Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mark Trail Heats Up

James Allen has done something remarkable. He's taken the staid strip Mark Trail and revitalized it -- without changing its basic appeal. When Ed Dodd started the strip in 1946, the focus was on wildlife and conservation, always the settings for Mark Trail's adventures.

Edd Dodd -- and his successor Jack Elrod drew in a late 1940s commercial art style. Over time, the strip looked increasingly static and out-of-date. Although Allen kept the thick lines, he also introduced the dynamic camera angles and panel compositions of contemporary comics to make the action more fluid.

And he introduced an interesting subtext.

I already noted Mark's life-saving kiss of life almost became something more (see: Mark Trail goes with the Wind). At the end of his most recent adventure, we had this sequence. Mark and Abbey had just escaped an island destroyed by a volcano,

Allen ramps up the heat a little in the first sequence. Note the extreme closeups to Abbey's eyes, which seem to be somehow inviting. In the second sequence, she takes his hand. We're not sure quite what Abbey's going to say (or how Mark will take it).

And then, in the third sequence, it's all over. Everything's above board, they're just friends. But just like that sequence with Corinna in the cave, just for a moment there a hint of something more.

And it ends with Mark wanting to get back to his wife. At the beginning of the story, James Allen devoted a few panels to Cherry (like the one below).

No wonder he's never tempted. James Elrod never drew her like this!

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