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