Character Spotlight – Grendel

The Grendel series is the creation of American author Matt Wagner, and has been in circulation in various forms for over 25 years. In today’s character spotlight, we’ll take a look at this intriguing villain and his/her immense underground popularity in the scene.

The Development of Grendel

Grendel was developed by Wagner under the Comico publication for an original anthology. It outlined the basic story of a man named Eddie, who evolved into a split persona of a debonair author by day and a masked assassin by night. Due to financial problems with the Comico publication, the original Grendel stories were canceled after three issues, and it wasn’t until it was re-told as a one-shot story in one of Wagner’s other series – Mage – before it was re-introduced to the general public as its own title.

From there, Grendel took a life of its own – a 40 issue run which would feature Wagner’s writing and the contrasting styles of artists such as John K. Snyder III, Tim Sale, the Pander Bros., and Bernie Mireault. The series was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best ongoing Series, Grendel #12 was nominated for Best Single Issue, and the Pander Brothers and Jay Geldof were nominated for Best Art Team.

After the 40 issues were run and the original story was brought to a close, it would take a number of years before Dark Horse could wrestle away the rights to the Grendel publication rights after Comico went bankrupt. A continuing set of stories for Grendel was developed after the 40th issue, but Wagner was unable to release them until 1992 when Wagner managed to retain the rights to the story arc, War Child.

In addition to the ongoing story arc with Dark Horse, Wagner developed other Grendel stories such as two Batman/Grendel crossovers, a series of Grendel stories written by other authors entitled Grendel Tales, a recap of Grendel’s history called Grendel Cycle, issue collections entitled Red, White and Black, and Black, White and Red, and a new series entitled Behold the Devil.

About Grendel – The Character

The Grendel is a persona that has been adopted by a number of characters and has evolved throughout the ages. The Grendel story begins with a man simply known as Eddie, who develops a split persona of an author by the name of Hunter Rose, and an assassin known as Grendel. As he increased in skill and talent, he worked his way up the ranks to become a criminal overlord, using violence and fear as his method of power over his adversaries. His actions draw the attention of Argent the Wolf, a centuries old wolf man looking to end a curse by working for the greater good. He devotes his time hunting the Grendel until their final battle leaves him paralyzed.

Hunter Rose adopts Stacy Palumbo, the adopted niece of a slain mob boss. After she finds out the real events leading to her uncle’s death, she sets up Argent and Grendel to their death duel. She ends up being institutionalized, and subsequently raped during her committed stay. Her child, Christine Spar, would become the next Grendel. Argent would return to action following the re-emergence of the Grendel, and the two would kill each other in a climactic battle.

The mantle of Grendel would be picked up by Spar’s lover Brian Li-Sung, where he met an untimely death after attempting to hunt the police chief who was endlessly harassing Christine to find evidence of her alter-ego. For years, the Grendel identity remained in incubation, and it reached mythical proportions as it was vilified in the media and by the church. Eventually, the Grendel would become synonymous with evil, and the enemy of all mankind.

In the 26th century, the Grendel would rise again to battle the hypocrisy and fear-mongering of the church and the state. Eppy Thatcher assumed the role of Grendel and helped to bring down the Catholic Church in a bizarre, conspiracy filled plot involving the blacking out of the sun, vampirism, and corruption.

The story later evolved into a politically-driven plot where the final battle against the church saw the battle champion evolve into a devil possessed leader of the world  dubbed as Grendel Khan. His minions would be known as Grendels, and serve in an army that struck fear into the hearts of all men. The latest arc has the Khan requesting his greatest Grendel soldier, Grendel Prime act as the protector of the Khan lineage.

From a simple assassin, to a world dominator and now a protector of the heritage of evil, the Grendel has evolved into a character that spans numerous genres – noir, fantasy and sci-fi. This character’s series offers an intriguing look at the capabilities of violence in man, and its consequences when left unchecked.

Stay tuned for future spotlight posts on our favorite comic book characters, their creative origins and their backgrounds!

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