“The Goon” is the product of a contentedly demented mind. You’ve got a Hobo Demon God terrorizing children because they’ve eaten cake and refuse to share it. You’ve got a birthday party (see: cake). And you’ve got an interlude involving Eric Powell, Frank Darabont, and Animal-Costume-Related Rape. This issue also happens to signal the comic’s 10th Anniversary.
One gets the impression that Powell created “The Goon” just so he could have twenty to thirty pages at a time where he could just draw whatever he felt like, whether it’s ratty newsboys or a thug punching a slithering hobo god in the gut. While that might not lend itself to the most in-depth mythology, that lack is made up for a hundred fold in the comic’s insurmountable charm. Character designs range from Nowlan-esque goliaths to Little Orphan Annie-style wastrels. And yet, thanks to Powell’s distinctive brush style (helped ably by Dave Stewart’s coloring, which integrates seamlessly with the often translucent line work), it all fits together.
(If it sounds like this is the first time I’ve ever read “The Goon,” shameful confession: It Is.)
Being an Anniversary issue, there is of course a wealth of celebratory pinups, including work by Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan, and Jeff Smith. Most of it is in pencil (it’s branded as a Sketchbook) but that makes it all the more interesting to look at in terms of process, even if it might not be a crystalline, perfect Anniversary pin-up. Powell also included a fascinating illustrated look at the genesis of “The Goon.” Not only is the original character wildly different from what he ended up as, but Powell’s style is almost unrecognizable when compared to that of fifteen years ago. You’ll just have to see it to believe it, but I’m hard pressed to think of an artist whose style took such an interesting and fundamental leap.
“The Goon” as a comic made of stand alone issues, tends to be a fairly slim experience. But it’s a comic meant to be lingered on. Powell has strived to give himself the opportunity and space to draw what he wants to draw most. And one thing that can never be said is that he doesn’t take great advantage of the opportunity.