The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Tea Fougner is the editorial director for comics at King Features Syndicate.
Mark Trail debuted on April 15, 1946 — nearly 75 years ago. A former soldier returning home from service, Mark’s first adventure led him to meet Doc Davis and Cherry — Mark’s future wife. Mark became a nature journalist and photographer, a career that takes him around the world to learn — and teach readers — about wildlife and environmental issues.
It was that last part, teaching, that was most important to Mark’s creator, Ed Dodd. He paired a trendy 1940’s art style with an often-humorous take on a serial adventure strip to capture the audience’s imagination, so that they would be excited to learn more about nature and conservation from Mark Trail.
While the specific issues that affect our lives may have changed over the years, Dodd’s mission to teach people about the world around us is more important than ever. In Jules Rivera, we have found an artist and environmentalist that can tell Mark Trail’s story in the present day.
Not only is Rivera a talented writer and artist with an impressive career in comics, she’s also a former engineer who is passionate about science and nature. Like Dodd, when Rivera writes about toxic algae blooms or invasive species, she’s illuminating issues impacting our world today.
Part of teaching people means reaching a broader audience, and if we want to bring these important stories to as many readers as possible, we need to follow Dodd’s mission and insure that the art is contemporary and will ignite the interest of new readers. From our readers’ feedback, the number one reason why people did not follow Mark Trail in the past was that the art style looked dated. Likewise, we are tweaking Mark Trail’s background to keep it up to date. He’s still a veteran, but the Mark of today served in Afghanistan, not in World War II, and his journalism job has changed to reflect the current magazine industry.
We love Rivera’s art style, and reader response reflects that she is helping the strip find new audiences. It is lively and expressionistic and full of local wildlife from the sites Mark visits. For those of you who have been reading Mark Trail for a long time we know that it can be tough to get used to a new interpretation, and we hope you will continue to follow the strip to see how it unfolds.
Rivera is committed to bringing back many features of Dodd’s original Mark Trail that have been lost over time: Cherry is going to be a more active character; Cherry’s brother, Dirk, will be back; and the comic will have more humor in it. Many of the original characters will reappear, so if you are a longtime fan, you’ll have the opportunity to see old friends.
As always, we’ll keep listening to reader feedback to alleviate any confusion as we evolve the comic and serve existing fans as well as new ones. Hearing from you is how we make our comics better, and how we continue Dodd’s mission of helping people learn to care for the world around them through comics!