Monday, December 26, 2011

The Mark Trail reaches a dead end?

Back in the states, suited up, Mark Trail begins to undermine his existence.

All this insipid strip needs is one more day — one miserable day! — to reach five straight months of nothingness. And it's just going to peter out now? A storyline equivalent of sap rising in a tree has ended, not with a bang or a whimper. What's less than a whimper?

This story held so much promise! Well, not promise exactly, but interest. No, not that either. Let's just say it held stubbornly to a space in the Sacramento Bee comics section, below the fold.

To recap: Almost five months ago — five months! In time as we humans perceive it! — outdoor magazine writer Mark Trail found a wounded goose with a gold leg band inscribed with a Bible passage. Lengthy uninteresting investigation brought him and his mottled crew of friends and co-workers to an idyllic valley in remotest Canada, where mountain lions lie with the mountain goats and all is peace under the rule of a buckskin-clad old woman named Mother McQueen. Yes, that one, mama to Canadian Mounted Police Officer McQueen.

Except nosy reporter Kelly Welly, on evidence so thin it didn't even exist, concluded that Mother McQueen's muzzled bear — kind of a diss on this dystopia — is trained to haul gold ore from a mine under a waterfall that irrigates the idyllic valley. Kelly somehow forced the bear to lead her to the mine. Turns out wolves were not part of this idyll, because a pack attacked the muzzled and, therefore, defenseless bear. No problem: Mark Trail came upon the scene just in time sics his St. Bernard, Andy, and an as-yet-unseen dog, Princess, who together chased off the howling pack. Of course.

That was climax of this nothing story, it develops, because afterward Mother McQueen, serving a fine feast of peace-loving animals, confessed to all that the gold mine is just a played-out hole yielding only enough gold for her poor departed husband to have minted only a couple of bird bands. For some reason or another. Ho hum.

In the end, Mark Trail, who makes his living digging up stories that he can write for an outdoor magazine — and who defied arrest to be allowed into this strange valley — decided after nearly five months of lethargy and nothingness that not only won't he write a story about the discovery, but he will forbid Kelly Welly from publishing any photos, lest any other nosies ever want to explore this mysterious valley. In today's strip,  Mark is at his editor's office, heading off Kelly's attempts to file a story, with photos that'll ruin everything.

In the Mark Trail world, the editor will congratulate Mark for wasting all his time and producing nothing. Mark might even get paid hush money, but it will be called something else. Kelly will be fired, or sent to the secretarial pool, where in this world still exists a vast grid of typewriter-topped desks. 

(It later turns out that Mark stole the memory card from Kelly Welly's camera, even though she was doing her job, gathering information for a story, for which she would be paid, and doing nothing illegal or untoward. But Mark's theft is somehow OK and virtuous, because he's already off on the next unadventure.)

I predict I will mourn the cumulative seven minutes and 14 seconds I have wasted following this strip do nothing for nearly five months, and will vow never to read it again. And will break that vow.

(Find fun Mark Trail commentary here.)

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