I mourn Mark Trail, the precious and dumb comic I’ve loved for decades – The Morning Call

Your pet peeves keep coming, and I need to share more.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the one topic that has dominated the nation’s thoughts and conversations for the past few weeks.

Mark the trail.

Many of you have written or spoken to me about the baffling changes we’ve seen in this mainstay of The Morning Call comic book pages. And if you’ll forgive my lack of humility, no one in the Lehigh Valley is better qualified than I to answer your questions, since I’ve spent decades single-handedly saving this band from the chopping block of the Call. .

Jack Elrod, who drew Mark Trail for many years, sent me one of his soundtracks after lovingly dissecting a storyline in which Mark’s loyal dog, Andy, was put on trial for murder. This framed tape – in which a heartless prosecutor claims, “This dog is a threat to the children and helpless people of this community…and should be destroyed!” hangs in a place of honor in my house.

Years later, I interviewed Elrod’s replacement, James Allen, about his plans for Mark Trail, which included introducing a steamy romance into the relationship between Mark and his wife Cherry, and putting in featuring Mark lounging and shirtless and Cherry in skimpy bikinis.

I had high hopes for the talented artist Allen, who had been Elrod’s apprentice. But his plot became so slow and frustrating that even I began to lose patience with him and Mark, wondering if he was deliberately sabotaging the tape.

It was therefore no great shock to learn this summer that he and King Features Syndicate were parting ways, although it was strange to see it happening at the start of his last script, which was abruptly abandoned in favor of reprints. of Elrod.

What was shocking was to see Mark and Cherry reappear a few weeks ago in an entirely new, more whimsical style and reimagined story in which a scruffy Mark helps out with Cherry’s suddenly sassy landscape business between homework. ‘writing.

Now Mark looks like Jon Hamm, the grotesque Rusty looks like Shaggy and Cherry from Scooby Doo has a cool, asymmetrical hairstyle and regularly alters her husband’s build.

Naturally, I’ve received many emails and other inquiries about this from our readers, who rely on me to support our inexplicable attraction to the Strip. Here is an example, an email:

“Like you, I’ve been a long time fan. But now I really need to know, What’s going on here? Is it a new cartoonist, a parody or some kind of joke…if it’s so it’s gonna be, the MCall can drop it now!

My favorite reaction, however, was something Jennifer Phantom Boo wrote on Twitter: “I’m really sad about Mark Trail. I feel like something precious and stupid has been taken from me.

The new designer is Jules Rivera, who produced the webcomic “Love Joolz”. She wrote on her webpage: “I plan to bring science, color and life back, while keeping the legacy of cute, pop art and nature loving enough to punch dudes in the face about it. “

Here’s how King Features Syndicate presented it:

“Jules Rivera is an illustrator, graphic novelist, colorist, animator, and writer, prompting SyFy Wire to call him ‘a multi-talented force in independent comics…

“Jules mixes his love of art with a love of science. She graduated in electrical engineering and had a career in STEM before turning to comics… Her passion for science and nature, combined with her talent as an artist, makes her the perfect person to take on the role by Mark Trail.

Once I have time to properly digest the changes, I hope to contact Rivera to discuss his plans for the tape. But for now, I’ve decided to twitter someone else I know who is a Mark Trail fan, because we corresponded about it: CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Tapper, perhaps sensing the impact the wrong answer could have on his career, cautiously replied, “That’s quite a change”, and later, “I was very used to the old look.”

If nothing else, I question the marketing strategy of creating a hip – and very small print – vibe on a strip that appeals almost entirely to older people. Young newspaper readers, if any, will they really flock to cool Mark and Cherry? Will the older ones adapt?

I try to keep an open mind. But I can’t help but mourn the precious dumb comic I’ve loved for decades.

We will miss you, Square Mark. TO TEAR.

Bill White can be reached at whitebil1974@gmail.com. His Twitter handle is whitebil.