Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Neverending Fray: Only the 1% get to eat well

Groo the Wanderer #28
By Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai (lettering), and Tom Luth (coloring)
Published by Epic Comics, 1987

This issue seems to set up a class-based conflict, sending Groo into a land where the kings eat well and the people starve, but it ends up just having our "hero" get involved in food-based conflicts with said monarchs, rather than making any statements about society (outside of acknowledging that economic disparity exists). That sort of thing would have to wait, but what happens in this issue is arguably a lot more fun, with Groo just trying to get a good meal to eat, then setting out on a quest to find a cook for one of the kings. There are plenty of good gags, a lot of them pertaining to Groo's repeated failure to locate a suitable chef, as he leads the king's man to people living in caves who only eat bats or almost gets him served as a meal in a village of cannibals. He eventually finds a great cook, but sparks a war between the kings in a dinner scene which, had it played out a page or two longer, could have led to an awesome food fight.

The real indicator of quality in a Groo comic is whether it is funny, and this one certainly meets that standard, featuring several bits that I literally laughed out loud at. My favorite might have been this scene:

But there are plenty of other bits that were at least chuckle-inducing, such as this bit:

And a follow-up:

For a good visual gag, although I found the setup to it (in which Groo rejects some gross goat horn stew because it isn't as good as the delicious food he had been smelling) somewhat unbelievable, this moment amuses me:

And I always like a scene of Groo gobbling down food and people looking on in disgust:

And look, here's a bit of Sergio playing with the format of comics, as one of his anthropomorphic animals (which are always kind of disturbing when they are about to be killed and eaten) fights for its life by grabbing on to the edge of a panel:

But what I especially dug about the issue is how well Sergio's art emphasizes the life of the common man. The background details of the regular people just trying to get by are one of my favorite aspects of this series, which might be why I get disappointed when an opportunity to spotlight them in their struggles against oppressive rulers is presented and ignored. But I can always get hints of all the activity going on around Groo in scenes like the title page spread of this issue, which sees some guys loading stone blocks onto a cart (I love the half-bored expression and posture of the driver), people carrying stuff up and down stairs, and a woman sitting in her house sewing (Sergio even drew a thimble on her finger):

As fun and hilarious as Groo's adventures are, the depth of the world around him makes the series so much richer. He's not getting up to his antics in a vacuum; he's affecting the lives of many people who are just struggling to survive, and that ends up providing more to think about than the funny ways in which he kills people. Man, I do love this comic.

Next: Rufferto!

This issue's stats:
Recurring characters: None
Hidden message(s): In this panel, taking the first letter of each of the labels of the jars of spices on the second and third shelves spells out "secret message":

Moral: "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach--a route which takes you nowhere near his brain."
Spanish words: The kings and kingdoms are named after meals or food, including Almuerzo ("lunch" or "dinner"), Merienda ("picnic"), and Sopa ("soup"). There's also a butcher named Cerdo ("pork"), and a fat woman is named Pompas ("bubbles").
Running jokes: Mentions of cheese dip and mulch (I thought they didn't do that joke anymore?). It takes a full ten pages for the "What do you mean, 'slow of mind'?" gag to pay off this time. I hope this gap eventually stretches out to multi-issue length. In something of a reversal, Groo, after briefly succeeding, asks "I did not err?" and gets the reply of "Not yet!" (don't worry, he does). He also responds to being called inept by saying that he is "non-inept", which, not being as funny as saying he is "ept," might mean that this joke is on its way out.
Mark Evanier's job(s): Chef de Cuisine
Letter column jokes: Brent Anderson writes to say that he likes all the killing, maiming, and death in the Groo comics. Mark recommends that he check out Strikeforce: Morituri, but doesn't think he'll like the artwork, which was done by "a drop-out from a remedial drafting class at the Escondido School for the Hopelessly Bewildered." Another reader asks what Mark does, "besides transilluminating, dehaveraling, and reading comic books", and Mark says that he writes sneaky, underhanded plugs for comics drawn by Brent Anderson. A reader named Barry Bell complains that his letters never get printed, and after noting that he and Sergio read all the letters and really appreciate them, even if they can't print them all, says that their mail room has standing orders to throw away any letters from Barry Bell. Answering the next letter, which asks how they pick which letters get printed, Mark says they go through them all, throw out any asking for sketches from Sergio, any wanting to know what "mulching" means, any asking about Sage's dog's name or the blue thing on Groo's chest, and any from Barry Bell. He says "This process leaves us with about nine letters. We then pull out all the ones that are intelligent, incisive, crisply-written, and filled with perceptive commentary. Once we get rid of them, we print what's left."
Non-Groo content: Rereading these old issues, I've often found the ads and the editorial content from Marvel pretty enjoyable and interesting, but haven't seen anything worth pointing out...until now! Check out this ad for the skateboarding movie Thrashin', starring a young Josh Brolin:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Neverending Fray: Abrakadabra

