Jun 12, 2014

Mark Trail: A Substandard Tarzan

This is not a parody beefcake cover; it's the real thing. Mark Trail Magazine, the Magazine of Adventure for Boys, gave Boys' Life some strong competition during the 1960s, with articles about rough-and-tumble activities like camping, horseback riding, shooting, skiing, and fishing.

And, apparently, building rafts in your underwear.

It was based on Jack Elrod's comic strip Mark Trail, started in 1946 and still syndicated in 175 newspapers.

Mark Trail was a sort of North American Tarzan, an adventurer more at home among redwood trees and grizzly bears than in the city.  He lived in Lost Forest National Forest, where he shot pictures for Woods and Wildlife Magazine (a take on Field and Stream).  His assignments got him into jams involving rampaging grizzly bears or (more often) villainous poachers, gun-runners, and...well, um poachers.

His comic strip was very popular during the 1950s and 1960s.  There was a radio series, a tv pilot starring Todd Armstrong (Jason and the Argonauts), and even a series of books, from Mark Trail's Book of Animals to Mark Trail's Cooking Tips.  

But Mark Trail was no Tarzan.
1. Darkest Africa offered much more interesting animals than the United States.  Lions, jaguars, 20-foot pythons, crocodiles vs. grizzly bears and...um...squirrels.

2. Darkest Africa had cannibals, leopard cults, and lost civilizations.  The United States had....um, poachers.

3. Outside of the MGM movies, Tarzan worked alone, or with a teenage sidekick.  Mark Trail had a girlfriend, Cherry Davis, and a series of flirtatious female photographers, damsels in distress, and villainesses to contend with.

4. Tarzan was loincloth clad and muscular.  For that matter, real naturalists tend to be quite muscular, like Stan Brock of Wild Kingdom.

But Mark Trail almost never took his shirt off, and when he did, he displayed a scrawny, unimpressive physique.

Artists have the choice of drawing muscular physiques or not.  Why wouldn't they?

See also: Top 10 Nature Show Hunks.

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