Groo the Wanderer
|Groo the Wanderer|
Groo the Wanderer cover page Issue #1 (Marvel)
Dark Horse Comics
|First appearance||Destroyer Duck #1 (May 1982)|
|Created by||Sergio Aragonés|
|Notable aliases||Prince of Chichester|
Groo the Wanderer is a fantasy/comedy comic book series written and drawn by Sergio Aragonés, rewritten, coplotted and edited by Mark Evanier, lettered by Stan Sakai, and colored by Tom Luth. Over the years it has been published by Pacific Comics, Eclipse Comics (one special issue), Marvel Comics (under its Epic imprint), Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics.
Groo was one of the first widely successful creator-owned comics, one of the few successful humorous comic books (outside Archie Comics) during its time, and one of the longest-running collaborations in comic book history. In 2011 IGN ranked Groo 100th in the "Top 100 comic books heroes".
Aragonés and Evanier announced the start of pre-production on an animated movie version of the comic. On September 25, 2008, Evanier stated that the rights to produce an animated film based on Groo have been sold and that the film was in production. The film will be computer animation, and produced by the comic's creators.
The characters 
Groo (the epithet "the Wanderer" is informal and rarely mentioned within the stories) first appeared as a parody of the brutal sword & sorcery heroes who were popular at the time of his creation in the 1970s, especially Conan the Barbarian as presented in Marvel Comics. Groo is an ugly large-nosed buffoon of unsurpassed stupidity who constantly misunderstands his surroundings. Possessed of superlative skills in swordsmanship (the only task at which he's remotely competent) he delights in combat but otherwise is a peaceable and remarkably honest fellow who tries to make his way through life as a mercenary or by working odd jobs. Unfortunately he is also indiscriminate in the use of his battle skills (prone to joyously leaping into any fray before attempting to ascertain the reasons for the fight, or even who is on what side) and incredibly accident-prone, and despite generally good intentions causes mass destruction wherever he goes. Most of his adventures end with him oblivious to the mayhem he has wrought, or fleeing an angry mob. As a result, his penchant for destruction has become so widely known and feared that just the news of Groo approaching is sometimes enough to cause chaos when the population reacts to the impending disaster. Groo occasionally meets with respect and good fortune, but it does not last. Businesses, towns, civilizations and cultures have all been unwittingly destroyed by Groo. Such is Groo's incompetence that so much as stepping onto a ship (except in Rufferto's company) will cause it to sink. In issue 100 of the Groo series, volume 2, Groo learned how to read.
The only thing that has kept Groo alive through all of his adventures is his excellent swordsmanship. Groo has slain entire armies on his own with nothing more than his swords, which appear to be a pair of katanas. Groo loves these frays, as he calls them, and often charges into the melee with a cry of "Now Groo does what Groo does best!", similar to Wolverine's catchphrase "I'm the best [there is] at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice". So great is his love for battle that Groo seldom bothers to consider which side he is fighting for, and goes on to slay soldiers from either side. Even when Groo does join battle intending to fight for a particular side, he is prone to forget which side he's on, or be tricked into fighting his unfortunate allies.
In all of his travels, Groo has encountered literally thousands of characters. However, there is an assortment of recurring characters:
- Captain Ahax, who has, over time, become wise to Groo's effect on ships. Not that it helps him or his sanity.
- Arba and Dakarba, a pair of witches who have suffered much trying to take advantage of Groo. They have repeatedly been stripped of their powers because of him. Put their names together and they spell "Abra-kadabra" backwards.
- Arcadio, a handsome warrior, with an especially pronounced chin, who is considered the greatest hero of his time. He has often enlisted Groo as his "lackey", and while Groo has succeeded in his quests time and again, Arcadio always gets the credit.
- Chakaal, a beautiful female warrior who is Groo's equal in swordplay. Chakaal is strong, noble, and wise, and Groo is madly in love with her. She is as well known as a hero and skilled warrior as Groo is for being a walking disaster, and travels the land seeking people in need of her help. Though she respects Groo's prowess as a warrior, Chakaal is all too aware of his incompetence in other areas, as well as his general stupidity and lack of social graces, and finds Groo at best tolerable when she is in need of his sword, and contemptible otherwise. Romantically speaking, she considers his idiotic advances repulsive, and does her best to ignore them, though she is not above using Groo's feelings for her to convince him to help her in her quests, and will often use Groo as a decoy or sacrificial lamb.
