Friday, January 30, 2009


January 30, 2009

Panel 1: Are you fucking kidding me? “Look through this little window.” That’s how Mark explains how a camera works? I know, we’ve had plenty of evidence suggesting that Patty Frampton may be a couple of trees short of a forest (she is fraternizing with a deer and all that), but that doesn’t mean she’s not smarter than your average three-year old. On the other hand, perhaps this isn’t so much a statement about Patty’s relative intelligence as it is Mark’s. Look closely, and he’s pointing at the front of the camera. Anyone who takes pictures by looking through the “window” in the front of their camera, probably can’t distinguish between three-year olds and grown women.

Panel 2: Very perceptive, Ken. Looks like your plan to mark Patty as your private chattel by dressing the two of you in identical blue peacoats isn’t working out very well. Also, take a tip from Mr. Sartorial: most men try to pick ties that complement their shirts, not disappear into them.

Panel 3: Ooh, I like what that fist portends! We just might get to see Mark break out ye olde Right Fist o’ Justice! Of course, you almost can’t blame poor Ken the Kung-Fu Master for wanting to get all karate on someone. He doesn't know that Mark is a sexless plastic man and Mark (and his remarkably detailed buttocks) does appear to be engaged in some sort of nefarious threesome with Patty in the middle and Buck on the bottom.* Ken is probably wondering what sort of button Mark is asking Patty to push.

* And yes, I’m nearly as embarrassed about writing this, as I was about writing yesterday’s third-panel comment.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dining on venison

January 29, 2009

Panel 1: Buck is apparently unaware that Mark Trail is an androgynous plastic man. Otherwise, the threat he clearly perceives in panel 1, wouldn’t send him fleeing in panel 3.

Panel 2: “Yes, if Ken were to make friends with Buck, our lives would be so much more fun. The three of us could play with playdough, we could build Lincoln Log cabins, we could bake cookies, we could form a secret club, we could read books together, we could color, we could have hot threesomes in front of the fireplace. Oh, why can’t Ken make friends with Buck?”

Panel 3: Well, Patty Frampton, there is more than one way to eat Buck’s meat…*

*I must admit to experiencing a slight twinge of shame at having written this. Just a twinge, though.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Same shit, different day

January 28, 2009

Panel 1: Can anyone say Mom jeans? I’m increasingly unsure what Buck sees in this woman that might lure him away from the nimble young does of Lost Forest.

Panel 2: I was all ready to write, “Buck likes to keep his nose in the butter” for this panel, when I realized that I wrote more or less the same thing yesterday. So, I went back and took a peek at yesterday’s post. Compare:

Lo’ and behold, it’s the same damn panel, or at least the same damn silhouette set against a different background. Lazy ass Jackelrod Sphere.

Panel 3: Hard to say if Mark’s use of “will” instead of “would” is a result of him being an imperious bastard or merely another one of his botched attempts to sound less like a cyborg.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goth girl!

January 27, 2009

Panel 1: I like this panel. I like it for its ellipses. The art is bland, the dialogue is as stilted as ever, but oh those ellipses. I like what they hint at. Note the transition to panel 2. Mark likes the noble intentions (“That’s good.”), but he’s got more pressing concerns (Photographing her deer in front of the fireplace.). Mark is ready to use Patty Frampton, just like all the other men (or half-men in this case) in her life. Her husband sees her as a kung-fu practice pad, Buck just wants in her pants, and Mark? Well, Mark, wants to take some pictures and he wants to take them now.

Mark’s comment reminds me of getting high with some friends back in college. We’re all sitting around and the man of the hour is getting ready to fire up the joint he’s holding. He suddenly decides to regale us with the tale of how he found the dimebag in the parking structure behind the student union. The rest of us ne’erdowells, meanwhile, love that he’s got some weed and are ever so proud of him, but mostly we just want to get stoned. So, one of us blurts out, “That’s good, Biff, but light that fucker up already!”

Panel 2: Buck just can’t keep his nose out of the butter, can he?

