GOTG: First Appearance of Groot-Retro Review


“I am Groot!” Groot’s now-famous words (as spoken by actor Vin Diesel)  from Marvel’s favorite houseplant/muscle are in many ways the big takeaway for many movie fans. To the many theatergoers who saw the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Groot and his buddy Rocket Raccoon stole the show with their emotional relationship, as well as their way with words.  As we take a look at Groot’s first appearance in the Marvel Comics Universe, we see that he has followed a long and strange road to his current super-stardom.

As many long-time comic fans know, the backstory to a character can change over the decades as different writers and artists work on that character.  This is very true for our herbivorous hero.  Groot’s first appearance actually predates Marvel’s Silver Age.  He first appeared in Tales to Astonish #13 in 1960, the year before Marvel hit the big time with the issuance of Fantastic Four #1.  Before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with their iconic superhero team, Marvel survived by publishing a plethora of comics stories featuring monsters, aliens, cowboys, soldiers, and (shudder…) romance tales.  One of these alien monster stories, in Tales to Astonish #13, had an alien from Planet X land on Earth and threaten humanity.  This alien was a tree-like walking, talking plant that called itself Groot!

Groot in Tales to Astonish #13

This early version of Groot was not a nice guy. His plan was to capture humans to take home to his planet for further study.  He had the bad luck to run into a scientist named Leslie Evans, who mutated some super-termites to take down the mighty Groot.  As a would-be world conqueror, Groot was very verbal, detailing his plans like any good bad guy is supposed to do. None of this limited-vocabulary stuff we see in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie!

Groot in Tales to Astonish #13

Groot disappeared from the comics for a while, reappearing (sort of) in Incredible Hulk Annual #5 (1976), a villain named Xemnu created a duplicate of Groot who then fought against the Hulk.  This version of Groot was destroyed in his battles with the Hulk.

Groot battles the Hulk

Groot made a few appearances in dreams and other, non-canon issues, but then hit the (sort of) big time in Nick Fury’s Howling Commandoes in 2006.  Nick Fury and SHIELD had recruited various Marvel monsters (vampires, mummies, a wolf-man, and so on) as a special operations unit.  This was not the original Howling Commandoes of World War Two fame, but a play on the monster-theme (werewolves howl…get it?).  Groot is captured by this SHIELD unit and more or less forces to fight on their side against the evil Merlin. This version of Groot also talks a lot.

At some point after this, Groot is captured by the alien Kree (that is Ronan the Accuser’s race, by the way), and appears again in Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord.  This is the comic book series where Groot joins up with Star-Lord, and and hooks up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. It was this version of Groot that pretty much limits himself to saying “I am Groot.”

While Marvel canon has yet to state that the earlier, nasty and more talkative versions of Groot are different from our GOTG hero, we must assume that all of the Groots are one and the same.

About Groot’s vocabulary and his language:  In All New X-Men #23, Jean Grey is able to telepathically communicate with Groot, and confirms that Groot and his species are capable of very complex thinking. Also, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #17 (2009), Maximus the Mad, the more-or-less insane brother of the Inhuman’s Black Bolt, claims that Groot’s famous phrase means many different things, but that to primitive human ears, all that is audible or understood is the phrase “I am Groot.”

Groot says “I am Groot!” with meaning!

So there you have it True Believers!  The first appearances and some origin info on our favorite heroic potted plant.  See the Guardians of the Galaxy movie; it is a lot of fun, and the final scene between Groot and Drax is hilarious!