- Granny Groo, Groo's gypsy grandmother. Granny Groo often tries to use her grandson to aid her in her moneymaking schemes, but invariably ends up giving him a good spanking when he fails.
- Grativo the Wizard, who often punishes Arba and Dakarba for their failures.
- Grooella, Groo's sister. While she greatly resembles her brother, the two of them are totally different: Grooella is a Queen. However, her occasional reliance on her brother for aid has spelled disaster every time, and she despises him. Grooella had long, beautiful blond hair as a child, but one of Groo's "games" (which nearly always ended in the injury of at least one other child) damaged it so that it became black and frizzy. (The Sage developed a one-time-only formula to restore her hair, but Groo "erred" again and rendered the damage permanent.)
- The Minstrel, a singing jester who speaks exclusively in rhyming couplets. He often likes to sing of Groo's deeds, but Groo seldom appreciates his unflattering descriptions of his bungling. The Minstrel seldom appeared in later issues, due to the difficulty of creating his dialogue - "Mark takes a stance, and if by chance / The Minstrel doesn't vanish, / Then Mark will go, and Sergio / can write this stuff in Spanish."
- Pal and Drumm, two con men. The diminutive Pal is always looking for easy money, but his hulking partner Drumm is not very bright. Their dealings with Groo have often left them in trouble with the people they were scamming. Their names are a play on palindrome.
- Pipil Khan, a short and short-tempered conqueror who speaks like Elmer Fudd. He correctly views Groo as the cause of many of his later attempts at conquest ending in disaster, but having never met the man personally, imagines Groo to be a far more imposing figure than he actually is. When he finally meets the real man who's haunted the latter years of his life, the shock kills him.
- Rufferto, Groo's dog and inseparable companion. Rufferto ran away from his boring life as a spoiled and pampered royal pet to seek adventure, and endeared himself to Groo. In Rufferto's eyes, Groo is a hero and a tactical genius. Initially, Groo viewed Rufferto as a potential meal but eventually came to regard him as his faithful companion. Groo can also safely board a ship in Rufferto's presence. His collar is immensely valuable.
- The Sage, a wise old man who is usually never far from Groo. The Sage often attempts to give Groo sound advice, but Groo's stupidity often means that the advice is misinterpreted and only makes situations worse. The Sage is never without his dog Mulch. The Sage has known Groo since childhood and often tells his tales for all who are willing to listen. In a behind-the-scenes episode, it is suggested that Aragonés had hired actor Robert Goulet to pose as the Sage. During Groo's quest for a magical amulet, it is shown that apart from Rufferto, The Sage is the only character in the Grooniverse who genuinely counts Groo as a friend.
- Taranto, a corrupt general who has had his plans for glory dashed by Groo several times, and is obsessed with killing the wanderer. Groo can never remember whether he is friends with Taranto, or if Taranto wants to kill him.
- Weaver and Scribe, a successful author and his amanuensis, who look suspiciously like Groo’s own Evanier and Sakai.
- The Witch of Kaan, an eccentric old hag who always has a potion ready for anybody who visits her.
The setting 
Groo's adventures take place in an environment that generally resembles Medieval Europe, although his travels have also taken him to places that resemble Africa, Indonesia, Japan, the Middle East and elsewhere. In addition to regular flora and fauna, dragons and other legendary creatures occasionally appear, and several cultures use dinosaur-like creatures as beasts of burden. Over the years, Groo has also encountered several "non-human" cultures such as the Kalelis and the Drazil. The currency in Groo's world is the Kopin.
It may be worth noting that, although many technologies and peoples in Groo appear ancient, more modern innovations such as the printing press can be found as well.
Running gags 
Groo's adventures have resulted in these "running gags" that have become staples for years.
- Mendicant: Groo becomes violently angry whenever someone calls him a mendicant, even though he doesn't know what it means.
- Early Groo tales began with a poem. Almost every Groo story ends with a moral.
- The head of the minstrel's mandolin changes shape in every panel.
- Cheese Dip: Groo's favorite food. Whenever Groo comes across money, cheese dip is the first thing that comes to his mind.
- Mulch: This agricultural process is often mentioned in casual conversation. The Marvel/Epic Comics editions had a long-running gag in the letter column, in which fans would ask Mark Evanier to define "mulch" and he would oblige with the same dictionary definition in every issue. Later on, the gag evolved into Mark answering the question with: "We don't do that joke anymore."
