Looks like Mark has got the ol’ tingle up his leg…

Oh, Mark, you selfless hunk, always thinking ahead and of others…

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Cherry is about to take the news well…

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…yes, just think, you can finally earn your keep, Mark.  You have been freeloading for decades now and finally your ship is coming in!

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…”one of your stories…”  How cute is that?  Out of the words of foundlings comes the truth!  Mark tells stories!  Based loosely on the “facts” that he scrounges up while on assignment, only to come home saying, “Dang, I wish I had bothered to take some pictures and jot down a few notes…”

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How does Rusty know about Jeremy Cartwright?  Do they go to movies?  I don’t see a satellite dish on the cabin roof…  Perhaps he streams the films on his phone?  And how do we know that Mark is going to have an actual part/role in this feature?  I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time a writer/academic (read Indiana Jones) got into a scrape or two…

Here they come!

Can’t wait to see “Miss Spencer…”  And the only other “Cartwrights” I have known is from the show “Bonanza” where the family owned most of (probably) Montana and Wyoming…

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Ah, the court of public opinion in the age of Social Media.  Say or do one bad thing and you are CANCELED!

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As opposed what?  An advance team from a film shoot just showing up at Mark’s doorstep?  That’s mighty big of you, Bill Ellis!!

As for James Allen leaving the strip, we shall have to keep an open mind.  Clearly all the artistic tryouts over the last months were epic fails, at least in the tradition of Elrod and Dodd…  But as we said many times, it’s the writing that had suffered so, and the interminably long story arcs the most frustrating aspect.  Not saying that the art is easy, but the world is full of talent.  Not sure what this asset is worth to The Syndicate, but perhaps throwing a little more money at it (finding an artist and a writer…) would yield more positive results.

Excuse the question, please?

As we get to now re-live the story, first spoken aloud by Bill Ellis to himself, now spoken to Mark Trail complete with his pithy reactions, we must ask the question, Why would you need anyone’s permission to do a movie about Human Trafficking?  

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It’s not like the publisher of Woods and Wildlife magazine would suddenly wake up and say, “Hey, that’s our story!!”  But I suppose that this allows for a new chapter in the Mark Trail Story- Mark as expert… Oh wait, he plays that all the time…

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But who is the lead?  Is it the Mark Trail/ Nature Writer character or the Chubby Academic?  I recall that there was a bit of a siren involved- Carina!  Prof Gabe’s erstwhile assistant…  Who got less handsome and more siren-like as the story unfolded…

Comfort in the Familiar

Squirrel in the foreground, random voices coming out of the woods alerting Mark that his phone is ringing… Mark spending time with his best friend Andy…

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“It’s probably Bill Ellis?”  Is he the only one who calls you?  I love the fact that we are bridging old with new… back in the day it would have been “Mark, the phone is ringing…”  But now everyone has their own phone… a far cry from the party line…

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Oh, Mark… such a wag you are.  You’ll never forgive Bill Ellis for sending you on that wild Yeti chase…  the one that cost Harvey Camel his life… Oh, you tell it, Bill Ellis!

So, I guess we know now who has “rights” to Mark’s work product…

… and it ain’t Mark.  Signed the deal without even getting Mark’s input?

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Return to Bill Ellis talking to himself, explaining to himself what he, Bill Ellis, is fixing to do…  What’s he like off-camera?  “Hmmm,” Bill Ellis declares aloud to himself, “That Chimichanga I had for lunch isn’t sitting too well, I think I will soon have to avail myself of the private lavatory in my CEO-Suite… I will have to give the cleaning crew a heads-up to stay out of there for a while…”

What’s with all “That?”

As Editor Bill Ellis (white guy, first panel) continues to prattle on, to himself, apparently, we see the continued over-use of the word “that.”  I have never seen the like of it!  And how much effort and ink would it have cost to draw in an assistant, someone for Bill to talk to?  And now that he has told all of us what is going down, he still has to call Mark and repeat himself!  Or is he actually on the phone (right hand, first panel) and talking to Mark right now?

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What?  Kind of Johnny Depp bad?  Alcohol, drugs, out of control binges?  What constitutes a “Bad Reputation” in the Trailverse?  I can’t wait to see how this manifests!

Who is Bill Ellis talking to?

Sure why not?  Why wouldn’t Mark receive a prestigious award?   But the Dodd Award?  It appears to not be a thing…  And what better option do we have than to revisit an old story line that introduced tedium in our time?  Not to mention that Mark would have had to be clairvoyant to know that is little trip with Professor Gabe into the caves would somehow come full circle to include his trip to investigate Aztec ruins and Dr. Carter’s  use of LIDAR, but then Mark was probably busy and never goat around to writing the White Nose piece until after his brush with the traffickers…   But I digress…

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Bill, are you talking to yourself?  Are you the only one in the office? It would seem that the magazine industry is such that you probably had to lay everyone else off… Now you get to play all the roles, even to the point of being your own errand-boy and sounding board!

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Marne Spencer…  Enter the Siren!  Who seems to have a Thing (already) for Mark… And that Action Hero, Jeremy Cartwright, who hasn’t heard of him?  Who has, no doubt, wanted to play the role of MARK TRAIL his entire life!!

Who owns the rights to Mark’s stories?  That’s the real question here…

Put a fork in it…

…it’s done.  Overdone.

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This has been a blessedly short “story.”  But that’s the point.  We are so bereft of plot under the Allen regime, we are left with dragging nature lessons and factoids through the daily strips.

We experimented with different styles of art during the “Kids Kamping” storyline, and then the best we can do, when it appears that the artistic standards have been re-established (although not clear whether it’s Allen’s actual pen or not) we are reminded that this strip really has nothing to offer.  And it’s not just pining for poachers and flapjacks (although that would be nice) it’s that there’s really nothing worth following here.

Which leads me to this:  Where the hell is Chris “Dirty” Dyer?  Raised from the dead, no compunction about killing, a score to settle.  Why hasn’t he come back into the picture?  We last saw him testing flame throwers on some secluded Caribbean Island while recruiting a man-servant.  And when was the last time we have seen Mark land a left hook?  Policing is under deserved scrutiny these days, but I would think that comic strip vigilantism would be on the rise!

Mark, do you ever grow tired of knowing everything?

The look on Rusty’s face says it all… Really, Dad?  Yet another topic upon which you can claim expertise?

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Rusty, you are a patient soul…

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What, Andy’s been gone a day?  Police won’t even file a missing person report that fast!  It is kind of Cherry to encourage him, though.

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And here we are back at Cutter’s Bluff, a familiar sight for all avid Trailians.  Not to mention Rex, the ill-tempered grizzly who saved mark from a certain end years ago…

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So this little lesson should wrap up pretty soon, with the mystery intact since there’s no way for Andy to tell his humans what he was up to…