Comics, Comedians and Creeps: "The Goon: Noir"

Along with his short-tempered, short-statured sidekick Franky, the Goon has since his 2003 Dark Horse Comics debut become one of indie comics' premiere characters. Creator Eric Powell has filled eighteen full color issues of "The Goon" (and one unspeakably vulgar, polybagged special) with zombies, vampires, mad scientists, ghosts, ghouls, aliens, skunk apes, giant squids, flying octopi, cannibal hobos and good old fashioned hard hittin', hard drinkin' bar brawls. Also, sodomy. And jokes (often about sodomy).

"The Goon" series has earned countless accolades and numerous awards, including Eisners for Best Single Issue, Best Continuing Series and Best Humor Publication. Indeed, the menacing fists of the Goon fly hard into the guts of the comics industry, capturing some of the medium's best creators as fans, but the Goon's reach goes far beyond comic books. Among his loyal readers, Powell counts prolific comedians Patton Oswalt ("Mr. Show," "Ratatouille") and Brian Posehn ("The Sarah Silverman Show," "Comedians of Comedy"), as well as "Reno 911!" co-creator and co-star Thomas Lennon.

Details are sketchy, but in late 2006, "Goon" insider, letter hack and sometimes-electroacoustic folk singer Dwight T. Albatross managed to "create" a new Goon title featuring not just the work of Oswalt, Posehn and Lennon, but also that of some of the most distinguished talents in all of comics. Reportedly devised by the cantankerous Albatross in order to "get some strange ass," "The Goon: Noir" is a 104 page black and white volume (on sale now) featuring some of the most cretinous, insane and brilliantly hilarious Goon stories yet told. CBR News spoke with a handful of "The Goon: Noir" contributors, whose numbers include such comics luminaries as John Arcudi, Kevin Nowlan, Humberto Ramos, Steve Niles, Ryan Sook and Avrid Nelson.

"I discovered 'The Goon' after a bunch of my much smarter friends recommended it," Patton Oswalt told CBR News. "And then it was love at first sight."

Drawn by legendary "Man-Thing" illustrator and Ghost Rider co-creator Mike Ploog, Oswalt's "When Franky Fell from Favor" tells the disturbing tale of the Goon's taking on of a new sidekick, a hideous little man with a second, more hideous head growing out of his cheek. "It's a tale of jealousy and friendship, and the lengths a sidekick will go to defend his place and status," Oswalt said. "I submitted my script and then they asked Mike Ploog to do it. I don't have the juice to get someone like that, so I lucked out.

"Thomas Lennon's story had the goriest/funniest zombie death I've ever seen," Oswalt added, referring to the contribution of "Reno 911!" star Thomas Lennon, "Lucky Pierre."

"I wanted to do something about people trying to use the Goon in a marketing campaign," Thomas Lennon told CBR News. "I thought cigarettes were the perfect product. I've always enjoyed the upbeat cigarette ads that you hear in old time radio shows, like, 'Call for Phillip Morris!'"

Depicting the Goon's struggle against dubious corporate interests and the horrors of male modeling is the venerable Guy Davis, well known for his work on Vertigo's landmark "Sandman Mystery Theatre" as well as numerous Hellboy-related projects. "I was very lucky to get Guy Davis for my story," Lennon said. "He's got an awesome, really dark style. I particularly loved his version of Spider."

"[Lennon] wrote the hilarious script and I had the easy task of just filling in the panels with the Goon fighting slackjaws, lions and wearing hot pants," said Guy Davis.

"I picked up 'The Goon' the first time I saw Eric Powell's art on the comic shelf," Davis added. "His ugly mug was the selling point for me, and the Goon was great too! I got to do a pinup for one of the early Dark Horse 'Goon' issues and was happy to come back and draw a story for 'The Goon: Noir.'"

"I was introduced to the Goon by Brian Finney, who's an actor here in Los Angeles in The Actors Gang," Lennon explained. "He's a serious comic book fan. In our fake movie panel for the Goon movie at Comic-Con, Brian played the Sony executive.

"I had never been particularly interested in comic books until 'The Goon.' I thought the first one I saw was one of the coolest, funniest things I had seen in years. Then I met Eric Powell, and I thought, 'this boy doesn't seem entirely right in the head, I'm gonna give him all the support I can.'"

Of his fellow "Noir" contributors, Lennon remarked, "One of my favorite parts was Brian Posehn's instructions to Eric to go back and add as many references as possible to Franky's love of soup. At least, I think it was soup. I look forward to the collections and seeing how Eric fits soup into each of the stories."

Illustrated by Tony "Itchy" Moore and entitled "The Honey Pot," Brian "Hairy" Posehn's tale depicts a dull, bar brawlin' day at Norton's that's interrupted when Franky becomes captured in a disturbingly dark, close place beneath a towering behemoth of a man-woman-thing. It's disgusting.

"What's not to like!?" Davis exclaimed when asked about his favorite "Noir" tale. "I enjoyed them all, but really got a kick out of John Arcudi's and Kevin Nowlan's Goon roast."

John Arcudi's "Man of the Hour" sees the Goon roasted by some of his closest friends. Naturally, the Goon's sense of humor turns out to be incompatible with the concept of a roast, and the event meets a violent end. Deftly rendered by black and white specialist Kevin Nowlan, the short story is also a favorite of "Noir" contributor Ryan Sook.