- "Did I err?": Groo's understatement when he surveys the destruction he has caused, and the closest Groo usually ever gets to grasping just what his effect on the world around him is. (A letter from a fan once pointed out that since "to err is human", the constantly erring Groo must be the most human character ever created.)
- Groo can never remember whether he is friends with Taranto, or if Taranto wants to kill him. Groo likes Taranto, beyond his own memory capacity, and Taranto delights in attempting to manipulate Groo; hence their lopsided friendship renews near the beginning of each plot arc featuring them both. ("Taranto. I forget. Do I want to kill you right now?")
- "I am the Prince of Chichester.": Granny Groo once made Groo memorize this phrase (a Sisyphean ordeal) as part of one of her ill-fated scams. The con fell apart, but the phrase still sticks in Groo's head, and he says it from time to time when he cannot think of anything to say. (The in-joke here is that Daniel Chichester was editor of the comic book at the time.)
- "What do you mean, 'slow of mind'?": Groo is often called "slow of mind", but it is usually much later in the story when he finally responds to it. The most extreme example was when Granny Groo called young boy Groo "slow of mind" in a flashback, and adult Groo in the present asked her what she had meant.
- "I can plainly see that!": Groo's response to when somebody says "...as any fool can plainly see."
- "What pirates?": To raise the reward for Rufferto offered by its previous owner, a Queen, Pal once told her that the dog had been kidnapped by pirates, who were demanding a ransom. Drumm asked "what pirates?" (there were none, of course) in front of the King and the Queen, and later in the story he kept asking Pal that. From time to time, he still asks "(and) what pirates?", especially when he's trying to kill Pal (usually at the end of a story) because one of his plans failed again.
- The house Pal promised to buy Drumm. In a real estate scheme, Pal buys a house for Groo. Drumm wants one, too. Pal agrees, just to quiet him, but Drumm mentions the house quite often.
- "I can drink eight beers! Bring me eight beers!" This phrase appears several times in the comics and was first spoken in issue #1 of Pacific Comics by Taranto. It was next spoken in issue #23 Marvel/Epic by Drumm.
- Hidden Messages: Many of Groo's Marvel/Epic issues have a hidden message concealed in the artwork or the dialogue. The hidden message usually reads "This is the hidden message."
- The Sage's dog: During the Marvel/Epic run of Groo, the question of what the Sage named his dog became one of the most frequently asked questions in the comic's letters page. Eventually, Evanier and Aragones made an announcement that the name of the Sage's dog would be revealed in an upcoming issue, an event which was first postponed from its first scheduled publication either to further the "suspense" or mess with readers' minds. Eventually, after a storyline in which the Sage's dog had been kidnapped and Groo aided him in recovering the dog, the "secret" was revealed in a throw-away moment, with Groo asking in a "by-the-way" manner what the dog's name was, and the Sage replying with the nondescript name, "Mulch" (in itself a reference to another running gag in the Marvel/Epic run, see above).
- Creators: in every issue, one frame has the four creators somewhere among the people (travellers, soldiers, passers by)
- Issue #1: Because of its unusual publication history (see below) there have been at least three different issues of the comic book that were numbered as the "first" issue. Part of the reason for this is that first issues tend to have higher sales and each publisher took advantage of this by starting the numbering over again when they took over. Aragonés satirized this by proclaiming that every issue he wrote was #1.
The creators 
Groo is initially plotted, roughly written, and roughly drawn by Aragonés, after consulting with Evanier. Evanier then writes the dialog, poetry, moral, acts on "insert joke" or "insert Mark-ism" instructions, and changes things around if needed, and then returns the work to Aragonés, who may or may not change things back. Sakai then does the lettering, after which Aragonés does the final artwork, including the word balloons. Finally, Luth does the coloring, described as an unenviable task, since Aragonés' artwork is usually quite detailed (with fancy clothing, building and nature scenes inspired by National Geographic and other sources) and can be full of hundreds of people in one scene. (In one behind-the-scenes sequence Luth despairs over a detailed crowd scene when Evanier points out that "These two (background figures) are twins, you can paint them the same color.")
Evanier also answers the letters page, something he takes special pride in, since the practice in mainstream comics is to pass this task off to low-level assistants, something he didn't know when his own teenage fan letters were published. He claims that no one knows what he does, and that he doesn't get paid. His official credit, during the Marvel/Epic run, was usually a ludicrously polysyllabic title that changed every issue.
Caricatures of Aragonés, Evanier, Sakai, and Luth often appear as background characters within the stories, sometimes with family members. Evanier and Sakai are also the role models for the characters Weaver and Scribe.
