Comic Book: Groo the Wanderer
Groo the Wanderer
is a Comic Book
created and drawn by Sergio Aragonés
and written by him and Mark Evanier
. It started off as a parody of Barbarian Heroes
, most notably Conan
, making fun of fantasy tropes along the way. As the series continued, however, the stories have shifted to general comedy, with occasional commentary on Real Life
social events and situations. Over the last twenty-five years, more than 150 issues have been printed by five different publishers, most recently by Dark Horse Comics
Befitting his comedic roots, Groo is an uncomplicated character: he wanders the land
with his loyal canine companion Rufferto, performing various odd jobs that almost inevitably involve fighting. With the exception of Chakaal, no one can out-fight him, and most encounters with Groo are brief and fatal. Although well-intentioned, Groo is also reliably slow of mind
, and his frequent errors lead to disaster.
As a long-running series, he has built up a vast repertoire of supporting characters, most notably the Sage and the Minstrel. These characters appear more frequently when Groo
runs as a regular ongoing series, but tend to disappear in stand-alone limited series.
Expect lots of Running Gags
about cheese dip and mulchnote
The numerous Groo series contain examples of the following tropes:
- Abandon Ship: Almost always happens whenever Groo gets on board a boat.
- His ability to sink ships actually been exaggerated over time. Originally he would often do something idiotic, like take wood from the bottom of the ship to fix a hole in the side. Eventually it got to the point as soon as he steps on board the the ship spontaneously springs a leak and goes to the bottom of the sea. The only way he can safely board a ship now is when he is with Rufferto.
- Action Girl: Chakaal.
- An Aesop: Most Groo stories have a moral at the end, usually not very serious.
- Alliterative Family: Though it's never explicitly stated, "Groo" appears to be a family name of sorts — Groo's sister is named "Grooella", and his grandmother is Granny Groo.
- In the Life of Groo, Groo's father does refer to as the family name and the Sage calls Groo's father "Groo" (would not be confusing at all). Apparently it means "The cattle are dying".
- Ascended Extra: When Rufferto first appeared in a story about a royal family that had lost their beloved dog and his incredibly valuable jeweled collar, nobody expected the dog to still be around after the story was over. Astoundingly, he survived his meeting with Groo and went on to become Groo's inseperable companion and only in-universe fan.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: Done for drama in "The Death of Groo" graphic novel. Groo goes to his own funeral expecting there to be much sadness at his demise. There isn't; everybody at that funeral had endless trouble from him, and they were all delighted at his "death."
Grooella: "Today I have become something I have always wanted to be... an only child!"
- Baleful Polymorph: Witch and wizards in Groo's world enjoy doing this to their enemies sometimes if really angry they will transform into the most horrible thing they can think of... Groo! Sadly, having multiple Groos bumbling about usually results in even greater catastrophe.
- Barbarian Longhair: The title character is a barbarian with long hair. He is very stupid and exceptionally skilled with the sword.
- Berserk Button: Groo is not a mendicant. Started in the second issue ever, where it was kind of justified because he had just lost all his money, and continued for years even some time after he learned to read and found out what it meant.
- Big, Thin, Short Trio: Pipil Khan's three sons, a large, burly warrior, a powerful magician, and the scheming, weasly runt of the family.
- Blood Knight: Groo.
- Bloodless Carnage
- Averted originally, but as the series progressed Mark Evanier joked that "red ink is too expensive."
- Brick Joke: Wait... what does TV Tropes mean "slow of mind"?
- This was a brick joke the first time it occurred, but it quickly became a Running Gag.
- Calling Me a Logarithm: Groo becomes violently enraged whenever someone calls him a "mendicant," even though he has no idea what the word means. Even compliments outside his limited vocabulary (such as "a true gourmand" or "Samaritan") can have the same effect.
- Canine Companion: Rufferto to Groo, and Mulch to the Sage.
- Catch Phrase: Many.
"Now Groo does what Groo does best!"
"Did I err?"
- "I will mulch you!" Mark Evanier lamented that he should've known after getting mailed cheese dip by hundreds of fans every month what this catch phrase would lead to...
