With this week's release of issue #32, Eric Powell's "The Goon" reaches its tenth anniversary milestone. The series, which has been published by Dark Horse since 2003 after brief stints at Avatar Press and as a self-published title, features the physically imposing title character fighting to maintain his criminal empire and clobbering the hordes of zombies that get in his way.
Recently, several long-running storylines came to a head when Labrazio, the dead mafioso upon whose name The Goon built his organization, returned for vengeance, even as Goon's adversary the Zombie Priest found himself captive of Buzzard, the deathless gunslinger. Add a dame into the mix -- Bella, who broke Goon's heart and returns with a secret -- and things are looking pretty volatile for Goon.
In commemoration of the big anniversary issue, CBR News spoke with Powell about the history of "The Goon," changes to the series over time, and where the book might be going next.
"I like drawing big ugly guys and monsters," Powell told CBR, recalling The Goon's origins. "I developed The Goon over time just as something that I could play to my strengths as an illustrator with. I wasn't getting much of anywhere as a freelancer. I just thought the teeth would make him kinda goofy looking and different. I couldn't think of another book that had the hero sporting buck teeth."
The Goon became a zombie fighter for similar reasons. "I like drawing zombies and they scared me the longest when I was a kid," Powell said. "What I mean is that I was a huge horror fan when I was a kid. I got desensitized pretty early. Not much scared me. But zombies always scared me."
"The Goon" started at Avatar in 1999, with the Zombie Priest beating a monkey to death with a baseball bat, which set the tone for what would follow. Powell has acknowledged, though, that this first three-issue series does not represent his best work, artistically, and there is a noticeable change in his style by time he re-launched the book as an independent series. "I think it was just a natural progression," Powell said. "Plus, I always have liked experimenting in medium and styles. I still do that. So no telling what the book will look like another ten years from now."
Another change with "The Goon" Volume 2 was a cover page blurb describing the Zombie Priest as "the man with no name." Powell intended to give the character a real name, but confesses he couldn't think of a good one. Things have changed in the Dark Horse series, however. "There's a reason for him not having a name," Powell said, acknowledging that the Priest's hidden name plays a role in recent issues. "I think that's how you have to write. You can't premeditate everything. You have to roll with it."
After a few issues of self-publishing, Powell brought "The Goon" to Dark Horse, after freelancing for the publisher's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" comics. "Apparently, a few Dark Horse guys were reading 'The Goon,' and Scott Allie wondered why they weren't doing it."
CBR News also asked Allie, who edits "The Goon," about the series' transition to Dark Horse. "I'd been trying to get 'The Goon' at Dark Horse since Eric created it, but I was a new editor then, and it was harder to start new things than it is now," he told CBR. "I think finally Eric just got so good at what he was doing that everyone recognized it as a perfect Dark Horse book. There was a bit in his second self-published issue that was so good, when we had [Publisher] Mike Richardson read just a few panels of it, he immediately wanted more."
"The Goon" went on hiatus for most of 2007 to allow Powell the time to work on the Goon graphic novel, "Chinatown," which was released to wide acclaim. "'Chinatown' was the best working experience on 'The Goon' so far," Powell said. "I loved the freedom of not having to work under a 22-page guideline. If I could, I'd only work like that." Powell was concerned that with the series' long absence from store shelves, fans might have forgotten the series, which led to the creation of the "Goon Noir" anthology, which featured other creators' takes on the character, including some from the worlds of stand-up comedy and television like Patton Oswalt and "RENO 911!" star Thomas Lennon.
During the same period, Powell also illustrated a short run on DC's Superman title, "Action Comics," in collaboration with writers Geoff Johns and Richard Donner. Powell said the experience of working with other writers can vary, but that his experience on the Bizarro arc was pretty smooth. "If you're working with a good comic writer, the only challenge is trying to see things the way they are envisioning them," he said. "If they are a bad comic writer, it's pure hell."
Given his experiences, Powell offers a cautionary note to up-and-coming comic-book writers: "Do not write a comic script like a movie script. Work in still images. A comic artist cannot draw a ninja backflipping out a window onto a car, catching a baby in midair, punching seven guys in the face, getting in the car and driving away, and jumping over seven buses in one panel.
"Fortunately I was working with Geoff Johns on the Superman stuff, and if you haven't heard, that guy's pretty good.
Following the hiatus, "The Goon" returned to a monthly schedule as part of what Dark Horse dubbed The Year of the Goon, and now the tenth-anniversary celebration is getting underway. Asked if all the attention is going to his head, Powell said, "I haven't snorted blow off Fergalicious's butt yet, so no. But we have been pretty lucky the way the whole schedule worked out- - 'Chinatown,' Goon Year, and now the tenth anniversary."
"The momentum this year is coming off Goon Year, when we had a monthly comic for the first time," Scott Allie agreed. "What that gives us this year is three new trade paperbacks in one year, plus a paperback edition of 'Chinatown' by the end of the year. We want to own your bookshelves. Also, we've got a few one-shots planned that will keep things interesting. To be announced shortly..."
Powell is also working on an animated feature film adaptation of "The Goon" as well as some other special projects, and as such, the ongoing series will not be back to its regular bi-monthly schedule quite yet -- though Powell indicated he would return it to a consistent schedule as soon as possible.
For hints as to where "The Goon" is going after the epic showdowns in issue #31, Powell simply advises readers to "check out 'Goon' #32, the anniversary issue!" You can get an advance look at the issue right here on CBR.
"'The Goon' is going to continue to be all over the place," Powell added. "I still plan to take it in weird directions, so I'm not even really sure where it's going."