Rufferto was based on Aragonés' own dog named Rufferto, who is actually more mottled than spotted.
Publication history 
Aragonés created the character of Groo in the late 1970s. However at that time no comic book company would allow creators to retain the rights to their characters and Aragonés did not wish to surrender those rights. In 1981, a comic book, Destroyer Duck #1, was published by Eclipse Comics as a benefit to raise money for a legal battle over creator rights; a four-page story contributed by Aragonés featured Groo's first published appearance. His second appearance was a few months later in a back-up story in Star-Slayer #5, published by Pacific Comics.
In 1982, Pacific Comics began publishing Groo The Wanderer as a regular series. However, Pacific faced various financial difficulties and was only able to publish eight issues of the title. With Pacific unable to publish new material, a single shot issue of material that was originally written for them, titled the Groo Special, was instead published by Eclipse. It should be noted that when Groo was with Pacific, he was not portrayed as a bumbling idiot like was in future issues starting with Epic line. In fact, one issue had him use his brains to create sophisticated traps and his speech was similar to Conan the Barbarian's.
Aragonés and Evanier eventually negotiated a deal with Epic Comics, an imprint of Marvel Comics, for that company to take care of publication while preserving creator rights. This resulted in the longest run of Groo the Wanderer with 120 issues. In 1994, with Marvel facing financial difficulties, the title switched to Image Comics and was retitled Groo. (In the first issue Groo was heard to remark "The marvels of the world are but images before me.")
When Image in turn faced legal problems after publishing twelve issues, the title switched to Dark Horse Comics in 1998. Dark Horse is not publishing the title as a regular series but is releasing new material, as well as reprints, as periodic mini-series and collections.
At the 2007 WonderCon, the creators revealed that since 2005 they've been trying to produce a Groo / Conan crossover (both titles are published by Dark Horse) which would have the Wanderer encountering the Barbarian whom he has parodied. Unfortunately the project has encountered a number of postponements, but they believe the project may finally be coming to fruition. On September 9, 2007, Longtime Groo writer, Mark Evanier revealed that the Groo/Conan project is a go with no official release date yet. In the spring of 2011,  Aragonés revealed that the first two issues had been completed and were planned to be released in the summer of that year. On February 3, 2012, Evanier revealed that the series had been delayed again because of a backache suffered by Aragonés, but that the first issue was planned to be released in April 2012. As of January 2013 however, the comic has not been released yet.
Similar characters 
Original publications 
- Vol I - Pacific (December 1982 - April 1984)
- Groo the Wanderer #1-8
- One shot intermediate printing - Eclipse (October 1984)
- Groo the Wanderer Special #1
- Vol II - Epic/Marvel
- Groo the Wanderer #1-120 (March 1985 - January 1995)
- The Death of Groo (graphic novel, November 1987)
- The Life of Groo (graphic novel, April 1993)
- Vol III - Image (December 1994 - November 1995)
- Groo #1-12
- Vol IV - Dark Horse (Jan. 1998 - present)
- Groo #1-4 (1998 Miniseries)
- Groo & Rufferto #1-4 (1999 Miniseries)
- Groo Mightier than the Sword #1-4 (2000 Miniseries)
- Groo Death & Taxes #1-4 (2002 Miniseries)
- Groo 25th Anniversary Special (September 2007, one-shot)
- Groo Hell on Earth #1-4 (2007-2008 Miniseries)
- Groo The Hogs of Horder #1-4 (2009-2010 Miniseries)
- Groo vs. Conan #1-4 (Miniseries, initially planned for 2011)
- Special appearances
- The Death of Groo (Epic/Marvel 1990-Second & Third Printings)
- The Life of Groo (Graphitti Designs 1995-Second Printing)
Reprint collections 
- The Groo Adventurer (Epic, 1990; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 1-4)
- The Groo Bazaar (Epic, 1992; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 5-8)
- The Groo Carnival (Epic, 1992; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 9-12)
- The Groo Dynasty (Epic, 1992; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 13-16)
- The Groo Exposé (Epic, 1993; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 17-20)
- The Groo Festival (Epic, 1993; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 21-24)
- The Groo Garden (Epic, 1994; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 25-28)