- That is one of many ways the word was used. The tradition started with a story where Groo wandered into a village where all the women had been abducted by Sky Pirates. Any mention of what the women were needed for made the villagers list several tasks, always ending with a reference to mulching (some times accompanied by a shoveling motion). A number of readers asked what the word meant, and in the next issue the editor filled the letter column with their notes and his answers - which all consisted of the dictionary definition of the term. The rest is history.
- The phrase also crept into other comics, such as Usagi Yojimbo (including an overexpository "I will cut you into fertilizer or mulch!")
- "Mulch" was also revealed to be the name of the Sage's dog — at the end of a Running Gag where everyone who mentioned the Sage in any context would also mention his dog ... and then be interrupted or interrupt himself with the question, "Say, what's that dog's name, anyway?"
- The joke itself came from the letter's page, where it was a running gag to ask what the dog's name was (strangely, no one ever asked what The SAGE's actual name was). They combined the gags and made it canon.
- Another catch phrase is 'I am the Prince of Chichester!' whenever Groo can't think of anything to say. At one time he was was forced to memorize that line for one of Granny Groo's cons. He couldn't remember it when it was needed, and now says it at random, usually when asked by another character, "Do you know what you must remember?"
- Chichester itself was an in-joke; it was the last name of their editor at the time.
- Also "I can drink eight beers!" (Drumm is a font of these).
- Chess with Death: Groo once bested Death in a swordfight.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Taranto. Whenever Groo meets him, he asks, "Taranto, am I not mad at you for trying to have me killed?" Taranto talks him out of it easily...then betrays him again.
- Con Man: The partners Pal and Drumm (say it out loud), and Groo's gypsy grandmother, Granny Groo. They both have the bad habit of including Groo in their schemes, dooming them from the start.
- Crossover: Groo had a cameo in the normalman/Megaton Man special.
- And now a miniseries with Conan
- Destructive Saviour: Groo often falls into this role.
- Dirty Coward: Emperor Sakisama, who faints at the sight of blood, but has no trouble taking credit for his doppleganger Groos victories in his name.
- The Ditz: Groo.
- Doom Magnet: There are a few, a few, people who haven't suffered from being in the same general area as Groo:
- Just about everyone who really suffers from encountering Groo deserves it to some degree, And those few people who look beyond Groo's faults and show true heart and/or kindness are generally better off for having met him.. even if it's generally by accident.
- Mark Evanier played around with this in a letters column when a reader asked if Groo would ever team up with any Marvel characters. Evanier said that the reason that Groo did not end up meeting Wolverine, for instance is that it would be a very short issue — Panel 1: Groo and Wolverine meet. Panel 2: Groo kills Wolverine. Panels 3-88 are blank. End of story.note
- He once did once help a free a group of slaves by exposing veins of gems by causing a block of rock the were excavating to fall off and shatter. But as the slaves came to thank Groo, he thought that they were chasing him off (again). Groo ran away without ever learning the truth.
- The Drifter
- Early Installment Weirdness: The original Eclipse run through the first few years of Marvel/Epic:
- Groo was certainly dim, but not cartoonishly stupid.
- While many disliked him and many knew of him, he wasn't a univerally hated person nor known to everyone. In fact, he's shown to have a few friends here and there.
- No Rufferto.
- While the series was always comedic, it had a bit of a darker and more mature tone, with graphic, bloody fights and occasional nudity (tho somewhat muted by Sergio's cartoony style).
- While the art is always recognizably Sergio, it hadn't gelled to the more cartoony style universally recognized.
- Easy Amnesia: Taken to its logical extreme in a story where some characters need Groo to keep his memory while others need him to forget. They literally turns Groo's memory on and off by hitting him repeatedly on the head.
- Eat the Dog: Subverted; when Groo first meets Rufferto, Rufferto thinks he's found a caring new master, but what he sees as Groo's affection is really just hunger. Soon afterward Groo thinks he has eaten Rufferto and becomes overwhelmed with guilt. When Rufferto finally shows up alive and well, Groo genuinely become a caring master.
- Elephants' Graveyard: An early comic plays this for laughs, with Groo following a wheezing, doddery old elephant in the hope of a meal, and finding a huge field of elephant bones. Groo is excited at finding tons of ivory, but his celebration is cut short when the dying elephant falls on him.
