“Mark Trail,” the popular environmental comic strip created by the late Ed Dodd of Gainesville, is passing the pen to a new cartoonist.
King Features Syndicate announced Sept. 25 that Jules Rivera, Latina cartoonist from Los Angeles, will take up the torch starting Oct. 12, debuting “a new contemporary aesthetic that will return to the comic strip’s roots as a champion for environmentalism.”
The company’s press release stated that Rivera — best known for her webcomic “Love, Joolz” — will offer an updated look for the Trail family, as well as focus on environmental issues that affect communities and ecosystems, particularly communities of color.
For decades the comic strip’s protagonist, Mark Trail, has taken readers on his journey as a photojournalist and outdoor magazine writer. Rivera’s creation will also bring Mark’s wife, Cherry Trail, and their son, Rusty, into the forefront, giving them more prominent roles.
“I am excited to take up the ‘Mark Trail’ mantle to reimagine Mark for a new generation and honored to join a pantheon of such talented artists,” Rivera stated in a press release. “Dare to witness humor, action, environmental justice, women with strong personalities, mystical talking animals, gardening tips, and Mark like you’ve never seen him before. The new ‘Mark Trail’ promises to be a real trailblazer.”
Rosemary Dodd of Gainesville, who was married to Ed Dodd, said she was “tickled to death” when she heard about Rivera becoming the new cartoonist for “Mark Trail.”
“I’m excited about this young woman,” the 85-year-old said. “I certainly do have a bucket full of smiles. I smiled for two days because I feel like Ed deserves this, and I think ‘Mark Trail’ deserves this.”
Rosemary Dodd said she would love to meet Rivera someday and invite her to see the woods of Northeast Georgia.
“My first question is, ‘Does she like to fish?’” she said. “We fished as much as we could. We’d go fishing in Florida off the coast, and Ed was fishing in Belize frequently.”
When asked what her late husband would think about the new cartoonist, Rosemary Dodd replied, “I think he’s sitting on a big fat cloud and just thrilled and happy.”
“I loved him, and I have loved being a part of Mark Trail’s life,” she said. “Ed was my hero. The fact that I got to grow up and marry him was awesome.”
Since its birth in 1946, “Mark Trail” has been featured in comic sections of newspapers worldwide. According to The Times’ archives, the late Jack Elrod Jr. of Gainesville inherited the comic strip from Ed Dodd, after working with him for years.
Elrod took over “Mark Trail” in 1978 before retiring in 2014. He also won numerous conservation awards from agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Forest Service. James Allen became the strip’s cartoonist on March 31, 2014, as the third Gainesvillian to take on the task.
The comic has been awarded more than 30 conservation awards from private organizations and government agencies, including the Georgia Wildlife Federation, National Forest Recreation Association, National Wildlife Federation and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Although Rivera has big shoes to fill, Tea Fougner, editorial director for comics at King Features, said in a press release that Jules’ work “speaks for itself” and “her passion for both conservation and comics makes her an ideal fit to reimagine ‘Mark Trail.’”
“Her thoughtful yet humorous approach makes environmental issues accessible, educational and fun while also honoring Mark Trail’s roots as a classic adventure comic,” she said.
‘Mark Trail’ is syndicated to nearly 150 newspapers and digital news outlets worldwide, according to King Features. Readers can catch up on Mark’s adventures at comicskingdom.com/mark-trail.
'Mark Trail' runs in the weekend print edition of The Times.