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The Power Of The Dad Sweater Compels You!

So let’s talk newspaper comics for a minute. We’ve seen them decline over the decades into third- or fourth-generation legacy creations, desperately trying not to change from what they’ve been for the past half-century, with the occasional burst of creativity or weirdness for contrast. The vast majority of the comics page is best by what I refer to as Chris Columbus Syndrome, wherein I imagine that Chris Columbus was given the directing job for the first Harry Potter movie and told Don’t screw this up, give them exactly what they want and we can ride out this franchise for literal billions of dollars but it this first one tanks it’s all over.

That first movie was … serviceable. It’s not a coincidence that the only entry in the series that was in any way fun, visually interesting, or not a direct transliteration of page to screen was Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner Of Azkaban, which they never allowed to happen again. But, like Cuarón’s take on Harry Potter, there are newspaper strips that are seeing new life for the first time in who knows how long, in part due to indie- and webcomickers.

Olivia Jaimes on Nancy and Joey Allison Sayers on Alley Oop, Bianca Xunise as one of the Six Chix and Steenz Stewart on Heart Of The City, a whole bunch o’ folks contributing to Popeye’s Cartoon Club, but most notably Randy Milholland’s monthlong run¹. The odd thing is, a lot of the stodgiest of the stodgy strips come from King Features syndicate, and an awful lot of the new-life breathing is down to their editor, Tea Fougner, who has an eye for matching the right cartoonist with the right project.

And now, the stodgiest, stiffest, slowest-paced strip of them all is getting a kicking-and-screaming drag into the present day, as Mark Trail is about to get a new writer/artist. You remember Mark Trail? Alleged magazine writer, ramrod straight posture from the medium-sized sapling that must be crammed up his ass at all times? Everybody in the strip has hair and clothing styles straight out of the Sears catalog, circa 1962? Mark’s ward/son/tween hanger-on Rusty looks like a gremlin attempting a human disguise but only had a half-congealed Ted Cruz as a model?

There’s a new direction imminent for Trail, courtesy of a Bronx-born Latina with no time for shit. Jules Rivera of Love, Joolz is now Mark Trail’s dad and she’s found the inner truth about Mark Trail — dude’s jacked and should be setting off thirst alarms all over the damn place.

Hell, I’m just glad that the strip will move from a color palette of approximately 11 solid hues and a habit of posing like everything’s a Victorian photograph that required you to stay stock-still for eight minutes. Heck, just that hummingbird in the cast photo up top is showing more movement than the strip has seen in the past decade. And in case you wonder if Mark will still punch poachers, kidnappers, robbers, and general ne’er-do-wells, I’d say that Rivera might even expand his repertoire. Mark Trail’s new fighting technique will be unstoppable.

The new era of Mark Trail starts on Monday, 12 October. Update your links and prepare for your nature facts to be a zillion percent more awesome, and for all of the right people — the ones that declare nobody but a late-middle-aged (or older) white dude could possibly write or draw Mark Trail — are gonna have fits.

Spam of the day:

Get the word out about your Covid preventative measures

My crew have PPE that starts with N95 masks and goes all the way up to bunny suits, not to mention the cleaning power of babykiller wipes and access to biohazard disposal facilities. Oh, wait, were you trying to sell me some plastic partitions or shit like that? Awww, you’re adorable.

¹ We’ll give an honorary acknowledgement to Ces Marciuliano, who was the first to make the jump on Sally Forth (Ted Forth is the most unhinged guy on the comics page) some 20 years back, and more recently Judge Parker (how many daily strips your grandparents read feature murderous exotic dancers?).

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