Groo the Wanderer #26
By Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai (lettering), and Tom Luth (coloring)
Published by Epic Comics, 1987

It's another issue with recurring characters, with the witchy pair Arba and Dakarba showing up to get Groo to do something for them. Their earlier appearances mostly seem to consist of one or both of them trying to get their magical powers back, and in this case, Dakarba sends Groo to get an amulet for her, even though she and Arba both seem to expect him to fail. The shrink him down to tiny size and send him to invade an underground city of tiny people (elves? They have pointy ears and wear genie clothes, so who knows), which leads to all sorts of silliness when he ends up going on another quest to steal the other half of the amulet from somebody else, then eventually obtaining the combined amulets, which grant the owner great powers, but he's too stupid to realize it, causing him to ruin everything for everybody just get them all mad at him. So, a pretty normal day in the life of Groo.

There's plenty of funny stuff, mostly centered on tiny Groo having size-related screwups, like attacking some guards who don't even notice him:

Or trying to find a bird to ride:

He still proves deadly, or at least injurious, though:

Another good thing about witches is that they give Sergio the chance to go nuts with ooky detail when depicting their lairs, as he does on the title page of the issue:

I love all the stuff that he packs into that scene, the monster skeletons, spiderwebs, and weird creatures cluttering up every square inch, half of them stuffed into jars and beakers, all sorts of slime and ooze and crows and black cats and snakes covering everything. It's awesome. But while Sergio always went to town on the title pages, he never sacrifices the detail in the rest of the issue, and he sometimes just throws strange stuff in there, like these crazy giant snails:

I love that kind of thing, and I love that this world that Sergio and company have created gives him a chance to throw whatever he wants onto the page, no matter how weird or silly.

Next: I don't have issue #27, so next will be #28, "The Gourmet Kings"

This issue's stats:
Recurring characters: Arba and Dakarba. I'm not sure if the Great Wizard has shown up before, but Groo seems to know him, so he was probably in one of the issues I don't have.
Hidden message(s): It's not easy to see as it's printed on the fading paper of the issue I have, but you can see it printed on a book that's somewhere amid the clutter of the title page:

Moral: "When the employee is a fool, so is the employer."
Spanish words: Enano, the name of the tiny king, means "dwarf."
Running jokes: The "What did she mean, 'slow of mind'?" callback takes place a full two pages after Dakarba says it to Groo. Groo can plainly see a mystic amulet, and he says that he never blunders, but he does err sometimes, including later in the issue, when he says "Did I err?". And he even calls himself a mendicant:

Mark Evanier's job(s): Alchemist
Letter column jokes: This issue's letter column is just one joke, with a letter from editor Jo Duffy saying that the column will have to be shortened to make room for the Statement of Ownership, and a response from Mark in which he refuses to abridge his work, and threatens to bankrupt Marvel like they did Pacific. Incidentally, the average number of copies sold for the previous 12 months was 109,375, with the most recent issue selling 116,810 copies.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me: I believe it

Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me
By Harvey Pekar and J.T. Waldman
Published by Hill and Wang

The ever-raging turmoils (political and otherwise) surrounding the nation of Israel and the Jewish people are nearly too much to wrap one's brain around, with the weight of thousands of years of history and countless atrocities, prejudices, genocides, and plain old wars surrounding them. And that's true even for somebody who has been thinking about these issues for decades, as Harvey Pekar obviously had; it seemed like he needed to get his thoughts on the subject down while he still had time, and that's what this book is: a discussion of what had been troubling him for years about his people and the travails of the "homeland" that his staunchly Zionist parents had been so supportive of. But he also wants to be sure that readers take him seriously as something of an authority on the subject, rather than just some guy with an opinion, so he spends much of the book detailing the history of the Jews, both before and after they managed to form the nation that has been the center of so much contention.

