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, co-plotted 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 in the United States (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".
Groo (the epithet "the Wanderer" is informal and rarely mentioned within the stories) first appeared as a parody of the brutal sword and 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 a 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 honest fellow who tries to make his way through life as a mercenary or by working odd jobs. He is incredibly accident-prone, and despite generally good intentions causes mass destruction wherever he goes. Most of his adventures end with him either oblivious to the mayhem he has wrought or fleeing an angry mob. His penchant for destruction has become so widely known that just the news of Groo approaching is sometimes enough to cause chaos among the population. 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 can cause it to sink.
Groo has slain entire armies 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!" He is indiscriminate in the use of his battle skills, usually leaping into battle before attempting to ascertain the reasons for the fight, or even who is on what 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 his travels, Groo has encountered thousands of characters. However, there is an assortment of recurring characters:
- Captain Ahax, who has, over time with the loss of many vessels under his command, become wise to Groo's effect on ships, although he does not know about Rufferto's ability to restrain it.
- 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 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. 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.
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 usually the Kopin.
Although many technologies and peoples in Groo appear ancient, more modern innovations such as the printing press can be found as well.
Groo is initially plotted and drawn by Sergio Aragonés, and Mark Evanier then writes the dialog. Sakai then does the lettering, after which Aragonés does the final artwork, including the word balloons. Finally, Luth does the coloring.
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.
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. Pacific faced various financial difficulties and was only able to publish eight issues of the title. With Pacific unable to publish new material, a one-shot issue of material that was originally written for them (titled the Groo Special) was instead published by Eclipse. When Groo was published by Pacific, he was not portrayed as a bumbling idiot. 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 remarks "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 periodically releasing new material and reprints as mini-series and collections.
At the 2007 WonderCon, the creators revealed that since 2005 they had been trying to produce a Groo/Conan crossover (both titles are published by Dark Horse). The project encountered a number of postponements; although two issues had been completed by the spring of 2011, the series was further delayed because of a backache suffered by Aragonés. The book finally saw print in July 2014, with Aragonés and writer Mark Evanier working with artist Thomas Yeates, who drew the Conan portions of the book.
- 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 (July - October 2014 Miniseries)
- Groo: Friends and Foes #1-12 (Jan – Dec 2015 Maxiseries)
- Special appearances
- The Death of Groo (Epic/Marvel 1990-Second & Third Printings)
- The Life of Groo (Graphitti Designs 1995-Second Printing)
- 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 story "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."
- Epic Comics, issue 34, page 15
- Epic Comics, issue 35, page 19–20
- Kraft, David Anthony; Slifer, Roger (April 1983). "Mark Evanier". Comics Interview (2) (Fictioneer Books). p. 34.
- "Newswatch: Groo Wanders to Image," The Comics Journal #172 (November 1994), pp. 40.
- 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). Retrieved April 8, 2009.
- Friends and Foes
- "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 7, 2011.
- "Groo is number 100". IGN. Retrieved May 5, 2011.