LA Unconfidential?

Hi, my name is George Atkins. Because of his time commitments, Dennis asked if I would pinch hit for him now and then and provide commentaries. So you might notice a slightly different style. But first, an apology: I should have published these initial commentaries earlier, but I misunderstood some instructions, much to my dismay. Second, please feel free to continue or start offering your own comments about the strip or even my contributions.
So, moving on…

The Sunday nature panels continue to align most closely with the traditional Mark Trail canon, a welcome continuity for long-time followers. The topic du jour is the beaver. According to its Wikipedia entry, the ultimate origin of the name “beaver” derives from an Indo-European word root meaning “brown.” So, aptly named! Beavers were almost hunted to extinction, mostly for their fur. Obviously, Rivera can only hit the high points in a comic strip. We must skip over a few details, such as the beaver’s capacity to take down a lot of trees when building habitats. However, forestry experts say the beaver’s positives outweigh the negatives. Good news! I think Rivera plays things pretty straight on Sunday and injects some pleasing, casual humor. I suggest the comic syndicate (North America Syndicate) start pushing the Sunday panels in the newspapers that dropped them because they were often boring. Not any longer!

As is typical in the Trailverse, when Mark has to travel, we immediately move from Lost Forest to a scene of a plane landing at some airport. Curiously, it looks like the plane is actually taking off. I think we must also forgive Rivera for concatenating the time element by having the pilot alert the passengers they are making their final descent when they are already just a few hundred feet above the airport! There is only so much space to get the story moving. Note also the totemic owl in the first panel. Here is our first candidate for next Sunday. I’m no ornithologist, but it looks like a Burrowing Owl. More educated readers may wish to correct me here.

Is Mark actually taken with those exotic scents for sale? Is he just being sarcastic? For old Mark Trail: No way. For new Mark Trail: Very likely. Maybe that’s why he apparently walked right by Reptiliannaire, who we see in the background holding a “Mark Trail” attention sign. Maybe Lizard-man was late getting there. Still, he had no trouble recognizing the large, flannel-shirted dude from the back!

Is this really “star treatment” as Rivera keeps bringing up? Where are the reporters and photographers? TMZ? Mark’s fans? Sure, the star rapper himself came to pick up Mark. And that is certainly some kind of recognition. But shouldn’t Reptiliannaire be accompanied by a coterie of vloggers and other media hacks? Perhaps Rivera is making a critique on the hollowness of “the star life.” Okay, I’m no deconstructionist.

Perhaps the last panel holds a clue: The eco-rapper asks Mark to provide comfort and aid to his pet iguana. Now Mark! Why are you perturbed by lizard-sitting duty? Or is it having to sit in the back? The back is where the star sits, Mark! Being chauffeured is part of the star treatment, so get with the program and put on your shades! Maybe you and Sherman will have a nice chat about the LA Scene.

Oh my goodness! Lots of catching up to do!!

I sort of kept up with the goings-on while enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend… lots of travel and not a lot of time or computers available…  anyway, in reading the Thanksgiving installment, I recall being particularly thankful in the fact that Mark did not commit the classic blunder of using the wrong form of the personal pronoun when inviting Mr. Holland onto the boat…  “Spend a few days with my wife and me…” rather than “with my wife and I…”

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But Mark, it’s really not your boat now is it…  but that’s OK, we will let you live in your own fantasy world for now… And that’s right, Mark, Mr. Holland is simply too busy raping the natural world to afford any time away from the office…

But with Great Flourish and Dramatic Purpose, Mark moves from the cockpit to the bow of the great vessel, imploring Mr. Holland to come see the “photos” he has taken…

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And like a Striped Bass (Which Holland recalls not photographing as a child but hooking, landing and gutting…) he takes the bait that Mark has laid out for him…

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Mark, now so pleased with himself, his face so aglow with pure rapture that it’s drawing Cherry into the caper, we now get to see Justin Holland in his thoughtful and pensive state… And we soon get to be introduced to the real villain- Mitchum- who “single-handedly arranged the purchase of the property near the GREAT swamp…”

But Justin, you really are unaware of the vitriol you are about to face, aren’t you??  The lit torches and pitchforks that await you upon meeting “some of the local people…”  they aren’t in the mood to talk or shake hands, they want a pound of eco-flesh- yours…

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So now we know that Holland is simply a pawn in his own company, probably came into his wealth the old fashioned way- through a blood line, a member of the “lucky sperm club,” and now we get to see just how ill-suited he is at running a conglomerate…

 

I Think Cherry is Toast…

But again I say, Cherry, Get your gun!  At the rate the mother Grizzly is closing in, and given her abilty to reach up 10-12 feet, not to mention her ability to climb or even to knock down the snag of a tree seen as sanctuary, all I can say is that Mark better be a damn good shot!

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But oh, the selfless Cherry, content to shove Shelley’s white ass up the tree while she looks over her shoulder at the bear…  funny, but I recall Mark mentioning a special place to go camping, not far from a Ranger Station… not this hell hole full of danger around every corner…  OK, so most of what we are seeing here has been self-inflicted…  but still.

Run, Bambi, Run!

OK, so a while back I was suggesting that what was needed here was a little “Disney Magic…”

What I had in mind were flying cars, maybe a pumpkin that turns into a coach, anything to help out our intrepid campers…  But instead we get a scene right out of the Disney Classic, “Bambi,” where ‘evil man’ has set the forest aflame and the animals, large and small, of all possible genus, are sent running for their lives…  Or did the artist simply go to the “Mark Trail animal clip art collection” and start to cut and paste?  I mean, really? What do we see?  Grouse cavorting with Raccoon shacking up with White Tail?  Not likely…

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And as Cherry and Shelley head toward the lake, possibly to choose a fate of drowning and hypothermia over being fried to death, we see that Cherry had the foresight to put a jacket on and grab the ol’ Peacemaker.  Apparently Shelley only brought one outfit- the obnoxious green slacks paired with purple shirt…  I wonder if she had time to throw on all the layers, including that itchy turtleneck sweater?