Pekar frames the story as a conversation between himself and his artistic collaborator, J.T. Waldman, as the two of them drive around Cleveland, stopping at the book warehouse mentioned in Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, as well as the Cleveland Public Library, and seeing other sights around the city. One suspects that Waldman, who is credited with an "and" rather than as mere "illustrator" of Pekar's words, was something of a co-author, reproducing his interactions with Pekar and filling out what was probably an unfinished script upon Pekar's death. The talk ends up being a torrent of information, with Harvey starting his brief history of the Jews with Abraham, and following them up through the present day, pausing occasionally to go over his own history, including his parents' wholehearted support for Israel, his Jewish-school education, his misguided attempt to immigrate to Israel in the 60s, and his eventual disillusionment with Israel and its relationships with its neighbors, the Palestinians living within its borders, and the rest of the world.

As interesting as Pekar's disquisition is, Waldman is the real star here, grounding the framing conversation scenes with a realistic style, then shifting into styles reflective of the eras being discussed, starting with Chaldean carvings and Mediterranean mosaics, and progressing to ornate Arabic/Persian designs, Medieval murals, and Renaissance artwork, then, when the narrative jumps to the twentieth century, mimicking styles like art deco and World War II propaganda posters. He's a restless artist, never sitting still, always jumping to a new artistic idea, especially in later scenes depicting Harvey's shifting ideas about Israel as files that fill the cart he pushes around at his V.A. job, or complicated emotions swirling around him like his beloved jazz music. And he doesn't stop there either, turning the scenes in which he and Harvey are driving around the city into meandering paths of panels winding across the pages and including lovely reproductions of some of its landmarks. It's incredible work, visually arresting and constantly moving, taking what is already an interesting subject told by a rightly revered storyteller and bringing it to the next level.

There's a reason Harvey Pekar is missed so much by those who loved his work, and that's because he put so much of himself into his comics, pouring his life and passions onto the page. He was always fascinated by people's stories, and that gets writ large here in a history of an entire race, which collides with his autobiographical impulses to form a grand story as tangled and convoluted as its inspiration. One might be somewhat disappointed to learn that in the end, for all his personal experience and studies, Harvey doesn't really have any answers or special insights into the situations faced by his people, but it's kind of comforting that he's in the same place as the rest of us. Maybe he would have been able to work out some sort of defining statement had he lived long enough to see the book's completion, but as it is, it ends on a perfect note of frustration, an aggravating inability to find a solution to the problems created by the human condition. That's the world we have to live in, even if we have to press on without Harv to guide us.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Neverending Fray: To defeat the enemy, you must become him

Groo the Wanderer #25
By Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai (lettering), and Tom Luth (coloring)
Published by Epic Comics, 1987

This is another wacky farce issue that involves Groo running back and forth a lot, and it's as funny as one would hope. The pacing is a little weird, with Groo first wandering into a town and the people greeting him with horror, since they've survived all sorts of disasters, but worry that he'll be the last straw. But when he can't find work as a guard, since the village is already well-defended, he leaves without causing any problems. Then the real meat of the story begins, as he finds some people fleeing a town that is being sacked by bandits, takes up their cause and drives the bandits away, then runs into Taranto and his band of bandits, who decide to go attack the town themselves. This sets off an escalating series of attacks and defenses, with Groo eventually taking a page from The Seven Samurai (as he already did once in issue #4) and deciding to train the people to defend themselves, but not before the town gets completely destroyed, leading everyone to just go and attack the original town from the beginning of the story, which we had mostly forgotten about. Looks like they didn't survive Groo after all!

It's amusing enough, as these things go (although that's a pretty dark ending, with Groo leading the exploited and their exploiters off to destroy someone else's lives), with much of the humor coming from the individual details and smaller moments, like a boy from the besieged village recognizing how to exploit Groo's desires:

I enjoy this bit of wordplay too:

Good stuff, for the most part, although the issue isn't as well-structured as the best Groo stories, which click through their plots smoothly and lead to an inevitable goal. It's still pretty funny though, so I'll accept it.

