Mark Trail is one of the Print Long-Runners of newspaper comics, first introduced in 1946, initially written and drawn by Ed Dodd (Jack Elrod succeeded Dodd in 1978, and James Allen in turn took over from Elrod in 2014, followed by Jules Rivera in 2020). The comic focuses on Mark Trail, a photojournalist and outdoorsman for a magazine. His assignments always lead him into danger and misadventures in the Lost Forest National Forest. Joined by his friends and family there, most strips had him discovering some environmentally unfriendly evil-doer that he would punch out, and then tell about the endangered animal of the week.
It's often poked fun at by people such as The Comics Curmudgeon due to its over-the-top green aesops. Also notable for demonizing the endangered elephant into something that is a danger to all in one strip.
Provides examples of:
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: It frequently featured miscolored animals, such as ducks with green bodies and brown heads (instead of the other way around) and baby-blue chicks. Who often grow to the size of Buicks and talk out of their butts, but that's another issue.
- Author on Board: In Rivera's run, many of the Sunday strips are less "tell the readers about an exotic animal" and more "lecture the readers about enviromental crises."
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: For some reason, Jack Elrod never drew nipples on any of the strip's male characters.
- Babies Make Everything Better: In one ludicrous strip, it was said that a man who abuses his wife was under stress from work, and it would be all fixed and he'd a good husband if he adopted a child. Um... no.
- Beard of Evil: Played straight. More explanation here.
- Bold Inflation: Often when something GASP-inducing happens.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Mark smoked a pipe up until the 1980s, when anti-smoking advocates made him quit. The pipe's gentlemanly qualities were the reason he smoked it in the first place, as it gave him an intellectual, Waldenesque air, making it that much more surprising and exciting when he dispensed woodland justice with his fists.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: Beards are evil, long sideburns are evil, and bald is sometimes evil.
- Green Aesop: The overarching themes usually equate to this.
- Happily Adopted: Mark and Cherry made Rusty their son after they got married.
- Happily Married: Mark and Cherry finally tied the knot in the 1990s.
- Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Played terribly straight. Start your sentence with "Um," and you're a villain.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Andy, Mark's Saint Bernard. Once untied a captured Mark with his teeth.
- Intrepid Reporter: For Woods and Wildlife Magazine. His bravery is unquestioned, but sometimes his journalistic tactics are a little suspect.
- Ms. Fanservice: Cherry became much fonder of wearing swimsuits and revealing clothing during James Allen's run as artist.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Mark Trail used to be allowed to age, but is now caught in a time freeze so powerful that even he can't punch his way out of it. He even occasionally revisits old storylines, trapped in an eternal loop where everything is the same except where censored to match the values of the outside world. His adopted son Rusty is an example of the trope too, although he's sometimes drawn like a teenager.
- Ed Dodd was very talented when it comes to drawing animals, but sometimes his rendition of people... suffered. This was one of the reasons why the shots in the frame were zoomed in on an animal with the speech bubbles coming from an unseen human to the side of the panel, giving it the unintentionally hilarious effect of looking like the animals are the ones spewing exposition.
- Dodd's eventual replacement, Jack Elrod, was even worse at drawing humans — his rendition of Rusty for instance has been nicknamed "the Elrod Abomination" by more than a few. Fortunately, Elrod was at least in the same league as Dodd was when it comes to drawing wildlife. The next artist, James Allen was somewhere in between Dodd and Elrod, with his human characters tending to look a little goofy, but at least stopping short of being outright terrifying. Jules Rivera, who followed on from Allen, has mostly managed to avert this trope by switching up the strip's art style to a highly stylized one which makes little attempt to make the characters look realistic.
- Pietà Plagiarism: Happens a few times.
- Print Long-Runners
- Retool: Rivera took the strip in new directions on replacing Allen in 2020. Mark is now both more self-aware and self-consciously bumbling. Woods & Wildlife has been bought out, so he now freelances for a handful of click-seeking websites. There have been character design overhauls as well, such as Doc being drawn heavier with a Hulk Hogan mustache. It's fair to say the changes have been controversial with longtime readers.
- Spock Speak: Contractions and informalities are apparantly forbidden in Lost Forest.
- Standard '50s Father: Mark again.
- Stock Scream: Of the Wilhelm variety. Maybe not in the most technical sense, but the writing of the strip and the scream itself make it all but impossible not to hear it when you read it.
- Take That!: One of the final storyline drawn by James Allen have Mark Trail joining a social media-obsessed explorer in a search for yeti, who later dies in an avalanche. Many fans pointed out that he looks suspiciously like a person◊ that Allen was fighting with on Twitter at the time.
- After Jules Rivera took over, her first set of strips establishes that the current Mark is actually Mark Trail IV, with his ancestors representing each of the three previous artists who drew the strip. The James Allen version is Mark Trail III (aka Happy Trail), who is depicted as a polluting hypocrite who screwed the current Mark's childhood friend out of their farm land, likely a reference to James Allen being a climate change denier.
- Two Decades Behind: Possibly literally; in one 2008 comic strip he tells the kid he's taking with him to leave his
mp3 playercassette boom-box at home.
- Worst News Judgement Ever:
- In one story Mark Trail loses his beloved puppy. This apparently is so important that an enormous picture of the dog is put on the newspaper's A section, including a two-column story on it.
- "FAMOUS CONSERVATIONIST RESCUES RACCOON"