A Process of Inbred Fertilization
For it produced one of my favorite running gags in comicdom. The series contained an early example of a comics meme, and ran it not only into the ground, but through the bedrock below the ground, into the molten core of the planet, and clear out the other side.
It began innocently, a throwaway joke in Groo the Wanderer #4. Groo comes upon a village whose women have been kidnapped by mysterious, handsome men in a flying boat. Here's the panel.
"Who will till our fields? Who will milk our cows? Who will mulch?"
Lo, in such a moment was greatness born.
The word "mulch" appears four or five more times in the issue. Confusion over the term prompted a few readers to ask what the word meant. Mark Evanier explained mulching in the letters page. Here it is, from Groo the Wanderer #9 (click on the picture to enlarge):
Three times, yes, three times he defines mulching as "...a process of inbred fertilization which employs certain decomposed organic materials--including but not limited to animal sediment--to blanket an area in which vegetation is desired. The procedure enriches the soil for the stimulated plant's development while, at the same time, preventing erosion and decreasing the evaporation of moisure from the ground."
And thus was a running gag born.
Starting with issue #9, the letters pages of dozens of issues of Groo the Wanderer contained letters asking what "mulch" meant, and Evanier would repeat the definition. Over and over and over and over...
Not long into the gag's life, Evanier wormed the word into the stories themselves. A common battle cry for Groo during this era was "I kill! I maim! I fray! I mulch!" The word would appear in random spots of stories for no good reason, time and again. (Not in the picture to the left, though. I just enjoy the doggerel.)
How can a comic fan not love this? The readers and the creators were in it together, bound by a process of inbred fertilization which employs certain decomposed organic materials. And it was good.
The "mulch" gag ran for years, reaching its peak when a major supporting character's dog was revealed to have the name "Mulch." (A name, by the way, the dog hated.)
Eventually the gag evolved. In this latter stage, Evanier printed letters where readers asked what "mulch" meant and in response, he refused to say. While this could be construed as dismissive, he printed these letters, month after month, along with an identical refusal, often several times on a letter page. Yes, a new running gag was born from the decaying corpse of the old gag.
Which is, to these nerdly eyes, rockin'.
Heh. "Mulch." What a great word.
Not long ago the lovely and delightful Mrs. Jerkwater and I bought a house in the burbs. The grounds of Jerkwater Estates have flowerbeds and quite a bit of shrubbery. This necessitates that I, you guessed it, mulch.
She has no idea why I chuckle every time I do it.