But did she grab her phone?

The sun never sets on… MARK TRAIL

Apparently Wes crashed the sea plane in the land of the midnight sun… given the immediacy of his “did you hear that?” comment, and the fact that the ladies were still snug in their beds at night when the 20-pounder went off, and the fact that it looks like they are paddling in full daylight, once again is making me question the whole space/time continuum in the Trail-verse… And where there’s smoke there’s what, gentlemen? FIRE! And again, what’s with the stubble on Wes’s face and the not-a-whisker on Mark’s?  Must be that Mark took a pledge to A) always have razor and B) use razor even in the direst of circumstances…

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And rather than being on a lake (or up a creek) without a paddle, looks like the abandoned cabin came complete with a sound canoe and TWO paddles!  Oh what good fortune!  I see that Mark has taken the forward position in the canoe- the POWER STROKE.  Let’s hope the Wes earned his canoeing merit badge at some point in his outdoor training or else the canoe might not be making the most direct line toward the smoke and fire and their ladies in distress!

I will say that this story line is moving right along…  no drama at the “abandoned cabin…” only a mere way-station  to carry the men back to where the real story is.  But did they leave a note for the cabin owner? Any journalist worth his press card should have his pencil and notepad handy… let’s hope Mark had the decency to leave his calling card to inform the owner of who filched his property, and under what circumstance…

Well, there goes the lifetime membership to Smokey’s Club…

…with all honor and privileges… The Trail clan will never live this one down…  I smell cover up in the making… a “wildfire,” no doubt caused by a lightning strike, will now proceed to consume thousands of acres of otherwise pristine habitat… oh the homelessness that will ensue!  The carnage!  The loss of life!  And that’s not even counting the people involved!

But what of the shrapnel produced by the exploding 20-pounder?  I mean, really, that should have torn right through even the heaviest of canvas tents and spoiled the pajama party!  Not that I am wishing, mind you, but one would think that the blast would have gone out concentrically and not given either of these silly humans the slightest quarter…

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Again, this is a pretty dark story as all Fans of Mark Trail must by now admit…  “When Good Camping goes Bad” is probably the working title for this story line.  So while Valhalla burns, Mark and Wes are cozy in their little found cabin by the lake… will new characters be introduced?  What if the cabin isn’t truly “abandoned” as Mark seems so sure to think…  Oh the mind races!

They said together…

No waiting in aisle 3!  Step right up, ladies, let’s get you checked out!  BOOM!  Apparently the writers did their own YouTube research- what exactly does an overheated 20# tank of propane do when introduced to heat?  Produce a thundering explosion complete with fireball…

And together they both exclaim, “What in the world is that?” Really?  No “What the’s…”? But maybe that exclamation is reserved for Mark himself…  Since Mark would never let the F-enheimer fly past his lips and since we are rarely given a chance to see what is going on in the private Trail-brain, we now imagine what the missing word is!

But back to the story, dark and getting darker…  if the objective was to introduce Shelley to the “great outdoors,” and get her to like it, it would seem that this is only going from bad to worse…

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Such a look of abject terror on Cherry’s face, though, the like of which I doubt we have ever seen.  Could this be the end?  Could they be stranded in the woods, only jammy-clad and helpless?  Will they all make it back alive, or will Doc now have to raise Rusty?  What of Mark and Wes?  Surely this explosion and fireball will be seen from almost anywhere in the time zone… And did Wes file a flight plan?  Did Mark take out a camping permit?  Surely there are administrative bread crumbs that would lead people to them once Big Brother notices that their plans have not been maintained…

Kaboom!

But Oh Boy!  Who could have seen this one coming?  Cherry Trail!  Fire still smoldering???  And I though you knew the Outdoor Code!!  Certainly you know that an unattended campfire needs to be “cold to the touch!”  And to have set up the camp kitchen in such a way as to may this even possible…  propane next to fire-ring… NOT!

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At least this answers the question as to rooming arrangements (I would say tenting, except that the cot/ mattress/ pillow/ pajama/ headroom configuration would not support such a notion) … what, no mint on the pillow?  I won’t even go into the whole ‘weight of equipment’ issue, since I am sure we are all tired of that by now… but really???

And there’s Shelley, all Eeyore-like… arms folded, bent over in despair… were they roused by the ruckus, or has she been moping all night on the edge of her bed??

But for those who are curious, and I suppose I am, there are any number of YouTube videos of “Propane tanks vs. Campfire/ .50 Caliber, etc…”  Why am I not surprised??  This should create quite an explosion if the “smoldering fire” is hot enough…

* * * From Uncle Lumpy at Comics Curmudgeon * * * 

Gah, how much stuff do these people take “camping”?  I realize they flew in by seaplane and Shelley likes her comforts and all, but here we’ve got full beds with mattresses and pillows, a cookstove with a 20-pound propane tank, not to mention table, chairs, canopy, rods, waders, and creels, plus Mark’s no-doubt impressive armory. And look at the size of that tent — I bet you could bowl in there.

Thank goodness Shelley and Cherry found room to pack their matching tailored Bettie Page loungewear, adding a note of retro luxury to the idea of “roughing it.”  Anyway, as soon as all the baggage and trees burn up in the coming forest fire, it will be refreshing to see Shelley save the day with a quick call to the rangers from her much-maligned cell phone.  After their ordeal, none of our adventurers will stray beyond two bars of reception ever again. It will make a GOOD story!