Classic Comic Cover Corner – Tales to Astonish #13

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Every Sunday morning we showcase a classic comic cover, complete with compelling commentary, for your cordial contemplation. It’s the Classic Comic Cover Corner!

Tales to Astonish #13 – November, 1960

Cover art by Jack Kirby

Tales to Astonish #13 - November, 1960
Tales to Astonish #13 – November, 1960

If you’ve seen the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie (and if you haven’t, it’s highly recommended that you do), then you know that the sentient tree-creature, Groot, steals the show. It may seem like this character has just appeared out of the left field of “Knowhere,” but Groot has actually been around longer than any of the other Marvel movie heroes (with the exception of Captain America), although he hasn’t always been so loveable.

Groot (or the “Monster from Planet X”) was born in November, 1960, on the pages of Tales to Astonish #13, with cover art by Jack Kirby and a story by Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s brother.) This was the era just before Marvel’s superhero renaissance, when their focus was on new and unusual monsters, capitalizing on the popular giant-monster and alien invasion movies of the time.

Tales to Astonish #13 - November, 1960A much larger Groot (than the one we see in the current movie) landed on Earth and immediately began absorbing and controlling our planet’s wood, with the intent of lifting an entire city into space so that his kind could study the human race and do experiments on us. But before he can complete his nefarious task, a resourceful scientist unleashes some mutant termites on his wooden-butt and defeats the creature.

Groot would continue to pop up periodically in the Marvel Universe, but in one of the most ingenious character re-imaginations ever, within Marvel’s “Annihilation: Conquest” storyline (circa 2006 – 2008), the walking-talking tree creature (who is actually the Monarch of his people) grew into a hero and the buddy/sidekick of Rocket Raccoon, both of whom join the refurbished “Guardians of the Galaxy” team that we see in the current movie.

As you can tell from this cover, Groot initially had a full, and very well spoken (albeit villainous), vocabulary; as opposed to the only three-words he currently speaks. But according to Marvel the “Floral Colossus” creature is “really speaking in a clear dialect, but due to his strange physical make up his larynx and vocal cords are stiff and inflexible” and everything he says simply sounds like, “I am Groot.”

I think the unlikely journey of Groot, from a throwaway monster character in the early-Sixties to one of the coolest characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is incredibly fascinating and a story worthy of a documentary film itself. And Groot & Rocket are surprisingly one of the coolest on-screen team-ups since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, what are you waiting for?

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