An enthusiastic crowd assembled Friday evening at Comic-Con International in San Diego as Eric Powell deigned to talk about the upcoming animated film based on his comic book series, “The Goon.” Joining him onstage was producer David Fincher, actor Paul Giamatti, and from Blur Studio, Tim Miller and Jeff Fowler. The hour was moderated by Robert Ben Garant of “The State” and “Reno 911” fame. Powell opened the session with a confession. “This movie is going to be bad,” he declared. “David Fincher and Blur are raping my dreams.”
Someone in the crowd asked, “Is it good?”
“Is the rape good?” Garant repeated as the audience erupted into laughter.
Powell considered his next answer carefully. “The only thing that I could compare it to is if David Fincher took my eight year old son, bent him over a trashcan of his broken dreams, and violated him while he told him there was no Santa Claus and God was dead,” he replied. “They keep going over this thing where they want to put him in plaid 1970s golfing pants and I don’t know why. I ask why and ‘it tested well.’ They wanted to put a Hitler-stache on the Zombie Priest because it made him more identifiable as the villain.”
After pointing to an audience member in full Goon attire and calling him a “make-up test,” Powell finally broke and revealed the preceding was a put on. “Anyone who’s been to one of my panels in the last four years understands that I think panels are boring, so the ‘Reno’ guys have always helped me out,” he explained. “Everything I said was a lie and I’m completely overwhelmed by how well things have been going with Blur and David. I could not have asked for a better situation.”
According to Powell, development began a year and a half ago when Blur approached Dark Horse Entertainment. “I was a little hesitant at first because most animated films are very kid-friendly and American audiences sometimes have a hard time getting into that stuff,” he recalled. After seeing Blur’s test reel and learning Fincher would be on board, Powell became keen to talk. “David’s involvement gave me a lot of confidence in what they were doing. I met with them. I came out of the meeting feeling really good and we’ve been moving forward ever since. I’ve been working with them on the script. We have a draft done.” The script will be an amalgam of “Goon” stories. “We couldn’t do a linear kind of ‘Sin City’/panel by panel adaptation because ‘The Goon’ comics are so episodic,” the creator explained.
“And poorly drawn,” the moderator joked.
Garant then proceeded to ask Powell questions (supposedly) from “The Goon” website. The first was, “Why doesn’t the Goon do nice things like take the children to Sunday school because the only the person who could really bring people back from dead is Jesus Christ.” When Powell asked who submitted that question, Garant replied, “SarahPalin2012.” When asked if there were any more questions, the moderator quickly went through several: “Why can’t you be more like Tom Hanks, Eric? Why don’t you get a real job, Eric? Why don’t you settle down, Eric?”
This prompted Powell to call his mother. “Hey, Mom? No, I’m not smoking weed with the hippies out in California,” he said to her.”Have you been online? Yeah, don’t do that.” While the whole thing was a put-on, Powell admitted those were all real questions his mother has asked in the past.
Laughing, Garant asked again, “Why can’t you be more like Tom Hanks?”
“Yes. That’s not a joke. She asked that,” Powell replied.
The next question: “Were you developing the Goon in your head for years and years and years? Or did it all come out at once like diarrhea?” The creator actually answered this one seriously. “Anyone who has paid attention to the trades and watched the progression, the depth of the characters has progressed and the art has definitely progressed, so it was never anything that formed full fleshed out,” he said. “I think that’s the fun of it for me, to push it a little bit and see where it goes.”
This is not the first time someone has tried to set up a “Goon” project. An attempt was made to turn the series into a live action television show. “I didn’t feel like that was the venue for it,” Powell recalled. He then invited Miller and Fowler from Blur Studio on stage, calling them “the right people.”
Gamers would recognize Blur’s work from such titles as “Dragon Age: Origins” and the upcoming MMO, “Star Wars: the Old Republic.” As they sat down, Miller announced, “Jeff and I would co-direct should we actually get the money to do the film. I just want to make it clear we don’t have the money to do the film yet and this just a test. So, Eric has to sell his child, perhaps.”
“Eric owes us about two million dollars at this point,” added Fowler.
The moderator then looked to the crowd. “So when the ushers come around with baskets, dig deep,” he jokingly pleaded. He then asked the Blur guys how they first met. “Jeff and I? We met at a gay sex club and I thought he was cute and it was just fortunate that he could also animate,” Miller joked. “Life gives you these little gifts and you take them … and I will be taking them.” He then remembered other people at Blur urged him to take a look the book. While at a meeting with Fincher and Sam Raimi’s partners, he pitched the concept. Raimi’s people passed, but Fincher became intrigued.
At this point, Fincher and Giamatti joined the panel. The actor admitted having no previous knowledge of the series. “I was sent it by Mr. Fincher. I read about three pages and thought it was fucking nuts and he said ‘you get to play the guy with the Little Orphan Annie eyes.’ I thought, ‘that’s me?'”
Garant asked the group how they developed the film. “We did our best to keep Eric as far away from the script process as we possibly could. Unfortunately, our deal, the contract that we had to make, forced us to use him as a screenwriter; much to the detriment of the project in general. Under our guidance, rewriting maybe 70, 80 percent, I think it turned out okay,” joked Miller.
“Honestly, it was a really great process for me because I think working these guys made me a better writer for comics and everything in general,” added Powell. “I really appreciated the input that I got and the process that we went through. David really sacrificed a lot of his time to talk with me about the plot and everything. He’s not just one of these people who’s buying up a property and trying to flip it or something.”
Fincher, director of such films as “Seven” and “Fight Club” was not above the sarcastic comment. “We tried to find some TV writers to come in and fix it, but no one would touch it,” he quipped.
“No, you get something like this and you kind of go … well, development is a necessary evil if you have to put out twenty-five movies a year or whatever,” the producer explained. “But I look at something like this and go, ‘no, you could so easily fuck this up by allowing people to sanitize it and turn into Pixar lite.'”
“I think we had, maybe three notes on the final draft,” Miller reported. “One of them … what was it? ‘If your mom wasn’t filled with infected semen … what was the line?”
Powell looked at Fincher and recalled, “You said, ‘no sodomy between siblings.'”
“It’s going to be a problem to bring to Universal,” laughed Fincher.
“There was a scene — I shit you not — where a man wiped excrement all over himself for a solid two minutes of screen time,” Miller revealed. Powell admitted, “I did that see if I could get away with it.” In the end, they cut the scene down to a page, but the moment still happens.
A member of the audience shouted, “Yeah, Peaches!”
“That’s right,” smiled Powell.
“Most of our story discussions centered around me going ‘When are we going to have the monkey zombie come in?’ and have David going ‘it’s all about character. If we don’t care by the time the monkey zombie shows up, it won’t matter.’ We would go back and forth,” Miller remembered. “The monkey zombie is in there. I won that.”
Powell revealed most of the characters will appear in the film, including a cameo by the Little, Unholy Bastards. “They have a little cameo and it was completely David’s idea,” he explained. “It made me laugh out loud when he said it. He didn’t necessarily mean for it to be the Little, Unholy Bastards, but it was a perfect place to put them in there.”
To convince Giamatti to take on the role, the Blur guys animated a clip of Frankie with lines from the actors “Cinderella Man” character. “I thought, ‘that’s just perfect. Just use that!'” the actor recalled.
Garant asked if the film would be rated R. Miller joked, “PG-13 and for those of you who don’t know, you get [to say] one fuck.”
“Medium screams,” added Fincher.
Giamatti followed with, “No sodomy between siblings.”
Miller praised Fincher, Giamatti and actor Clancy Brown — who lends his voice to the Goon — for donating their time. “And you should appreciate that,” he demanded. The crowd burst into applause.
Powell is definitely appreciative of the care being taken with his creation. “I know a lot of people who do comics and their work gets optioned and I hear a lot of horror stories. I’m a lucky guy,” he said.
Fincher believes it would be tough for “The Goon” to survive the ordinary Hollywood process. “It costs as much to market a movie and release a movie as it does to make one. Sometimes, it costs more. With animation, you’re talking about a process that involves hundreds of people. Anytime you have a giant heard and a lot of money moving around, [the studio] want twelve people to all agree on what it is and chance are, if you can get twelve people to agree on anything, it’s usually a pretty easy thing to agree on,” he explained. “You read these books and go, this is very specific and the reason it’s funny and the reason it’s interesting and the reason I have seen it before are all exciting things. As soon it goes into the sausage mill, it’s going to end up being this other thing.”
Commenting on the clip, the producer said, “So you could say there is no reason to spend the money to do a demo reel except to say, ‘back off man, we’re scientists.’ If you think this is interesting, we need fifty million dollars.”
Miller admitted the entire panel has been a pitch to “Goon” fans to enlist their help in getting the movie made. “You guys need to get online after this is over. Start some buzz for us, because what we want to do is take this and go set up some meetings in August and get some shit done.”
“Let’s get the fucking thing done, I need this,” Giamatti mumbled. “They shouldn’t have killed John Adams at the end of that show,” Garant opined. Giamatti doubled over in laughter.
The group presented their test reel several times due to technical errors with the projector. “When you see the final film, all of this will have been take care of by the theater people,” joked Garant. The footage has been made available at www.thegoon.com.
When asked by an audience member which characters didn’t make the cut, Powell admitted, “There are people I did hold back because I want a sequel.”
“Eric wants to make money, too,” Miller interjected.
“Yeah, money’s good,” said Powell.