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Mark Trail, 7/18/04

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Why do cows burp so much? As usual, Mark Trail isn’t afraid to tackle the tough questions. One of the interesting things about this comic is the wild dichotomy in tone and artistic skill between the daily and Sunday strips. Generally, I find the human members of the cast of characters almost indistinguishable, since they all seem to have the same jet-black hair, weird pupil-less (or are they all-pupil?) eyes, and monstrously thick eyebrows — and of course they all speak in the same stilted, contraction-less dialog. I’ve been reading the strip every day for nearly two years, and I still have no idea who the hell anyone is. (Fortunately, the current plotline’s villain has a mullet and big sideburns, so he’s easy to pick out. Men with mullets are bad, people, bad!)

The Sunday strips, though, are a different story, and give me the impression that Jack Elrod was a wildlife artist before he took the Mark Trail mantle upon his shoulders. I love the cow drawings in this installment — check out the rippling muscles in the upper left-hand panel, and the face caught head-on in mid-moo at the bottom center. The bovine beasts project a definite majesty even as Mark discusses their gastrointestinal distress and its contribution to the coming eco-apocolypse. Another lovely detail is the presence of random birds flitting about and landing on the cattle — one of this strip’s signature touches.

(By the way, I always thought it was cow farts, not burps, that were the problem. No less an authority than erstwhile Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader once suggested building “boxes around their assholes” on a particularly memorable installment of Da Ali G Show. Sorry, Ralph, but Jack Elrod begs to differ.)