The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Six.

§ May 3rd, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 10 Comments

Okay, we’re getting to titles where I may need to do a little ‘splaining about how I’m notating them here. For the most part, I’m going to try to list titles by their initial runs…if that initial run continues numbering through multiple publishers, I’ll list the publisher in the heading (like I did with Dreadstar). If they have multiple series with distinct, separate numbering from either the same or different publishers, I’ll just list the first series in the heading (like I did with pretty much every series in today’s entry). I’ve been trying to note when and if series continue elsewhere, and if it’s appeared in another book before, so…hopefully everything’s clear.

Anyway, here we go….

Faust (Northstar/Rebel Studios 1989-2012)

My earliest memory of Faust was figuring out quite what to do with it, since we couldn’t exactly just put it on the shelf as is between Checkmate and Daredevil. We put a single copy in a sealed bag on the shelf, with a little sign attached saying that copies were available at the counter. I think if I were to do that today, I’d probably bag each of ’em, or I’d do what we did with very adult material later at the shop and put them in the customer-accessible “naughty box,” but I discussed that in depth here.

And Faust was very adult, in that it featured some lovingly detailed sex and violence as presented by David Quinn and Tim Vigil. This was the book that I think really put Vigil on the map, though his previous violent action title Grips had achieved some notoriety. To be frank, I can’t remember if that initial rush of Grips demand was prior to Faust or concurrent with it, but regardless it was Faust that made Tim Vigil into Tim Vigil, if you get my meaning.

Yes, the series took some time to complete, publishing its last issue in 2012. But along the way, there were various one-shots and tie-ins from Avatar Press released as well. Oh, and don’t forget the 2000 movie. As to what it’s all about, I’m just going to direct you to the Wikipedia entry, because I can’t easily boil it down. I will add that entry says the series began in 1987, but I started in comics retail in 1988 and that first issue was released after that. Was there an earlier prototype-like release or something I missed?

It was quite popular, at least in the ’80s/early ’90s, going through multiple printings (including the first six issues released by Northstar being reissued by its new publisher Rebel Studios). I tried reading the first few issues myself, but fell off relatively quickly as it Wasn’t For Me. But it was for many of my customers, at least for a while.
Fish Police (Fishwrap Productions 1985-1987)

So Steve Moncuse’s Fish Police was not a series I read, but I do recall that the first issue of this series was, for a time, “hot,” perhaps part of that It had a pretty good run, as Comico picked it up following the initial Fishwrap run, and then continued under the Warp Graphics label after Comico went under.

Most notably, and possibly the main reason the property is remembered now, is that it was a very short-lived animated series that ran on network television in 1992. It was canned after only three episodes, leaving three unbroadcast (at least on American airwaves). However, the existence of this TV show got Marvel to briefly pick up the rights and republish the original six Fishwrap issues in color (with a nice big “AS SEEN ON TV!” blurb).

In addition to Fish Police, Warp also published a six issue side series called Fish Shticks, which is both a great and terrible name for a comic. It featured shorter, more humorous stories (I believe) outside the main plotlines of the primary series. And while Fish Police ended its rack life in the early 1990s, there was an IDW reissue of the old trade paperback Hairballs, reprinting the first six Fishwrap comics. And, surprise, a new story by creator Moncuse that popped up in Dark Horse Presents #22 in 2013.

I haven’t said much about the stories themselves, since I hadn’t read them, but in case it’s not clear, it’s a detective/crime comic starring anthropomorphic fish and other sealife. The one element of the series that intrigued me the most (though I don’t know if it was a major part of the story or just hinted at) was the idea that [SPOILER] the lead, Inspector Gill, had in fact once been a human being. I would like to have known what happened there, but as I said, I’m not sure anything regarding that was resolved.
Groo the Wanderer (Pacific 1982-1984)

Hoo boy, my entries here are getting a bit long. And given that I’ve been a fan of Groo for decades, this could go on forever, but I’ll try to keep it down. Created by Serio Aragones, Groo first appeared in the benefit comic Destroyer Duck #1 in 1981 (previously discussed in this series), made a couple more back-up appearances in Starslayer, then got his own series running eight issues from Pacific Comics.

Quickly joined by cohort Mark Evanier, Aragones presented these cartoonish parodies of the barbarian fantasy genre, filled with wordplay, silly jokes, great visual gags, and crowd scenes in the inimitable Sergio style. Groo himself was, well, a big dummy, though very early on he wasn’t quite as big a dummy as he would later evolve into. You can see this progression just in this first series, where Groo feels just a little off-model from his more familiar form, speaking more like a slightly-goofier Conan type, but by the end he’s pretty much Groo as we know him today.

