Cover of a Mark Trail comic book.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: The New York Post
First Appeared: 1946
Creator: Ed Dodd
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There are comic strips that reflect their creators' interests in horse racing (Barney Google), boxing (Joe Palooka,) and sports in general (Ozark Ike.). Mark Trail, which …

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… has been residing quietly on the comics page for more than half a century, also has a sports orientation — but it isn't focused solely on the sporting aspect of the Great Outdoors. It also contains information on wildlife, plenty of outdoor adventure, and a strong environmentalist message.

Cartoonist Ed Dodd had been an enthusiast for the outdoor life since an early age, getting much of his job experience as a guide to national parks. He'd been living on a ranch in Wyoming for 20 years when, on April 15, 1946, he launched Mark Trail as a daily comic strip. Its first distributor was The New York Post (Drago, Silly Milly). Later mergers and acquisitions shuffled it around a lot. Field Enterprises (Steve Canyon,, Barnaby). Hall Syndicate (Funky Winkerbean, The Wizard of Id), North America Syndicate (aka News America Syndicate, former distributors of Luann and Sally Forth) … Eventually, it wound up at King Features, which distributes Mark Trail today to about 175 newspapers.

Mark is a ruggedly handsome outdoorsman in his early 30s, who lives in a cabin in the Lost Forest National Park with his wife (former girlfriend Cherry Davis, no relation), adopted son (Rusty, no relation) and faithful dog (Andy). Until 1983, when it succumbed to a reader complaint, he was rarely seen without a pipe in his mouth. This used to be a cartoonist's visual shorthand to indicate he was by choice a quiet, contemplative type, which made it all the more dramatic when he got into situations where he had to use his fists.

Early on, Mark was spun off into a radio show. He also had several adventures reprinted in comic books between 1955 and '59, first by Fawcett Publications (Captain Marvel, Golden Arrow) and later by Standard/Nedor/Pines (The Black Terror, Super Mouse). He wasn't in any movies or TV shows, but he has appeared in quite a few publications by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, designed to promote environmentalism among school children. He's currently the spokestoon for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

From the beginning, the Sunday version of the Mark Trail comic was mostly devoted to wildlife appreciation. Tom Hill, an artist and naturalist who shared a studio with Dodd, generally handled this part of the series. Starting in 1950, Dodd was assisted by Jack Elrod, who later took over Cal Alley's domestic comedy strip, The Ryatts. In 1978, Dodd retired and Hill died, leaving Elrod running the whole operation. He continues to do so today.


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Text ©2004-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.