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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/20/2008

The Morning Line: Mark Trail, Split-Second Crackpot

By Michael Cavna

"Mark Trail," you bedevil us like no other!

Send out a search party for this lost balloon. (NAS) Enlarge Comic

From gargantuan woodland creatures that are sometimes awkwardly foregrounded, to seeming "unintended double-entendres," the strip can both enchant and vex. And today, reliably, it is Wacky Balloon Placement that has us spellbound and dumbfounded.

Watch as our man Mark so casually chats up Sue the Split-Agenda Case in the first panel. He's appreciating the time with her...UNTIL he utters his own name.

Confound you, Forest Boy!

Is Mark talking in the third-person, like a superstar athlete or Paris Hilton? Is he providing knowing self-reflexive guffaws, a la Stephen Colbert? Or has he simply sipped too much of nature's sweet, sweet "barley" and "hops"?

None of the above, of course. It's simply yet another case of a shoddily placed balloon, as it's meant to point to Sue, not Mark.

If there's one consolation, however, it's that the conflicted Sue is the one uttering the tragically bad grammar like some dumb-as-hair hayseed. Mark, we can be assured, would properly say: "I appreciate your spending time..."

Sorry for momentarily thinking you were the bubble-brain in this scenario, M.T. Our faith in you is restored. Now, just watch out for that next Godzilla-sized waterfowl.


Palms that deserve a hand. (NAS) Enlarge Comic

Our reaction to "Mark Trail's" trees is fairly "meh!" today. By contrast (literally), the palm trees in today's "Judge Parker" are richly rendered -- from bark right down to the shadow cast on the hoodie. Bra-vo.

Tangling with adverbs. Literally. (UFS) Enlarge Comic

As for today's "Frazz," we must respond with a single sentiment to the notion that "nothing good comes from adverbs":

Absolutely. Totally. SERiously. Completely.


By Michael Cavna  | November 20, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Isn't that why we read MT? It's like re-reading the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew; they're so bad they're good....

Posted by: tws1372 | November 20, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Sue is embarrassed by her deception of Mark (and by her little act of illegally draining the wetlands and killing all the swamp critters except for that pesky gator, which should have been first on her list to go), so instead of apologizing forthrightly, she uses ventriloquism to project her voice so that it seems to be coming from Mark himself. She chooses to carry this little jape even further by deliberately "dumbing down" her syntax (after all, ventriloquists conventionally make their "dummies" sound a bit Mortimer Snerd-like), so she elects to use a pronoun in the nominative case rather than the possessive case to modify the gerund "spending", a ridiculous grammatical blunder that will surely lead to much laughter and will help break the ice with Mark so that he will cheerfully accept her apology. Who says that Jack Elrod doesn't lay out this strip carefully, since he pays such meticulous attention to those tiny details! It also foreshadows the upcoming plot revelation that Sue's draining of the wetlands has unleashed the flow into the aquifer of a toxic chemical spill that has led to the spawning of those mutant giant quail that will pick up her puny car, with Sue still inside, and dump it deep in the swamp, maybe even directly in the gator's lair! Nature's vengeance, Mark Trail-style!!!

Posted by: seismic-2 | November 20, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

That freakishly disembodied bird's head is very disturbing. These birdzillas, having sucked all semblance of life from the surrounding plants, are now lurking in wait for the unwary Mark and Sue to drive closer and then, like a nightmare scene from Hitchcock's move 'The Birds' they will peck them to death.

Posted by: PhoebeKate | November 20, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

So is this the new plot lurch in Judge Parker? Is it some kind of post - modern vampire angst tale that's so popular?

Or is it just some thug in a hoodie? ....

Posted by: JkR- | November 20, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Sandra Bell-Lundey offers some great insight as to what makes a good comic strip on her "Between Friends" blog (, and suprisingly, there is no mention of gigantic jungle creatures and adventure men talking to themselves in the 3rd person.

Posted by: mattbonaguide | November 20, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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