'Mark Trail' fans want more poacher-busting, less Rusty

With its glacial pacing, signature earnestness and freakishly out-of-scale wildlife, Mark Trail is a fairly easy target for mockery, but the 68-year-old comic strip does have its fans.

Cartoonist James Allen, who worked as Jack Elrod's assistant for nearly a decade, thought he had a pretty good idea of what those fans wanted: the occasional window into Mark's family life (with a giant dog or goldfish, perhaps?). So after he taking over the daily strip in April, he set the khaki-clad adventurer on a course to spend a little time with long-neglected wife Cherry and son Rusty. Boy, was that so not what fans wanted.

After receiving several letters from "annoyed" readers, the Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine, contacted Allen, who explained:

Getting the job to do Mark Trail is truly a lifelong dream come true for me. I had tutored under Jack Elrod since 2004. During that time, I began to look around the Web to see what readers were saying. I began to notice recurring themes: Mark promises to take Rusty fishing but never does, Mark is never at home nor does he spend time with Cherry, etc.

So I thought it might not be a bad idea if, between adventures, Mark invested in a little 'family time' (for just a couple of days) before the next adventure begins. I assure you, his regular adventures will continue. He'll continue to bust poachers and keep an eye on conservation issues, and I hope you'll appreciate just a brief bit of 'insight' into his personal life every now and then.

If there are anything to be learned here it's: 1.) Mark Trail fans may be a little resistant to change; and 2.) Rusty better watch his back.

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