Panel 3: Blah! That eye! The Jackelrod Sphere or, perhaps more accurately, his colorists have gone and gotten all Edgar Allan Poe on our asses. Between that crazy eye and Patty Frampton’s black lipstick, this is some of the more disturbing art I’ve seen in recent Mark Trails!

Monday, January 26, 2009

He's no Pete Singer.

January 26, 2009

Panel 1: Alternate Text: “Patty, I’m looking for my albino pet squirrel, Jorge. Have you seen him? Oh, here he is. Jorge! You naughty boy, stop gnawing on Buck’s antlers, Patty might get jealous!”

Panel 2: Mark strives to talk like a real human, even using the contraction “I’m” in a sentence. Despite his best efforts, he still sounds like poorly-programmed cyborg.

Panel 3: That’s great Mark. What if we take animals out of fields? How about lakes? The city dump? Your ethical guidelines aren’t going to be very helpful if you make them so location-specific. And what if we don’t use those animals as pets? Suppose I take a chipmunk out of the woods and train him as an assassin? Would that be ethical, or would I still run afoul of your prohibition? Also, I don’t know why Patty Frampton looks so sad. Perhaps she’s still trying to maintain the façade that Buck is a “pet.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009


January 24, 2009

Panel 1: Another great moment in stilted non sequiturs! Tune in next week as Cherry describes her plans to acquire an ecru-colored rug to hang on the wall in the cabin and Mark responds with an excited, "I like spinach for lunch!"

Panel 2: If this weren't Mark Trail, I might start thinking that "pet deer" is another word for "beaver." What else would explain the adolescent leer on his face?

Panel 3: Is it me, or is there a total disconnect between the action in this panel and the dialogue? Patty Frampton looks like she's waving good-bye as she turns to walk back to her house. Mark looks like he's about to gallop off in the opposite direction, or at least over the cliff on which he's currently perched. Yet, despite these visual cues, Patty Frampton is saying hello. C'mon Jackelrod Sphere, you can do better than this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mad rabbit skilz

January 23, 2009

Panel 1: I see Ken the Kung-Fu Master’s hands have shrunk back to their normal (i.e., tiny) size. And it’s pleasing to see him adopt such a fey pose. Much more in line with his sun-baked Barbie-man name.

Panel 2: Note the interstitial time-cue that precedes this panel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before in Mark Trail, and it really makes me wonder why it’s necessary now. Who cares if Mark decided to clean his camera after Ken the Kung-Fu Master did a little vogue-ing for his wife?

But, with that said, I would like to raise the question once again: What’s the sudden interest in prohibiting people from keeping wild animals as pets? A mere month ago, we were witness to all manner of perversions committed by a pet raccoon and we heard nary a peep from our “man” Mark.

Panel 3: Ladies and Gentlemen, Le Pétomane has returned!…as a rabbit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How about very small rocks?

January 22, 2009

Panel 1: Gosh, I had totally forgotten that Mr. Frowny-Face was named after another overtly androgynous fictional person. But our Ken, whom I shall continue to refer to as Mr. Frowny-Face, is clearly not quite as androgynous as his namesake. That’s good, because I’m not sure how I would feel about a smackdown between vaguely asexual half-men with tiny feet and hands.

Panel 2: How about a smaller animal? A badger, maybe? No. Perhaps a fish? Just a tiny one. Like a beta. No fish either. Damn. Okay, motherfucker, fine. You can’t keep me down. I defy you to find my colony of pet Tardigrades. Oh, and I definitely saw some fruit flies in the kitchen this morning.

Panel 3: What was that I was saying about tiny hands? Good lord, Ken the Kung-Fu Master’s right hand must be 12 inches long. And why is he fanning the lovely Patty Frampton?* Perhaps he saw one of those pesky Drosophila melanogasters flying around.

* Please note that I am not making fun of domestic violence, but of the Jackelrod Sphere's lame-ass depiction of that violence. This is like comic-strip kōan: If Ken the Kung-Fu Master slaps his wife and we're all here to witness it, shouldn't there be a slap sound? Or at least the word "SLAP!" or "POW!" or "BIFF!" or something? As it is, we're treated to the image of Patty Frampton apparently talking through a serious kung-fu whiff. I know, I'm supposed to be outraged at Ken the Kung-Fu Master's harsh treatment of his pretty blond wife, but c'mon. If a comic strip is going to deal with serious subjects, it needs to at least try and do so seriously. (Sez the snide blogger.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Post-Inaugural Round-up

January 19, 2009

Panel 1: You’d better watch it Cherry, Patty Frampton might get a little jealous of the way you’re staring deep into Buck’s limpid eyes.

