A panel that I have to attend whenever I see it listed at a convention is The Mark, Sergio, Stan and Maybe Tom Show. I’ve been a tremendous fan of the wanderer and his dotty dog’s adventure’s since they first began in 1982 in Destroyer Duck. For four years I’ve been attending this panel between San Diego and Wondercon when it came to Anaheim, but I’ve yet to see Mark Evanier, Sergio Aragonés, Stan Sakai, and Tom Luth, all four men, on the stage at the same time. I’m not one to spread rumors, but I’ve not seen Stan and Tom in the same room since the 1980s…
Sadly, Tom wasn’t at this panel. “Tom is at home coloring,” Mark began, “all the terrible work that Sergio gives him.” He turned to Sergio, “Why do you hate Tom so much?” “He once told me what was wrong with Groo,” Sergio answered, creating the first laugh at this entertaining panel.
Mark asked Sergio what the next Groo title would be and he said, “Groo Meets Tarzan. Issue 1 is almost done. I’m done. Mark is adding words. Stan is lettering. Tom hasn’t started yet.” It was revealed there will be three sections to each issue: Groo, Tarzan, and Sergio and Mark. Sergio added, “I’ve never liked crossovers, but people like them. I thought it would offend the fans.” The first crossover Groo did was with Conan and Sergio discussed that. “If Groo and Conan meet they would have to fight. And I’m not going to let Groo lose.” This got a roar from the crowd. “I saw the film Rashomon and I said, ‘We can do it.'” It was here that Mark said, “Here comes my version of the story. It’s basically the same.” This got a laugh, too. Mark continued, “And you keep showing your rear end in the (new) book.” Sergio replied with a smile, “I have a nice rear end.”
Stan was then asked by Mark what he’s doing. “I’ve been Usagi Yojimbo for thirty-five years and Groo. Usagi has been optioned for a television series.” Stan brought up that Sergio was nice enough to draw something for an exhibit at the Temecula Valley Museum, with Stan appearing there on August 30: http://iesportsnews.com/anime-meet-stan-sakai-creator-of-usagi-yojimbo-at-the-temecula-valley-museum-thursday-august-30/. Sergio said, “I had drawn something for Stan a long time ago. My studio is a mess. I couldn’t find it for ten years.” Mark interjected, “Tom could be buried under there.” After everyone laughed, Stan stated, “Sergio told me he found it. I saw him here at Comic-Con and he told me he found it. I said, ‘Do you have it?’ and Sergio said, ‘Oh. I should have brought it to the convention.'” The state of Sergio’s studio continued with Stan saying, “The last time I saw you, you had piles of mail on the floor by month.” Mark said, “There’s mail from Dave Berg in there. That’s an old reference.”
The trio then discussed how the book is put together. Mark began, “Sergio does the basic story, I pitch in, he draws, it, we move stuff around. The only thing that’s always right and on time is Stan’s lettering.” Sergio said, “I’m not doing anything new. It’s been the same thing for years.” Mark said, “I want to do the same stuff but get paid.” Stan asked if Sergio wanted an intern. “I’m against interning,” Mark stated. “I want people to be paid for what they do. I learned that from Jack Kirby.” Sergio then said, “I think interning is good to learn, but I would be no good. I couldn’t teach.” “But you could pass down what you know,” Stan said. Sergio shook his head, “I couldn’t do it.”
A question from the audience came up regarding podcasts and if Mark would do one of his own since he had recently appeared on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast (Episode 191). Mark said no, but he does have a blog site, News From me; here’s the link https://www.newsfromme.com/. He also said he would be returning to be on Gilbert’s podcast soon.
Another question came up about hardcover reprints, which has been brought up at every one of these panels I’ve been to for years. Mark answered, “It’s under discussion.” Sergio said, “The only definite thing I know is I’m going to keep doing Groo.” He then turned to Mark to ask, “Are we doing the next Groo?” Mark answered, “Yes. The third one is The Day of the Gods.” This follows Fray of the Gods and Play of the Gods. “It’s all so confusing, but we don’t care,” Sergio said.
The next question asked was if any of the panelists get writer’s block. “No,” Sergio was quick to say, “we get other things.” Stan said, “Exactly. If I don’t want to write, I draw. If I don’t want to do anything, I do Groo.” This drew a monstrous laugh from the attendees.
Influences were inquired, with Stan answering first. “A lot of manga before it was called manga. Milo Minara. A lot from Sergio — Oh my gosh! I’m your intern!” This drew equally large laughter from the crowd. Mark told a story about how he had an intern who would type the Groo letters page. She was sick of dealing with letters from a fan named Lon Wolf. She left working for Mark and went to New York where she became a writer for David Letterman. She’s put in charge of Dave’s Viewer Mail segments. She calls Mark in tears her first day on the job stating that the first letter was from Lon Wolf. Sergio said his influences were French, German, and Spanish cartoons. Pantomime cartoonists, like VIP (Virgil Partch). Short story writers, “I love short stories,” like O’Henry.
When asked how they all met, Mark began. “Sergio and I have been friends for fifty years.” This earned a strong round of applause. He continued, “And I think that’s time enough.” This got strong laughter. “We met on July 4, 1970. Sergio spoke at a comic book club I ran. We both thought nothing of it afterwards.” Mark went to New York with his writing partner. Then went to the DC offices and were supposed to met with Stan Lee at Marvel later, but were told it was going to have to be later in the day. They were exploring the city when they heard, “Mis amigos!” It was Sergio. Mark told him what they’d been doing and Sergio asked if they were going to visit Mad Magazine. They asked where it was and Sergio said, “Right here!” There was also a comic book convention that weekend and they hung out with Sergio there and they’ve been friends ever since.
Two questions followed quickly: How many issues have there been of Groo? Will Groo ever be available digitally online? There have been 188 issue of Groo, to which Stan interjected, “I have 240 issues of Usagi.” This got a good laugh from all. Mark said they didn’t want to put Groo online because “We can change more money for the paper.” This joke was followed by Mark saying they haven’t seen fair pay for it being put online.
Sergio was asked if his book Sergio antes de Aragonés would be published in English; this book contains cartoons he did before coming to America. “Yes. I’m not the publisher, but the publisher is very happy with the book. There are copyright issues between Mexico and America (that need to be resolved).” However, it looks like it will be translated and published.
The penultimate question was how Stan joined the pair. Sergio said, “I moved to L.A.. I moved to sell my art. I found him in a phone book.” The final question was how the placement of the letters is decided. Stan was quick to say, “Lettering trumps everything!” After the laughter stopped, Sergio answered, “There’s a process. I make a thumbnail, Mark edits, he places the jokes better.” Time was called at this point and these three gentlemen were given applause.
NOTE: My pictures of the panel didn’t look great, so I used an illustration of the cast from Groo.