Mark Howard was Alan Howard's son from his first marriage to Laura. Tall, blonde and self-assured, he arrived without any announcement at 11 Coronation Street one night in October 1970, to the amazement of Elsie who was totally unaware she had a step-son in the first place. Mark was 18 years old and studying textile technology at college for three years. He had chosen that over civil engineering to be near his dad, keen to rebuild their relationship which had been fractured after his divorce from his mother, who had refused to allow father and son to see each other. Elsie and Mark were studiously polite to each other - her thoughts were preoccupied by the fact that Alan had been keeping secrets from her while he seemed to find it difficult to warm to the woman who had supplanted his mother in Alan's affections. Nevertheless, Elsie agreed to Mark staying with them while he found digs, while letting rip at Alan for not being truthful with her.
Mark quickly settled into No.11 but all the time there was an edge to his relationship with Elsie, not helped by him telling her how much Alan had loved Laura. Elsie was not fooled and sensed that Mark was making a hopeless attempt to reconcile his parents though Alan assured her that there was no chance of that happening.
Mark made a good impression in the Rovers where Annie Walker concluded that he was a nice young man and looked on favourably when he chatted up her ward Lucille Hewitt. For her part, although she was interested in him, in the main Lucille agreed to go out with him to spite Ray Langton who she still held a candle for. The date was initially a success with Lucille being charmed by his manners though as the night wore on he upset her with his crude jokes and she confided in a worried Elsie that she thought he had a dark side to his character, going so far as to describe him as "dangerous". When pushed, she admitted to Elsie that Mark had asked Lucille for sex on their first date, using offensive language to do so. That same night, Mark revealed his true colours: he and Alan made arrangements to go to a football match but Mark had cottoned on to the fact that Elsie and Len Fairclough were old friends. He cried off the match at the last minute and quietly entered No.11, knowing that Len was visiting Elsie. Standing in the hallway, he listened at the closed doorway to the back room as Len and Elsie chatted, swapping their old suggestive banter between one another. Mark eagerly reported the conversation to his father, putting on a front of being shocked at what he had heard. Alan asked Elsie what was going on and, in turn, she confronted Mark who denied the conversation. He told her that all he wanted was for his father to be happy, but told her obliquely that she wasn't the one to do that. She walked out on the two men and Alan, at last starting to see what was happening, told his son that he wouldn't let him come between him and his new wife and there was no way he was returning to Laura. Mark walked out on his father and Alan and Elsie were reconciled.
Unwittingly, Mark came between the Howards again just over a year later when Laura decide to spend Christmas 1971 in the Mediterranean. Alan invited Mark to stay with them and, predictably, Elsie went ballistic when she found out and the two spent the festive season apart. Mark's character didn't improve and when Alan saw Laura briefly in January 1972, she blamed him for their son's unstable nature and wayward life.