Groo: Friends and Foes volume 1


By Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai & Tom Luth (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-814-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A welcome wave of nostalgic nonsense and comic craziness… 8/10

Groo is the smelliest, ugliest, stupidest, unluckiest mercenary in the world – but he’s also the best swordsman in creation and far too stupid to be harmed. He is always hungry and wanders because most places he pauses in burn down, wash away or crash into rubble soon after his arrival.

He loves to fight and entire nations and navies reel at the mention of his name. Of course they do the same when they stand downwind of him too…

Produced in a unique traditional fashion by storyteller Sergio Aragonés, wordsmith Mark Evanier, colourist Tom Luth – with assistance from Michael Atiyeh – and letterer Stan Sakai (yeah, that Usagi Yojimbo guy), the Itinerant Imbecile’s adventures form one of the longest running comicbook humour series in America and there seems to be no chance of stopping his creators as long as we keep buying these incredible, hilarious sagas…

Both in comic narrative and the infinitely tougher field of gag-cartooning, Aragonés has produced vast volumes of incomparable work. His darkly skewed sensibilities and instinctive grasp of the cosmically absurd, wedded to his anarchically meticulous drawing style and frankly terrifying professional discipline, have made his pantomimic doodles vibrant proof of the maxims that laughter is universal and one picture is worth a thousand words.

In 1981, after years working for Mad Magazine whilst also producing gags for DC’s horror titles (plus the occasional full strip), he joined with Mark Evanier (who writes lots of stuff and Writes it Good), Sergio crafted a madcap 4-page parody of Sword-&-Sorcery yarns as a contribution to Eclipse Comics’ Creators Rights benefit comic Destroyer Duck.

Following a second outing in Mike Grell’s Starslayer (#5), Pacific Comics launched Groo the Wanderer in his own title. After 8 issues (December 1982-April 1984) the troubled company folded but the unsinkable barbarian (that’s a joke you’ll understand later) resurfaced in the Groo Special one-shot from Eclipse (October 1984), before finding a home at Epic Comics: Archie Goodwin’s creator-owned corner of the Marvel Universe.

Aragonés had first devised his witless warrior in the 1970s but no publisher would take on the property unless he surrendered all rights – an almost universal situation in the comics industry until the advent of the Direct Sales market transferred power from companies and distributors to creators and consumers.

With ownership issues settled to his maker’s satisfaction, Groo bedded in for an uproarious 120 issue run at Epic – resulting in loads of graphic novel compilations – until the imprint died, after which the witless wonder moved on to Image and Dark Horse Comics. They haven’t sunk yet…

In fact, the latter (gluttons for punishment) have even let the bumbling bladesman loose with new 12-issue miniseries Groo: Friends and Foes; each issue revisiting one of the silly saga’s regular cast who had inconceivably escaped being slaughtered by the star. This tawdry tome is but the first of four trade paperback collections and this first compilation collects issues #1-4, finding the perpetually puzzled peripatetic poltroon meeting again merchant mariner Captain Ahax, who has good reason to dread the consequences…

That sinking thing? Among his other lack of abilities Groo cannot travel by ship. He’s not sea-sick or anything, it’s just that his mere physical presence on a nautical apparatus of any sort causes it to founder and plunge into the fearsome fathoms below. Knowing that fact and unable to get rid of the affable oaf, Ahax surrenders to fate and opts to replace the crew with drunks, sell his ship and even his clients’ cargoes. Then he over-insures the vessel, confident that at least this time when she goes down he’ll actually profit from it.

But this time his ship comes in, despite Groo constantly waving sharp objects about, an attack by pirates and Ahax’s own increasingly desperate efforts to scuttle his livelihood. Perhaps it’s the calming influence of the sweet little girl who befriends the woeful warrior’s adoring dog Rufferto? She’s a fellow passenger all alone, searching for her long-lost father…

As disaster finally strikes – far too late for Ahax – the smelliest, ugliest, stupidest mercenary in the world shambles off and soon encounters a band of gypsies who seem familiar. They ought to: they’re led by his calculating grandmother Granny Groo. How fondly the weary wanderer remembers the way she used to beat him and his sister Grooella before selling him. Of course, being the kind of kid he was, Granny had to sell him many times before it finally stuck…

Now that he’s become the most terrifying person on Earth, however, she decides on a different plan to get rid of him before he brings calamity upon them all: raffling him off to greedy villagers who think they might profit from “controlling” the most dangerous man alive…

Baffled Rufferto gamely sticks with his master and soon discovers that the little girl from the ship has joined the gypsies too…

When that brief debacle ends as all Groo gigs do, the dog and his hero head further inland and soon encounter a magic-blighted region controlled by old enemies and devilish witches Arba and Dakarba.

