Grendel is a long-running series of comic books originally created by American author Matt Wagner. First published by Comico, Wagner has now moved his character to Dark Horse. Originally a noir comic in the style of European titles such as Diabolik, it has evolved into, in Wagner's words, a study of the nature of aggression.
The first Grendel was Hunter Rose (Wagner has hinted of previous Grendels in history, but Rose is the earliest which he has written about), a youthful genius who wrote novels by day and ran a criminal empire by night. He first appeared in 1982 in the anthology Comico Primer, and was given his own series in 1983. This was quickly cancelled due to financial troubles the company went through. Wagner, who still owned the character, used the opportunity to re-tell the story of Hunter Rose in a far less conventional style in Grendel: Devil by the Deed, serialised as a backup story in Wagner's series Mage; this was subsequently collected as a 48-page one-shot. Many people consider Rose the most important Grendel; Wagner returns to Hunter Rose from time to time, such as in the two Batman-Grendel crossovers, and occasional miniseries or short stories.
There followed an ongoing series, which lasted 40 issues. It was written by Wagner and drawn by a variety of artists, including the Pander Brothers, Bernie Mireault, Tim Sale, John K. Snyder III and others. It began with a story set in the near future, with Hunter's granddaughter Christine Spar taking on the identity of Grendel to pursue a mission of revenge, but ultimately being consumed by it. The identity passed briefly, and tragically, to her deluded boyfriend Brian Li Sung. After a brief return to stories of Hunter Rose (actually two fictional novels written by Captain Wiggins, a supporting character from the Christine Spar arc), Wagner then spun the series further into the future, with the Grendel identity affecting a variety of people, and ultimately a whole society.
Following this, Dark Horse launched Grendel Tales, stories set in the world established by Wagner, created by other writers and artists, including Darko Macan and Edvin Biukovic. The main story has also continued in novel form, written by Greg Rucka.
In the years since the publishing of War Child, Wagner has occasionally written short stories featuring Hunter Rose, and most recently launched an eight issue mini-series, Behold the Devil, which is to fill in a secret of Hunter Rose. Behold began publishing in November 2007.
Comico Primer #2 (1982) contained the first Grendel story, introducing debonair master-criminal Hunter Rose and his nemesis, Argent the wolf. Grendel soon got his own black and white title, which lasted 3 issues. It ended prematurely, mid-story, because of financial issues the company had. Wagner considers these stories a "rough draft". These issues, along with the aforementioned Grendel story from Comico Primer #2, were collected for the first time ever in the "Grendel Archives" collection in 2007, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first Grendel story. The collection included an introduction by Wagner explaining the situation which led to the creation of Grendel, and dismissing rumors that he was unhappy to have the early work available..
The story begins with an extraordinarily gifted boy, his name only given as Eddie. Because victory in his endeavors came so easily to him, it all seemed meaningless. In despair, he threw a world-championship fencing match, and began a torrid affair with Jocasta Rose, a fellow fencer. When Jocasta died, Eddie left behind his former life and took on a new persona - or rather two. He became Hunter Rose, successful novelist and socialite, and Grendel, elegant costumed assassin and crime boss. He was hunted relentlessly by Argent, a several hundred year old Native American man-wolf cursed with a thirst for violence, working for the police in an effort to turn his curse to good.
Hunter adopted a child, Stacy Palumbo, the daughter of a mobster slain by Grendel, who was also befriended by Argent. Grendel was a loving father to Stacy, but when she discovered Hunter was Grendel she sold him out to the wolf. The two antagonists met on the roof of a Masonic temple; the battle left Argent paralyzed, and Grendel unmasked and dead. This discovery led Stacy to have severe psychological problems as an adult. Stacy's role in this incident, and her previous murder of her governess to prevent her from interfering in her scheme, was discovered by the police and she was incarcerated until adulthood.
Within the Grendel universe, Devil By The Deed is the novel written by Christine Spar, Stacy's daughter, about the life of Hunter Rose. It becomes a bestseller, and "Grendel" becomes a recognizable pop-culture figure.
The first twelve issues, written and colored by Wagner and drawn by Arnold and Jacob Pander, were set in the near future and told the story of Stacy Palumbo's daughter, Christine Spar. When her son, Anson, was kidnapped by a vampire Kabuki dancer called Tujiro XIV, Christine took on the identity of Grendel in her quest to rescue and/or avenge him. As she became more and more consumed by the Grendel identity her actions became more and more violent, and attracted the attention of the police, in particular Captain Wiggins, a chic, flamboyant New York detective with a cybernetic eye that also functioned as a lie detector. Wiggins enlisted the aid of Grendel's old arch-enemy Argent. Eventually Christine and Argent fought, to both their deaths.
The retired Captain Wiggins, decades later, was prevailed upon to write something about Grendel, as he was the last person alive to have been involved. Not wishing to dredge up old ghosts, Wiggins elected to tell stories concerning Hunter Rose, the only Grendel he had never met. Issues 16-19 featured two of his stories. One centers on rather ordinary police Lt. Lewis Polk who investigates a diamond smuggling affair supposedly engineered by Grendel. The other is an expanded story on informant Tommy Nuncio, who was briefly mentioned in Devil by the Deed.
