Ed Dodd (1902-1991)
Ed Dodd combined his affinity for the outdoors with his artistic talent to create the comic strip Mark Trail.
Edward Benton Dodd was born in LaFayette on November 7, 1902, to Jesse Mercer, a Baptist minister, and Effie Cooke. As a child, Dodd immersed himself in sketching, drawing, and painting.
Dodd's interest in nature and art developed early in life. Beginning in 1920, Dodd worked each summer for more than a dozen years at a boys' camp in Pennsylvania. His experiences at the camp, which was run by Dan Beard, a founder of the Boy Scouts of America, led to Dodd's becoming a scoutmaster in Gainesville, where he taught physical education in the city schools during the 1920s. Following a brief enrollment at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he illustrated the yearbook, Dodd studied in New York at the Art Student League. In 1926 he took a job in
In 1930 Dodd became a professional cartoonist, publishing a daily single-panel cartoon of humorous family life called Back Home Again in the Atlanta Journal. This and other briefly published series paid little money, and in the mid-1930s Dodd traveled to Norway, where he worked with sailors in the fishing industry. Meanwhile, he continued his Back Home series via mail.
Following more Art League study in New York, the plot for an outdoor cartoon series continued to evolve in Dodd's imagination, but publishers initially rejected his ideas. Finally, the Post-Hall newspaper syndicate accepted the concept for a cartoon featuring an outdoorsman, whom Dodd had originally named "Jim Tree" but had renamed "Mark Trailer." The syndicate changed the name to "Mark Trail," as well as the names of the girlfriend, who became "Cherry," and of the fictional setting, which became "Lost Forest."
Mark Trail first
Dodd's syndication success created the need for assistants. He hired Jack Davis (who later became famous for his Mad magazine art), Tom Hill, Rhett Carmichael, and Jack Elrod. Dodd turned chiefly to writing the narratives while his assistants did the artwork.
Mark Trail's visibility and credibility as a wilderness educator and sportsman led to a number of offshoots from the comic strip. Sponsored by various conservation groups and corporate entities, several
Dodd was named Honorary Chairman of National Wildlife Week in 1952-53 and Georgia Conservationist of the Year in 1967. He retired from his work on Mark Trail in 1978, giving the strip over to Elrod. The spirit of Dodd, through Trail's adventures, thus continues into the twenty-first century.
Dodd died on May 27, 1991, in Gainesville, where he and his third wife, Rosemary, lived and promoted the cartoonist's philosophy through his Mark Trail/Ed Dodd Foundation. An extensive permanent exhibit devoted to Ed Dodd and Mark Trail is on display at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University in Gainesville.
Steve Gurr, Gainesville
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.