- The End... Or Is It?: In "The Aranja", Groo and Chakaal are hired to kill a giant spider that is terrorizing a village. Stumbling drunkenly around the spider's cave, Groo notices something he figures is important and tries to tell Chakaal, who is unfortunately too busy to listen. Soon after, Groo has forgotten the whole thing. As the heroes depart at the end of the story, the readers are shown what Groo discovered: The aranja was a female, and it had laid several eggs, which are just starting to hatch.
- Everyone Chasing You: A frequent ending, especially in the Marvel/Epic series.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Sage and The Minstrel.
- Exact Words: In one issue, Groo is hired by a kingdom at war to "guard this bridge" against an invading army. Groo takes up his position before the bridge, and the army approaches slowly, seeing Groo there. They cross the bridge under his watchful eyes unmolested. After the invaders overthrow the kingdom, the fleeing King demands of Groo why he didn't guard the bridge, Groo is confused:
But I did guard the bridge! No one damaged the bridge! No one stole the bridge! No one soiled the bridge! When Groo guards a bridge, Groo guards a bridge!
- Expressive Accessory: The head of the Minstrel's lute changes into a different object in every panel.
- Extreme Omnivore: Groo.
- Even Idiocy Has Standards: Groo is a sell sword through and through, and has no compunctions about theft or killing, but balks at slavery.
- He also refused an order to invade a country because it had no army, and its inhabitants had no swords.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Because Groo causes trouble everywhere he goes, he has to keep wandering.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Arcadio. Whenever Groo manages to somehow get something right, Arcadio is always there to step in and take the credit.
- Fictional Currency: Kopins are the universal currency.
- When Groo travelled to a far off land to escape his reputation he ended being unable to pay for his meal because the local currency were "Varos".
- Flanderization: In the early stories, Groo was just...pretty stupid. He later became so stupid it defies belief, at which point his stupidity also became a central premise of the comic.
- Groo may actually be too dumb to die.
- The Fool: Groo is probably the biggest example of them all. Barely capable of feeding himself, Groo brings bad luck wherever he goes and has a bad habit of decimating whole towns and cities, often as a result of trying to help the local residents. Nearly every comic ends with him being chased by an angry mob while he tries to figure out why.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: One early comic involves Groo being forced to disguise himself as a harem slave to sneak inside a highly guarded palace to steal a ruby, and the woman helping him with the disguise instructs him to move his hips more feminine. Groo states that King Kohon (a former employer of Groo occasionally referenced) used to expel anyone who moved his hips like that from his military.
- There are occasionally topless women. While usually in the background and done in Sergio's cartoony style, it still happened while published by Marvel (albeit under it's creator-owned imprint) and Comics Code approved.
- Hidden Depths: Groo CAN in fact make some pretty decent non-violent plans when properly motivated, or confronted with obstacles even he cant take down by brute force, its just that these plans tend to backfire or bite him in the ass later, so he prefers relying entirerly on his sword skill.
- I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: In one mini-series, Groo became hyper-intelligent, and everyone who knew him was shocked by this. When the witches Arba and Dakarba saw him reason out a solution to a problem, Arba exclaimed, "Groo, you are brilliant!" and then thought, "There is a sentence I never thought I would say."
- Idiot Hero: Really, Groo's picture should be on the page.
- I Resemble That Remark: "What do you mean slow of mind?" said several pages after someone calls says slow of mind (once even to a flashback).
- I Surrender, Suckers: In The Death of Groo, this was King Krag's preferred battle tactic...until Groo mucked it up (by accidentally soiling the white flag).
- The Jester: The Minstrel.
- The Jinx: Groo. Among other things, any ship he's on will sink unless Rufferto is also onboard.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Groo fights with two, one in each hand.
- Lizard Folk: In contrast to a lot of fantasy settings, lizard-folk in Groo aren't inherently evil.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: After 25 years, the number of recurring supporting characters is around 40. Additionally, Sergio's famed backgrounds can have a cast of hundreds per issue.
- Ms. Fanservice: A consequence of Sergio's art style - there tend to be a lot of beautiful maidens in the crowd scenes. Not to mention Dakarba and Chakaal among the recurring characters.
- Never Learned to Read: The 100th issue of the Marvel run is about Groo finally learning to read. Actually played semi-seriously.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Rufferto.
