The Adventures of

MARK TRAIL

Being a Mark Trail fanatic, I know how frustrating it is to miss an episode of Mark Trail, the best comic strip in the history of the universe. In the past I have tried to provide a weekly summary here of the action for other fans, and I will continue to provide other facts and observations concerning our hero as I come across them! Happily, Mark Trail now has a strong online presence and my weekly summary of the action is redundant.

Mark Trail Directory

Mark Trail Music

Trail in the News

WHAT time is it, anyway?

Tips for Trailheads in Training

The Current Adventure!!

Trail Trivia? How Could It BE?!!

Lost Forest in Cyberspace! NEW!!!

Trail Archives

Mark Trail News

9-9-98--Check out the 9-9-98 Star Tribune Metro section for an article about Cherry Trail's visit to Minnesota. This website was briefly mentioned!

3-11-02--They say, "No news is good news!"

6-28-02--Check out this Washington Post feature story on Mark's longevity! Click Here!

Trailheads In Training

Unless you have a naturally warped sense of aesthetics, humor and philosophy, becoming a Master Trailhead will require much time and study. However, it's very easy to grasp the fundamental characteristics of Mark Trail which appeal to the Trailhead, and over time we will reveal many of these to you, allowing you to amaze your friends and co-workers by predicting with great accuracy the action in the strip.

Chapter One

Identifying the Mark Trail Bad Guy

This is one of the first skills a neophyte Trailhead should master. When you have learned several of the following rules, you will be able to tell at a glance if a new character is a shyster or a saint. Take a look at the fellow on our right. His name is Ted Baker and he's a banker. He's also a bad guy who Mark Trail eventually knocked out with one punch. Baker is serving a 20 year sentence. One giveaway that a character is evil is by his facial hair.

Bad Guy Rule # 1--If a character has long sideburns, he is always evil to the core.

One should be suspicious of a character with any facial hair; in the case of characters such as Joe Walker (see the Sea Turtle episode), he had a very thin mustache, it gave us the hint that he had a dark side but was probably not rotten through and through. In judging characters with facial hair other than sideburns, one must take into account their general countenance. Bad guys are often mean looking and they rarely smile.

Bad Guy Rule # 2--Men with hair any longer than collar length are bad news.

However, boys with longish hair may be merely impish, such as the character Joseph in Andy's Great Woods Adventure (see Trail Archives). Mr. Elrod appeared to bend the hair rules in May '02. Mark's swamp buddy, Gator, has a tremendous head of hair reaching to his shoulders, as well as a full beard. Argument on the Mark Trail Bulletin Board concerning this incongruity is generally of the opinion that Gator's hair is snow white, implying his good character. I would point out that the colorizing of the online strip is apparently computer generated, and not under Jack Elrod's control; Gator's true hair color may or may not be white. Mark, upon meeting Gator, immediately pointed out that his friend needed a haircut. This suggests that all male long hair is still bad news. Gator may be a Good Guy, but he appears to have a fascination with the Dark Side of Life. Mark realizes this with the gentle rebuke of his fragile friend.

Bad Guy Rule # 3--Any character, even if innocuous in appearance, is suspect if they hesitate when responding to a legitimate question.

A good example of this is to be found in the Sea Turtle episode, as Mark questions Mary Moore's lawyer, who responds with an "Uh..." before answering the question. Any utterance beginning with "Uh..." indicates deception or embarrassment.

Bad Guy Rule # 4--Unless smiling and of a friendly visage, Heavy-Set Bald Guys are always villains.

Any gang of drug smugglers may include one (and only one) Heavy-Set Bald Guy. These Bald Guys are always completely bald; you'll never see one with lingering hair around the ears or a mere bald spot. Trailhead Erik Biever pointed out this Bad Guy Tipoff to me, and he notes that totally bald Bad Guys are never skinny. The Bald Bad Guy may sport facial hair or oversized eyebrows, but not a hair is to be seen elsewhere.

Bad Guy Rule # 5--Bad guys often have bent or broken noses.

This may be because Elrod keeps calling the same characters up to be bad guys, and their noses have already been squashed by Mark, who knocked them out with just one punch in some previous adventure.

Chapter Two

Mark Trailspeak

Trailspeak Rule # 1The word "uh" always indicates some sort of deception is taking place. This is true whether a good or bad character utters it. For examples, refer to the unscrupulous lawyer in the Sea Turtle episode and to Cherry turning down Mrs. Jerk's offer of coffee in the Canoe Capers adventure.

Trailspeak Rule # 2Mark Trail uses approximately 50% fewer contractions than normal people. Other characters may use less than the usual number as well; to date I have spotted no contraction-deficient Mark Trail Bad Guys, but I believe more research should be done before it can be said that no MTBGs are repelled by use of the contraction. Part of the aesthetic enjoyment of Mark Trail is its use of language, and it is the highlight of any true Trailhead's day to observe Mark saying something like, "I have certainly enjoyed it, and I hope that you will enjoy it too!"

Trailspeak Rule # 3Most dialogue ends in an exclamation point! It is more exciting this way!