Next: "Arba and Dakarba"

This issue's stats:
Recurring characters: Taranto
Hidden message(s): I didn't find the hidden message, but I did notice the following message written on a stein on the title page:

UPDATE: As detailed in issue #32, in a crowded battle scene near the end of the issue, you can see the following message on a soldier's back:

It's hard to read, but it says "And this is not the hidden message but it's on this page." At the top of the page, hidden within a sound effect, you can see the usual message written upside down:

Moral: "To flaunt your strength is to make it your weakness."
Spanish words: Carpeta, the name of the well-guarded town, means "folder". Alfombra, the not-so-well-guarded town, means "carpet". Turulato, the leader of one of the groups of bandits, means "nincompoop".
Running jokes: This issue, the "Say, what did he mean, 'slow of mind'?" gag takes place a full page after somebody says it to Groo. Groo can plainly see the answer to defeating the bandits.
Mark Evanier's job(s): Enunciator
Letter column jokes: This issue's column consists entirely of answers to a list of numbered questions from letter writer Andrew Stern, with answers including a reference to the poor ratings of "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" (which Sergio did animation for), references to Sergio's poor English (and the revelation that Mark has known him since 1969), a joke about Sergio missing the Creation Comic Convention in Anaheim because he had to go back to his job at Disneyland wearing a Dopey costume, an odd dig at Marv Wolfman, an appearance by editor Jo Duffy to reveal that there was a Groo story in Epic Illustrated #27, and a revival of the joke that nobody knows what Mark's job is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Neverending Fray: Vapidity vs. stupidity

Groo the Wanderer #24
By Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai (lettering), and Tom Luth (coloring)
Published by Epic Comics, 1987

Groo gets more recurring characters to bounce off of in this issue, when the Minstrel seeks him out for help with Arcadio's current quest, in which he has to find a spell to free the people of his village (where we saw him last, in issue #11) from a curse. This might just be a contrivance of writing to get Groo involved in the story, but I think it adds an interesting wrinkle to the Minstrel's character. He spends all his time when he's with Arcadio praising the handsome warrior's abilities, but he seems to recognize that while Arcadio looks impressive, he doesn't have much in the way of skill, so he runs to get Groo's help at the earliest opportunity, since Groo was the one who did all the work in their previous quests. He might sing Arcadio's praises in order to share in his rewards, but he knows what's actually going on, making him more aware of the mechanics of this world than most of the characters. It makes sense, since he's not only a storyteller, but an entertainer, an implicit collaborator in the enjoyment of the audience.

And of course, Groo manages to screw things up repeatedly, first obtaining a potion to cure the people, but since the last time he saw them, they were horrifically ugly, he thinks the curse they're under is that they're beautiful (instead of mind-controlled into a daze by never-stated means), so he turns them ugly again (I guess the potion just obeys the wishes of its dispenser) and runs off to procure payment for the potion. When Arcadio finds them, he only has obtained one magical cure, so he uses it to turn the people beautiful again and sets off to obtain another cure, setting off a back-and-forth series of transformations as Groo and Arcadio repeatedly discover that their transformations have been undone and set off to make them the way they should be.

That's good stuff, with a nice punchline that sees Groo transform everyone, including Arcadio and the Minstrel, into their hideous selves, which makes for a great visual:

As with the previous issue involving ugly people, Sergio really delivers on the grotesquerie, giving people gross skin lesions that make it look like their faces are dripping off:

Or transforming a voluptuous girl in a belly shirt into one that is...not as attractive:

There are some great bits involving Groo's antics as he completes the other parts of his quests, which involve procuring various chess pieces for a witch from a rich king. First, he has trouble getting in to see the king, but he provokes a fight with the king's men in order to get what he wants:

Then later, he can't remember what he's supposed to get for the witch, so he just attacks the men, expecting to figure it out eventually:

That's funny stuff. This issue does get a little repetitive, but it's always funny, with Mark providing laughs through dialogue and Sergio filling pages with his usual details to create a satisfying whole. I'll take it.

Next: "Divide and Conquer!"