- The Groo Houndbook (Dark Horse, 1999; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 29-32)
- The Groo Inferno (Dark Horse, 1999; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 33-36)
- The Groo Jamboree (Dark Horse, 2000; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 37-40)
- The Groo Kingdom (Dark Horse, 2001; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 41, 42, 43, 46)
- The Groo Library (Dark Horse, 2001; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 44, 45, 47, 49)
- The Groo Maiden (Dark Horse, 2002; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 50-53)
- The Groo Nursery (Dark Horse, 2002; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 54, 55, 56, 48)
- The Groo Odyssey (Dark Horse, 2003; collecting Epic/Marvel issues 57-60)
- The Groo Parade (Pre-Production as of 2012)
- Dark Horse
- Groo: The Most Intelligent Man in the World (1998; collecting the 1998 four-issue comic book series Sergio Aragonés Groo)
- Groo & Rufferto (2000; collecting the 1999 four-issue comic book series)
- Groo: Mightier than the Sword (2002; collecting the 2000 four-issue comic book series)
- Groo: Death and Taxes (2003; collecting the 2002 four-issue comic book series)
- Groo: Hell on Earth (2008; collecting the 2007-2008 four-issue comic book series)
- Groo: The Hogs of Horder (2010; collecting the 2009-2010 four-issue comic book series)
- The Groo Chronicles (Six graphic novels, Epic, 1989-1990, collecting the Pacific and Eclipse series)
- The Groo Chronicles (Hardcover limited to 1500 printings, collecting The Groo Chronicles)
- The Life & Death of Groo (Flip Hardcover limited to 1000 printings, collecting The Life of Groo and The Death of Groo)
- Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer: Artist's Edition (IDW, July 2012; 12" x 17" Hardcover B&W, collecting the four-issue mini-series "Wager of the Gods" Epic/Marvel issues # 96-99) also published in a limited edition (250 copies) with variant cover
Awards and nominations 
Sergio Aragones received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for 1996 for his work on Groo and Mad Magazine. In 2009, Groo: Hell on Earth was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.
The comic protagonist of the same name has also received positive reviews. Wizard magazine ranked him as the 135th greatest comic book character of all time while IGN ranked Groo as the 100th greatest comic book hero of all time stating that "...while he may not be the brightest bulb on the battlefield, Groo is an earnest and kind-hearted adventurer whose travels are never short on laughs and adventure."
- newsfromme.com, September 25, 2008
- Comic Book Resources forum 
- Epic Comics, issue 34, page 15
- Epic Comics, issue 35, page 19-20
- "Newswatch: Groo Wanders to Image," The Comics Journal #172 (November 1994), pp. 40.
- Buddy L. (via Quint). "Buddy-L returns with a follow-up WONDERCON report!!! STAR TREK movie talk! Lotsa comic news, including a GROO movie?!?" Ain't It Cool News (March 8, 2007).
- Evanier, Mark. "Stuff Upcoming," News From Me: POV Online (September 10, 2007).
- A. Tramountanas, George. ECCC: DC Nation (March 5, 2011).
- Renaud, Jeffrey. Aragonés Dips Groo into Conan's Cimmeria (April 18, 2011).
- Evanier, Mark. News From Me: Sergio on Hiatus (February 3, 2012).
- Evanier, Mark (April 8, 2009). "Dark Horse/Emerald City Con news....". The Groop mailing list. http://mailman.newdream.net/pipermail/groop/2009-April/014278.html. Retrieved April 8, 2009.
- "Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer: Artist's Edition PRE-ORDER". Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer Artist's Edition Limited Edition Variant COMIC-CON PICK-UP ONLY". Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "2009 Eisner Award Nominees Named". Newsarama (Imaginova Corp). April 7, 2009. Retrieved April 8, 2009.
- "Wizard's top 200 characters. External link consists of a forum site summing up the top 200 characters of Wizard Magazine since the real site that contains the list is broken.". Wizard magazine. Retrieved May 07, 2011.
- "Groo is number 100". IGN. Retrieved May 05, 2011.
- Official Groo site
- Join The Groop, the Official Groo email list!
- The Norwegian Groo Page - groo.org
- Sergio Aragonés official site
- Mark Evanier's official site at povonline.com and www.newsfromme.com
- Groo wiki
- Those Who Fear Groo forum for Groo fans
- Groo the Wanderer - an unofficial fansite
- El diccionario de Groo (The Groo Alphabet) - An unofficial spanish fansite
- Who Wants to be a Mendicant? Groo the Wanderer article on ComicsBulletin
- Dark Horse Comics Groo vs Conan #1 announcement on Dark Horse Comics