Devil Tracks appeared in Grendel #16-17; Devil Eyes appeared in Grendel #18-19. Both were written and drawn by Wagner. Dark Horse republished them as a mini-series, Grendel Classics, in 1995, and collected them as Grendel: Devil Tales in 1999.
The actions of Christine Spar and Wiggins' books had made Grendel a household name. The following three issues became more experimental, depicting the growth of the concept of Grendel from pop-culture villain to synonym for Satan, against a background of political upheaval, social breakdown, nuclear war and environmental catastrophe. These four stories ran in Grendel #20-23, and were written by Wagner and drawn by Hannibal King and Tim Sale.
According to Dark Horse editor Diana Schutz and creator Matt Wagner, the original art for issues #20-22 has deteriorated to the point where the issues can not be reprinted, though issue #23 was reprinted as issue #0 of the God and the Devil reprint mini-series, and will be included in the forthcoming collection.
The storyline resumed in the 26th century, when much of the world was contaminated. America had fragmented into a number of corporate "systems" dominated by a corrupt Catholic Church, now based in "Vatican Ouest" in Colorado and led by Pope Innocent XLII. Innocent was bleeding the systems dry to build a huge, ostentatious tower.
Orion Assante, a corporate auditor and wealthy aristocrat, tried to work within the system to stem the Church's financial corruption, but his efforts were upstaged by the acts of a lone anti-Church terrorist, blasphemously dressed as Grendel. This was Eppy Thatcher, an insane factory worker fuelled by a designer drug called "Grendel" and convinced God hated him. To combat him, the Church established a second Inquisition, and hired Pellon Cross, head of the mercenary Confederacy Of Police (COP) to provide security. Innocent, in reality the vampire Tujiro, (and the villain of the Christine Spar series) used Cross to retrieve the materials needed to complete the weapon he was building at the top of his tower - a weapon designed to block out the sun referred to as "The Sun Gun". As an afterthought, he turned Cross into a vampire. A subplot of the series dealt with the church's massive purchases of bananas, which contained a chemical needed for the weapon.
Assante, driven to desperate measures by the death of his sisters/lovers, led a small private army to destroy the "sun-gun". At the same time Pellon Cross, who had escaped Tujiro's clutches and turned a number of his fellow COPs, led an army of vampires against the Vatican, and Grendel also staged an attack. The Vatican was destroyed before the sun-gun could be activated. Tujiro and Thatcher apparently perished in the conflagration.
God and the Devil, written by Wagner, drawn by John K. Snyder III and Jay Geldhof and colored by Joe Matt, ran in Grendel #24-33. It was republished as a 10 issue miniseries, recolored by Jeromy Cox, by Dark Horse in 2003. Wagner announced recently that a paperback collecting all 10 issues would be sold in 2008, currently scheduled for release on August 6.
The evil at its heart exposed, the corrupt church collapsed, and much of society with it. A community of vampires, led by Pellon Cross, established itself in the sovereign resort nation of VEGAS. Orion Assante, using his corporate connections and private wealth, gradually restored order with an army and a broadcasting network both called "Orion's Sword". In securing its borders, the newly united North America absorbed South and Central America and Australia, presenting these conquests as corporate mergers. However the other world powers, including China, Japan and Africa, were alarmed.
On a state visit to Africa, the world's only nuclear power, Orion's wife Sherri Caniff was abducted by an African nationalist faction. Suspecting African government involvement, Orion sent forces to simultaneously seize Africa's nuclear silos and free Sherri. Now in control of Africa, Orion discovered that the instigator of the kidnap plot was in fact Japan. A state of cold war developed, with corresponding military build-up. The unauthorised conquests of territories in Asia by a renegade general brought Orion's Sword to the borders of China. The formerly aloof superpower reacted by allying itself with Japan, and global war resulted.
The war did not go well for Orion. His forces were overstretched and suffered many reverses. In the midst of this, Sherri Caniff died of cancer.
Orion had long been nicknamed "Grendel" for his role in bringing down the church, but he had now come to believe he was actually possessed by the devil. He disappeared. In an effort to understand his condition he tracked down Eppy Thatcher, still alive and living in the sewers beneath Vegas. Interrogating Eppy, Orion had an inspiration. Adapting the technology of Tujiro's sun-gun, he developed a terrible new weapon, the Sun-Disk (which did not need the banana-derived chemical), with which he devastated Japan. China surrendered, and Orion was now ruler of the world. Embracing his originally derogatory nickname, he declared himself Orion I, the first Grendel-Khan. His troops became known as "Grendels", and to be a Grendel became an honorable, high-status position in society. Grendel had, in effect, conquered the world.
Devil's Reign, written by Wagner, drawn by Sale and colored by Mireault, ran in Grendel #34-40, bringing the series to a close. It was republished as a 7 issue miniseries, recolored by Matt Hollingsworth, by Dark Horse in 2004. Wagner announced recently that a paperback collecting all 7 issues would be sold in 2008.