- Evanier once claimed he couldn't give Groo a human sidekick because he'd have to be even stupider than Groo, but a dog would be unquestioningly loyal and wouldn't notice Groo's stupidity anyway.
- Oblivious to His Own Description: Groo, on numerous occasions, especially with synonyms of "stupid".
What did he mean, "slow of mind"?
- Oh, Crap: The usual reaction to Groo...sometimes before he's even done anything.
- Our Dragons Are Different The Dragons in Groo have some combination of the below:
- The dragons in Groo have a Theropod body shape with a frill around the neck.
- They have plates and spikes down the back similar to a Stegosaurus.
- They also have droopy parts of flesh often around the head.
- Dragons in Groo can often breathe fire
- In contrast to the depiction of most western dragons they do not have wings and can't fly even if they do.
- They are mostly green but other colors have been depicted (there doesn't seem to be any difference between them).
- Origins Episode: One story shows Groo early in his life as a warrior, as well as where he got his iconic swords, beginning as a soldier for the warlord Fuchikaka, and, after blowing a major battle singlehandedly in an Establishing Character Moment, is captured by the forces of the cowardly Emperor Sakisama, whom he is a dead ringer for. He is trained to replace Sakisama on the battlefield to make it appear as if the emperor has become a skilled warrior, and is given his swords as part of the deal. By the time the story is over, Groo has not only managed to screw up the assignment, but also caused his entire village to be massacred, and escapes the carnage to begin Walking the Earth.
- Overt Operative: Proof of the "Greater Fool" theory: Groo was once employed as a spy.
Groo (to the people he's spying on): No one must know that I am a spy! Make sure everybody knows that!
- Promoted Fanboy: Gary Grossman, an otherwise mild-mannered accountant from the Pacific Northwest who's obsessive fandomship and collecting of all things Groo led to a friendship with the creators and a permanent volunteer job as Sergio's booth assistant at SDCC, as well as being officially recognized as The World's Number 1 Groo Fan, For Whatever That's Worth (if there's one bigger, Gary would certainly like to meet them!). His collection of Groo reprints, memoribilia, etc is larger than that of Sergio and Mark's as well.
- Psychic Block Defense : Done for laughs in one story, where an evil wizard is attempting to read Groo's mind... and fails spectacularly, because there's nothing to read.
- Rhymes on a Dime: The Minstrel. Sergio apparently dislikes writing dialogue for the character since English is his second language.
- Truthfully, Evanier writes the Minstrel's rhymes, but he does hate it, because it's time consuming to think them all up.
- Running Gag: Lots, often Lampshaded by scribe Mark Evanier.
- The comic even has a running gag that there is only one joke, yes a running gag about a running gag. It's even supposedly caused people not to read the comic because they heard it has only one joke.
- "You take me for the fool that I am!"
- "...as any fool can plainly see." (To which Groo always replies, "I can plainly see that!")
- I am the Prince of Chichester!
- "What pirates?"
- "What do you mean slow of mind?" (Brick Joke after someone calls Groo this, not responded to till the end of the issue and often not until they meet again many issues later)
- Groo getting upset at someone calling him a mendicant, while also not knowing what it means (until he learned to read...then he forgot again).
- Groo not remembering if he was mad at Taranto or not.
- No matter what, if Ajax is captaining a ship, Groo will eventually sink it...even if he's not aboard.
- Groo's love of cheese dip.
- Any cartoon depicting the creators always has Sergio's English much worse than it actually is (Rule of Funny), Mark heavier than he actually was (though that stopped being an exaggeration after a while... Mark since has trimmed down), and Tom Luth being overwhelmed and stressed trying to color in all of Serigio's ridiculously detailed backgrounds. The letterer Stan Sakai seems to get off the hook (other than being the basis for Scribe to Mark's Weaver in the comic).
- For a while, calling every issue #1 in the opening creator's comic by Sergio (during the great comic book speculation of the 90s).
- The letter's pages themselves, which took on a life of their own of people writing in silly, bizarre letters and Mark's snarky answers to them.
- Before they went bizarro, asking the same questions over and over to get different responses out of Mark (besides What Mulch Means, which always got the same standard answer):
- What was the blue thing on Groo's chest (popular answer was a videotape Groo kept meaning to return; later, Mark revealed the true tragedy of it; it was a Beta. In reality it's just a decorative buckle).