Chapter Three

Mark Trail's Busiest Year

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Mark Trail comic strip is its treatment of time. For example, according to his creator, Mark is always 34 years old. In the Mark Trail Universe time may all but come to a stop for weeks on end (in a mid-'80s episode a fist fight between Mark and bad- guy Ted Baker was observed to take nearly a week--and only one punch was thrown!). However, forget about checking in on the strip once a week to keep up; months can pass in a single daily episode! Despite this, Mark and Cherry and company never age, although they do adapt to changing fashions and times (e.g. the early Cherry had a lovely long-haired late '40s 'do; she subsequently had a no-nonsense short hairstyle for many years, and fairly recently she got a perm, mainly to see if her hubby would notice!). Obviously, this strip raises fundamental questions about time and reality; so much has happened and so much continues to happen in Mark Trail's 35th year. To assist the reader of my summary I am going to attempt to keep track of the timeline of the action in each episode. I will arbitrarily start each adventure at Day 1. Viewers who notice timeline errors on my part are invited to correct me!

Jack Elrod has recently upped the ante in timeline weirdness. On Saturday, 2.20.99 the following strip appeared.

Mark is apparently unconscious in the poachers' cooler as a poacher enters with Ranger Mills. Mark then kicks the poacher. Now look at the strip which appeared on the following Monday:

WHAT is going on here!!? Mills and the poacher again enter the cooler and Mark again kicks the poacher. We have entered, I believe, The Elrod Zone

Now compare the first panel of this strip which shows a bad guy kicking a good guy named Tony (December 11, 1999). Notice that the leg position and even the details of Tony's shirt collar are very similar to the collar of the poacher in the previous strip. WHAT TH'!!?

Now, take a look at Ted Baker, grasping the delicate stem of a wine glass with his ham-like fist in August of 1986.

Ted is an embezzler and a banker, overseeing the estate of a dog that inherited $4 million dollars. In the background, sweet Sue Ann, the little dog's guardian and heir, wields the salad bowl. Now compare Ted with Jim Cole, a new millenium banker and gambler overseeing the estate of Samantha the Cat, who has inherited millions.

In the background, the amorous Anne Butler, Samantha's guardian wields her salad bowl! Gosh, has Ted discovered the Fountain of Youth? Is there a Trail Rule warning Pet Guardians to Beware of Bankers Bearing Booze? WHAT TH"??!?

Chapter 4

Trail Morphology

In Lost Forest, all objects and all living things have the ability to alter their appearance, sometimes dramatically. The most common instance of morphing is seen in the appearance of Mark Trail's hands. They often alter in size relative to the rest of his body. At times they appear to be the size of a 6 year old child's hands. When Mark is about to knock out a Bad Guy with just one punch, he very often contorts his punching hand into a position most of us would find impossible. He employs a variation of this contortion when he holds one of the huge sandwiches Cherry makes for him to eat at picnics in Lost Forest. Animals in Lost Forest have tremendous morphing skills. Foxes weighing 50 pounds or more are common. Weasels can temporarily weigh 25 pounds and geese can turn from Snow Geese to Canadian Geese in minutes. The geese in Lost Forest also have the ability to fly upside down.

Trailheads have never definitively answered the question as to why morphing occurs. Oftentimes it coincides with a dramatic event, but sometimes a change seems to occur just because it can.

HEY KIDS!! Count up the days in the episodes here entombed, and hope to Holy Mackerel that you don't count beyond 365 and force Mark to age!!

Trailheads are encouraged to send their Trailheads in Training tips to me. I will include any I consider valid on this evolving site as the Training manual thickens.

Stay tuned for more Trailhead Tips.

Trail Trivia--Yes, we KNOW it's an oxymoron!

Trailheads, we need your assistance. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has quoted Jack Elrod as saying that Mark Trail is "always 34 years old." However, according to the King Features website Mark is always 32! The first episode of the Mark Trail radio adventure (circa 1950) described Mark as being a man of "about 30." Let's settle this. Is Mark 32, 34 or "about 30," or all/none of these? Remember, we are talking Trailyears here (see above); if this concept is confusing, I suggest you acquaint yourself with the writings of the philosopher J.M.E. McTaggart, who offered a logical proof that all things exist at all times. E-mail me if you have an opinion or information relating to Mark Trail's age; if nothing else we'll determine his age by a majority vote.

Viewers with questions about Mark Trail Trivia or viewers with juicy Trail Tidbits are invited to e-mail me concerning Trail Arcana I will post as much trivia info. here as time allows. As my web site begins to groan under the weight of adventure after adventure I may eventually archive the summaries of earlier episodes on my hard drive. In such a case I will post an index of archived adventures which can be obtained.

Mark Trail Links

The Washington Post now has the CURRENT DAYS EPISODE! of Mark Trail online, in living color!! It's better than going to Oz!

HELP US SOLVE THE MYSTERY!! The Alpha Trailhead of the World (in the humble opinion of this lowly scribe), Ms. Babs, has inexplicably disappeared, along with her online treasure trove of Traildom! For all we know, she may be hiding from organized crime types out in the forest with Mark himself! If you see Babs, send her our love and let us know she's ok! If you find Babs' Temple of Trail at a new address, we would be grateful for the URL!

Visit The Official Mark Trail WHAT TH'? Page! A superb resource for Trailers, including an archive of some past episodes! Most importantly, it has an online message board where Trailheads can argue, amuse and arouse each other!

If your newspaper has dumped Mark, he may soon be back if you complain loudly enough! If Mark appears to have gone off for good, you can read theMark Trail Comic Strip online at King Features. They are usually 1 to 3 weeks behind the current episode, but sooner or later (in Trail-time) you'll pick up the Trail. From the King Features Site you can link to the Fish & Wildlife Southeast Region site, which currently has available the entire Sea Turtles adventure on-line!

This site is always under construction.