Pages from "Man of the Hour," the Goon's roast, by John Arcudi and Kevin Nowlan

"Too cool," said Ryan Sook of Arcudi & Nowlan's bit.

The artist of "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell," "Seven Soldiers: Zatanna," and "B.R.P.D.," Ryan Sook was a natural for "The Goon: Noir." "[Editor] Scott Allie at Dark Horse was talking about Eric Powell when I first started working at Dark Horse about nine years ago when the Goon was being self-published – I think – and I just remember thinking that the characters were really unique looking and just cool.

"I draw a Steve Niles script which includes a little %^$^$#$%^$ and some ^&*%$^& and then there's a surprise ^&*^&*%^$% at the end. Oh, yeah, and I got to draw zombies wrestling!"

"Rex Mundi" creator Avrid Nelson teamed up with Humberto Ramos for a short and sweet story of the Goon busting some heads. "It's just classic, classic Goon – that was the intention. It's dark, it's nutty, it's satisfying. Like a brownie."

"The Wisdom of the Goon" is a must-see for Ramos fans, and Nelson agrees. "[Humberto's] one of my absolute favorites, so I was really honored when he did a cover for 'Rex Mundi,' and now this! I hope I can do something with him again. He perfectly understood everything I was going for in the script."

Like many of his fellow "Noir" contributors, Nelson is a dedicated "Goon" fan. "Matt Dryer, the 'Goon' editor, sent me a few trade paperbacks," Nelson said. "I was blown away. My only connection to Eric Powell is approaching him at a convention and making a fool of myself with my gushy praise."

Of the book's highlights, Nelson told CBR News, "I'll read absolutely anything drawn by Guy Davis. Thomas Lennon…did a fantastic job, too." Lennon & Davis' "Lucky Pierre" has another fan in eminent cartoonist and Boingo Comics co-founder Bill Morrison.

"I thought [Thomas Lennon] really captured Eric's degenerate sense of humor and slung the slang like a motherless teamster," said Morrison, whose "Noir" contribution, "Hey Goon! Comics!" stands out as one of the most inventive of the anthology.

"My story is inspired by Yogi Bear cartoons," Morrison explained. "When Eric Powell and Scott Allie invited me to contribute a story, I had no idea what I could do that would be worthy of what Eric had established with the characters. So I just decided that I should play to my strengths and have as much fun as possible. I remember thinking about the characters of the Goon and Franky and how they reminded me of sort of a twisted version of Yogi and Boo Boo. So, I decided that my mission would be to show what the Goon would be like if it was done as a Hanna-Barbera cartoon in a universe where there was no FCC."

Like most fans of "The Goon," Morrison was possessed by the title character's horrible visage staring out at him from the comics store shelf. "I was immediately drawn to the art," Morrison said. "As an artist myself, I always get that little twinge of jealousy when I see someone really good, and it was that way with Powell. Then, when I read the story, I just thought it was really fun and original. It wasn't confined by any particular genre. It just was what it was, and I loved that about it."

Additional "Noir" tales are contributed by "Fred the Clown" creator Roger Langridge, Splash Brannigan co-creator Hilary Barta, Dark Horse editor Scott Allie with Todd Herman, Buffyverse and Hellboyverse writer Thomas Sniegoski, who with Goon creator Eric Powell authored a 15-page adventure titled "The Little Unholy Bastards in 'Peg Leg Full of Heaven,'" which is just as bizarre and anarchic as it sounds, and concludes this most original collection of work.

"There are a lot of good moments in there," Eric Powell told CBR News. "My favorite thing about the whole project was the diverse group of creators we got together and seing them play around with my characters."

Eric Powell will be attending Comic-Con International in San Diego and can be found at booth #2208, selling original art, books and more "Goon"-related merchandise. Powell promises "some pretty cool announcements" for the convention. Powell will be illustrating Geoff Johns and Richard Donner's "Action Comics" for DC Comics, and with the July return of the bi-monthly "The Goon" series and the upcoming "Chinatown" graphic novel, Powell declared, "Goon fans will have plenty to keep them happy within the next year."

As for Dwight T. Albatross, the erstwhile "The Goon" publisher is returning to the business in full effect with the announcement of "Dwight T. Albatross Presents: Blinky's," a new independently published 'zine to be available at Comic-Con. The 38-page Color 'zine will include interviews with comic writer Leah Moore ("Raise the Dead," "Albion," "Witchblade: Shades of Gray"), Jackson Publick of Adult Swim's "Venture Bros.", renowned pin-up artist Olivia de Berardinis, new original comic strips "Zombie Custer" and "Billy Purgatory" by artist and sculptor Moses Jaen and writer Jesse James Freeman, a special advice column by celebrity undead host Ms. Monster, artwork by Monster Lab Tattoos and much more.

Alabatross, whose contributions to "The Goon: Noir" include a foreword, an introduction, an intermission, an afterword, a collection of nearly nude photos "for the ladies," and a pin-up gallery of wholly unrelated comic characters including Spawn, continues to vex fans and industry professionals alike. Remarked Eric Powell, "Well, when I started self-publishing, Dwight and I started Albatross Exploding Funny Books and since I moved to Dark Horse, he's just kind of big leaching on. Like a big, smelly, fat, hairy, obnoxious leach."

Dwight T. Albatross could not be reached for comment at press time.

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