Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Neverending Fray: Will Groo ever find acceptance? (No.)

Groo the Wanderer #48
By Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai (lettering), and Tom Luth (coloring)
Published by Epic Comics, 1989

While it's pretty common knowledge that Groo is hated and feared by most everyone who has encountered (or just heard of) him, that fact is usually ignored by the man himself, as he is happy to go wandering on his merry way, in search of the next fray or meal (preferably cheese dip). But he has apparently reached a breaking point in this issue, which sees him tire of the constant insults and rejection, deciding to travel somewhere that nobody knows him, where he can finally have some peace. This doesn't go so well, as even after days of travel to an unfamiliar place, he still gets reactions like this:

The real plot kicks in when he quizzes a passer-by to his identity, leading to an amusing exchange:

This fellow, having survived the encounter, quickly informs his village that if they pretend not to know Groo, he will leave them alone. Unfortunately, this doesn't quite have the desired effect:

This leads to a variety of schemes to get Groo to leave, including covering the town with insulting graffiti, which leads to a joke that I've always found funny (because illiteracy is hilarious):

They also try avoiding Groo by having everyone run away whenever he approaches, which provides some excellent physical comedy (I love that everyone still carries their livestock and baskets of fruit and whatnot even when running all over the place):

The secret eventually comes out (after another comedic exchange, in which Groo refuses to admit he is Groo, which leads to everyone insulting him, which causes him to remember that he is Groo, so he beats them all up and destroys the town), so Groo decides to leave again, although the issue still has a few pages left, so it gets padded out with a bit about a merchant trying to take advantage of Groo's propensity for sinking ships by selling his cargo, then taking out insurance on his boat with the expectation that it will be lost at some point along the voyage. He doesn't know that one should never plan for Groo to do anything though, so he arrives at the end of his journey unscathed, and in deep trouble for not delivering the goods.

The final gag involves Groo expecting to be hated in this new land, but onlookers don't recognize him, which is something that the Groo Crew tried a few times throughout the series. It's probably a good idea, since stories in which Groo is constantly greeted with fear and derision can get monotonous, but it never lasts for long, partly because the temptation to bring back one or more members of the supporting cast is too great, but probably because Groo's exploits are too entertaining to stay secret for long. Even if he's a menace who will surely destroy every village and ruin every life he encounters, he's not somebody one easily forgets, and word of him would quickly spread no matter where he goes. I know I'll certainly try to do my part to keep his name recognized for as long as I can.

Also, on a "check out this awesome art" note, the title page for this issue is a doozy, forming a map of the last several issues' worth of stories, including the magic tower from issue #47, the mill with the giant wheel from issue #45, and the waterfall Groo ferried people past in issue #39:

Next: "The Protector"

This issue's stats:
Recurring characters: Granny Groo is barely visible along with her Gypsy camp on the title page. Sergio and Mark also appear on the tile page, as portraits above the credits box and poem, respectively. And they and the rest of the Groo Crew appear running around in the town:

Hidden message(s): It's written upside down on these bundles of goods:

Moral: "Your reputation is what you make of it...and what you choose to take with you."
Spanish words: Signs for the towns Ajo ("garlic") and Cebolla ("onion"), which were seen in issue #41, appear on the title page.
Running jokes: Groo knows that "people take me for the fool I am." Rufferto bites a guy on the ass, and he thinks, "Groo is no lackey!" Groo gets called a mendicant. I don't think I've mentioned this before (probably because I don't find it all that funny), but one regular joke involves Groo not knowing how to count, and there's an example of it here that amused me, due to Rufferto's response:

Mark Evanier's job(s): Still Employed
Letter column jokes: Reader Patrick J. Towey, after claiming to be disgusted by the depths some people will sink to in order to get their letter printed, claims that God appeared to him and told him that he would die within six months unless one of his letters was published in Groo-Grams. Mark then says that they waited seven months to print the letter. When reader Jason Van Brunt asks how many issues of Groo they plan to publish, Mark first says they'll keep going until they run out of ideas and start repeating themselves, then interrupts himself with a comment that they've been doing that since issue #6, so he corrects himself and says they'll keep publishing it as long as people keep buying it. Chris Hutts says that while most people think Groo is the dumbest person on earth, he has several coworkers he would happily trade for Groo. Mark says not to be harsh on them, since they have to sell this comic to somebody. Hutts also adds that because he felt bad about people sending mulch and/or cheese dip to the Groo Crew, he enclosed a Ferrari. but Mark says that the hubcaps were missing and a taillight was shattered, so it was ruined.

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