And how about that airline food, am I right?

§ January 30th, 2012 § Filed under collecting, grendel § 17 Comments

So since I’m sure you were wondering, I finally checked at the shop for those Grendel issues I skipped all those years ago, and it turned out we had them all save one. AUGH. …That’s okay, since the one we’re missing is easily obtainable on the eBay for next-to-nothing Buy It Now prices and usurious shipping costs, so I’ll get around to picking it up eventually.

I did finishing rereading the Christine Spar Grendel run (issues #1-#12 of the second Comico series, 1986-7), and…man, I’d forgotten about how crazy the Pander Brothers art was on this series. Well, okay, I actually hadn’t forgotten, but I was certain my memory of it was exaggerating just how out there it was, but nope, I was remembering it just about right. …That’s not a criticism of the art, by the way…it did take a little getting used to, and it is a bit on the wild side, but it would be hard to imagine this series drawn any other way.

I’m sure that’s just because I’ve had 25 years to let these comics swirl around in my head since I first read the things, but I do adore the look of these comics. It’s…well, it’s hard to explain, and I hope you folks understand what I’m getting at here, but in a strange way the art is both sort of dated and cutting edge at the same time. It has this retro “we have seen the future, and it is mid-’80s MTV videos for New Wave bands” look, while maintaining a level of fast-paced and occasionally shocking storytelling that compares favorably, if not surpasses, most superhero comic work on the shelves now.

Plus, those guys sure did like their big jackets:

Reader Tom commented on the “misplaced futurity” of this initial storyline, with the floating phones and flying cars and such. (It did get flatscreen TVs right, though, but that’s pretty much a gimme as far as tech predictions go…I mean, the viewscreen on Star Trek was pretty much a giant flatscreen.) It had me thinking about the exact timeframe for the story, which is mostly pinned on Spar’s comment in the first issue that television interviewer/personality Phil Donahue is “70, at least. More?” Since Donahue is 76 now, that puts the time of the story at about…well, today, or maybe within the last few years. Probably after 2004, as one of the supporting characters has a “FRANCE 2004” poster on his wall.

So yeah, flying cars aren’t commonplace in the real world, so Grendel‘s usefulness as an accurate indicator of social / technological development is pretty much nil. Sorry, gang! But seriously, would you want a world with flying cars? I’ve seen how people drive on the road, man…I wouldn’t want ’em in the skies.

Another thing that slipped my mind until I pulled these comics out for the Great 2012 Grendel Rereading Project was the fact that most issues of this particular series had wraparound covers. You can see the fronts of them here, but aside from this smallish scan of a later non-Pander issue, there doesn’t seem to be an online source showing the full covers. If there is one, someone out there let me know so I can point folks to those swell full images of the Pander Brothers’ work on the first twelve covers. (The rest are pretty good, too.)

image from Grendel #5 (February 1987) by Matt Wagner, the Pander Brothers & Jay Geldhof

17 Responses to “And how about that airline food, am I right?”

  • Greg Burgas says:

    Mike: When I wrote about Grendel lo those many years ago, I scanned all the double-page covers. The link is here. They aren’t huge, but you can see them pretty well.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    That certainly brings back memories. I loved the Pander Brothers work on Grendel but I can’t help recalling the very dark and disturbing series they did for Darkhorse called Exquisite Corpse. Brrrr.

    Oh, and new favorite adjective: usurious

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    i believe all the Comico comics from this time period had those 1 and 2/3 wraparound covers – it really set them apart – they had a very distinctive trade dress.

    Plus, they also had newsstand distribution. I bought my first issue of Grendel from a local newsstand, along with a Saga of the Swamp Thing and Blue Devil. I had stopped buying comics for a while when I first hit college and didn’t have time or money. But I kept up my subscription to a couple fanzines (including the TCJ). I was at least 100 miles from the nearest comicshop, so mailorder was my only option for the new indie comics (god love you Bud Plant and happy retirement). So imagine my surprise to see a Comico book on the newsstand, and it’s got this crazy art style to boot!

    Needless to say, the newsstand distribution didn’t work any better for Comico than it did for any other indie publisher throughout the 80s – in fact, it ended up killing most of them who tried – they just couldn’t adapt to the whole returnable element.

  • Rich Handley says:

    Wow, she has the shoulders of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • chan says:

    This was one of the first non-Marvel things I ever picked up. It was pretty mind-blowing for me at 14.

    As for flying phones- iPhone 5!

  • Sir A1! says:

    The main things I remember from this is the cool blade-runner-type gun one of the detective characters had and when Spar’s black gal pal went into a disguise, some cops trailing her said words to the effect of “She’s dressing like it’s 1985!”

  • Andres says:

    Huge jacket or very small head?

  • Noah says:

    I’ve always had trouble reading Grendel. Not because it’s bad, but because I can’t for the life of me understand what is happening. I’ve got this giant case of grendel comics I picked up off eBay and reading even with a suggested reading order, I just don’t get it.

    Grendel is some sort of hitman or something and then there’s this wolf and then he maybe dies but also fights Batman and then there’s someone else that’s maybe his daughter, or granddaughter through rape that does the same thing maybe? And then he’s running around in a hover bike playing Jedi with a lightsaber and robe in the far future?