Panel 2: Buck! Buck! Don’t forget your tie! It’s draped over the bureau. On a side note, can anyone identify what the fuck kind of deer this is? Clearly it’s not a whitetail or a muley. Perhaps some sort of mono-toned African breed?

Panel 3: Look at Mark’s grimace. You can already feel the righteous anger starting to burn. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the punching commences.

January 20, 2009

Panel 1: Mark, you make a terrible liar. Was it really good seeing them both? No one here likes Mr. Frowny-Face, least of all you. So I doubt it was “good” in any standard sense of the word. Perhaps there’s subtext, eh?

Subtext: “It was good seeing you both! Now I know what Oedipal bestiality looks like. Perhaps I’ll write an article about it for my magazine. And you, Mr. Frowny-Face, it was good seeing you without my Left Foot O’ Retribution broken off in your ass.

Panel 2: Oh Cheh-wy, does that make you veh-wy sad? Might explain the blue jacket!

Panel 3: Mr. Frowny-Face, Pet Detective leaps to his work, finding an empty cereal bowl on the ground and immediately concluding that his wife is fucking that goddam deer again.

Panel 4: And with this penultimate panel, we find out why Mr. Frowny-Face is so angry: that cad Buck gave lovely Patty Frampton Hepatitis C and yellow eyes. Nice job, Buck!

January 21, 2009

Panel 1: AUGH! The fingers! They’re so long and freakish! It’s like they snuck out of Milford to come terrorize Lost Forest. And I’ve identified another reason Mr. Frowny-Face is so angry: Patty Frampton keeps framed photographs of her ex-lovers (like Sasquatch!), over the mantelpiece.

Panel 2: Is that how come we’ve never seen a live Sasquatch? Mr. Frowny-Face killed him and ate him, too?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Someone call Animal Protective Services

January 17, 2009

Panel 1: A few short weeks ago, Mark was cavorting about in the swamp with a man forgettable and his daughter's pet raccoon. Did we get any lectures, then, on state and federal regulation of animal handling? Hell no. We were just forced to read a series of disturbing strips in which the aforementioned raccoon humped anything that walked, including Mark, a little girl with a giant mullet head, a dog, and a howdy-doody mannequin. Given that level of perversity with wildlife, I'm not sure why Mark's suddenly so concerned about a little harmless buggery with an underage deer.

Panel 2: Finally! The protagonist we've been looking for. He doesn't have mustache, but that scowl will do in a pinch. I can't wait to see Mark punch the frown right off his face!

Panel 3: Blergh.

Friday, January 16, 2009

These ain't grapes, baby.

January 16, 2009

Panel 1: You know Patty Frampton, there's something out there called a "schtick." It's a Yiddish word, originally used to describe a mannerism or tic that was repeated for comic effect. However, over time, schtick has come to mean more than that. Now, it's often used to describe an action that someone takes deliberately and frequently, but not necessarily sincerely. I'm telling you this, because I'm beginning to think your apologizing is nothing a but a schtick...and it's getting old fast. So, would you please just STFU about your early-morning visit?

Panel 2: Dude, Mark. That's what she said! If this devolves into some fucked-up threesome (with Cherry the blue-fringed explorer acting as camera-woman), I'm joining a convent and dedicating my life to silent contemplation of the ineffable.

Panel 3: Uh-huh. Baby bottle. You know, atleast Steinbeck had the cojones to have Rose of Sharon breast feed the starving man. Of course, he also had the good taste to avoid even the slightest hint of bestiality in his books. Something we can't currently say about the Jackelrod Sphere.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Look at that rack!

January 15, 2009

Panel 1: Oh fuckin-A. You have got to be kidding me. Cherry actually put on blue buckskin to ride over to her friend Patty Frampton’s house? Blue buckskin? What is this? Roy Rogers and Dale Evans conduct an intervention?

