Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Spam Roundup, January 2017

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world. 

We get rave reviews! (I think)

- Your views are pleasant in favor of new visitors [Yes, when I have to decide between views and visitors, I always go with views.]

- You credibly put a pregnant and exculpate so that it is central that you would other not communicate the oral communication.[Does this sound vaguely dirty to anyone else?]

- Thanks for any other wonderful article. The place else could anyone get that type of information in such an ideal means of writing?[So you liked any other article except this one?]

- Tremendous things here. I am very glad to peer your post. thanks so much and I am looking ahead to touch you. [Keep your distance, bud. I'm not that kind of blogger.]
See that green and yellow truck in the foreground?
That's what generating all the comments.

"Lumbering along" lumbers along

It was just a short post in an obscure series about vintage Japanese tin toys. And yet, The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along continues to attract the spam bots -- and sometimes for the wrong reasons.

- There's certainly a great deal to find out about this subject. [No there isn't.]

- I truly loved surfing around your weblog posts.[Everybody's gone surfin', surfin' AOL...]

- This blog gives helpful data to us. Keep it up. Here is my web-site: adult sex on the Straco Layout. [Now that's just wrong. "Keep it up?!"]

A Fastidious Meal

Fastidious Spam continues to draw comments from the very subject of the post -- spambots. This month's entry is a little unusual, though.

- An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch today because of the fact that I discovered it for him. [Really? If your coworker's doing homework on fastidious spam, then he's an Olympic-level slacker, indeed.]

And so we start 2017. I think this last comment sums everything up nicely:

No matter if some one searches for his required thing, so he/she needs to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over her.

So yeah. It's a thing.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Diabelli Project 142 - Wind Trio

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

 This week's flash composition turned out to be another wind trio (the sixth in the series). I wanted to start with something very simple, and just see where it went in the time available. Where it ended up going -- very quickly -- was into a different key (or rather, a set of accidentals) for each instrument. What happens next? I think I'd keep going, modulating to keys further removed from each other, until, (of course), it all comes back in focus again with a unison ending.

As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 037 Scare Crow

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

037. Scare Crow

There are a few things that betray the origin of this Vest Pocket Builder's set. One of them is the "Made in Japan" marking on the box. But even without that, it's clear that this toy came from a country where English isn't the first language. In America, we'd call this figure a "scarecrow," not a "scare crow." 

The scarecrow was pretty easy to build. As you can see, the dowels just barely enter the metal body. That meant there were no problems with dowels getting in the way of each other as was the case on the past few models. 

The toy was also surprisingly stable on its narrow base. All in all, a good toy to build.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ignaz von Beecke - an early Classical treasure

[Ignaz von Beecke’s piano concertos], though not particularly difficult, are
uncommonly lovely and ingratiating to the ear."

That was the opinion of music critic Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart writing in the 1780s. And I have to say I agree.

Franz Ignaz von Beecke was a highly regarded composer and performer in the early Classical era (1780s-1800s). He was popular in Paris, applauded by Haydn, and even performed a concerto for piano four hands with Mozart. Von Beecke wrote 15 piano concertos, 27 symphonies, 14 string quartets and many other works. Most were well-received when premiered, and almost all are forgotten today.

Which is why the three concertos on this release are world premiere recordings -- very little of his music has been performed in modern times, much less recorded. These concertos all date from around the 1780s, when von Beecke's popularity was at its peak. The works all have the early classical aesthetic of elegant balance. As Schubart points out, the solo piano parts aren't particularly challenging. But that's not von Beecke's goal.

Von Beecke's music is that of restrained beauty. Stylistically, he's more advanced than Johann Christian Bach, with some hints of early romanticism in some of his harmonies. Although von Beecke uses a standard 18th-century orchestra, he uses the winds and brass in some interesting ways (for the time).

Pianist Nataša Veljkovic plays with delicacy and charm. Johnnaes Moesus and the Bavarian Chamber Orchestra of Bad Brückenau deliver performances that are both transparent in texture and brimming with good humor.

If you're a fan of early Haydn and Mozart or late JC Bach you should find much to like in the music of Ignaz von Beecke. These concertos are indeed "uncommonly lovely."

Kudos to CPO for these world premiere recordings of Ignaz von Beecke's piano concertos. Now, how about some of his symphonies, please?

Ignaz von Beecke: Piano Concertos
world premiere recordings
Nataša Veljkovic, piano
The Bavarian Chamber Orchestra of Bad Brückenau; Johannes Moesus, conductor
CPO 777 827-2

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Distler vs. Nomura, Part 2

The American importer Cragstan brought in a tinplate toy passenger train from the German firm Distler in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s, they imported a tinplate toy passenger train from the Japanese firm Nomura. 

