I’ve reading a lot of old comic books lately. I decided that’s what I want to do with some of my quarantine down time. Since the comic shops are back open I’ve been reading some new comics too but I’ve been reading a lot more old ones. I like to mix up the series that I read. Instead of reading twenty straight issues of “Comic book A” I like to read an issue or two of “Comic book A” followed by an issue or two of “Comic book B.” So I’ve been reading at least two series at a time.

I went back to the 1980s and pulled out one of my old favorites that I don’t think I’ve read in over thirty years. “Grendel” by Matt Wagner. There is even a current “Grendel” series that’s on my pull list but the one I’m reading was the series published by Comico in the mid-1980s.

The first twelve issues are written by Matt Wagner with pencil by the Pander Brothers, inks by Jay Geldof, colors by Tom Vincent, and letters by Steve Haynie. There were some “Grendel” comics before this one but not many. And the anti-hero of the piece (Grendel) actually died before this series began. This series stars his adopted grand daughter Christine Spar.

The whole idea behind this “Grendel” series is that after the original Grendel, Hunter Rose, (who was a super villain) died the idea of Grendel infected society like a meme or virus and continued on.

The first twelve issues staring Christine Spar were fairly straight forward. Christine is a big time celebrity editor because she wrote a best selling book about her grandfather Hunter Rose. Then her son gets kidnapped and killed by some weird Kabuki cat vampire guy so she steals Grendel’s mask (which has all sorts of tech built into it) and his weapon. A double bladed spear with all sorts of tech built into it.

I can remember when I first read these issues back in the 1980s I didn’t like them as much as the Hunter Rose Grendel stories. Maybe because these ones weren’t drawn by Matt Wagner or maybe it was because I just thought Christine Spar’s story was less interesting. Either way I liked these issues a lot more now than I did back then.

I also come into it this time knowing it was a twelve issue story with a beginning, middle, and end. Reading it month to month back then it was a continuing story that I supposed would go on forever like any other super hero comic. Or at least go on as long as sales supported it.

The Pander Brothers art also got better and better as the twelve issues went by. Not that they were bad to begin with but they were still young at the time with growth ahead of them. I found that they grew as Christine Spar’s story grew too. I won’t go too much into the plot but suffice it to say that she gets into hotter and hotter water as she seeks revenge for her son and Grendel gets into her head. The police and Argent “The Wolf” are also looking to squash any Grendel copy cats. It’s good stuff.

The next three issues of “Grendel” (numbers 13-15) were some of my favorites back in the day. They are written by Matt Wagner and drawn by Bernie Mireault (rhymes with “Zero” as Wagner tells us in a preface). This was my introduction to Mireault and I went on to buy and love his comic “The Jam.”

These issues start Li Sung who was briefly Christine Spar’s love interest in the first story. He met her in San Francisco and moved to NYC because that’s where she was. He stayed on in NYC getting a job stage managing an off Broadway show. They he got obsessed by Grendel. The meme got him.

The main antagonist in this story is a cop with a cybernetic eye. Did I mention that issues 1-17 of “Grendel” take place a few years in the future? They’ve got flying cars, cybernetic eyes, and the such. Anyway this cop is trying to find some journals that were written by Hunter Rose and Christine Spar. He wants to wrap up the Grendel case with them.

The pressure of being under police scrutiny drives Li Sung to sew his own Grendel mask, get a bow and arrow, and attempt to hunt down the cop. I think he also hunts down a mugger before hand. These issues are dark and moody as Li Sung also writes in a journal.

After those three issues Matt Wagner is back on the art chores for the next four issues that are broken up into two experimental stories. Both stories are narrated by out cop with the cybernetic eye except he’s old and on a beach as he tells them. The first story is a police procedural tale told in little postage stamp sized panels with narration and dialogue underneath them. There are maybe sixteen panels a page.

I found the technique pretty absorbing and the small drawings were really well done. It takes a lot of distilling down of shapes and forms to draw that small. The story is of a cop investigating corruption that leads to Grendel in the end. It’s not a pretty end.

Issues 16-17 are more a low life criminal procedural. A low life criminal who makes a living keeping his ear to the ground and selling information to the cops (or whoever) picks up something that put him in Grendel’s crosshairs. Neither of them is happy about it.

The art on this one is experimental to as all the panels are vertical from the top to the bottom of the page. There are also notes at the top and dialogue and narration (by our old cybernetic eyed cop) at the bottom. The art in general is very Harvey Kurtzman influenced. I mean a lot. Some of the drawings look straight out of a Kurtzman appreciation sketchbook. It’s another good story.

That’s where I’ve ended for now with “Grendel.” I bought up until around issue 40 but I have almost no memory of what happened in them. I think they were stories told even further ahead in time as the Grendel meme haunts society. I know he becomes a devil like figure that eventually has its own cult. It’s be interesting reading them again.