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Mulch? Check. Cheese Dip? Check

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Dark Horse is trying to tell us that it’s the 25th anniversary of Groo. It’s not. It may be the 25th anniversary of the character headlining his own book, but 2007 is the 26th anniversary of Groo’s first appearance in comic pages and the character himself came to be quite a bit earlier.

Sergio Aragonés first came up with the concept for Groo in the mid-to-late 1970s. In an interview with Back Issue mgazine, Aragonés explained that he tried to shop Groo around to the various publishing houses of the day but was not satisfied with the response. It’s not that these companies did not want to publish Groo, it’s just that they wanted full ownership of the character. This was something that Aragonés was unwilling to hand over. 

Around the same time or shortly after, Steve Gerber was beginning his lawsuit against Marvel for the rights to Howard the Duck, which Gerber created. Gerber friend Mark Evanier was in the process of putting together a benefit book to help the creator with his legal fees. Evanier went to his other friend Aragonés and convinced him this would be the perfect place for Groo to make his debut.

Groo first appeared in a back-up story in the pages of Destroyer Duck #1, the benefit book in question. The comic, which was cover-dated February of 1982 but was actually was published by Eclipse Comics in 1981, allowed Aragonés’ creation to see the light of day while at the same time allowing him to keep ownership of it.

That back-up story, and a second one in Pacific Comics’ Star-Slayer #5, caught the interest of fans. Soon, Groo was the star of his own series, the first issue of which was published by Pacific in 1982.

Evanier was brought on to help with the writing, Stan Sakai was brought on as a letterer, and Tom Luth took over the coloring chores from a man named Gordon Kent (the team of Evanier, Aragonés, Sakai and Luth still handle all appearances of Groo to this day).

Groo lasted at Pacific for eight issues before the company went out of busines.  The title, after a one-shot special at Eclipse, then moved to Marvel’s “creator-owned” Epic line and  lasted there for 10 years. After a 12 issue stay at Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics became the current home to the property.

The popularity of Groo might baffle the uninitiated. On the surface, it is a broad parody of Conan the Barbarian. Each book features essentially the same plot: Groo enters town. Mistakes and melees occur, usually caused by Groo’s stupidity. Groo leaves town worse off than he found it. If you never read Groo, you might wonder what the fuss is about.

But, speaking as a fan, Groo has to be one of the funniest books I have ever read. The plots remain similar, but each story is unique and individual. Readers know that Groo’s stupidity will wreak havoc eventually, but we don’t know when or how.

Add to that any number of the series’ recurring characters, new towns with new characteristics for Groo to work off of, and the running gags fans have come to expect (Has he mentioned Cheese Dip yet? Called someone a mendicant? Has he been called “slow of mind” in this issue?), you have a truly entertaining series.

Another reason why fans love Groo is the lengths the creators go to make them feel welcome. Groo is known for its letter column, a rarity these days, which is as entertaining as the series itself. Aragonés often puts things in the artwork, such as hidden messages and representations of the creators themselves, for fans to hunt down in each issue.

Fans of Groo who want more than just a one-shot anniversary issue, rest assured. A four issue miniseries, called Groo: Hell on Earth, is soon to come from Dark Horse.

>Also out this week:

Daredevil #100:  

It’s an anniversary! Daredevil hits the 100 issue mark for the second time in the character’s history. Marvel is celebrating by offering us a 104 page issue, bringing on a bunch of guest artists, including some legendary names from the title’s past—John Romita Sr. and Gene Colan to name two, and using the issue to start off a new arc.

The Daredevil series’ have had a lot of ups and downs over the last 40+ years.  But this incarnation of the title has consistently brought the character to new heights.  From Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada to Bendis and Maleev to Brubaker and Lark, with a little David Mack for good measure, this version of Daredevil has been one of Marvel’s best books for 100 issues now. And it shows no signs of stopping.

Ed Brubaker (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Drafted #1:

It is one of the biggest roadblocks to world peace. Groups of people with centuries of hatred against each other, animosity passed down from generation to generation, who let petty squabbles break out into all-out war. How can anybody ever make these people work together? 

Well, what if they were faced with a threat bigger than the both of them? What if they were faced with either working together or facing total annihilation? What if they had no other choice?

This is the basis for Drafted . Earth is facing an alien invasion. The odds are overwhelming. The history of enmity is soon forgotten. Every man, woman and child on Earth is now drafted into a war for their very survival, a war they might not win.

Mark Powers (W), Chris Lie (A), Devil’s Due Publishing, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #1:

To know John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad is to love it. From 1987 to 1991, DC’s worst villains were joined together into a “Dirty Dozen” style task force. Their mission: do whatever the Government wants. Their reward: A full pardon. The punishment if they don’t comply: Death or dismemberment. Needless to say, the series became a cult hit.

Now Ostrander and the Suicide Squad are back. This new, eight-issue series will wrap up loose ends from the previous series (like how Rick Flag survived that nuclear blast), reveal hidden secrets about the team’s past, and set the team up to play a role in the DC Universe. This is a perfect jumping on point for new readers and a welcome return for old fans.

John Ostrander (W), Javier Pina & Robin Riggs (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Eight-Issue Miniseries.

Thirteen Steps #1:

Justin Ullrich is a werewolf. He considers that to be a rather big problem. Unfortunately, nobody really wants to talk to him about it. His mother turns a deaf ear, his priest is no help and his buddy is more concerned with getting high. His ex-girlfriend? She’s a succubus, which means that she has an agenda all her own.

Where do you turn? Who can a person who grows a full-body pelt at a full moon talk to? If only there was a 12-step program for someone with Justin’s curse.

But there isn’t one, because with a problem as big as Justin’s, any program will need thirteen steps.

Phil Hester & Chuck Satterlee (W), Kevin Mellon (A), Desperado Publishing, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

JLA Wedding Special:

This would appear to be just another special DC is publishing to tie-in to the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding event. It will allow us to eavesdrop on Dinah’s bachelorette party and Ollie’s bachelor party, but the special serves another purpose as well.

Written by Dwayne McDuffie, who takes over for Brad Meltzer on Justice League of America this month, this one-shot will let us know who will make up the new Injustice League who will plague the team in the pages of that series and how they joined the team. So, all of you JLofA fans out there, if you thought you could leave this issue off of your pull list, you might want to pick this one up.  Or you might be missing something when McDuffie’s run on that title begins.

Dwayne McDuffie (W), Mike McKone (A), DC Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Heroes for Hire #13:

Heroes for Hire is one of Marvel’s better team books, but not one of it’s best sellers. The series could probably use any publicity it can get. Although, I’m not sure that it wanted the press it got over this issue’s cover.

The cover for this issue is reminiscent of what Manga fans call “Tentacle Porn”. I know absolutely nothing about Manga, but that sounds like it could upset some people. When the issue was solicited, the internet erupted in cries of sexism, especially considering the three female cast members on the cover are wearing far less clothing than they usually do inside the book. Forget the fact that it was a woman who actually drew the cover.

As far as I know, Marvel is going with the cover. But if they do, what will happen? Will less people pick up the title? Or more?

Zeb Wells & Fred Van Lente (W), Clay Mann & John Bosco (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters,  is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com .

 

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