As Devil's Reign came to a close, Wagner thought of an idea for a new storyline, which was intended to run as Grendel #41-50, after a brief publishing hiatus. Before that could happen, though, Comico went bankrupt. Finally, after Wagner regained the publishing rights, Grendel: War Child saw print in 1992 as a 10 issue miniseries from Dark Horse, written by Wagner, drawn by Patrick McEown and colored by Mireault. A collected edition was published in 1994.
Ten years after the death of Orion I, his son Jupiter was kidnapped from his home/prison at a base in the Dakota Black Hills by a lone Grendel in black full-body armour, called by the other characters "the paladin," and later known as Grendel-Prime. The regent, Orion's widow Laurel Kennedy, sent the empire's elite Red Devils after the renegade Grendel and his hostage, further neglecting and alienating her daughter Crystal in the process.
Jupiter and the Grendel fled through wastelands and the wreckage of cities, across the ocean, and into the jungles of Africa. Along the way, they encountered not only the Red Devils but also bandits, mutants, pirates, dangerous wildlife, and other Grendels (both friend and foe). In the OPEC wastes, Grendel and Jupiter were captured by a band of rebels opposed to the misrule of Laurel Kennedy. Grendel-Prime was disassembled and revealed as a solar-powered cyborg created by Orion I to protect Jupiter from political manipulators until he was old enough to assume the throne of the Grendel-Khan.
Jupiter was abducted from the rebel base by a group of vampires who took him back to their lair in Siberia. The rebels and their charismatic leader, Azif a-Barouk, accompanied Grendel-Prime to rescue the boy, and Grendel-Prime managed to slay the vampires' lord in the process - who turned out to be none other than Orion Assante's old foe, Pellon Cross.
Laurel Kennedy's rule was undermined by the lack of an heir, so she tried to arrange a suitable dynastic marriage for her daughter, Crystal. But Crystal, who had begun an affair with her green-mohawked guard, a Grendel named Susan Veraghen, escaped the Black Hills complex and fled into the wilderness. Laurel became increasingly irrational, and effective rule of the empire passed to her minister, Abner Heath.
Ten years passed. Laurel Kennedy had been quietly displaced and imprisoned by Abner Heath, who took on the role of world leader. In attempting to hold the empire together Heath wanted to learn how to activate the Sun-Disc, Orion's most formidable weapon, but was met with continual failure. But during a televised worldwide broadcast Jupiter - now a young man - and Grendel-Prime made their move. Grendel-Prime and his team captured the Imperial palace, and Jupiter raided the Black Hills complex, encountering a wasted and frail Laurel Kennedy. It turned out that the missing component of the Sun-Disk was contained within the body of Grendel-Prime. He activated the weapon and destroyed the government's broadcasting satellites, enabling Jupiter to take over the airwaves and announce his succession. After Jupiter's coronation, Grendel-Prime took his leave of Jupiter and disappeared off into the wastelands.
A collection of both Batman/Grendel stories was released in hardcover (limited to only 300 copies) and paperback in April, 2008.
The collected versions of these two limited series have the addition of several short Grendel stories Wagner had published over the years, such as "Devil's Vagary" (a 16 page one-shot), Devil’s Week (from A Decade Of Dark Horse #1, Scared Of The Devil (from Dark Horse Extra #49-50), and "Devil’s Duel" (from Dark Horse Maverick 2001).
In July 2007 Dark Horse debuted the new Hunter Rose series Grendel: Behold the Devil with a 50 cent #0 issue. This is being released during 2007, the 25th Anniversary of Grendel. The first issue hit comic stands in November 2007. The series will run eight issues.
In this preview of the series, the first part of a Newsarama interview with Matt Wagner was debuted.
Grendel was also featured in Occupational Hazards #2, in a story titled "The Devil's @sshole". Occupational Hazards is an anthology series of stories by top notch talent to raise money for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; no issues have been reprinted.
Grendel has been featured in several one-shot tales. These are cataloged on the Official Grendel fansite. Other than The Devil's @sshole, they are all available in trade paperback collections.
2007 marks the 25th anniversary of Grendel. To mark the anniversary, Dark Horse has released two hardback collections; one is a reprint of Devil by the Deed with a new color scheme, the other, called The Grendel Archives, reprints (for the first time) of the first appearance of Grendel from Comico Primer #2 and the original black and white uncompleted three issue series. Also released are a new monthly series, 'Behold the Devil', a commemorative t-shirt, and other items. Also announced for release in 2007 is a collection published by Dark Horse and DC Comics of all four "Batman / Grendel" comics, though it was ultimately delayed until spring of 2008.
This year Matt Wagner's working diligently on various Grendel projects. After Behold the Devil, Wagner has stated that he will be giving fans another Grendel Prime story arc. He has been working to make sure all of the Grendel stories are collected in the best possible format, with future plans to release God and The Devil in August of 2008 and Devil's Reign before the end of the year. When asked Wagner has stated that Grendel Tales may return, but there are no plans to revive the title in the immediate future. In 2007 Wagner's website was re-vamped with a message board that Wagner frequents, and the official Grendel fansite was launched at VivatGrendel.com