As he's able to express himself with three words, Groot may not be the most eloquent of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but what the massive dendriform being lacks in vocabulary, he more than makes up for in sheer might.
What happens though when a tiny and more vulnerable version of Groot suddenly finds himself alone and stranded on an alien world? How will he survive, who will he meet, and how will the planet's strange inhabitants of this planet? These are some of the questions that will fuel writer Christopher Hastings and artist Flaviano Armentaro's May-launching “I Am Groot” series from Marvel Comics. CBR spoke with Hastings about writing Groot and his limited vocabulary, designing a mysterious new world for his protagonist to explore, and some of the aliens the tiny Groot will initially encounter.
CBR: Your most recent Marvel work involves characters who talk a lot, like Gwenpool, or are particularly silver-tongued, like Loki. What's it like moving to Groot, a character who's vocabulary is... somewhat limited?
Christopher Hastings: [Laughs] That's a connection I hadn't made! I do write 'em chatty, don't I?
The communication issue is at the cornerstone for all decisions I've made on this book. It drives the whole thing in one way or another. We can show Groot expressing simple emotions, desires or reactions, and there is quite a bit of fun visual storytelling we can do with him. But I'd be foolish to try and bend Groot's lack of vocabulary around say... a story about his complicated political beliefs.
In a lot of ways, this is going back to my core storytelling principals. I was a Cartooning student years ago at the School of Visual Arts, and our first year, we were forbidden from making comics with words in them. It forced you to figure out how to tell your story with pure visuals. So I'm dusting off a lot of those old tricks. Thankfully we've got Flaviano on this, and he's totally got the chops to make this work.
In this series your title character is not only separated from his teammates in the Guardians of the Galaxy he's also stuck in a diminutive form. What sort of story opportunities does that present for you?
I mean, he's cute as hell. That's definitely fun. There's a lot of humor to his kind of foolish impulsiveness.
I think I'd be telling a much different story if this were a Groot who could just stomp and thrash his way through problems. His vulnerability at this size, his diminished abilities, these are things that helped me determine the type of story that will make them an issue.
What can you tell us about the world Groot finds himself trapped on? What What sort of beings call it home? Is this a place of all-new characters and concepts? Or might we see some familiar Marvel cosmic faces and alien races?
This is a totally new world, totally new characters. The beings that live there are sort of leftovers from a better time on this planet. They've lost its history. They don't know why their ancestors lived there, and they don't fully understand the other relics left behind.
Groot may not be able to say a lot of words, but he's a pretty charismatic and likable guy. Will he find new friends and allies on this world he finds himself stranded on?
His first ally is basically a dog's head on a weird robot body, an old timer who knows a little bit about the place Groot's stuck on. I basically asked Flaviano for someone that would look weird and disturbing, but also kind of trustworthy? Nothing says trustworthy to me like a dog face.
How will Groot's quest to get home manifest in terms of plot? And what teases can you offer up about some of the initial obstacles and adversaries he'll have to overcome to get home?
Most of the problems Groot runs into are perversions of old technology. Stuff that once was meant to comfort is now terrifying. They're all bits and pieces of the larger mystery of the world.
What's it like designing this story, this world, and it's inhabitants with artist Flaviano Armentaro? What do you enjoy most about his style?
Oh, he's leaned hard into the weird and kind of psychedelic design of the strangeness of the planet. And then he has this wonderfully charming and expressive Groot that keeps things fun in the midst of it.
The first issue sort of establishes the little Groot character, within his relationship to the Guardians, but as soon as we get away from them, this is more of a classic fantasy story that's about a child who is lost and must navigate a strange and scary place to get back home. Tonally, my biggest influences were “Majora's Mask,” “Labyrinth,” and “Return to Oz.”