Aragones Dips Groo into Conan's Cimmeria

Since being teased at WonderCon in 2007, legions of Groo the Wanderer fans have been anxiously awaiting his sure-to-be-epic crossover from Dark Horse Comics with Conan the Barbarian. While a sneak preview was posted on artist Thomas Yeates' website a few months back, Groo creator Sergio Aragones, the man behind the character himself, told the assembled at Emerald City Comicon in March that the first two issues have been completed and the four-issue series will likely launch at this summer's Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Speaking in depth about the series for the first-time, Aragones has shared exclusive story details with Comic Book Resources, discussing the process of collaborating with Yeates on art while revealing news about what's next for the Wanderer who loves cheese dip in a 12-issue maxi-series from Dark Horse Comics called, "Friends & Foes," which will celebrate the upcoming thirtieth anniversary of Groo the Wanderer's first appearance in "Destroyer Duck" #1. "Friends & Foes" will focus on the many supporting characters introduced by Aragones, co-writer Mark Evanier, letterer Stan Sakai and colorist Tom Luth over the last three decades, including Chakaal, The Sage, Taranto and more.

In "Sergio Aragones' Groo vs. Conan," the two brutish barbarians face off after Aragones -- himself a character in the tale -- is hit in the head while trying to stop the destruction of a comic book store. On the printed page, Aragones teams up with Yeates as the two artists draw their respective characters with Aragones providing final details to ensure the linework (and worlds) blend seamlessly into one shared universe.

Aragones also discussed the long-rumored Groo movie, his work on the "MAD" TV series and a new, upcoming comic book series from Bongo called "Sergio Aragones' Funnies."

CBR News: Even when you're not working on a Groo project, is the Wanderer always there with you?

Sergio Aragones: Yes. It's one of those jobs that you work 24 hours a day at it. Not only am I thinking of Groo, I'm thinking about "MAD," I'm thinking jokes, so the day is divided into two parts. The thinking, and the drawing. So, yes, always. [Laughs]

Groo is part of my life. I'm always trying to think of ideas for new stories. Also, the normal mind of a cartoonist is sitting there and thinking up jokes, whether it's for Groo or "MAD" or the new comic that I have coming from Bongo called "Sergio Aragones' Funnies." It's always thinking, thinking, thinking, but yes, Groo is always there.

In this latest adventure, Groo faces off against arguably the greatest and most famous barbarian of them all: Conan the Cimmerian. How did this project come about?

The idea came from [Dark Horse President] Mike Richardson. He has the license to do Conan and we publish "Groo" with them. He said, "We'd love a crossover," which was not exactly what I would like to do because I've never been very keen of crossovers. I love the characters, each one, to belong to their own world. Mark [Evanier] and I have done the comics, "Sergio Aragones Destroys DC," "Sergio Aragones Massacres Marvel" and "Sergio Aragones Stomps Star Wars" because we included ourselves in the comic. That doesn't the break the continuity of the individual universes.

But we said, "They both are barbarians, so let us think about it." Once we had a good, good story, we said, "OK." We found a bridge and it became a very funny story.

When I think of Conan the Barbarian, I don't think of funny books. Do we get to see a lighter side of Conan in this story?

Not really. He's still Conan! [Laughs]

Because of something that happens to me inside the comic while I'm trying to defend a comic book shop that is going to be torn down, I get beat up on the head and, of course, I start fantasizing about the whole thing and that's funny. I think that I'm Conan. But then I go into the fantasy and the real Conan is there, drawn by Thomas Yeates. Thomas is an excellent artist who draws Zorro and does an enormous amount of wonderful work. He draws a very serious Conan.

The people of Groo's world are trying to hire the real Conan to defend them against Groo. So we have this mix of styles, which in the beginning, I thought was going to be a little strange, but it just works wonderfully. I was so surprised to see both drawings together. "My God, it works."

How does it work, physically crafting the pages?

Well, first we come with a plot. Then Mark writes the story based on plot that we have worked on together. Then what I do is I pencil, very light, the whole story, the dialogue gets added and then the parts that Conan are going to be in, those pages are sent to Tom and he inks Conan in it. Then I start the Groo part and try to match the drawings together. There are little lines that have to be retouched so it looks like the characters are in the same place. It goes back and forth. Back and forth.