Were they the same? In Part 1, I compared the rolling stock. But the real answer was in the locomotives.

Even placed side by side, it's easy to see some differences in the lithography between the Distler and Nomura locomotive. Superficially, though, they appeared almost identical.

Nomura diesel (top) and Distler diesel (bottom)
Distler (left) and Nomura (right) - there are slight variations in the design.
When I turned over both locomotives, it was easy to see that the mechanisms were more than a little different.

Nomura (left) and Distler (left). Note the Distler motor casing.
The Distler motor was encased in a thick, clear plastic shell.

The Nomura motor was more basic.

Distler was famous for their motors, and I can see why. The contacts were stronger than Nomura's, and the clear plastic casing kept the motor dirt-free. The gears are more precise, making the motor work more efficiently (although, like Nomura's, it only provided enough power to pull the two cars that came with the set).

The Nomura shell (left) had a metal weight, while the Distler (right) had just
a thick cardboard one.

Both locomotives had weights in the back to help the powered wheels maintain traction. The Distler motor was heavier and required less excess weight.

My original speculation was that Cragstan moved the manufacturing from Germany to Japan because of lower costs. I think that's now partially true. I don't believe Cragstan moved stampers and lithograph plates from one company to another. The differences in the locomotive decoration suggest that Nomura copied the Distler design (but not exactly). 

I think the lower costs were achieved by cheapening the product. The Nomura motor was certainly less expensive than Distler's. And by using a tighter radius curve, they reduced the circumference of the loop. And that made the track was less expensive, too.  

 And both companies continued to use their versions of this set. Nomura made freight sets and added flashing lights to the locomotive.

Distler, according to Spur00 originated the design. They offered this German prototype train in 1957, along with the Santa Fe set. As you can see, only the nose was changed. 

The Distler TD5000 set featured a powered and dummy locomotive.

This TD5000 set came in several configurations. The train was available in either brown or green. All the sets featured a powered and a dummy locomotive. Some only had the two pieces, while larger sets added a passenger car (with a different frame than the Cragstan-commissioned set). 

As I said in Part 1 -- there's nothing like first-hand research. Through it, I was able to better understand the relationship between two toy companies with a common importer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Distler vs. Nomura - Part 1

There's nothing like first-hand research.

I've written before about how closely the Distler passenger train set imported by Cragstan from West Germany in the late 1950s resembled the Nomura passenger train set imported by Cragstan from Japan in the early 1960s.  (see: Japanese Litho Train Sets, Part 3)

My theory was that Cragstan had ordered the set from Distler, then switched suppliers to Nomura, taking the stampers and designs with them.

After obtaining a Distler passenger set, I revised that theory -- especially after I compared the two sets side by side.

Distler passenger car (top) and Nomura passenger car (bottom)
Comparing passenger cars from the two companies, I found them virtually identical. The Distler graphics more closely resemble European prototypes, but the frames, bodies, trucks and couplers were the same.

There were two primary differences. Distler's couplers held the cars closer together than Nomura's. And their track had a wider radius. But even with that gentler curve, Distler's cars still almost touched each other.

So far, the contrasts were interesting, but not particularly meaningful. 

But further research (thanks to the discovery of the German website Spur00.de) revealed that Distler also used these same basic designs for some European sets offered at the same time. Since only the one passenger set was imported by Cragstan, it seemed unlikely that the stampers and designs originated with the American importer. 

Then I looked at the locomotives, which I'll cover in Part 2.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Diabelli Project 141 - Wind Trio

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week's flash composition was another wind trio. I started with a simple idea -- an interval of a third (E-G) and just kind of watched what happened. Rhythmic development started to happen in the 6th measure. If time hadn't run out, I would have continued expanding the original motif. And this may well be a sketch I return to in the near future.

As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 036 - Rider

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

036. Rider

One thing's for sure: as I've built each toy, each new toy becomes somewhat easier to figure out. The rider is basically the same figure used for the 033 Acrobat, the 031 Rope Walker, and 030 Man. 

The horse, though, proved a little difficult to build. Because the two pieces that make up the head are identical, I had a difficult time getting them to sit properly. I could have pinched the sides of the top piece so it rested on the top of the piece underneath it, I suppose. But I'm trying to bend these pieces at few times as possible. Each bend weakens the fold a little more, and I don't think this paper-thin metal has all that many bends in it to start with.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Aaron Tindall's Tuba Transformations

Serious classical music lovers know there's more to the tuba than "Tubby." Aaron Tindall's new recital disc just shows how much more -- and it may surprise more than a few classical cognoscenti.