    I just don’t know what’s going on. There’s nothing for me to grab onto and the train’s already leaving the station when I get there. I don’t think I’m an idiot. I think, after 20 some years I should know how to read a comic book, I’ve had lots of practice at it… But… Man this is just me at a loss here .

  • Tom Wu says:

    My copy of Devil’s Legacy, the Comico trade, also had the best smell. I don’t usually judge comics by their odour but man it smelled good. I’ll dig it out and report back.

  • SF says:


    Maybe the suggested reading order you had wasn’t too good? I started with the later stuff and worked my way back, and it always made sense to me.

    (Spoilers, I guess)
    There’s Hunter Rose, the first Grendel. He dies eventually.

    The Batman stuff is kind of a continuity insert, sort of, squeezed into his initial story (as are all the Hunter Rose stories done after the original story).

    Hunter Rose does fight a cursed Native American werewolf named Argent over the course of his career. It’s kind of an inversion of the Batman/Joker relationship, with Grendel as the villain and Argent, the Wolf, as the sort of good guy.

    Then, some years later, Christine Spar, Hunter Rose’s granddaughter (pictured above) takes up the mantle for various reasons.

    Then her boyfriend, Brian Li Sung, (I think it was her boyfriend) takes it over for a bit.

    Then a cop involved with the adventures of Spar and Sung, writes some novels involving Hunter Rose as Grendel.

    Then it turns out that Grendel itself is kind of an infectious concept/spirit, which can infect other people. And it gradually initiates an apocalypse, then take over the world the rebuilds afterwards, along the way making use of a madman named Eppy Thatcher and then Orion Assante, who eventually conquers and unites the planet as Grendel Khan. That’s the end of the original Comico series.

    Then the next mini jumps forward a bit, Orion Assante is dead, people everywhere style themselves Grendels, Assante’s government has become corrupt, and a specially modified cyborg warrior is given the mantle of Grendel, and is called Grendel Prime. Grendel Prime takes Assante’s heir into hiding, and then helps in a rebellion to put Assante’s heir back on the throne. Grendel Prime is the one with the light sabre on the hover bike.

    Grendel Prime later travels back in time to retrieve the bones of Hunter Rose, and fights Batman (the second Batman/Grendel series).

    And there’s various mini-series dealing with life around the planet after Assante’s heir has retaken the throne.

    Everything after the Hunter Rose stories is set in the future.

  • Noah says:

    I don’t know why with the hundreds of continuity convoluted characters I cherish and even love for their convoluted histories, Grendel is to me impenetrabile for the same reason.

  • Mikester says:

    Noah – I have to admit, I feel pretty much the same way about Elfquest, so I know what you mean. SF’s summary is a solid overview…I would start with Dark Horse’s reprint of Devil by the Deed which is the whole original Hunter Rose-era Grendel story. It’s not all that complicated…like SF says, it’s essentially a reversal of the traditional superhero comic, with the villain as the charismatic star, and the “superhero” as the repulsive antagonist.

  • I was thinking that what makes Grendel hard for new readers is that the very nature of Grendel evolves over the life of the series. From alter-ego, to demonic force, to cultural symbol; it’s seems kind of an odd evolution looking at it as a whole. It was a lot easier to roll with it when it was coming out; the surprise was a major draw for me back then.

  • Nick says:

    That evolution of Grendel from an interesting if derivative super-villain to a concept is what makes Wagner’s series so unique, I think. It’s only an odd evolution when compared to other superhero or adventure comics series, which is more a reflection of how utterly pedestrian most serialized comics are. For me, Grendel stands as one of the greatest achievements of serialized comics, in the same bracket as Moore’s Swamp Thing and Watchmen, Miller’s Daredevil, etc.

    Mike, will you be blogging your Grendel re-read?

  • Mike Nielsen says:

    For what it’s worth, the Grand Comics Database that Mike linked to added the ability to upload wraparound covers a year or so back, so if anybody wants to provide full wrap-around cover scans please feel free to replace the ones we currently have.

    And thanks again to Mike for plugging the GCD. As one of the people working on that site I hope that you all find it useful from time to time.

  • Noah says:

    I’ll give it another shot when I dig em up sometime this next month.

    I’ve never even taken a dip in the Elfquest pool so you’re one up on me.

  • Cej says:

    Those wrap-around covers were always an odd experience for me. On the one hand, they stood out and made Comico recognizable. On the other, they often didn’t work as a whole piece.

    The important/eye-catching information needed to be on the right-hand side (front cover). But comic art is “read” left to right (in this case, back cover to front cover). So there was often a strange tension on those comic covers where you either had to open the cover to understand it, or the left side/back cover was really just dead space.

    I think this problem is why so many current wraparound covers tend to be unfocused (Crisis on Infinite Earths #1), or group portraits (Justice League of American #1) or face-offs (Avengers v. X-Men).

    P.S. I’m probably explaining this poorly; please quickly go read McCloud’s Understanding Comics or Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art. You can sometimes see artists take advantage of this by showing objects moving left to right and/or subtly “pointing” you to the next panel.

    Or more likely, I’m making wild unsupported generalizations.

    Vivat Grendel!