When did this process begin?

Oh my... from conception, it's been more than five years. But once the concept and story was solved, I was able to start working on a page a day. We have the covers done, and because the lettering is going to be done with computers, each font belongs to each of the characters, so it's a great amount of work that has to be done. I am working right now on the third issue. Very soon, I'm bringing it to Mark for him to start adding the dialogue.

What else can you tell us about the story?

It's going to be more along the line, as I said before, of "Sergio Aragones Destroys DC," "Sergio Aragones Massacres Marvel" or "Sergio Aragones Stomps Star Wars." We are incorporated in the story and in both worlds, in the real world that is also supposed to be in the comic book and in my fantasy, these two characters, Conan and Groo, are mixed in it. Both universes are encountering a very parallel problem. In the Groo/Conan world, there is something that is going to be destroyed. And in the world that we are in, the comic book shop is going to be destroyed.

Is it safe to assume Conan was an early inspiration for Groo?

Sergio Aragones: Yes, I always was a fan of Robert Howard, the master of sword and fantasy. It has big, big guys defending all that is right, and when I created Groo, he was to be a character from that type of world. He was not going to be a satire of Conan, in no way whatsoever. He's just a humorous barbarian who was inspired by Conan. But he's not a related to the Conan character because he has none of the characteristics of Conan. Conan is a man that thinks about the things that are important in his life. Groo doesn't. Groo is a simple character, but he lives in world where there are witches, dragons and damsels. It's just the general idea that's the same.

It's like Tarzan and Sheena. They are not related, [but] they live both live in the jungle. It's like Sgt. Rock is not related to the Blackhawks. But of course, if Howard had not created Conan, there probably would have never been a Groo.

You mentioned that this adventure doesn't affect the future of Groo, but what is that future? Do you have more stories planned?

Oh yes, of course. We are planning a series of stories called "Friends and Foes." It will be a whole series of 12 issues dealing with each of the major characters that have been in Groo. So one will be about The Sage and one will be about Taranto. And there is another about Chakaal.

When you create a character, in the beginning, you have to come with the stories. But once that character is established, like Tintin or Asterix or any other character, they write themselves. It's like "The Simpsons." People say they are going to run out of stories. How can you run out of stories of a created universe like Matt [Groening] has done? When he created it, there was just the family Simpsons. And then suddenly, they are in this world where they have a guy who has a store, a police chief, a mayor, and it keeps growing up but all belonging to each other. So they can never run out of stories. Never. Because now they have all of these characters that are very close to each other story-wise, and they are very well connected, so that the stories almost write themselves. The only thing you have to choose is who you are going to write about today. "So let's write about Ralph Wiggum today." There are infinite stories. Forever.

With all the comic book adaptations hitting the big screen over the past several years and so many more on the way, why haven't we seen a Groo movie?

One day a smart producer is going to say, "This is what we want to do." [Laughs] "He's a funny character. Let's do it." It would be different from anything else anybody has ever done.

It's actually been in the process for a long time. It's been there. People have tried to buy it. Some of them have wanted to exclude me of the project and others haven't agreed on the economic-side. It's mostly to the lawyers and accountants to decide. But, oh yeah, it will be there.

In the meantime, you are working in television for the series, "MAD."

It's fun seeing your little characters moving. I just had a book signing in the museum here in California in the town I live, Ojai, and there were a lot of very young kids. I wanted to see if they knew about the "MAD" show. All of them watch it. The parents said, "The children are just waiting for the show." It's very, very popular with a younger age of viewers. It's amazing.

Before we let you go, I want to talk about your new project coming from Bongo Comics.

Yes, it's called "Sergio Aragones' Funnies." It's a monthly and the first issue will be printed and ready for San Diego [Comic-Con]. It's something I've always wanted to do. Do you remember the series DC Comics published called "Solo?" Well, everybody came to me and said, "Oh, we would love to see some more stories about you when you were younger and you were doing stuff." So, the stories in the book are going to be cartoons, gags and one-page jokes, They are things that happened to me, so they are autobiographical stories. There are funny, humorous stories about King Kong, about science fiction, about everything. They are stories narrated by me, just like me telling you what I did through my 50 years of work. Oh, and it will be in color and black & white.

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