“Mark Trail,” a newspaper comic strip about an outdoor magazine writer and environmentalism, is getting a makeover. On Oct. 12, the cartoonist Jules Rivera will take over the strip.
If you have never heard of “Mark Trail,” which debuted in 1946, no worries — neither had Rivera. “It’s not something that would have made its way to my purview,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “I didn’t seek out nature-dude comic strips.”
Rivera is known for her slice-of-life webcomic “Love, Joolz.” She said she discovered a lot to love about Mark Trail while doing her research on the strip. “Mark goes on the wackiest adventures; there were many, many exploding boats,” she said. In one, she said, a walrus gave birth in an automobile. In another, Mark was trapped in a cave for 48 hours — which played out over many weeks of the strip and caused some consternation among fans. “The writer actually had him there for six months,” she said. “That’s depth!” (“That’s a cave joke,” she added.)
Mark Trail was created by the cartoonist Edward Benton Dodd, who worked on it until his retirement in 1978. It was taken over by Jack Elrod, who initially came on board in 1950 to assist with the artwork. The cartoonist James Allen took over in 2014 and continued until Aug. 16, when the strip temporarily shifted to reprints.
Rivera does not see her take on “Mark Trail” as a reboot. Instead, she describes it as a “blowup,” a bigger focus on the characters and themes of the strip but with a modern sensibility, which let her put her degree in electrical engineering and a background in STEM to use. She’s also updating Mark’s look. “I kind of drew inspiration from Jon Hamm,” she said. Among the other enhancements: His wife, Cherry, and their son, Rusty, will receive more prominent roles.
The cartoonist is also putting a spin on a signature quirk of the strip introduced by Elrod: occasional panels of animals under word balloons, which often make it appear as if they are speaking. In her take, Mark will directly talk to the wildlife. Will he get a response? Tune in!