Powell's "Buzzard" Flies Solo

Of all the tragedy, heartbreak, and out-and-out nastiness besieging the Goon, Frankie, and company during the monthly Goon Year arc, perhaps no character was so desperate as Buzzard, a man cursed with both immortality and the need to consume zombie flesh. Now, Eric Powell, the writer/artist creator of "The Goon," is ready to put the old ghoul through the wringer once again in his own three-issue miniseries debuting in June from Dark Horse. "Buzzard" follows the title character as he continues his search for answers to the nature of his being, encountering all manner of beastly creatures along the way. CBR News spoke with Powell about the miniseries, in which the grim old lawman journeys to a new village in need of his aid, one tormented by half-human savages, and features the return of another of his creations in the backup strip "Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities," illustrated by Kyle Hotz.

Buzzard was once a small-town sheriff in the late 19th century, before his constituency fell prey to a zombie plague. Somehow spared, Buzzard eventually came face-to-face with the Zombie Priest, who was looking to complete the job. Zombie Priest's spell backfired, though, leaving Buzzard as an unkillable lawman with a taste for dead flesh. In "The Goon" #31, Buzzard learned that the curse that had seemingly made him immortal was only part of his ultimate transformation, as fate would not let him die even after the Zombie Priest had lifted the hex. Powell said, however, that fans should not expect the whole truth to be laid bare in the coming miniseries. "If anything, I think this builds on the mystery of what, exactly, Buzzard is. He begins to discover new things about himself," he told CBR. "It's like going through puberty for a 100 year old ghoul who eats dead people."

Since the end of Goon Year, during which "The Goon" was published monthly throughout 2008, Powell has released an anniversary issue and a silent issue, both of which offered something bit different from the multi-part epic that preceded it. He has also self-published "Chimichanga," an all-ages story about a bearded girl, her traveling circus, and her unpredictable pet monster. As to what led Powell to pursue a four-issue "Buzzard" series by way of follow-up, the cartoonist said that the new series fit into his original plans for the character. "I've always wanted to do a stand alone Buzzard story. He was intended to be a stand alone character when I created him, but he got wrapped into the Goon story," Powell told CBR. "His role in the Goon plot is finished now and it was time to move him along."

As to whether Buzzard might find his way back into future Goon tales, Powell told CBR, "I'm unsure at this point. Like I said, he's served his initial purpose in the Goon story. Now there's really not a place for him there. There's no goal. I'm sure if I come up with the right story, he'll cross paths with the Goon again, though."

In addition to the titular character's storyline, "Buzzard" will include backup stories featuring the return of another of Powell's creations, "Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities," written by Powell and illustrated by the co-creator Kyle Hotz. Despite an apparent similarity of theme, Powell said there would be "no connection" between the adventures of Buzzard and Billy. "Kyle Hotz and I have been itching to get Billy's Oddities back out there, and we finally got a chance to work on a new series," he said. "With the western element in both titles, it seemed like a cool thing to reintroduce readers to Billy by having some backups in the Buzzard series."

The original "Billy the Kid" series ran for four issues in 2005, with the outlaw having faked his death and joined a traveling carnival. Though none would count him a friend, Billy embarks with this unusual crew on a quest to steal a mystical artifact from the castle of Victor Frankenstein. Things go poorly, on the whole.

Powell said the new adventures of the formerly-retired outlaw pick up where the original left off, with Billy and crew "in some vague part of Europe." "It's actually a nice little creepy story about what happens to them along their way on an errand to help a friend of the Oddities in England," he said.

Powell, who handles both writing and art chores on "The Goon" and has illustrated other writers' stories, notably Geoff Johns's "Bizarro" arc in "Action Comics," said that scripting "Billy" for Hotz is an enjoyable process, distinct from his other sorts of work. "Kyle and I created this series together and have a nice system worked out. We work the stories out together over the phone, I'll do a page by page plot breakdown with dialogue, and Kyle illustrates from that. It's a lot of freedom for both of us and gives both of us opportunities to add our own little touches here and there," Powell said. "I really enjoy it because when I'm working on a book by myself, I often get stuck on a point and just can't work through it - the spark isn't there. Those last few issues of Goon Year were murder. I draw fast, but you can't draw if you don't know what you're doing yet. More than once, I had to call my friend and writer Tom Sniegoski to help me through a plot point on those last couple of issues. With 'Billy,' Kyle comes up with all the good ideas and I come up with the bad ones and just write smart ass words coming out of the character's mouths."

He went on to describe "Billy" as "a complete collaborative effort." "I think if I had to break it down, plot would be 60% Kyle, 40% me, with characterization being 60% me, 40% Kyle, because I write the dialogue. But Kyle is also directing. He puts the expression on the faces and mannerisms in the bodies. We're both producing, but he's directing."

As to what's coming up in his flagship series, Powell said, "I have three unannounced Goon projects in mind that I'm itching to get to. As soon as 'Buzzard' is wrapped up, I'm on 'em! We also have a new 'Fancy Pants' hardcover coming out that collects Labrazio's return from Goon Year." At this point there is, however, no news to report on the movie front. "Still getting all our ducks in a row," Powell said. "It's a slow process. Hopefully we'll have some more news soon."

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