Tindall performs works of four contemporary composers with contrasting styles, in settings ranging from full orchestral accompaniment to unaccompanied solo. Virtually the entire range of playing technique is heard, and some extended technique as well.

The opener, Gunther Schuller's 2008 concerto No. 2 for Contrabass Tuba and Symphony Orchestra is the most conservative work in the program, written in a loosely atonal style that reminded me of the early 1960s. The tuba's lyrical passages, especially those in the lower register, are well-crafted and engaging. Tindall's crystal-clear articulation shows amazing control, especially with multiphonics.

Karlheinz Stockhausen's 2006 Harmonien is part of an unfinished cycle of solo instrumental works (one for every hour of the day). Tindall performs this solo piece beautifully. He seems to effortlessly slip between extreme registers while maintaining a sense of unity and overall structure. Tindall makes every note relevant and meaningful.

The 2013 Concerto for Tuba and Winds Ensemble by Dana Wilson follows, lightening the mood somewhat. It's a more accessible work, and Tindall's rapid-fire double tonguing has to be heard to be believed.

Are You Experienced? by David Lang closes the program. It's the oldest of the four works (completed in 1989) but it's also the wildest. Composed for electric tuba, chamber orchestra, and narrator, the work plunges the audience into a disorienting world of semi-consciousness. No, really -- the narrator explains that we've just been hit on the head as the music starts. Tindall's performance, though incorporating feedback, guttural growls, and other extra-musical sounds is one I can only describe as musical. This isn't just noise -- there's a purpose to it all, and if you listen closely, Tindall will reveal it.

I'd recommend this release not only to anyone interested in contemporary music but to composers and arrangers. If you want to know what the tuba is truly capable of, this should be your reference recording.

Aaron Tindall, Tuba
Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra; Jeffery Meyer, conductor
Ithaca College Wind Ensemble; Stephen Peterson, conductor
Ithaca College Chamber Orchestra; Jeffery Meyer, conductor; Steven Stucky, narrator
Bridge Records 9471

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sally Forth from Past to Future

I love the way writer Francesco Marciuliano plays with the conventions of the daily comic strip. In Sally Forth, he's jumped ten years into the future to present adult versions of Hilary and her friends Faye and Nona. And in one instance, he had the Forth family meet their earlier counterparts (see: Sally Forth into the Funky Past).

In a sequence that ran in August 2016, this happened:

Notice how carefully it's framed. Is Hillary really conversing with her older self, or is it just her imagination? There are no other characters around to either ask who that person is she's talking to or why she's talking to the air.

We only know what we're shown. And that ambiguity, I think, is what makes the sequence work. 

I like to think it's all in Hilary's mind.  Because I really am not looking forward to Zootopia 3 in outer space.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Diabelli Project 140 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week's flash composition turns out to be the first woodwind quintet in the series. Without the 10-minute time limit, I would have developed the section beginning at measure five further. Still, I was surprised at just how far this sketch got before time ran out. 

As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 035 - Stork

 I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

035 Stork

The stork has some similarities with the 034 Duck -- and some additional problems. The beak is way longer on the toy I built than it shows in the diagram. The issue is one I've run across before. There are two dowel rods running through the metal piece, and one simply blocks the other.

In this case, the dowel representing the beak was blocked by the one serving as the neck. In retrospect, I might have come closer to the illustration by cheating a little. I could have had the neck dowel go just a little way into the head, which would have allowed the beak dowel to move further inside and thus make a shorter beak. And it would have made the exposed neck longer, bringing it closer to the depicted toy.

In the current construction, the open side of the head's metal piece is facing downwards, so the bird looks complete from both sides. In order to have a shorter beak, I'd have to turn the box on its side to give the neck dowel a hole to slide into, which would mean the toy could only be viewed from one side only. So we'll just go with the modified version, I think.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Berl Senofsky in Concert - a legend returns

Berl Senofsky, though an influential and respected artist, didn't record a lot. So his reputation rests mainly on accounts of those who heard him in performance or studied with him.

This new release adds to his slender catalog of recordings and provides some additional insight into his artistry. It's a recording of Senofsky's recital at the Expo '58, Brussels.

He had won the Queen Elisabeth International Competition prize at the age of 29 -- the unanimous selection of judges David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin, and Zino Francescatti. This recital recorded just three years later, hints at what those prize-winning performances were like.

The recording has been lovingly remastered with minimal tinkering (that I can hear). It's a rich, warm, analog sound that places Senofsky front and center in the audio mix.

I could easily hear the delicacy of Senofsky's tone, especially in quiet passages. Long notes sounded full and well-rounded. Double and triple stops were executed cleanly and clearly heard in the recording.

