A 21st Century Mark Trail

It’s been three and a half months and, by the response here at TDC to the Portland Press Herald comics survey, the Trailheads are not adjusting. And those are not the only ones. (To be fair there have been accolades.) I, not being a big fan of Mark Trail since Ed Dodd and Tom Hill left, am a bit surprised (not as surprised as at the animus toward Macanudo in those Press Herald comments, one of my favorite new strips). It isn’t like they continued the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip after Watterson left. I find Jules Rivera‘s updated version entertaining and have adjusted to the art style. No substantial complaints from me but, again, I’m not a Trailhead.


Rivera’s Trail’s current storyline focuses on how the main character’s father forced a Black farmer off of his land by striking an exploitative deal, then using the land for fertilizer runoff.

“Just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right, is the thing we’re exploring here,” Rivera said.

That Rivera’s Mark Trail, the character, has a father is a new wrinkle in the strip’s history. Rivera’s version of Mark Trail is the fourth in a line of “nature dudes” — a wink to the strip’s three previous artists.

© North America Syndicate/King Features Syndicate

Rivera acknowledges that she’s probably upset some longtime fans. But she’s used to challenging people, the same way she’s challenging her characters.

“(Mark Trail) ‘s in a very uncomfortable position. When he’s uncomfortable, it’s going to force him to grow and be a better dude,” Rivera said. “So it’s good to make your character uncomfortable. If he has everything easy and handed to him, that’s not a story, that’s wish-fulfillment. Nobody needs that.”

But one thing that’s going to remain about Mark Trail — the strip and the character — is what Trail, Dodd, and Rivera have in common: on a deep, bedrock level, they care about science, and they care about nature.

Spectrum News 1 talks to cartoonist Jules and editor Tea in a new article.

“[H]e’s a guy who cares about nature so much that he punches people.”


8 thoughts on “A 21st Century Mark Trail

  1. Now Mark Trail is turned from nature and animal ranger or something like that into a reality nature/animal TV correspondant?>

  2. I’m not sure that my story-comics plot-recaps have gone one full week without at least one Mark Trail fan commenting that they can’t stand the new strip. I try to be consoling but doubt it’s taking.

  3. I think for some commentators, the complaining is the thing, and any consideration of the product is secondary.

    Why else would they voluntarily choose to come back, day after day after day, to something they claim not to enjoy?

  4. I think that in hiring Jules, the syndicate made a decision to swap out one target demographic for another. Speaking as someone who straddles both demographics with ease, I’m enjoying the new product. It’s hard for me to feel any strong investment in the J.R. Dobbs character model, or the paternalistic approach that Dodd and Elrod took and Allen struggled to maintain.

    We’ve gone from Mark and Cherry Trail as Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald to Cherry and Mark Trail as Pink and Hozier.

  5. The new Mark Trail is absolute rubbish. It’s also utterly illogical and ridiculous.

    Just look at the past week or two, where Mark drives his dad’s speedboat into and crashes it into another boat, with the cops or authorities hot on his trail. Yet, he gets away without any liability. He doesn’t even get arrsted for endangering people and for destruction of property.

    Plus, just before that, he physically assaulted his own father. What is this Joolzz trying to do with the comic? Encourage the youngesters to physically attack their old parents because they disagree with them?

    How on earth can anyone like a promotion of utter rowdyism, hooliganism, and unlawfulness like this in a comic? It’s highly irresponsible, immature, and outrageous nonsense.

    There is no excuse for a portraying unnecessary violence and irresponsible reckless hooligan behaviour of a protagonist as something heroic or noble.

    While the earlier version of Mark Trail wasn’t that good and had it’s flaws, this newfangled version is a big travesty and sets a dangerous precedent that reckless, violent, and utterly irresponsible rowdy behaviour is acceptable and heroic.

    The newfangled Mark Trail is outright outrageous.

  6. I have to agree with Gent Bear, above. I can’t stand the new version. The last artist, Allen was getting better and better. Unfortunately, he needed someone else to write the stories. Better to just kill off the strip at this point or get Allen back with a good writer.

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