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More Books That Will Groo on You

(This  Stripped column originally appeared in the January 8-14, 1998, Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)

by Beth Hannan Rimmels

This is a happy new year after all: Sergio Aragonés’ Groo returns after another lapse in publishing. Groo, a dumb-as-a-rock barbarian, has been around since the 1980s when it was published by the much-missed imprint, Marvel Epic (a creator-owned line that carried practically every genre except superheroes). After Marvel Epic’s demise, Groo ended up at Image for a time and then disappeared again. In July 1997, Dark Horse began publishing Sergio Aragonés’ Louder Than Words, a black-and-white, text-free comic book that was praised by both readers and critics. That deal, in turn, led to the revival of Groo with the creative team of Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo) and Tom Luth still in place. Any fan of Aragonés’ work from Mad magazine would probably enjoy Groo’s off-the-wall, satirical adventures that often point out the perils of being clueless. Groo’s problems rarely come from his lack of intelligence or education, but rather the fact that he pays little attention to what’s going on in the world — an flaw in many of us. Groo returns to stores January 28.

Fantagraphics will release Your Vigor For Life Appalls Me, a collection of personal correspondence by Robert Crumb. The letters span the period from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, the formative years of his early adolescence to the fame of adulthood. Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth says, "These letters chronicle Crumb’s interests, his obsessions, and his intellectual and artistic evolution from an early age, and as such, provide unparalleled insight into how Crumb became the artist he is."

The collection is sure to provide insight into Crumb’s work as an underground comics creator and icon. The earliest of the letters explain what artists he admired and why, how they influenced his own work and his obsessions with comics, music and women. Edited by Gary Groth and Ilse Thompson, the team behind The Complete Crumb Comics, the new collection is carefully annotated and includes the never-before-seen sketches that Crumb doodled into his letters. Your Vigor For Life Appalls Me will arrive in stores this March and retail for $14.95.

Those enraptured by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ illustrated tale (it is not a comic book with word balloons) Stardust should know that the last chapter has been pushed back slightly from a Feb. 4 to a Feb. 25 release date. The price has also gone up to $6.95 because 64 rather than 48 pages were need to complete the story.

Gaiman explains that, "The story, as I believe J.R.R. Tolkien said of his book, grew in the telling–not to Lord of the Rings length, thank heavens, or else Book 4 would have been about 1,000 pages long. But once Stardust was finished, it became increasingly apparent that the only way that Book 4 would be the 48 pages we had told everyone it would be was by either a) losing all the illustrations or b) losing a chapter of the prose. None of us was very keen on the ‘lose all the pictures’ option, while the thing that makes Book 4 so much fun is that all the tangled and unresolvable threads of the plot come together like, well, I hope like magic. It's just that there were rather a lot of threads, and they took longer to knit than we expected."

The only reason why Stardust, a charming tale about a Victorian-era English town built against the wall between the mundane world and the faerie realm and one young man who is the product of both, failed to make my holiday gift suggestion list was because only two issues of the four-part story was in stores at the time. It’s just not fair to give someone half a story, particularly if you’re trying to get them hooked on comics. However, I can pretty much guarantee that the hardcover compilation of the story will make next year’s list. It’s tentatively scheduled for an October 1998 release. No price has been set yet.


Column © 1998 Long Island Voice. Artwork © 1998 Fantagraphics.