This issue's stats:
Recurring characters: Minstrel, Arcadio, the Witch of Kaan.
Hidden message(s): I didn't spot any "verbal" messages, but there's a visual one when the head of the Minstrel's lute takes the form of different members of the Groo Crew in subsequent panels:

UPDATE: As revealed in issue #32, taking the first letter on each page (including both pages of the title spread), reveals the message "Jack must get his work back", a call for Marvel Comics to return Jack Kirby's original art pages to him (if you're not familiar with this bit of comics history, here's a transcription of a 1986 radio interview with Kirby, Mark Evanier, Frank Miller, and Steve Gerber discussed the issue).
Moral: "Putting beauty before brains is the surest way to wind up with neither."
Spanish words: King Ajedrez, who Groo takes chess pieces from, has a name which means "chess". The Waters of Poderes ("powers") make another appearance.
Running jokes: Cheese dip. Groo can plainly see a white bishop. A scene change after someone calls Groo "slow of mind", he thinks, "Say, what did she mean, 'slow of mind'?" I'm pretty sure this happens again, with longer and longer intervals between the original statement and Groo thinking about it. And the gag about Groo being inept from last issue threatens to become a regular thing:

Mark Evanier's job(s): Denubilater
Letter column jokes: Mark continues to insist that he won't define mulch anymore, even if people ask him using silly letters composed of backwards words. He also claims that we'll learn Sage's dog's name in his next appearance, says the stuff in Sage's vial is Perrier with a twist of lime, and says the skull on Groo's belt is Groo when he was a baby (?). The best joke this time is when somebody asks "When's the movie?", presumably wanting to hear news about a Groo adaptation, and Mark gives showtimes for "Black Kung Fu Mamas" and "Nurses Go Berserk" at the Criterion. Finally, a reader asks about seeing Mark's name in the credits of the "Dungeons and Dragons" cartoon, and Mark admits that he works on that show (or worked, since it had recently been cancelled), along with "The Wuzzles", and he also developed a show "about tiny people" that was so bad, he took his name off it. Does anybody know what show that one was?

What you missed if you’re not local enough to hang with Anders Nilsen

Last Friday night (August 17, 2012), cartoonist Anders Nilsen, creator of the astonishing brick of a book Big Questions, appeared at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhurst, Illinois to do a reading/slideshow and talk about the exhibit of his works that has been on display at the museum since June 2012 (and which ends on August 25, if you’re in the area and haven’t had the chance to check it out). It was definitely worth attending, since any chance to see an artist talk about his work is bound to be fascinating, and seeing the art in person is always a treat, especially when it’s presented at a scale which is impossible to replicate in reproductions.

The centerpiece of the exhibit was the drawing which shared its name, Adam and Eve Sneaking Back into the Garden to Steal More Apples, a 5’ x 8’ monstrosity that Nilsen said he struggled with for quite some time, often feeling that it defeated him. It’s a marvel of detail, from the dense tangle of thorns which the couple (who are presented as adolescents) are climbing over, to the various animals and creatures populating the garden, to the anachronistic implements of modern life (a computer keyboard, a tire, etc.) scattered on the ground, to the tiny blades of grass that provide the signature Nilsen texture to the image. Nilsen described the image, and some of the others that he worked on, as ones that he doesn’t fully understand, presenting several possibilities, including a post-apocalyptic world, which, along with mythological/religious stories, was a theme that several of the exhibit’s works shared.

It’s an impressive work, one that can be studied and pondered endlessly. That’s true of several other works as well, including the above study for Adam and Eve, called Jesus and Satan Playing in the Garden of Eden, which depicts the pair as children romping through the same thorny landscape, which includes a huge chunk of concrete that, again, suggests some apocalyptic ruin. Nilsen spoke of trying to reinterpret or adapt mythological or religious stories, filtering them through some of his own interests and incorporating modern details, while still retaining some ambiguity.

Another large piece, which Nilsen drew while taking a break from Adam and Eve, is Last Remnant After the End of the World, although he says that the title is kind of incidental, and it was more of a study of the root ball of a tree that he found interesting. It was also an expansion of another drawing that was more of a simple rock, adding details and making it much more dramatic. It’s another marvel of detail, packed with texture and palpable dirt and decay, yet including a hint of life after death with the branch sprouting from the top of the stump.

For the slideshow presentation, Nilsen read from an “accordion book” which he had on display called Rage of Posiedon, which takes the form of a series of silhouette images accompanied by text, making for a series of short stories that continues the theme of reimagined or recontextualized mythology. The title story follows the god of the sea as he struggles to understand the modern world, while other stories included a take on the Biblical story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac from the boy’s perspective, a poignant look at the fall of Lucifer, and an amusing scene in which Jesus hits on Venus in a bar in Heaven. The simple art style is a bit of a change for Nilsen, who usually packs imagery with palpable details, but it frees him to focus on the text of the stories, which incorporate the dry humor of his sketchbook work in books like Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes.

