Powell Breaks Silence on "The Goon"

It's been eight months since readers saw a new issue of Eric Powell's award-winning Dark Horse series "The Goon" on the stands, but that doesn't mean the title's creator has been anything but active. Over the course of the summer, Powell celebrated 10 years of his hard-living, no-nonsense, zombie-stompin' touch guy and his comically horrific world, launched a crossover with Adult Swim superstars Dethklok, and wrapped a draft of a "Goon" screenplay for director David Fincher.

And now that the ongoing "Goon" series is "back" with next week's wordless issue #33, Powell promised CBR that he'll be ramping up his print comic output into 2010 from his all-ages, self-published "Chimichanga" series (three monthly issues of which start hitting in December) to more and more stories set in the world of the Goon himself. "I've had a few people comment on the message board about 'Hey! When are we going to see another book?,'" Powell said, "but for me the past three years have been a crazy, non-stop amount of activity, because I went straight from working on the 'Chinatown' book while also doing the Superman Bizarro stuff into the Goon Year doing the book monthly. And when that wrapped, I was doing stuff for the film."

After last year's "Goon Year" promotion delivered a gang war epic featuring the titular character's battle with the resurrected mobster whose role he'd filled for years, "Goon" #33's one-shot story of a stolen necklace, a crazed killer, and an untrustworthy dame told entirely in pictures should shift the title in a new direction. And Powell wouldn't have it any other way. "I thought it would be funny to do a comic with nothing but thought balloons. I think it was more work to do that than it would have been to fill the book with words because I had to do drawings inside the thought balloons!" he said. "For me, it's about the fact that you've got to do what you find interesting...I'm a big believer in 'less is more.' Anything that lets the reader draw their own conclusions, I like that better, and this is a big example of that. You pretty much draw your own conclusion in every panel. You interpret it through your own sensibilities."

With that paired-down approach pumping up both the humor and the drama of the issue, the artist reflected that a quieter approach will always work better for a character like the Goon. "To me, a real tough guy doesn't go around saying, 'I feel so bad about this!' He just sits at the bar having his drink. That's part of the character and goes hand-in-hand with not wanting to hold people's hands through stories," Powell said. "It would be horrible to me to put something in with the Goon going, 'I feel really bad about this girl, and I'd like to talk to you about it, Franky.' These are people who are not in touch with their emotions at all."

But the real-life community of Goon readers will get a chance to celebrate the character as loudly as they want on December 10 when Powell hosts a Goon-themed burlesque show at Nashville's Belcourt Theatre. "This is just me wanting to do a burlesque show," he laughed, though he admitted a secondary motive of drawing more readers to the book. "A lot of this stuff has no real hard core marketing scheme going in. It's more or less me going, 'These are the things I want to do.' That's how I've always tried to steer my career - by maintaining the enthusiasm for what I do.

"Comics should have a lot wider audience than it has. I sponsor a roller derby, and that's a crowd where the people who are into it are rockabilly-ish, tattooed punks who love roller derby. These are the people who should be reading comics and who would know there are a lot of different types of comics out there. And not as many of them read comics as you'd think.

"There are these weird little subcultures that are artsy and not about the mainstream, and I think that's the perfect kind of crowd to be reading 'Goon' comics."

Of course, what would expand that crowd of readers even more would be a movie adaptation of the character, and Powell promised that his deal with director David Fincher and CG animation specialists Blur Studios was moving forward strongly. "I just finished writing the script a few months back, and Blur is working on a lot of test stuff. Fincher is working on a film right now, so we're waiting for him to get some space so we can start showing some of this stuff off. I'm pretty happy with everything so far. We've just got to work to get to the next point. This is a slow, long process."

While he couldn't confirm whether or not Fincher would direct the final product or be credited as a producer, Powell said, "David's going to be heavily involved. I've worked with him and Blur quite a bit to get the screenplay together, and it's been a great experience so far." He added that this specific deal is keeping him much more involved with the screen life of his property than many other comic creators have gotten.

"I think it's a choice where, if you're getting a giant paycheck from a major studio to adapt your book and get Brad Pitt as the lead or whatever, then they kind of take it away from you because they've invested so much. But when you're doing something that's more about the material and less about a big event, they give you the opportunity to be more involved. And that's your choice," Powell said. "Some guys are like, 'Just give me the check and you do what you want with it.' But I've worked so long on 'The Goon' and I'm not creating a new book every month. I'm kind of using the Mike Mignola/Jeff Smith approach where you get your book out there and maintain it. I've got a lot invested in this on character, so I wanted to be involved. And they were eager to have me involved, so it worked out very well."

And control reigns supreme with December's "Chimichanga" series, which Powell decided to self-publish as an exercise in expanding his creative platforms. "It's definitely in tone and sensibility a complete departure from 'The Goon'" he explained. "However, it has the feel of one of my comics. When you read this, it'll have that feel of an Eric Powell comic - the atmosphere a Goon story has and the same rhythms to the dialogue. Other than that, it's a pretty strong departure."

While the story revolves around a bearded girl and her cohorts in a strange circus, Powell shied away from directly labeling it a "children's comic" because "I'm not necessarily writing Chimichanga for kids. It's kid-safe. You could definitely share it with a kid, but adults will enjoy it just as much. That's the key. If you try to do something 'for a kid,' then you're doomed. If you do something for yourself that you enjoy, the kid will most likely enjoy it too."

As for his ongoing plans for "The Goon," Powell promised more stories through 2010 as the book returns to a bi-monthly schedule. "I'm still going along with the idea I had in the beginning, which is me taking it wherever I wanted to take it. I wanted to keep it kind of random and unpredictable. It's a 'whatever I feel like doing at the time' kind of book. I don't limit myself because of any issues I've done previously. I have bigger story lines I want to do for 'The Goon,' but I want to continue with some of the self-contained stories I did earlier on and keep a sense of unpredictability and fun... stuff that pushes the comic in weird ways and what you can do with the medium.

"There's going to be more Goon stuff and not just 'The Goon,' but there's going to be more kind of 'Goon Universe' stuff going on in this next year. I hate using that because it makes it sound like a superhero comic, but Goon-related material will be coming out and should be pretty fun."

"The Goon" #33 hit stands November 25 from Dark Horse.

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