- What was Sage's dog's name (finally revealed to be Mulch, a tie in with the gag of the same name)
- Why does The Minsterel's lute head change panel to panel (getting tired of this one, Mark gave an eloquent speech on That's Just How Things Are In Comics Sometimes)
- Who Kim Yeoman was (a fan wrote a letter in that took on a life of its own and she took years writing back after repeated requests from Mark...she finally wrote back and these days she's a member of the About As Official As It Gets Groo Mailing List (The Groop)).
- What Mark's actual job on the comic was (he is the co-plotter/scripter, but that's not as funny as the titles he gave himself on the mastheads).
- Until the modern Dark Horse era mini-series' (where he's often credited properly, although they will still stick in the occasional mast head joke), the only time he received a true (and sole) writing credit in the masthead was for the issue where Rufferto became human.
- Mark lamenting that Sergio keeps forgetting to pay him (for whatever it is he does), or Sergio joking "I'll even pay you this time!" along the same lines.
- Groo not only sinks ships, but comic book companies (Eclipse folded after 12 issues of Groo, they moved to another company and did one special for them and then folded soon after, at which point they jumped to Marvel's Epic imprint, which folded during its still impressive 112 issue run, with Groo being Marvel's last creator-owned comic before jumping to Image, which technically still exists, but began splintering greatly during the Groo's time there. Dark Horse so far is still standing).
- Schmuck Bait: Groo himself is seemingly irresistible Schmuck Bait for anyone who needs a dupe for their cunning plan: it almost always ends up back-firing. Except when the manipulating character counted on it backfiring - for instance, taking out a loan to buy a massive insurance policy on a ship and then inviting Groo aboard will result in the vessel not sinking - with catastrophic results for the would-be insurance fraud.
- Another example: Drumm cannot resist calling Groo a mendicant despite being beaten up for it every time.
- Shrouded in Myth: In one story, the tyrant Pipil Khan keeps hearing stories about all of the battles Groo has won and the carnage he has caused, and imagines that Groo must be a huge, fierce warrior with demonic powers. Then the real Groo finally shows up — a rather short, scruffy, plump guy with a broken nose and stick legs — and Pipil Khan dies from shock.
- Suspect Is Hatless: In one issue, Groo asks a passerby whether he has seen the man who was standing next to where Groo was standing a while back.
- Thud and Blunder: The genre the whole comic parodies.
- Too Dumb to Fool: Some people have tried to con Groo, only to find that he's too stupid to follow their reasoning.
- Torture First, Ask Questions Later: Groo is very good at slaying, not so good at questioning.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: Done darkly in an early comic. Groo trains a peaceful village to fight against a horde of bandits. In the process, the village and all its crops are destroyed. Having no other way to make a living now, the villagers and the bandits unite into a giant bandit army that overruns nearby cities.
- The Uriah Gambit: Those who encounter Groo keep sending the titular character against impossible odds with little support both to get rid of Groo and sometimes serve as a distraction (This includes his family and "friends"). But since he's a One-Man Army and has the element of surprise (since no one would be stupid enough to attack, except Groo) he succeeds with the unintended consequences on those who sent him.
- Walking Disaster Area
- Walking the Earth: Because Groo causes trouble everywhere he goes, he has to keep wandering.
- What, Exactly, Is His Job?: A running gag is what, exactly, does Mark Evanier do (besides answer the letters page). Even his job description on the masthead changes every issue to something silly or bizarre. In reality, he is essentially the comic's co-plotter and script writer/editor.
- The World Mocks Your Loss: When Groo thought his dog Rufferto was dead and that Groo had eaten him he kept seeing objects that reminded him of Rufferto's coloring.
- Write Who You Know:
- Groo's faithful dog Rufferto is based on... Sergio Aragonès' faithful dog Rufferto. The "real" Rufferto occasionally appears in Sergio's autobiographical cartoons, and is drawn exactly like Groo's dog.
- In these autobiographical cartoons, Sergio's wife Charlene is drawn exactly like Chakaal.
- The characters of Weaver and Scribe are based on Mark Evanier and letterer Stan Sakai, respectively.
"What do you mean, 'slow of mind'?"