James Allen was born in 1967 in Nue Holm, Germany. His father was in the military and stationed in Germany, where he met and married James’s mother. His father passed away when James was 5 years old and, honoring her husband’s wishes to be buried near his home in Gainesville, Ga., his mother moved them back to the United States.
Being a typical young boy, James was drawn to Saturday morning cartoons and comic books at an early age. As a little kid, he was a bit of an introvert and usually kept to himself. To pass the time he started drawing in an attempt to recreate the imagery he had seen in cartoons and comic books.
Living in Georgia, James became aware of the comic strip Mark Trail. Although not really aware of what the strip was about, he did know that it was being created by a couple of fellow Georgians.
At one point James decided to contact Ed Dodd, the strip’s creator. He learned Ed had retired. Sometime in the mid-1980s, James got up the nerve to call Jack Elrod, Dodd’s assistant who had taken over the creative duties on both the daily and Sunday Mark Trailin 1978. Jack was very polite to the aspiring young artist, and told him if he was ever in his neighborhood to drop in. Twenty years later, James did just that.
After officially meeting Jack in 2004, James began a long tutoring process and, finally, Jack let James assist him on a daily strip in 2007.
It would be a couple of more years however before James began getting regular work through the Sunday pages. In early 2013, Jack felt comfortable enough with his pupil’s abilities to allow James to begin doing most of the work on both the daily and Sunday pages of the strip. Upon Jack’s retirement in March, 2014, he recommended James for the job to King Features Syndicate.
Through James’ efforts, Mark Trail’s dedication to conservation issues lives on.