Senofsky plays in an old-fashioned style, but with a more restrained vibrato than most prewar artists. It's a sound that's both of its time and one that transcends it through the beauty of his expressiveness.

Especially fine, I think, are the Ysäye Sonata No. 6, Op. 27, and Bach's Chaconne from the Partita No. 2, BWV 1004. Not to take anything away from the performances with pianist Marie Louise Bastyns, but when Senofsky played alone, I was enthralled.

Berl Senofsky In Concert at EXPO '58 Brussels
Berl Senofsky, violin; Marie Louise Bastyns, piano
Bridge Records 9470

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Barbara Harbach Orchestral Music III - Portraits in Sound

This volume brings listeners up to date with Barbara Harbach's symphonic output. It features symphonies No. 7-10, composed between 2014 and 2015.

Harbach is an economical symphonist -- the works are uniformly short, focused, and efficiently orchestrated. All four symphonies follow a straight-forward 3-movement fast-slow-fast structure. Yet with all these constraints, Harbach shows a great deal of imagination and variety.

Symphony No. 7, "O, Pioneer" uses music from her opera of the same name. Harbach manages to evoke the great expanse of the Nebraska prairie without for a moment sounding like Aaron Copland. No mean feat.

I have to admit I didn't enjoy Symphony No. 8 "The Scarlet Letter" as much as the others. The three movements are character studies of Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale. To my ears, only the middle movement, Chillngsorth captured the emotional turmoil of the character. The outer movements, though pleasant, weren't as engaging.

Symphony No. 9, "Celestial Symphony" also repurposes music from another source. This time, Harbach's score to the silent film  "The Birth Life, and Death of Christ" (which I reviewed in its original form). The movie is a series of tableaux, and the original score for 13 instruments had a static quality to it.

Recast in symphonic form, Harbach explores and more thoroughly develops her material. I think it's a successful reworking. The music sounds more dynamic, and the enhanced instrumental palette allows for more nuanced musical expression.

The final work, "Symphony for Ferguson" fell just short of the mark, I think. Though I would be hard-pressed to suggest a composer who might come closer. Harbach, a member of the University of Missouri-St. Louis faculty, was commissioned to write a symphony of healing in the wake of the Ferguson riots. The music needed to speak to all the citizens of the community.

Harbach wove together tunes such as "Wade in the Water," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and 'Chester," to suggest that blending of cultures. While skillfully written, to my ears it just sounded like a medley rather than a work of great emotional appeal. Even the final movement, adopting the jazzy "St. Louis Blues," didn't quite gel for me.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this release. Barbara Harbach is a composer who follows her own muse, and I continue to admire her originality.

Music of Barbara Harbach, Volume 11 
Orchestral Music III - Portraits in Sound 
Symphonies Nos. 7-10
London Philharmonic Orchestra; David Angus, conductor
MSR Classics

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Expanding Tracyverse

It wasn't that long ago that I cited an example of Mike Curtis and Joe Staton bringing another comic strip into Dick Tracy's universe (see: Dick Tracy's Dream). The sequence below ran July 12-14, 2016 and brought another long-running comic strip character into the Tracyverse.

I'm not sure if this appearance is somewhat elliptical because of copyright restrictions, but it certainly fits with the character.

Long-time comic strip readers will recognize the Phantom in his Mr. Walker persona. Although the figure is never clearly shown, his upturned collar, low-slung fedora, and dark glasses provide more than enough clues. And the wolf is, of course, Devil as Tracy almost directly says.

In a way, this addition is a twofer. Both the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician were created by Lee Falk, and share the same universe (having appeared in each other's strips). So if Dick Tracy and the Phantom know each other, then Mandrake is part of the Tracyverse now, too.

And as part of the same story arc, another cameo was brought back. Deathany Denobia of Bill Holbrook's On the Fast Track was already established in the Tracyverse (see: Dick Tracy on the Fast Track). She returned in an early August 2016 sequence to provide information about the sidekick of Abner Kadaver, a horror show host turned hitman.

One-off cameos can be fun. Subsequent appearances by them can be even more so.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 034 Duck

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

034 Duck

The duck proved impossible to build as depicted. The longest dowels that came with the set were not long enough to go through the three metal pieces and have fiber washers attached at either end. I did manage a work-around, though. By reversing the "wings", I was able to use one of the longest dowel rod to connect the two pieces to the body. 

The other problem was the beak. The plans show a short beak, but the set comes with only two different lengths of dowel rods -- and both far too long to serve. I could have cut a dowel to length, but the purpose of this exercise is to see if the toys shown can be built with the pieces supplied. In this case, not quite. (The issue of very short dowel rods is one that will crop up again in this series.)

