I first encountered Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier’s Conan parody Groo the Wanderer back in the late 80s, when his adventures were being published by Marvel Comics imprint Epic. I was pretty blown away by the barbarian’s daft but wittily written adventures (with scripts by Evanier), which featured incredibly detailed, cartoony art by Aragonés. Groo, accompanied by faithful canine companion Rufferto (who is a lot smarter than his master), caused untold chaos and destruction wherever he went – and it was hilarious.
Yet Groo has been around since the 70s – with Aragonés having created the character back then, but not immediately being able to secure a publishing deal in which he’d retain the rights to the character. Groo first published appearance was in a Destroyer Duck comic (from Eclipse Comics) in 1981, before then making appearances in two consecutive issues of Starslayer from Pacific Comics a few months after that. Groo’s very own series Groo the Wanderer was first published in 1982, though publisher Pacific Comics ran into financial difficulty, leading Eclipse to publish an issue of the series.
Aragonés and Evanier then entered into an arrangement with Marvel to publish Groo comics via their aforementioned Epic imprint, allowing them to retain rights to the character. They moved to Image Comics in 1994 after 120 issues at Epic and moved once more to Dark Horse Comics in 1998, which has been Groo’s home ever since.
Dark Horse Comics have been famous for their sometimes wacky, entertaining crossovers (with Aliens vs Predator being one of the best, most famous and successful examples of Dark Horse’s crossover series). With Groo settled at Dark Horse and the publisher having long produced Tarzan comics too, surely it was just a matter of time before the two characters met up?
And here we are, with the first issue of Groo Meets Tarzan. It’s far from a straightforward crossover though, which is to be expected from the inventive minds of Evanier and Aragonés. Instead, we have a very meta story of the writer and artist themselves attending Comic Con to discuss a Groo/Tarzan crossover (all drawn in the minutely detailed Aragonés style, with an awful lot of visual gags and references dotted throughout). Meanwhile, in Groo’s own strip he’s being diverted from villages terrified of the destruction he’ll cause if he stays – with the promise of delicious cheese dip.
Lastly, we have another strip running in parallel, with Tarzan investigating reports of a mysterious ship that seems to be kidnapping and enslaving locals, with the Lord of the Apes heading towards Groo’s position by the end of the issue. There’s also the traditional dialogue-free Rufferto one page strip at the very end of the issue, after the amusing letters page with responses by Evanier (another Groo tradition).
It’s all very cleverly done and the Comic Con/Groo segments, if not laugh-out-loud funny, are as clever and amusing as the Evanier/Aragonés series has always been. The Tarzan sections, drawn in a beautifully old-school, classic style by Thomas Yeates, are surprisingly straightforward and serious. There’s a real contrast between the two styles and it’s still unclear how they’ll come together when the characters meet (though the cover may have some insight as to how the visual styles will mesh) – but it’s sure to be very entertaining when they do finally come face to face.
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