Groo in the Marvel Age

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am working on putting together a collection of Groo comics. That collection includes more than just issues of Groo the Wanderer though, I also buy comics and magazines with Groo on the cover. Sergio Aragones is a master of one-page gags and Groo is a perfect character to be the subject of those cartoons. One place that Aragones and Groo were featured fairly regularly was the covers of Marvel Age, the Official Marvel News Magazine.

Groo was on the cover of Marvel Age seven times, and thanks to Mike’s Amazing World I’ve learned that those covers were all released right around Christmas. Issue 49 was released on January 6th, 1987, and issue 96 was released on November 20th, 1990, and all the rest were released in December. That explains why all of the issues except issue 24 are Christmas jokes, something I didn’t notice until I had all my issues together in one spot.

I’m missing two of the covers but since I recently got all the issues I do have together I wanted to take a closer look at them. Issue 24, above, is the first time Groo was on the cover of Marvel Age. The article in the magazine talks about how Groo left Pacific Comics and came to Marvel with a bit of story preview of what Sergio And Mark Evanier have planned for the first couple of issues.

The article claims that Mark and Sergio wanted to see Groo reach a wider audience, which at the time meant newsstand sales along with the direct market. It indicates that they left Pacific because they only did direct sales. Mark Evanier has a slightly different explanation in the Groo Special released by Eclipse that involves Pacific and how they were unable to produce the comics anymore. Either way, Marvel published Groo for 120 issues along with two original graphic novels and a prestige format reprint series, so I suspect the relationship between Marvel and the Groo creative team was a pretty good one.

The cover for issue 49 is the first of many Christmas gags featuring the inept barbarian. Groo looks rather menacing as an intruder comes down the chimney. His katana is drawn and the light reflected from the moon shines through the frosty window. It’s a good joke that gets right to the heart of everything Groo does, that is wreck or destroy everything around him.

The article in this issue is a good piece on how successful Groo has been at Marvel and all the things that Sergio and Mark are working on besides the monthly comic. It also previews the upcoming graphic novel “The Death of Groo”. There are some great scenes from the comic and there is a neat little bit about the secret message that Mark tries to get into each issue.

The holiday cover for issue 61 features a bunch of kids in tears because they have no tree to hang their ornaments on because Groo used the branches for a fire and roasting skewers for his dinner. The best part of the gag is the nonplussed look on Groo’s face as he eats his cooked lizard.  The only bit about Groo in this particular issue is in the last feature of the magazine, an open letter from Santa about the new Marvel graphic novels. Santa is requesting that Marvel send a bunch of copies of the Death of Groo to his workshop because the barbarian’s adventures are a big hit with the elves.

This cover is probably the sweetest of the bunch. There is a huge cast of the characters from Groo, including Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, and Stan Sakai in the back row all singing Christmas Carols. Well, all except Groo who cannot read and is holding his carol booklet upside down. My favorite thing about this cover though is Ruferto in the lower-left corner with his “lips” pursed as if he is whistling. It is a cute image and anytime dogs appear to have lips I find it funny.

The Groo news in this issue covers two really cool topics. The first is the reprint collection that is going to be released that will contain the original Pacific comics, the Eclipse special, and lots of other Groo stories. Sergio and Mark also promise lots of extras and seem excited to get Groo into a prestige format book. The other news is that there is going to be a new original graphic novel, The Life of Groo. This will be a follow up to the successful Death of Groo released the previous year.

With this cover we see Groo doing what he does best, wreaking havoc at the most inappropriate time. It is an image that is reminiscent of the margin gags Sergio is famous for doing for years in Mad magazine. This is the last issue of Marvel Age featuring Groo that I have. Hopefully, at some up-coming comic show or dollar bin I’ll be able to track down 96 and 109.

There is no news to announce in this issue, instead there is a two-page piece that gives a nice publishing history of Groo from Pacific all the way up to the Groo graphic novels. It is a nice reminder that Groo is still going strong, in fact, the same month this issue of Marvel Age came out Groo #62 was on the stand, just over halfway through it’s run with Marvel comics!

Groo is the only comic that I collect where I put such effort into collecting the comics and related items. It is a series I have read and enjoyed for most of my life. It is a rare book that has always been creator-owned and has been published by five different publishers. You would think that by now Sergio and Mark would have run out of stories. Maybe they have, the last new stories published by Dark Horse, were released in 2017, but I wouldn’t bet my cheese dip on it.

I’ll close with the house ad promoting the double-sized Groo the Wanderer #50 featured on the back cover of Marvel Age 73.

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