Thursday, January 05, 2017

How My Brain Works 2

It's been a while since I shared my thought processes and how it's helped me explore classical music (see 2013's How My Brain Works). And my purpose isn't to so much talk about classical music, but to offer an example of how anyone can expand their knowledge and experience by simply not taking something at face value.

In this case, it was a tweet.

In a #BeethovenaDay conversation (see: The Value of Twitter (cont.)), one of the participants shared this quote:

Hungarian critic: "Who is this Bethover? His name is not known to us. Of course, Punto is very well known."

Taken at face value, it's a very amusing quote, showing the short-sightedness of Beethoven's contemporaries. And especially those of music critics because, of course, in 2017 no one's ever heard of Punto (or so I thought).

I was curious, though. Who was this Punto, anyway? I was surprised at what I found.

Giovanni Punto (1746-1803) was born in Bohemia Jan Václav Stich. Punto changed his name when he moved to Italy. He was a virtuoso horn player and extended the possibilities of the instrument. He developed the technique of inserting the left hand into the horn to shape the sound. Hand-stopping lets the horn play notes outside the natural harmonic series, in essence making all 12 notes within an octave available.

He was well-known throughout Europe as a performer and a composer. At the time, it was common for touring virtuosos to compose music for their concerts (like Mozart's piano concertos). Virtually all of Punto's surviving music is for the horn. His catalog includes 16 horn concerti, a concerto for two horns, 47 horn trios, and 21 horn quartets.

And about that quote. It was published in the Ofener und Pester Theateraschenbuch. "On this day (May 7) an Akademie of Herr Bethover and Herr Punto... Who is this Bethover? the history of German music is not acquainted with such a name. Punto is of course very well known." The review was for a performance of Beethoven's Horn Sonata in F major, Op. 17, composed for Punto. And that performance featured Punto and Beethoven performing together.

At the time, Beethoven's greatest works were still ahead of him. In 1800 he finished his first symphony. His first 10 piano sonatas were available, but his first six string quartets wouldn't be published until the following year. Punto, on the other hand, was at the height of his career, Beethoven just starting his. The critic's remarks I think were perfectly reasonable.

Thanks to this one tweet, I learned more about the history of the horn, the origin of an unusual Beethoven composition, and found a new composer to explore. Like the horn concerto below:

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Italian Virtuosi of the Renaissance

There's an art to putting a release together, especially one for a solo instrument. With only one instrumental timbre, the tracks can blend together into an uninteresting blur. But change up styles too much, and the album can sound disjointed.

Lutenist Jakob Lindberg is a past master of program sequencing, and his latest album Italian Lute Virtuosi of the Renaissance strikes a perfect balance between consistency and variety.

Lindberg focusses on three composers, Francesco da Milano, Marco dall'Aquila, and Alberto Mantova. All three were lutenists and wrote challenging and idiomatic works for the instrument. Consistency is present in the overall style of the works.

The variety comes in the presentation. Lindberg organized these 24 short works into seven suites, each one with music by a single composer. By doing so, it's easier to hear the differences between these three composers.

Marco dall'Aquila is the eldest of the three, and his music is as thickly polyphonic as the choral works of the day. Francesco da Milano, thirteen years younger, favors short melodic motifs that are easy to follow as he develops them throughout the pieces.

Alberto Mantova, twenty years dall'Aquila's junior, writes fantasias, an exclusively instrumental form that seems to carry da Milano's motivic development a step further while moving further away from the choral-heavy traditions of dall'Aquila.

Lindberg's performances are impeccable as always. The album was beautifully recorded in a small stone church in Sweden, with an intimate acoustic ideally suited to the lute. Lindberg's thoughtful programming makes this an intriguing listen from start to finish.

Italian Lute Virtuosi of the Renaissance
Francesco da Milano, Alberto da Mantova, Marco dall'Aquila
Jakob Lindberg, lute

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Mark Trail - Suddenly in the Past

James Allen continues to shake things up in the vintage comic strip Mark Trail. Note the way he ends a long-protracted (but never dull) sequence involving Mark and two friends finding their way out of a cave. I already noted what happened when they found a water passage (Mark Trail Goes with the Wind).

Mark Trail has always featured closeups of animals in their natural environment, so it's a perfect way for Allen to build some tension before showing Trail breaking the surface.

His two companions soon follow, and the story arc ends here:

Then the very next day this sequence appeared...

Meanwhile, two years before!? That's one heck of a transition.

It confounded me, but James Allen's been at the helm of this strip for me to know I can trust his narrative skills. This will all make sense. I just have to keep reading.