Where Monsters Dwell? Why, one of them dwells within today's entry. Join me as I talk about one of the greatest comic book monsters of all time, and share his entire first appearance with you! (I'll stop the archive and melt with you...)
Groot here stands as one of my favorite examples of classic Marvel monsters. For a long stretch there, between the Golden and Silver Ages, other genres ruled the pages of our favorite comics. There were war books and romance books and sci-fi books and, of course, the monster books. And boy, they had a mysterious charm. Stan Lee or whoever was writing that particular issue would come up with some random syllable or two that would serve as a monster's name, and then one of the artists would draw up a crazy creature.
One of those creatures was Groot, the alien tree monster of doom who first appeared in Tales to Astonish #13, written by either Stan or his brother Larry and drawn by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. It followed the standard monster comic formula, where a strange beast would show up and wreak havoc before the humans managed to take him down, but it's a classic story with a really fun ending. I will now present it to you in its entirety, scanned from the reprint in Where Monsters Dwell #6. Click to enlarge!
Hahaha! I love the manner in which Groot is dispatched. Kitschy and clever, it's easily my favorite old-timey monster story.
And yeah, the whole story was just seven pages. Seven pages! It's a super-compressed science-horror B-movie on paper. They were pumping these things out all the time. That's awe-inspiring. I miss kooky comics like this.
Someone must've remembered Groot fondly, because he showed up years later to battle the Hulk. That wouldn't be the last we'd see of him either, because he's made numerous appearances and cameos throughout the years. Keith Giffen seems to have taken a liking to him, because he's used Groot in both his recent Howling Commandos mini and his current Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord mini, where Groot is teamed up with Rocket Raccoon! I can't wait to see what other lovely madness arises out of this mini. I love it when the classic Marvel monsters are brought back to meet the superheroes who replaced them. It's neat stuff.
What can we learn from Groot? Well, we can find out that there's still life left in those brilliantly wacky old monster comics, and that there's hope for any of those weirdos to appear yet-- from Moomba and Goom to Gorgilla and Gomdulla the Living Pharaoh. Boy, they sure loved the letters G and O.
For more on Groot, hit up the Marvel Appendix and the Monster Blog. The comments of the latter reveal that Beat poet Gregory Corso, pal of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, namedropped Groot in a few of his poems!
Addendum: I really wish Marvel would put out a bunch of trades of their old monster and sci-fi stories.