The book itself was also on display, making for an interesting artifact, a 28-foot series of images that could be compressed to fit into a cover. Drawn and Quarterly will be publishing a version of it that will include a few more stories in the fall of 2013.

Other works on display included a few pages from Big Questions, and a scene of Batman, Wolverine, and the angel Gabriel all lying unconscious around a hole in the ground, suggesting some sort of unknown catastrophe and inspiring any number of stories in viewers’ minds.

Another drawing shows what the title says is a prototype for human life, presumably created by God, and it’s another lovely accumulation of weird detail, inspiring a story through its title and suggesting all manner of narrative around it.

As a collection of an artist’s work, the exhibit is fascinating and inspiring, a testament to the artistic skill and ambition that Nilsen has coming out of his pores. Whether he continues along this path, creating gallery-presented images, or makes more comics and narrative works, it will be a treat to follow him and experience what he has to show us.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Neverending Fray: It can't be said enough: never bet on Groo

Groo the Wanderer #23
By Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai (lettering), and Tom Luth (coloring)
Published by Epic Comics, 1987

This is another in a string of good issues, setting up a funny situation and then milking it for jokes. Plus it introduces some excellent supporting cast members in Pal and Drumm, who fit into the classic comedy duo mold as a short, smart guy and a big, dumb guy. We meet Drumm as kind of a comparison to Groo, a strong fighter that makes people afraid, but he does it on purpose, bullying his way into free food and drinks and boasting that he can defeat anyone. Pal, who exposits to himself about being wanted for running crooked games of chance, sees Drumm as a money-making opportunity, planning to bet on him when he fights Groo and make money when he wins. But Groo makes short work of Drumm, and Pal loses a bunch of money. So he changes tactics and recruits Groo as part of the scheme, planning to travel to new towns, build Drumm up as an unbeatable fighter, then make money by betting on Groo. As we know, plans based around Groo are destined to fail, and they do so in several funny ways here, with the mendicant beating up Drumm before anybody got a chance to place a bet, beating up the people for mocking him, or beating up Pal for calling him a moron. When he finally manages to get it right, he decides to do a good deed, since Drumm is acting more and more depressed that he continually has to be humiliated in front of everyone, and takes a fall that not only ruins Pal, but also a king who bet his treasury against the possessions of his subjects, making for a satisfyingly layered ending that not only has everyone chasing Groo but also a popular revolution against tyranny:

And as usual, the issue is crammed full of details, whether in the day-to-day lives of those who are unfortunate enough to have Groo wander into their villages, or in the sheer chaos that can happen at a moment's notice when he is around:

I like the way this hapless fellow is cleaning the edge of a panel before he gets sent to be thrashed by a sleepy barbarian:

And here's a decent bit of wordplay:

Nope, never a dull moment.

Next: "Arcadio's Quest"

This issue's stats:
Recurring characters: This is the first appearance of Pal and Drumm, who would show up many more times. Also, at least three of the Groo Crew (Sergio, Mark, and Stan; I don't see Tom, unless he's way over on the left) are cheering on the Drumm/Groo fight on the cover.
Hidden message(s): A letter can be found in the artwork on each page, and putting them together spells:

Also, Pal mentions being banished by the queen of Onovid, which, spelled backwards, is a reference to Mark Evanier's friend and co-writer- Sharman DiVono.
Moral: "The world is a gamble and the only 'sure thing' is that cheaters eventually lose."
Spanish words: None
Running jokes: Drumm enrages Groo by calling him a mendicant, and Groo can plainly see some workers. I also like this variation on "Groo does what Groo does best!":

Mark Evanier's job(s): Prolocutor
Letter column jokes: Mark makes what I assume is a potty joke when he responds to a question about how much Groo #2 will be worth in the year 2001 by saying that it will still be #2. He also promises that Sage will return in a few issues, at which point we will learn his dog's name, and that a Groo graphic novel is in the works, but he doesn't know when it will be out. And he gives a decades-early sample of the script for Groo vs. Conan:
CONAN: By Crom! You are a mendicant!
GROO: Oh, I am, am I? Well now, Groo does what Groo does best!
SOUND EFFECTS: Hack! Slash! Slice! Spurt! Poke! Et cetera!