“Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps”
…and his wordless pantomime comics, like his Mad Marginals. I could probably go on an on for quite a while about why I consider him a genius at cartooning, but honestly, if you don’t already see why it’s just going to be wasted breath. Instead, I’d rather talk about something I find nearly as fascinating as his work: a noticeable mid-career jump in skill.
Nine years later, “Groo the Wanderer” finally saw print. At this point, Aragones’ work is pretty similar. The crowd scenes and pantomimed action play a large role, and his drawing style is very similar to his work of the previous two decades. Here’s a page from Starslayer #5, an early Groo appearance:
Let’s fast-forward another eight years, the point at which I discovered “Groo” myself. This is the cover to issue #69, the issue that was on the newsstands when I first read “Groo.”
But by this point (and it’s hard to nail down an exact point), something has happened to the way Aragones is drawing characters. It’s still recognizably his work, but let’s compare two “pantomime” scenes (the first from 1982, the second from 1990):
The easiest comparisons are the way that Aragones draws the same character’s nose or feet. Groo has gone from having flippers for feet to confident, cartoony feet. Let’s get even more basic (first panel from 1982, the second from 1990):
I have to point out again, there’s nothing wrong with the first example. It’s the work of an award-winning cartoonist – a man working on a national level and receiving awards and praise for what he does. But one of the things I find fascinating about Sergio Aragones is that in his early-40’s, there is a distinctive jump in his ability. After working professionally for nearly 25 years, something happened in his work that results in things like this (also from issue #69):
This is undeniably complex, brilliant cartooning that readers can lose themselves in if they so choose.