And Patty’s husband is named Ken? You’d better watch out Ken, there’s not room enough for two sexless androgynes in this county! I hereby make a prediction. I predict that Ken has a mustache. I also predict that Ken will, at some point in the next three months, be the recipient of an Official Mark Trail Beat Down.

Panel 2: Yes, I’m sure Ken is in the lumber business. Possibly as a lumberjack?

Panel 3: Oh god, no. A deer? I mean, he’s a fine-looking specimen and certainly has a nice…ahem…rack.* But, a deer? You bet your sweet ass you’re going to be in trouble there Patty Frampton. We here in America don’t look kindly on woman-on-deer relationships. But don’t blame yourself, blame the gays.

*I'd like to tender my thanks to the Jackelrod Sphere. Some days, this stuff just writes itself.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Little Pony

January 14, 2009

Panel 1: Why do Mark and Cherry have the NCAA Final Four bracket structure decorating the wall in their dining room? And why is Howdy Doody silently holding a plate of boiled potatoes? Is this all a dream, cause it’s kind of freaking me out now.

Panel 2: Dude, just ride Andy, ok? I mean, look at the size of that dog’s head in the first panel! If the rest of him is comparably sized, you could saddle him up with room to spare for a cooler full of Zima…or whatever it is you androgynous types drink.

Panel 3: Having blurted his pro forma acknowledgment of Cherry’s rocking new ‘do, Mark settles back in his saddle to contemplate the question little girls have asked themselves for centuries, “Do I want a tail set or a tail brace for my pony?”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lacking only hot syrup

January 13, 2009

Panel 1: Witness the single oddest bit of dialogue I’ve yet to read in the comics. Patty Frampton issues an inclusive declarative statement: “We’ll [i.e., you, Cherry, and I, Patty Frampton, will] get together later...” Formulated that way, it’s a little odd. I mean, I distinctly recall my mother telling me at age 9, that “We’ll talk to your father when he gets home.” And let me tell you, I was not looking forward to and, given the choice, would not have voluntarily participated in, that conversation. Clearly, there’s an element of command when one says "We will do something." Yet, even with that choice of phrasing, what Patty says is not entirely out of the ordinary realm of conversation. But Cherry?

Her response, “Please do, Patty…” Please do what? The implication is, “Please do [get together with me later], Patty.” But stated that way, and in response to Patty’s “We’ll get together”, it comes off exceedingly weirdly. As far as I can tell, Cherry’s choice of language can be intended to do one of two things. Either Cherry is signaling her gross disinterest in Patty’s gerbil problem:

Please do get together with me later, Patty. I’ll be out getting a couple of Thickburgers from Hardees, and I think Mark and I are out of paper napkins, so I’ll have to stop at the Bi-Lo, but I’m sure you’ll have a productive get-together. Here, you can talk to this Hummel playing sad songs on his violin.

or her utter lack of individual agency:

Please do get together with me later, Patty. By then, Mark’s icy androgyny and callous disregard for our marriage will have driven me into the final stages of a catatonic fugue. I’m sure my paralyzed, unresponsive body will be the perfect foil for the calm deliberation you will need to engage in to figure out a solution to your problem.

Like I said, weird.

Panel 2: Ah, perfect marital bliss. Silent mannequin bringing platefuls of unidentifiable brown lumps. Comely wife with a smokin’ right part serving coffee and discussing the sexual peccadillos of Peter Frampton’s long-lost twin sister. Mark staring grimly out the window wondering when someone is going to grow a moustache so he can punch them.

Panel 3: And in the denouement of today’s exciting triptych, Cherry’s part reveals that it knows as little about Patty Frampton’s troubles as the rest of us.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Early? In the morning or in the series?

January 12, 2009

Panel 1: You know, my grandmother used to have a hutch just like the one lurking behind Cherry’s right shoulder. It was a light brown, and had wood inlay details on the door panels and a leaded glass front. She kept my dearly departed grandfather’s aperitif glasses inside and a bowl of candy on top. I loved that hutch....and those fuckers over there in Lost Forest bid it right out from under me at the estate sale.