The female fiends have good reason to fear the innocently intruding idiot and decide to get their retaliation in first by conjuring up the scariest thing they can think of to destroy him. Sadly, a marauding 50-foot Groo – even backed up by a hundred normal-sized facsimiles – are no match for the sheer force of destructive stupidity the real McCoy can muster and the witches inevitably fail, leaving their noodle-nosed nemesis to saunter off accompanied by a little girl he thinks he might have met before…

Groo’s initial outings end after a frantic reunion with Legendary Hero and shameless fraud Arcadio whom our pack of peregrinators stumble across as he tries to train a brace of dragons. The crafty champion plans on using them to gull villagers into hiring him, but when good-natured Groo offers his help, the plan – and the villagers – soon go up in smoke…

Closing this inaugural volume is a quartet of wordless strips starring Rufferto and a captivating cover-gallery by Aragonés adding to the wonderfully wonky misshapen madness and grand display of confusions, contusions, conflagrations, conflicts, pratfalls, pitfalls, punch-lines and punch-ups…

These are true masterpiece of mirth comedy addicts will love and the great strength of the series is that new readers can start practically anywhere – and still be none the wiser…
© 2015 Sergio Aragonés. Groo, all related characters and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Sergio Aragonés. All rights reserved.

The Death of Groo the Wanderer (Marvel Graphic Novel #32)


By Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai & Tom Luth (Epic/Marvel)
ISBN: 0-87135-290-7

Groo is a living paradox: a brilliant fighting man and unbeatable warrior sell-sword and simultaneously the dumbest collection of organic molecules on the planet. Always hungry, he wanders because most places where he pauses burn down, wash away or crash into rubble soon after he gets there. He loves to fight and the entire world trembles at the mention of his name. They do the same when they smell him too…

Produced in unique fashion by Sergio Aragonés, wordsmith Mark Evanier, letterer Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo) and colourist Tom Luth, the idiot’s adventures form one of the longest running humour comicbook series in America and there seems to be no chance of stopping the creators as long as we keep buying these incredible, hilarious sagas…

Both in comic narrative and the infinitely more strenuous field of gag-cartooning Sergio Aragonés has produced vast volumes of excellent work. His darkly skewed sensibilities and grasp of the cosmically absurd, wedded to a totally unique, anarchically meticulous drawing style and frankly terrifying professional discipline, have made his (usually) silent doodles a vibrant proof of the maxims that laughter is universal and a picture is worth a thousand words.

After working for years for Mad Magazine and DC’s horror titles on gag features and the occasional full comic strip, in 1981 with writer and associate Mark Evanier, Aragonés produced a madcap four-page parody of the Sword-and-Sorcery genre as a contribution to the Creators Rights benefit comicbook Destroyer Duck published by Eclipse Comics.

Following a second outing in Mike Grell’s Starslayer (#5) Pacific Comics launched Groo the Wanderer in his own title. After 8 issues (December 1982-April 1984) the troubled company folded but the unsinkable barbarian (that’s a joke I’ll explain later) resurfaced in the Groo Special one-shot from Eclipse (October 1984), before finding a home at Epic Comics: Archie Goodwin’s creator-owned corner of the Marvel Universe.

Aragonés first created his witless warrior in the 1970s but no publisher would take on the property unless he sold all rights – an almost universal situation in the industry until the advent of the Direct Sales market transferred power from companies and distributors to creators and consumers. After an uproarious 120 issue run at Epic, and dozens of graphic novel compilations, the witless wonder moved on to Image and Dark Horse Comics, but they haven’t completely gone belly-up yet…

This all original volume from 1987 reintroduces readers to the smelliest, ugliest, stupidest itinerant mercenary in the world. Luckily he’s also the best swordsman in creation and too thick to be harmed because when he shuffles his unshod, dirty feet into the domain of King Krag he inadvertently encounters a thoroughly nasty man with a good many reasons to psychotically hate him…

At that time the kingdom was being ravaged by a colossal dragon, but as the only man on the planet crazy enough to fight it has a huge bounty on his head, how stupid would he have to be to come and attempt to kill it? – and if you’re having difficulty answering that, either you’ve not been paying attention or Groo has found a new apprentice…

Due to the kind of circumstance-concatenation that only happens in this series, everybody in the land of Groo-haters thinks the oaf is finally dead – even Groo – but with all the folk who have ever suffered at his hands gathered in one place they all start to realise that a world without Groo just isn’t the same…

Fear not however: order, if not sense, is eventually restored – but only after a grand display of confusions, contusions, conflagrations, conflicts, pratfalls, pitfalls, punch-lines and punch-ups. There’s even a little room left over for a soupcon of romance (Mmmm, Soup! Mmmm, leftovers…)

Published in the extravagant, luxurious over-sized 285mm x 220mm European album format which allows even more room for the artist’s tireless tornado of visual gags and graphitti this is a masterpiece of mirth and madness that comedy addicts will love and the great strength of the series is that new readers can start practically anywhere – and still be none the wiser…

Oh yeah, that sinking thing: among his other lack of abilities Groo cannot travel by ship. He’s not sea-sick or anything – it’s just that his physical presence on a nautical apparatus of any sort causes it to sink – and this book has one of the very best riffs on that running (swimming? sinking?) gag I’ve ever seen…
© 1987 Sergio Aragonés. All Rights Reserved.