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Hibbs and the Read Comics All Day Day

Brian Hibbs

See, for me, EVERY day is “read comics all day” day!

I actually have two modes of reading comics, however, and this is kind of the “working in a candy store” problem — most of the times I read comics, it is sadly “professionally” reading them. It’s part of my job and function to have a general handle on what’s going on in comics, so I like HAVE to read them. I order to properly ORDER and SELL comics, I feel like I have to read a lot of stuff that, really, I’d rather not read. I need to read, say, every other issue at least of virtually every “mainstream” comic so I know what they are and where they’re going.

(More after the jump!)

Every week there are comics that I WANT to read, of course, but because of the way they arrive in the store (that is: all at once), I usually either intersperse or leave for last the comics I WANT to read (say, DETECTIVE or BATMAN & ROBIN or KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE) inbetween all of the stuff I’m much less enthusiastic about (Say, most DARK REIGN: COLON or FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: COLON titles) because otherwise I can’t bring myself to read the less-desirable stuff.

And this means that I probably don’t get as much out of the stuff I DO like, y’see?

It’s all “professional” at that point.

The second mode of reading is when I’m at home, and I’m just reading for pleasure. Nine times out of ten that therefore becomes REreading for pleasure, if you follow?

Because of having a small son (Six Years Old tomorrow, YAY!), my “me time” is more and more limited — I’ve just come downstairs after reading to him, and it’s like 9 PM, yeesh, and I’ve got maybe 3 hours to “me” tonight before I have to fall asleep again. So a lot of my “pleasure” reading is in the “inbetween moments” — in the bathroom, maybe, or taking a comic with me when I go out to sneak a smoke — little 10 and 15 minute breaks and that’s all I’ve got.

Which brings us to the topic of this column — this week, in taking my breaks, and sneaking my sneaks, I’ve been rereading Sergio Aragones’ GROO THE WANDERER.

These are PERFECT “break” comics — they usually are fast reads, but they absolutely encourage you to linger in particular panels. Can you spot the hidden message? What has The Minstrel’s top-of-his-lute characters metamorphosised into this time? What’s the funniest background gag Aragones has snuck in? And so on.

This week I’ve been reading through the Dark Horse collections, most specifically from THE GROO HOUNDBOOK to THE GROO NURSERY, or that is to say from v8 to v14, if my fingers are counting correctly. Which further makes between issues #32 and 56.

This is a great period for the book: Groo is given a permanent partner in Ruferto, his faithful dog, which added a ton of storytelling possibilities; and a huge chunk of the recurring humor is established in these issues (most notably the “I Am The Prince of Chichester” gag) — you can tell that Aragones’ (and Evanier and Luth and Sakai) are all having a ball, and are really hitting their stride as a finely oiled team.

What I like the most about GROO in this incarnation is that most of the stories are completely self-contained in terms of introduction and execution of plot — everything you need to know is always explicitly laid out for you, naturally, in the course of the story, and they all come to a nice moral point at the end. Even if they’re multi-part stories — each chapter comes to its own, separate conclusion. In short, in reading each issue, you really feel like you got an issue’s worth.

That’s a great feeling, especially compared to today’s comics.

Seriously, these guys are master of both compacting the content so that you really feel like you got a full experience, as well as streamlining it so there’s seldom anything extraneous or wasted. These are absolutely dead-on perfect 22 page entertainment packages, and there’s not a creator alive who probably couldn’t benefit from reading a few issues of GROO and paying attention to the Lean Density on display. This is really masterclass stuff, even if it is just silly comics about a stupid barbarian.

(As a further aside, I read these in BACKWARDS publication order — from N to H — and they read perfectly well that way.)

Ben is really starting to read now, so I have to keep a certain amount of prudence in what I leave lying where now — not so much with GROO. Those I left right out where he’d spot them too, and he’s been happily immersed in them. This is what makes it an even better comic — it is absolutely entertaining for both kids AND adults. (While it is a crazy-over-the-top violent comic, it is of a level of LOONEY TUNES violence, which I think personally is just fine for kidlets)

I’m less enthralled with the last 3-4 mini-series of GROO because they, it seemed to me, were more about the message of the story, being structured as 4-part stories, then about here’s-an-awesome-22-pages-kiddo. Most of the GROO THE WANDERER collections are out-of-print (and either way, I think they only ran to just a hair past the halfway point) but Evanier has said on his great blog there will be omnibuses coming from Dark Horse later this year. Hopefully the color ones that DH does, but maybe not in that smaller trim size because GROO is not a book that will be served by shrinking it. I’d be just as happy with B&W “ESSENTIAL-style” newsprint ones, really — more issues at a time that way, too. It would be about 11 volumes in the color format, and something more like 7 in the ESSENTIAL format…

Anyway, I hope this period comes back into print soon, as it really is EXCELLENT.

As always, what did YOU think?



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