Panel 2: I can’t figure out what to discuss in this panel. Should I talk about the diabolic coloring, with the Technicolor fire and the washed out background? Should I talk about the weird smoke billowing out from Cherry and Patty Frampton’s feet, like they’re about to take off and zoom through the roof? Or perhaps I should just point out that it would appear that Cherry is intent on providing more grist for Mark’s recent Penthouse letter.

Panel 3: Patty Frampton asserts that it’s early. Is it? Let’s check:

Okay, I'll concede that it's early. But Patty Frampton, why so grim? Perhaps the prospect of getting trapped in a Mark Trail serial for 3 months is bringing you down?

UPDATE: Comics - Out of Context points out that Patty Frampton may be so glum because of the circumstances in which she came. She shouldn't be so down; I'm sure it's hard to resist the sheer erotic power of Cherry's right-part.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do androgynes dream of epicene sheep?

January 10, 2009

Panel 1: Cherry leaps on Mark and, Mark, feeling her ucky female organs pressing against his chest, twists his face to the left so as to minimize the chances that he has to kiss her. Fortunately, Patty Frampton is busily apologizing in the background and Mark is wearing his white gloves. Altogether, this bodes well for Mark. It seems unlikely he'll actually have to touch Cherry's warm, quivering flesh for at least another 8-10 hours. And by then, Mark will certainly be too tired (and may possibly have a headache) to do anything but give Cherry a peck on her cheek before rolling over and staring at the wall while pretending to fall asleep.

Panel 2: Why is Mark winking? And why is Patty Frampton still apologizing?

Panel 3: The only thing missing from this scene of near perfect early 60's domesticity is a reel-to-reel perched on top of a 110" television console like a robotic egret on a wood-paneled hippo. The pink shag rug definitely makes up for that little oversight.

Friday, January 9, 2009


January 9, 2009

Panel 1: The mystery deepens! You've become attached? Attached to what? What?!?! Pills? Japanese sitcoms? Cucumbers? Tell us, dammit!

Panel 2: Subtext: "And clean up this hideous gash that covers the left side of my face."

Panel 3: Hmm...I kind of can't snark this panel. It's surprisingly well-executed. Apart from Andy's somewhat goofy face, it makes excellent use of perspective and captures the action of the moment. Bravo, Jackelrod Sphere, bravo! But, you do know that square ties went out of fashion in 1989, right?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dark Side of the Jackelrod Sphere

January 8, 2009

Panel 1: Something embarrassing?

Panel 2: Something little, that's become a big problem?

Panel 3: Something that needs an animal lover's special touch? Oh sweet Lord! Patty Frampton, say it ain't so!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Frampton Comes Alive!

January 7, 2009

Panel 1: Patty? Who the fuck is Patty? We don’t know no Patty. Peppermint Patty? Patty Cake? Meat Patty? I’m just not getting this. Not to mention, Patty is virtually indistinguishable from Sue, the villain cum savior from whose clutches Mark is still escaping. Compare:



Of course, Patty also bears a more than passing resemblance to Peter Frampton:

Maybe the Jackelrod Sphere will grace us with a guitar solo? Whatever he does, we're clearly in for a treat with this serial.

Panel 2: Well, whoever this Patty is, at least we now know where Cherry got the revolutionary idea for the right-part she has adopted.

Panel 3: Howdy-Doody speaks! It’s only two syllables, but it’s a start.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wooden love

January 6, 2009

Panel 1:Cherry Trail, her hair parted neatly on the right, slumbers away in peaceful repose…

Panel 2:…Suddenly, the silence of the cabin at Lost Forest is broken by a pounding at the door. Or is it pounding? It sounds somewhat like wood hitting wood, with that sharp knocking sound.

Panel 3: Cherry! Don’t open that door! It’s...???? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m thinking it ain’t the androgynous naturalist we all know and love. Probably, it’s that psychotic mannequin who, driven to distraction by Cherry’s deliciously naughty right-part and sexy flannel nightgown, has decided that mere lurking isn’t getting him anywhere. If my hunch is correct, he’ll be standing there in his best bow tie and bowler hat, holding a box of chocolates for his sweet temptress, Cherry.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Homunculi and haircuts

January 5, 2009

Panel 1: AH! It’s Howdy-Doody again! Somehow he has managed to free himself from the bonds of inanimate slavery to lurk silently at the periphery of Mark’s home. Kind of creepy if you ask me.

