Savage Enterprises Publishing
Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Convention Venture

ComicFest VII - Location: Montreal - Date: September 29, 1991 — As some of you already know, Sergio Aragones is a distant cousin of mine whom, until recently, I had never had the pleasure of meeting. Thankfully, he was the guest of honor at Montreal's last Comic Book Convention.

For those very few of you who don't know who Sergio is, he's the genius responsible for Groo The Wanderer. He also draws all the margin cartoons for Mad Magazine and the animated workers on TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. His latest collected project is Buzz & Bell, Space Cadets; now out in stores everywhere. This is actually a collection of gags which he published in France's PIF Gadget.

For those who want to know just how I'm related to him, read on. Everyone else, skip to the next paragraph. Our ancestors can be traced back to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, who's union gave them reign over most of Spain. They were the ones who gave Christopher Columbus the ships he needed to sail out and discover the New World. As illustrious as that sounds, they were also responsible for the Inquisition. To every upside, there is a downside. Anyhow, when our ancestors decided to sail out to other lands, they split into two groups. One group landed in Italy, the other stayed in Spain. Those in Italy italianized their names from "of Aragon" to Aragona. The others spaniardized their names to "Aragones". It was a common thing to do. Jump forward hundreds of years and you've got Sergio and me. He's the famous creator/artist/writer, I'm the guy with the long hair and crazy heroes.

Sergio has been dubbed "the fastest draw in the business" and with good reason! I watched him draw Groo after Groo after Groo in record time. By the end of the day, he wasn't even winded. He was a true gentleman and made no qualms over having to sign over 20 copies of books for his fans. Although, IMHO, those fans should have been a little more respectful of him and NOT have given him that many to sign. Still, the average fan brought about 5 books. It was only those who figured their collections would probably increase in value if they got them all signed who brought in the stacks of books.

He got a good laugh at that! He couldn't (and can't) understand why so many people want to buy comic books and then stick them in plastic bags and lock them away. "You won't make any money off them. Twenty, thirty years from now there will still be people out there trying to sell copies of those books at cover price. That's what happens when there are Millions of copies printed!"

He firmly believes that comic books are meant to be read and re-read and thoroughly enjoyed. Nothing brought a bigger smile to his face than when someone gave him a well-read issue to sign. "Ah! Now this book was enjoyed!" he would shout out with glee.

Sergio was very genial and everyone laughed at the stories he had to tell. He seems to have this inner strength and charisma that is so powerful he kept those of us who were with him all day full of energy. It wasn't until it was time to leave that I realized I hadn't eaten since I got up. Sergio seemed to have filled me with the energy and stamina to endure. It was pure joy.

Jeff and I honored him with a copy of Comicopia #7 and he, in turn, honors us with the drawing which I've included (in the apa). Yes, it is made out to me, his cousin :). I also bought another original from him which he colored and added a few more characters to, but that one's not for public view.

What advice did he have for those budding cartoonists who wanted to break into the market? That which is the most logical: "Never give up! Draw every day and trust yourself!" He stated that one should have a love and passion for drawing and not think of it as a job. This, of course, is logical too. If you have to spend untold hours drawing, you should love to draw.

Sergio's career wasn't all roses. When he finally had the courage to try and make it in America, some publisher actually shot down his work as being garbage. He told us that he was so hurt that he cried his eyes out. But, luckily for us, after that was out of his system, he was more determined to make it. He began working for Mad Magazine in 1962 and is still doing the Marginals to this day. He has created and worked on other books for DC, but it is for Groo The Wanderer, his loveable barbarian parody, that he is best known to comic fans. Sergio created Groo in 1982 for Eclipse. From there, it went to Pacific and then to Epic, where it is still being published.

He admitted to occasionally sending that publisher copies of his latest works. I guess it's to thank him for his encouragements :)

With issue 87, Groo will discover a new frontier, Direct Market Sales Only. This move will allow the book to be printed on better quality paper and have longer stories. This will also eliminate advertisements which Sergio felt always interfered with the story. (For those of you still wondering where "Life of Groo" is, it'll be out as soon as he finishes inking it!) As fast as he can draw, he only inks one page per day)

Asked about the characters in Groo, Sergio informed us of some very interesting facts. We all know that Rufferto is based on his own dog of the same name, but how many knew that Chakal is based on his wife? Or that Thaiis is based on his daughter? He showed us some family pictures and I've got to admit that Thaiis does not do his daughter justice. She is much prettier than her cartoon portrayal. Who is the Minstrel? Sergio without his moustache. Who is Sage? Sergio with a beard. This discussion brought to mind my own Mysterious Minute-Men who are all loosely based on real individuals. Art imitating life is not that big a stretch. Life is funny enough.

What kind of man is Sergio Aragones? As previously stated, he is a kind and gentle man. He didn't refuse any request asked of him and was more than happy to answer any questions anyone might have had. He even consented to having his picture taken with me ([Sergio & Mike])

One thing I will remember are the three kids who were also hanging around him. One kid, the youngest of the three, was very upset with another one because he kept ignoring him and he felt hurt. Sergio, overhearing (how could he not, they were kind of loud) leaned over and promised him a personal drawing "That way your brother will be jealous." The kid instantly cheered up. Much later, before those kids were about to leave, Sergio also drew something for the other two kids. You could almost feel the happiness radiating from them as they shook his hand and left.

Needless to say, there wasn't anyone who walked out of the room and didn't have a smile on their face. I know I was smiling. In fact, the happiness I'm feeling is sure to carry me through any frustrating situation I might find myself in the coming week. And I owe it all to Sergio Aragones.

Thanks Sergio!

Mike Aragona, cousin of Sergio and Prince of Chichester... :)

(Convention Venture (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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