just plain wrong… And if Mark isn’t the winner, why bring this up at all??

As a treat I thought I would include the Sunday recycle…

… partly because I am curious to see what happens to this is in the coming weeks- we’ll have one more on 10/11, but then what?? And also because I am fascinated by the word choice in the last panel, “Bruin.” The Great Bruin… I guess I never thought about it being an actual word, other than the name of the Boston Hockey team, but I guess it is!! Who knew?

Cherry, why you all hunched over like that?

Just so you can get a big ol’ lick from Andy! That’s why!

Andy’s thinking, “Stay away from me, you little cur…” Sort of like the talking dogs on Tik-Tok… “I was fine until my hoomans bought me this little thing.. I haven’t know a day of peace since…)

TV? You mean we have that in Lost Forest?! And there is enough interest in Nature Magazines to build an entire awards program out of it? And it would be airing in the Northern Georgia market? We have been asked to believe some really far-fetched things over the years, but this takes to cake!

I guess they don’t mind a little eau de skunk…

In a predictable “Happy Ending,” Andy the Great St. Bernard is released into Mark’s Care and Custody… to be reunited with the family at Lost Forest…

Not sure if that’s Rusty or Cherry getting mauled, given the red highlights and boy-like body shape… But what’s interesting about this second panel is the emergence of “Sassie,” Rusty’s little Dalmatian runt. Long before Tabby ever showed up, it was Sassie that caused no end of trouble and heartache for Rusty and the entire clan…

It is nice to see that animals are able to smile, as witnessed by today’s installment…

She said A-ward, not RE-ward…

Now I remember what took so long… it wasn’t Andy in the Deer Trap , it was Andy at the Vet’s Office…

Still, this doesn’t hold a candle to the Space-time Continuum we were forced to endure in the Allen Era… 6 months in a cave? I don’t think I could do that again…

Well, Campers, 12 more days… Do we think there are 12 more days in this story? Well, 9 days, actually if we take Sundays off… Which makes me wonder what the Sunday panels will look like in the Rivera Era- HA! That rhymes!!

I know there are a lot of (not so) mixed feelings about this change. For what it’s worth, I think it’s exciting. While it’s been fun poking Mark in the ribs for all his foibles, predictability, and lack of continuity over the years <snark, I think we’d call it> this is a medium that is increasingly living on-line, even if it’s still being carried by Newspapers. It will also be interesting to see how many of the old characters make a return- Kelly Welly, Johnny Malot, Dirty Dyer, a supporting cast of federal agents, etc. and how many new characters are created to add a bit of depth to the story lines. I mean, how exciting can it be if it’s just a more woke and vulnerable version of Mark, a stronger and more self-determined version of Cherry and an angst-filled and perpetually coming of age Rusty to play with? Oh, wait, that pretty much describes Rusty today, except that soon he will get to wear hip sneakers, low-ride skinny jeans and sport a more contemporary hair-cut…

Oh, Thank Goodness!

As Mark awakens from a brief slumber, Cherry is there with the strong, black coffee! Meanwhile, Squirrel, meet Baldy!

Fast forward to Mark spinning tails of Andy-past… I wonder if they go back to the war?

“Come through the crisis?” How about “Out of the Woods?” This is Mark Trail, after all…

Wait a gol-darned second! Is that Mark shedding a tear? Funny how no one has mentioned that Andy has a particular smell about him, a smell that would implicate Cherry in his banishment…

And what about that no-good Tabby? If Andy has learned anything, he knows now that he should let that little thing fend for itself!

Now it’s off to the Awards show… As if we had doubts.

Thanks to Mark, again, for this sneak peek at the coming age:

I don’t know, Cherry… I feel like I learned something…

Major News!

First, to the story at hand… With the help of the operator, Cherry reaches Bill Ellis, who milquetoasts his way out of any responsibility…

Um, remember, Mark was the one who quit, right? He wasn’t fired…

But onto Breaking news!

Attention!! New Cartoonist in town!

Thanks to Faithful Reader Mark who pointed out in yesterday’s comments a sea-change in the offing – Mark Trail will be under a new pen come October!

I have to admit, to quote an MSNBC Anchor in 2008, “I’ve got a thrill going up my leg…

Mark is eye-candy for the Ladies!!

Oh, this is going to be fun!! Such a departure from what came before. It’s interesting that in the NY Times write-up references appear to be limited to the Allen era (Caves, blowing shit up, etc…) so I wonder (hope) whether Ms. Rivera will dig a little deeper into the history and canon of Mark Trail…

Look! Andy in the Background! Mark has whiskers!! And takes selfies!

Meet the new Scribe:

My name is Jules Rivera and I’m an illustrator, storyboard artist and graphic novelist, specializing in adventure and science fiction work. I am currently working my webcomic series, Love, Joolz, about hard truths, weaponized femininity, and screaming at the sky. I also do work in storyboarding and sci-fi design. On my off time, I go surfing and skating.

Hang on Campers!!

Operator?

We have established that this story first published in 1981, but what year are we in really? Operator? When was the last time you could dial -0- and get an operator? I just tried it on my Vonage (VoIP) phone and got nothing. I will have to ask my mom, who still has a land-line… Great… Now I will have that Jim Croce song stuck in my head for the next week…

But really? Was there ever a time a person could pick up a phone and ask to be connected to a specific person, high up in a skyscraper in New York City? I am picturing a giant switchboard with an endless row of operators (standing by…) physically plugging cords into different jacks… “Bill Ellis? a-one a-moment, plee-uz…” And the lady (Lily Tomlin for sure) makes a connection that is almost out of reach… Amazing how many Operator references there are still… fading into history mostly, but what an invention, the telephone!

Now give him what-for, Cherry!!

Ruh Roh…

No, Mark, technically, I think you just quit…

But that’s the way to show some backbone! Priorities in order!! Tell those suits how we do things in the woods!! That’s fine! You probably have options you don’t know about… And what? Are they going to NOT give you the award just because you aren’t there? Your market price is going up, Mark Trail! There’s a great article in what you are going through right now! Fear not, Nature Writer, these pricks will see the light!

Well, there goes that theory…

…the one that I offered up a few days ago- about how Bill Ellis knew to call Mark at the Animal Hospital, about how he must have called Lost Forest and Cherry directed him, which also assumes that Mark sent Cherry home so he could await Andy’s fate in private… But apparently not…

Oh, J.R. Williams, you insensitive brute! Why, you could easily be one of the villains that Mark goes up against in another tale of Corporate Greed… But wait, you are sort of playing the Villain right now… The only thing that’s missing is a cigar in one hand (or maybe a glass of whiskey) and you’d be a dead ringer for “Big Mike” of arranged big game trophy hunting fame…

So, as Mark is about to tell J.R. to take this job and shove it, we see Mark’s jaw start to set as he steels himself for the conflict!

Just how many “Conservation Writers” are there?

I mean, who is Mark’s competition, after all?

Apparently Bill hasn’t been listening… I guess enthusiasm can blind a person. And compare the “hospital” in these two strips… the first looks like a farm with a water tower and red barn, and the second (complete with a fallen tree in the foreground) looks more like a city skyline. What is going on here??

Oh, Bill, haven’t you ever seen an awards program? “Accepting for Mark Trail is his Editor, William Ellis…” Then you could go on an on about what a standup guy Mark is and how the world is a better place with him in it, blah, blah, blah… You could even read a prepared statement from Mark, explaining that he is bedside with a loved one struggling for life…