Panel 2: And speaking of creepy, I’m going to praise the Jackelrod Sphere for its clever juxtaposition of imagery and text here. I know it looks like the owl is asking his wingtip when he (Mark) will be getting home, but I’m pretty sure it’s the Howdy-Doody homunculus asking Cherry (Mark’s wife). The Jackelrod Sphere could have accompanied this with a picture of the homunculus holding a pipe and Cherry plucking her eyebrows, but instead it has an owl (the airline) swooping down on a mouse (Mark), preparing to bring it on home. At home, of course, is Mrs. Owl (Cherry), waiting to tear the mouse (Mark) into tiny, bloody shreds if he doesn’t notice her new ‘do.

Panel 3: Which brings us to Panel 3. Cherry hopes that Mark notices that she has changed her hair again. Consider a recent history of Cherry’s hair:

March 8, 2008
Parted on the left, wavy bangs.

June 9, 2008
Parted on the left, straight bangs.

September 13, 2008
Parted on the left, straight bangs.

January 5, 2008
Parted on the right, wavy bangs.

Now, as we all know, Mark is an asexual androgyne with the cold, plastic pudenda of a Ken doll. His interest in Cherry, as far as I can tell, extends only so far as she serves as a useful “beard” in the straight-laced paradise of Lost Forest, where the Cold War still rages, where real women keep the house, and where real men drink gin and eat rare steaks prepared by their dutiful wives. So, with that in mind, will Mark notice that Cherry moved her part and put a wave in her bangs? I doubt it.

A note on the Sunday Mark Trail.

January 4, 2009
As any reader familiar with the Jack Elrod oeuvre can tell you, he uses the large format Sunday strip to address a single topic related to the environment. These large format strips can involve ecology, zoology, geology, meteorology or any other sort of nature-related ology you can think of. The Sunday strips are fairly well drawn and full of pretty good information, but they’re also incredibly bland. For that reason, I’ve decided to omit the Sunday strip unless I find something I’d like to snark on. If anyone really wants me to start including the Sunday strips, let me know, because I’m easily swayed…

Sunday, January 4, 2009

January 3, 2009

Thank you, Jackelrod Sphere, for giving me part of the day off and only employing two panels upon which I must expend my precious bodily fluids.

Panel 1: Egads! The whippersnapper is at it again, making Howdy-Doody mumble more inane shit. Today it's something about Mark Trail using his vast androgynous powers to make water run uphill and back into the swamp. Like I said, inane shit.

Panel 2: Hey, Jackelrod Sphere, stop yer anthropomorphizing. I doubt very much that the creatures of the swamp "appreciate" the precious water any more than a spider appreciates its web or a fecal coliform sample appreciates its agar medium. I, on the other hand, very much appreciate that you have created the crocodilian incarnation of Ming the Merciless to lord over those thankless and ungrateful creatures.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's shorts

January 1, 2009

Panel 1: Okay, that’s one reason. Any others?

Panel 2: How about some teeth for our lady friend, eh Jackelrod Sphere?

Panel 3: That’s right Sue. I mean, here you’ve gone and saved a good 15-20 acres of wetland. Certainly that will mitigate the wholesale destruction of greenfields and wetlands that occurred before you fell under the spell of our androgynous naturalist. And, of course, the only logical conclusion that we can draw from your decision is that you will never develop another wetland again. Right, Sue?

January 2, 2009

Panel 1: Look at that. Howdy-Doody is so easy to use that even a little girl can make him utter saccharine bullshit on cue.

Panel 2: Subtext: “And though I live close enough to drive here, I will never, ever return to this festering swamp filled with in-bred rustics and giant Howdy-Doody mannequins.

Panel 3: Subtext: “But don’t drive away just yet, Sue, I’m busy rubbing my bald, plastic crotch against your windshield column.”