Groo’s gone through a few series and publishers, with a special one-shot, intended to be released by Pacific, ending up at Eclipse Comics after Pacific’s bankruptcy. Then it was on to Marvel Comics, where Groo showed up in an issue of Epic Illustrated before moving on to a 120-issue run under the Epic imprint from 1985 to 1995. (It was during this run that the final piece of the Groo puzzle, his best pal Rufferto the dog was added to the book.) From there it was on to Image for 12 issues from 1994-5, then after that Dark Horse Comics got the guy and has been publishing him in a series of mini-series ever since.

Over the years, the series has built up quite the cast of supporting characters, along with a parade of running jokes, all of which recur on a regular basis but always seem fresh and entertaining thanks to the cleverness of the creators. Aragones’ art skill has not diminished one iota with age, and every issue is lushly illustrated with fantastical and impeccably detailed creatures and landscapes and architecture. Evanier’s scripting/polishing/whatever it is he does-ing adds the textual humor to the visual gags for a double-threat of hilarity that never fails to amuse.

Of note: my former boss Ralph appears as a character in the Marvel/Epic run issue #28. But don’t let that dissuade you from checking out the series. And since I don’t have anywhere else to put it, here’s a post where I discuss my second-favorite Groo story (my favorite is the puppet show one, which I haven’t discussed here yet for some reason).

The one real shame is that there is no significant quality reprinting of the comics in book form. Dark Horse will release trades of their minis, but those never seem to be around for long. When Marvel published Groo, they released a few paperbacks reprinting four issues at a time, but obviously those are long out of print. Someday they’ll figure out a way to get all these into some kind of archival editions that some publisher will be able to keep in print. In the meantime, the actual individual issues should be relatively easy to find and affordable.

• • •

Well, I certainly didn’t keep it short on the Groo entry, either. Ah, well. That’s it for the ’80s countdown this week…I’ve got Free Comic Book Day this weekend, so guess what Friday’s post is going to be about. Hopefully I’ll be back to it on Monday…and I equally hope you folks are enjoying my excessive typing on the topic here. Thanks, and I’ll see you next time.

10 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Six.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    There’s one thing I’ve noticed about Groo over the many years I’ve been reading him, and that’s that because the series is so long-running and usually so silly, the few occasions when Groo shows some self-awareness or compassion for others can be unexpectedly touching.

    Three moments I can think of are in the Death of Groo graphic novel, when he hides out to observe his own funeral and sees everybody celebrating and it dawns on him that nobody likes him. The second is the whole story when he learns to read in issue #100. Finally, in the Friends and Foes storyline, the relationship he forms with the young girl who’s trying to find her father is surprisingly moving.

  • John Platt says:

    I loved Fish Police. Groo remains without peer.

  • tomthedog says:

    Fish Police is maybe actually best remembered now as a throwaway gag on a tombstone in the opening of an early Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episode (next to Capitol Critters and Family Dog), and by “remembered” I mean someone born after 1990 watching that episode and saying “What the hell is Fish Police?”

    Fish Police reminds me of Stig’s Inferno, another great ’80s short-lived high concept b&w humor comic that started strong and fizzled out. Maybe you’ll have something to say about that title when you get to S?

  • tomthedog says:

    I forgot to mention maybe my favorite thing about Fish Police: the letters page was called “Fanmail From Some Flounder?” which is a super obscure (but not as obscure as Fish Police!) reference to Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I didn’t know there was a Faust film…that trailer was…surprisingly similar to the comic…but I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

  • William Gatevackes says:

    “…we couldn’t exactly just put it on the shelf as is between Checkmate and Daredevil.”

    Of course you couldn’t! Because then the shelf wouldn’t be in alphabetical order! Wakka wakka!

  • Brad says:


    Gill wasn’t just any human; he was the cartoonist, although never identified as such (or by name); in the last issue he pulled typical mind-over-matter tricks, making drinks disappear (not that way) and cigars appear. He had taken over Gill’s brain in an attempt to work through some personal issues. After he says goodbye to the other two self-aware characters in the book, he takes off and Gill snaps back to life, thoroughly bewildered.

    About the TV show, less said the better. John Ritter was wasted.

  • Snark Shark says:

    GROO is the only of these I’m more-than-mildly familiar with, and while it’s kind of repeats itself a lot, I’m glad it’s still going.

    that first cover is pretty great!

    “John Ritter”

    Under-rated as a comedic actor.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    “My earliest memory of Faust was figuring out quite what to do with it, since we couldn’t exactly just put it on the shelf as is between Daredevil and Green Lantern.”

    There. Fixed it for you.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Coincidentally, Cartoonist Kayfabe just put up a
    “Tim Vigil’s Crow/Faust Bootleg Crossover Comic!” episode: