Eric Powell‘s “The Goon” celebrated its 15-year anniversary earlier this year, and in July, the long-running title began its new incarnation as a series of miniseries with “The Goon: Occasion of Revenge” — a story that’s very important to the greater narrative of “The Goon” and vital to the series itself. In fact, it’s the first time “The Goon” has had a monthly release schedule since 2008.
“The Goon” offers Powell a lot of creative freedom to tell nearly any kind of story, and while the series has focused heavily on slapstick humor, “Occasion of Revenge” falls in the category of a more serious story that sees the Witch’s Gang attempt to take control of The Goon’s cursed town. Although the series has a full story arc and introduces new characters — such as Ramona, a possible love interest for The Goon — there are also smaller revenge stories throughout that help clarify the nature of the town’s curse, and why it’s such a desirable locale for the Witch’s Gang.
Powell spoke with CBR News about “Occasion of Revenge,” detailing the importance of changing up the status quo of “The Goon” while continuing to evolve the character and artistic style of the book, the importance of all aspects of revenge to the miniseries, introducing Ramona to the cast and much more.
Eric, I understand “The Goon: Occasion of Revenge” is actually a very important story to you. Why is that?
Eric Powell: This one is definitely in the same vein as “Chinatown,” where it’s a little bit more of a serious story and moves the character forward a little bit. It has some pretty drastic consequences when all is said and done.
“Occasion of Revenge” also marks your return to “The Goon” as a monthly title for the first time in a while. You’ve had a lot of titles release since then, but what does it feel like to come back for “The Goon” in monthly doses?
For the most part, “The Goon” was a bi-monthly series, and for one year we did a monthly for the “Return of Labrazio” storyline. We planned on taking it monthly, but there were some scheduling conflicts and a bunch of life things happened for me that really screwed that up. It felt like it was confusing for the readers as to when the book was being released, so I decided to take it to a miniseries format so we could do one storyline that comes out monthly, there’s no confusion. It feels really good and I kind of regret we didn’t do this earlier, just so we could maintain some momentum with the book and let people know when it was coming out or give them an easier idea of what the scheduling would be.
It feels really good to have a new series out there, especially one that’s getting so much positive feedback right now.
Story-wise, this seems like one of the toughest fights you’ve ever crafted for The Goon, facing down the Witch Gang in an effort to protect the city. This is a story that’s bigger in scope than any “Goon” story in some time. How long has this been developing for you?
It’s been a while. During the “Return of Labrazio” storyline, I introduced the idea that there were other people out there from the Witch’s coven or race. It doesn’t really spell it out for you what exactly they are, but you know there are others out there, and they had some type of falling out with the Zombie Priest. He’s not really in their good graces, and they want everything he does, though: the town, because it carries a pretty significant curse. These creatures, whatever they are, feed off of it.
So it’s been building for quite a few years. I’ve always tried to let storylines ruminate and cycle through until I had a really distinctive idea how to execute it. It wasn’t until 2012 that I really saw where this storyline should go, so I came back to it and now we’re putting it out there.
“The Goon” — both as a title and the character himself — have certainly evolved since the series began in 1999. How does “Occasion of Revenge” continue that evolution, both of the character and the title?
It’s not something that I specifically set out to do, to say, “Oh, the character is going to go through these major arcs, and after that, it’s going to be different.” I always set out where the book was going to be any type of story I wanted to do, whether it was slapstick and humorous, or heartfelt and sad — tragedy, whatever. I didn’t necessarily see the character going through that many changes.
Recently, at a convention, someone mentioned to me that they liked the fact that there were changes, and it wasn’t just the same thing over and over again. This story, “An Occasion of Revenge,” definitely sets the character off in a different direction. This miniseries and the one to follow it — the book is going to be pretty different than what it has been before. It’s actually a pretty big climax to almost everything I’ve done up until this point. I definitely feel like it’s hitting a giant reset button after the next miniseries, so there are significant changes to the book.
That’s a pretty big change to a series you’ve been working on for about 15 years. How do you feel about enacting such a significant change to the book?
I feel really happy about it because I don’t want it to get stagnant, I don’t want it to be the same thing over and over again — and thats something that the comic book industry as a whole really suffers from. Throw whatever epic storyline you want to at me, and it’s pretty much the same thing that book has done over and over again. I’m pretty happy about the fact that there’s some change going on personally through the character, not just, “Oh, here’s something tragic that happened. Someone died, or this happened!” and then it’s just business as usual the next storyline. Nothing significant ever really takes place, whereas I’m actually trying to show a progression of this guy’s life and he goes through significant changes and it affects his outlook on everything in his life.
I don’t know specifically how to put it. [Laughs] It feels like there’s a progression. I’m pretty happy about that. Like I said, one thing I wanted to do with “The Goon” was tell any story that I wanted to. I think that keeps the reader interested, and it keeps me interested. If I’m just doing the same gags over and over again, the same “Oh, what are Goon and Frankie into this week?” It just gets boring. You can’t keep doing the same thing. To feel that there are consequences in this story — and there are — I’m pretty happy about the fact that when, other than Labrazio, someone dies, they stay dead in “The Goon.” I’m not going to do the whole thing where I kill off a main character and he’s back in the next episode.
I’m proud of the fact that if something happens in “The Goon,” it’s still significant, and it’s not just a great gimmick.
The fact that you can tell any kind of story with “The Goon” is especially apparent in “Occasion of Revenge.” The first issue was just as much about love as it was about revenge. What other elements and emotions will come into play as the series continues, and how does that theme of love play into the revenge side of it?
It’s a major part. Other than “Chinatown,” I haven’t really gone that much into doing romantic stories with “The Goon.” One, because I think he’s kind of a jaded character, and he’s not a very trusting character. He doesn’t allow people to get close to him. That was part of the thing with the first issue of “Occasion of Revenge” — him letting down his barriers a little bit and allowing somebody into his life.
The theme of revenge and the consequences that come from that are the major theme of the story. Every issue has a different tale of revenge in it from a different character, as well as the major arc of the Witch’s Gang being out for revenge, and the Goon is out for revenge, and you have all the minor stories of one character from each issue telling their own personal tale of revenge. It goes into the curse of the town. I have a few characters, a couple of new ones, where their tale of revenge kind of explains how the curse of the town works and how this anger and hate and everything that comes from everyone’s quest for revenge and the death that leads from that contributes to this curse. They all play off each other a little bit until the climax in the fourth issue where you kind of get it.
The first issue also introduced Ramona to the world of “The Goon.” How important will she be to the greater narrative, and what significance does she have to The Goon? What went into creating the character as you went into the first issue?
She’s a very hard-nosed character that kind of rubs The Goon the wrong way in the beginning, but that no BS kind of attitude also makes her endearing to The Goon. It’s the first time, I think, for either of these characters — The Goon and Ramona — that either of them have found someone that just kind of accepts them. It’s always building up that fear that whenever you’re writing a story, you want people to feel that relationship, and feel consequence behind it, too. I’ve found it kind of hard, because I have to build this up over a four issue miniseries. I’m trying to establish this relationship as quickly as possible, but also give it substance. I don’t want to go like, “Here’s The Goon’s girlfriend.” I’m trying to build it up and help people understand how it happened and everything.
[Ramona] plays a significant role in the story, and is a pretty important character in this series and the next.
The art in “Occasion” plays a lot with beige and sepia tones, giving it the feel of a more noir horror adventure than some previous installments. What was challenging for you about the artistic side of the equation?
Recently, over the last year, I’ve been thinking about my approach to the art and the stuff I’m doing wrong, and the stuff I feel like I’m doing right — and I just came to the conclusion that I feel like there’s a lot of approaches being taken to comic art that are only being done that way because it’s the way it’s been done. “This is the way you’re supposed to do it, this is the way it’s done, so make it like this.” I think, sometimes, people forget that it’s art. You can do whatever you want to do with it.
I always wanted the book to be black and white. I thought about going back and just doing it as a black and white book, but there’s unfortunately still a negative feel for some retailers about black and white books. A lot of them won’t carry it, even though one of the best selling comics we have right now — “The Walking Dead” — is a black and white book. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but there you go.
I wanted to do something where I was using color for mood and effect rather than as — “The sky is supposed to be blue, the grass is supposed to be green” — a literal interpretation that doesn’t really do anything for the artwork other than coloring. I thought about desaturating everything, leaving some stuff black and white where I felt like it made the most impact, and when I did put color on it, I put it in very sparsely or very drastically to create a mood or an impact. I have to say that I’m pretty happy with the stuff I’ve been doing on this series as far as color.
I’ve gotten some pretty good responses, and I’m pretty happy about that. When you try something new, you don’t know how people are going to react to it. I expected people to go, “Oh, he’s just being lazy now. Look, half the book’s in black and white.” Yeah, half the book is in black and white, but I’m hand-painting it, too. I’m painting in all this greyscale and stuff. I’m not cutting out steps, I’m actually adding them — doing washes and sepia tone and black and white; and doing digital coloring on top of it.
We’re at a good point for that kind of thing, though. It seems like more readers are becoming accepting of this more impressionistic take on comic art. It’s not just the typical ink-and-primary colors.
Is that the type of thing you’re hoping to do moving forward, push the boundaries on what you can do with your art?
Definitely. Like I said with the story, I want to keep it interesting for the reader and I want to keep it interesting for myself. I get bored pretty easily doing the same thing over and over again, as far as art goes. If I was just doing straight-up pen and ink stuff over and over again, I would get bored with it. I love the texture of pencil; I think I’m probably best at painting, so I definitely want to incorporate those things into the book where appropriate to create effect or impression or a mood. There may be projects where I just do something all in pencil or washes or something, but with “The Goon,” I definitely like to mix it up a little bit and play with styles.
“The Goon: Occasion for Revenge” #2 is in stores now.