In the last scene of The Stingiest Man In Town, the 1978 Rankin/Bass adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge tells Cratchit to burn some more coal. Cratchit asks if that’s good for business and Scrooge laughs it off as good for humanity. The irony is it has turned out burning coal is extremely good business, as it’s catastrophic for humanity.
So this should catch you up to early January 2022 in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail. If news about the strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more up-to-date essay is likely here. And now let’s get on to explaining the past three months of story.
17 October 2021 – 8 January 2022.
We had two and a half stories going on when I last checked in on the Lost Forest. One was Mark Trail’s assignment with former rival/high-speed-pursuer Diana Daggers. It’s to investigate a shipping company spreading zebra mussels. One was Diana Daggers’s breakup with her pop-science star friend Professor Bee Sharp. And one was Cherry Trail’s efforts to move a bee colony before its extermination. Each has advanced some. I’ll take each strand as a separate thing.
Cherry Trail’s first. She’s been landscaping for the Sunny Soleil Society. Their statue of the Forest Pioneer got colonized by bees. Society chair Violet Cheshire hires “Honest Ernest”, the new pest control guy in town. Also husband of one of the Society members. So she calls on her friends with the Black Rose Garden Club, who plan a daring nighttime bee-relocation heist.
Honest Ernest and his staff intrude, though. Mark Trail arrives, fighting them back with nature facts and a shovel. It’s a powerful combo and lets the Black Rose sneak off with the bees. But there are consequences: Caroline (Ernest’s wife) complains to Cheshire about the bee-napping. Cheshire cuts through the charges and counter-charges of trespassing and whatever bee-napping would be. If the bees left on their own, why, there’s no need for a bee-extermination contract. Cherry agrees, falsely, that sometimes bees just go off somewhere else. And that, you know, the Sunny Soleil Society building likely has termites that could actually use extermination. Cheshire’s up for that and we have a settlement that’s happy except for the termites.
Mark Trail’s story next. This was about taking underwater photos of Duck Duck Goose freighters, carrying zebra mussels into new waters. Daggers thinks the photos are lousy, but Mark Trail’s old army buddy, and De-Bait Team member Cliff, likes them. Trail and Daggers work on reporting how the giant shipping company is polluting new territories. So, Duck Duck Goose sends some toughs around to bust things up.
Mark Trail, Daggers, and Cliff are able to escape, thanks in part to Daggers swiping Cherry Trail’s shovel earlier. They hole up in the De-Bait Team lodge, a more defensible retreat, or at least one that’s harder for Duck Duck Goose to find. Much of the attention shifted away from Mark to Cherry at this point. It left me confused whether the zebra-mussels storyline had dried up, when I was reading day-to-day. Like, had Mark Trail published and I missed it? No, the story was moving to the back of the stage for a bit.
And Mark Trail continued thinking, not only how to report on Duck Duck Goose, but also how to stop them bringing zebra mussels into the Lost Forest’s waterways. In a moment that ran, for us, on Christmas Day he noted how poinsettias are not actually poisonous, but have this reputation. That “if we can look intimidating to Duck Duck Goose, it might be enough to get them out of our waters”. I don’t know what that would entail either.
Poinsettias, according to the National Capital Poison Center, can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if eaten. But they are not actually dangerous to children or pets. Quite inconvenient, though, it appears.
And the last thread, generally, Diana Daggers’s things. She came to the zebra mussels story miserable after an unexplained breakup with Professor Bee Sharp. As Cliff and Mark Trail came over to make amends, she explained. She was getting paid with Non-Fungible Token money. Much as she misses Sharp, she couldn’t take money literally raised by destroying the planet.
So “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt had the brainwave to sell NFTs of all sorts of Bee Sharp-focused nonsense. Bee Sharp stuck through Daggers leaving. But he was shaken when a photo shoot results in a goat tearing his lab coat, and leaves. It pains me to admit NFTs can’t be blamed for that, although if it gets someone to stop making a mistake, fine.
We learn that when Bettancourt calls Mark Trail, offering to make him the face of his NFT projects. How this is going to fit into the zebra mussels story is not yet known. Catch you in April. We should have some idea then.
Sunday Animals Watch
So here’s what nature events we’ve been seeing on Sundays. Nearly all of them have been reflected in the weekday continuity, too. It’s a nice tight integration of things.
- Bees, 17 October 2021. Who has a bad word for bees, at this point?
- Trees, 24 October 2021. Similarly, they’re still doing a lot of great work.
- Bats, 31 October 2021. They’re doing good too although I’d like them out of the attic when convenient, please.
- Skunks, 7 November 2021. So last summer I was walking late at night and saw a skunk shuffling along. And then saw a cottontail rabbit charging at the skunk and dashing back away, charging up and dashing away. It’s the aggressive get-out-of-here move rabbits sometimes do. I got out of the area and lost them in the night after that and I just hope that scene worked out the way the rabbit imagined it would.
- Goats, 14 November 2021. Lot of people have good things to say about them.
- Bees, 21 November 2021. Look, if you’re not sold on bees by this point I don’t know what the trouble is.
- Turkeys, 28 November 2021. Everybody likes to talk about the dubious legend about how the turkey was almost the United States’s national bird, but do we ever talk about how turkeys have pretty near the same body plan as peacocks? If they’d done a little work on their coloration every New World nation would want them as national birds.
- Garden Clubs, 5 December 2021. Get yourself a garden club that’ll sneak out in the middle of the night to steal a beehive, is what we’re saying.
- Salamanders, 12 December 2021. Which have not appeared in the comic strip recently. Might be a setup to something later on.
- Climate Change, 19 December 2021. It’s hard work to do anything to remediate now, but the alternative is even more, harder work, later on.
- Poinsettias, 26 December 2021. Also, you can keep the one you get at Christmas and nurse it through the year. You have to do something I don’t understand to get them to bloom at Christmas, but it’s doable.
- Cryptocurrency, 2 January 2022. Guh. Could we please not, for once, everybody?
- Zebra mussels, 9 January 2022. Which had a Sunday panel appearance back in August, too, but the problem (and plot) have been sticking around.
Is Wilbur Weston dead, and why does everyone want him to be? Come with me on a CRUISE SHIP in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, next week, if all goes well.