When comics fans finally settle between themselves whether Superman or The Flash would win a footrace and whether Hawkeye or Bullseye is the better shot, a greater question will still remain: who would win in a collision between Groo The Wanderer and Conan The Barbarian?
As revealed at WonderCon in San Francisco on Saturday, that question will be addressed – though may go unresolved – in an upcoming Dark Horse release by Groo’s creators Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier.
“It’s an absurd thing,” Aragones said at WonderCon’s “Sergio and Mark Show” panel. “They asked us to do it and I said, I don’t think so, it won’t work because one is humorous, and one… well, it’s humorous without wanting to be.”
Though the project ultimately had enough allure that the creators agreed to take it on, Aragones said he remained puzzled by how to please fans of both characters. “I thought, the problem is, you cannot have Groo win and you cannot have Conan win,” Aragones said. “But then we saw a Japanese film, a movie called ‘Rashomon,’ and I thought of a perfect solution.”
News of the series contributed to a buzz that drew long lines to see “The Sergio and Mark Show” panel, a comics convention tradition that crowded its meeting room to overflowing.
The long-rumored Groo movie “is off at the moment,” Evanier said. “We had some nice offers, but we’ve said, ‘No, no, we’ve got to do it our way.’ In Hollywood, you see a lot of deals get to about 98 percent done, and the last two percent is murder. That’s where we’ve been.”
“Oh, that reminds me,” Aragones interrupted, speaking to Evanier. “We have an offer from Spain we need to talk about.”
Aragones later said he would not want to authorize a Groo television series because the violence would not come across the way it does in the comics.
Aragones has had an “insane” work schedule the last few years, he said. “Mad Magazine” – for which he’s been working for more than 47 years – became a quarterly publication. “You go from 12 checks to four checks, it’s a big change,” he said. “The biggest change, though, was to my routine. I’m used to getting up and working and thinking of ideas for the magazine. So all of a sudden I had this vacuum of thinking and the people who’d been asking me, ‘Sergio, you should do this project, or that project,’ I just said yes to everybody. Suddenly I had more work than I could physically handle. And then ‘Mad’ goes bi-monthly.”
“‘Mad’ has been very funny lately,” Evanier chimed in. “Print media’s in a lot of trouble these days, and they’re doing what they can to make it work. I think they’re being very clever with a lot of it.”
Aragones’ work for the magazine will be spotlighted in an upcoming volume of “Mad’s Greatest Artists” hardcover books, Aragones said, with an introduction written by “Mutts” creator Patrick McDonnell.
After teasing Aragones for his pronunciation of “collaborative” – Aragones emphasizes the third syllable rather than the second – Evanier recalled that on a trip to Mexico, Aragones was accompanied by a translator organizers hired. “They didn’t know he’s fluent in English and like 10 other languages,” Evanier said. “But Sergio didn’t want to cost the guy the job, so he only spoke Spanish the whole trip.”
The panel closed with the pair discussing their days producing “The Half-Hour Comedy Hour” television show for NBC — in particular, a day when actress and model Jayne Kennedy made a surprise guest appearance. “This was one of the most beautiful women in the world,” Evanier said. “And she wore this dress that was very revealing, so much so the censors wouldn’t let us put her on the air in it without adding some material. So we’re all talking to her, the writers and whoever, just in awe of this woman. And Sergio comes walking in looking like a homeless person, carrying his portfolio. And Jayne sees him and she shouts, ‘Sergio!’ and she runs over and starts kissing him passionately.
“They’d worked together before, it turned out,” Evanier continued. “But Johnny Carson comes walking out into the hallway and he thinks Jayne Kennedy is being sexually assaulted by a homeless person in the NBC hallways. He came over to make sure she was okay. She said it was fine, that she knew him, and I said, ‘It’s okay, he’s a cartoonist.’
“So Johnny gives that classic look and he says, ‘I knew I should have taken up drawing.'”