Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Newspaper strips are fun, but usually lack the rich charms of the full-blown comic. Stories are rare, gags proliferate. Even by comic book standards, it's often a crude, unsubtle place.

Save for one strip.

One strip, month after month, brings with it a delightful wit and artistic japery that elevates the entire comic page.

Mark Trail.

Sure, on the surface it appears to be a leaden soap opera/nature cop strip about a dork named Mark Trail. But underneath? Oh, underneath such wonders can be found! Tim O'Neil spent over a year admiring their brilliance. A shameless follower, I must ape O'Neil this once, if only to commemorate The Greatest Mark Trail Panel Ever. Honor demands it.

Jack Elrod, creator of the strip, has a sly wit that comes out in a number of ways. The finest is the misplaced speech balloon. Take a sample panel below, where a grizzly bear with an arrow in its ass talks about its own wound, and seems to suggest putting the arrow itself to sleep.

One could argue that Elrod's balloon placement is merely sloppy, and that his often-amusing panels are merely the results of mistakes. That the myriad talking squirrels, chatty porcupines, and drug-dealing raccoons of the strip are gaffes.

I considered that possibility too. Until the sheer staggering genius of The Greatest Mark Trail Panel Ever.

The current storyline has the strip's quasi-vamp Kelly schmoozing some dude named Rick. (I can't tell you why, because it's hard to pay attention to the plots of Mark Trail. The beauties of the strip lie on a deeper level than mere plot!) Behold the panel and marvel at its many layers of meaning.

Rick puts the moves on Kelly...and is her crotch. I defy you to find another comic strip that would have the balls to give a major character chatty genitals!

There are so many ways to interpret the panel, each one more interesting than the last. There's the obvious sexual subtext, but the sheer absurdity of Kelly's Talking Crotch implies secondary and even tertiary meanings.

More than anything, the panel is sheer visual poetry. A haiku about the coexistence of wholesomeness and depravity, an ode to the eternal dance of male and female, a gentle Italian sonnet about getting one's freak on, it is all of these and more. It is Art with a capital A.

O Elrod! Refining and elevating the artistry of the comics pages on a daily basis!

Bonus snark:

A recent panel from Curtis:

An LL Cool J stapler? That's genius. There could be a whole line of rap star office supplies. Snoop Dogg tape dispensers. Jay-Z sticky pads.

But why restrict ourselves to office supplies? Think of the hip-hop product tie-ins begging to be made!

"Get Chamillionaire's Car Wax! Don't get caught...ridin' dirty!"


  • Incidentally, Comics Curmudgeon does an excellent job breakin' down the dailies if you're interested.

    By Blogger Chris, at 8:10 PM  

  • Hey, curtis' mom's breast is doing the talking here. Great stuff.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:25 PM  

  • I've been looking at the Ludacris signature Escalade with the padded roof
    ("In the sun or up in the shade/on the top of my escalade"), but I'm hesitant because of the MPG.

    word verification "uhamrwho"= overheard in police interrogation of serial killer Maxwell.

    By Blogger Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica, at 10:22 AM  

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