There are some days on which I search frantically through the comics, trying to find just one with the right medieval atmosphere. On other days, way too many brilliantly idiotic strips seem to fall into my lap. Today is one of those other days. I have been hard put to it to decide on a comic. Should I, I asked myself not long ago, choose Blondie, in which Blondie and Dagwood wander so far through their neighbourhood that they actually enter the Other World? Or should I go for Crock, whose misogyny is so acute that the comic is a good candidate to be put on trial for hate crimes? What about For Better or For Worse, which features a screamy, screamy Elly who reacts to a quite ordinary situation in an utterly unreasonable way? Or Garfield, in which we see some of the monstrous races: a cat-headed man and a man-headed cat?* What to do? How to choose? Why can't this happen to me every day?
In the end, however, I gravitated towards Mark Trail. It hurt me to give up Blondie, Crock, Garfield, and Foob,** but Crock's Grossie will certainly be mocked again, Elly screams for no reason quite frequently, Garfield is Garfield, and I suspect Blondie and Dagwood will be having Hallowe'en adventures all week. Mark's encounter with Satan, however, has to be dealt with now.
The last time we checked up on Our Hero, he was rescuing a damsel from a dragon, as would any verray, parfit gentil knyght (or, in fact, saint). Now that very damsel, who is carrying a bit of a torch for her rescuer, has discovered that Mark is opposed to her dastardly plan to drain the wetlands so that she can build--as she puts it in Saturday's comic--"new homes and shopping centres." Mark has not yet realised that Sue is the person against whom he is fighting the good fight, but the revelation cannot be too far off.
Today, Sue takes Mark for a long walk on the beach so that she can recruit him to her side. In fact, she tempts him; she dangles power in front of his nose, luring him to her with the promise that if he works for her, he will be able to have his cake and eat it too.
Good Lord. Is the fair Sue, our very own damsel in distress, actually the devil? The scene is ominously reminiscent of the bit in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13) in which the Tempter encounters Christ in the wilderness and promises him all sorts of booty if Jesus will only worship him. "Susan," after all, differs from "Satan" by only two letters. Sue appeared to need rescuing from the alligator/dragon/devil, but in fact, she must have set up the encounter in order to gain Mark/Christ's trust. Now she probably thinks she has him believing she's the allegorical representation of Truth or some such thing, whereas she's actually the Father of Lies. Be wary, Mark! Do not fall for the blandishments of this seeming maiden! Keep protecting the wetlands and preaching the gospel of Environmentalism! If she tries to convince you that you would look good in a beard, stand firm!***
Will Mark fall, or will he resist temptation and go on to become a true Type of Christ? Read Mark Trail tomorrow, plus probably every day for the next three years, in order to find out.
*All these links should remain functional forever. Unlike Nancy, these four comics are hosted by the Houston Chronicle, which has a wonderful comics page offering archives that go back to something like 1998 (for some strips, at least).
**It would take an awfully long time to explain why many people call For Better or For Worse Foob. Just take it from me that it richly deserves it.
***Most of the villains of Mark Trail have facial hair. Sue doesn't. I am still deeply suspicious of her. I think she may be sprouting a little blonde moustache.