Get Bent, Ya Weiner-Eatin’ Hoboes!
Eric Powell’s darkly funny comic The Goon is turning 20 this year, and he’s bringing the brick-fisted hero to fans with a national signing tour. After a split with Dark Horse Comics and a four-year hiatus, Powell has revived the cult hit series under his own steam with new characters and creative collaborations. And after years of crowdfunding and an enticing pitch trailer, the comic looks to be headed for the big screen, set to engage a new generation of fans.
A Haunted, Hulking Mob Enforcer
The Goon, a haunted, hulking mob enforcer, and his fiery sidekick Franky protect their neighborhood from paranormal monsters and the undead hordes of their arch enemy the Zombie Priest. Powell’s art style is Lovecraft meets Looney Tunes: fun, globular and graphic, with colorful rags of flesh hanging from rictus mouths, dripping slime, flying blood droplets, and bulging eyes in shadowed sockets.
Besides the magical monsters that inhabit the series, The Goon has few other typical comic elements. His power derives not from Infinity Stones or an Arc Reactor, but rotgut moonshine. He has no supernatural origin, and no particularly special powers. He became The Goon when he beat a mob boss’s head in with a rock, can punch real hard, and prefers telling dirty jokes with malcontents in a dingy dive bar to noble monologuing. Instead of lasers or lightsabers, he wields pipes, sledgehammers, and wrenches. The Goon is Hellboy‘s cynical, foul-mouthed cousin with TWO big hands. (And in fact, the two characters meet mitts in a crossover edition of The Goon #7.)
I Hear The Goon A-Comin’
Powell has a kitchen-sink approach to borrowing from the horror canon of the past. There are a lot of Depression-era elements, Old West twang and slangy mid-Atlantic swagger throughout the series, with titles like “Heaps of Ruination” and “Big Ma’s Hootenanny & Slack-Jaw Fighting.” There are nods to the 1930’s classic “Freaks.” The Town with No Name is all misty 40’s noir, complete with swamp monsters and a sinister hilltop citadel. He fights 50’s-styled sci-fi robots and aliens, and there’s even a Crestwood Avenue–a probable nod to the Crestwood House Monsters Series, a collection of horror films released as children’s library books in the 70’s and 80’s. Powell’s resists slotting his series into one era, which adds to the supernatural feel.
Fans love the Goon for its irreverent writing and absurd plotlines. At one point the authorities arrest our punchy hero and toss him in the Hole, a netherworld filled with beastly horrors from which no one escapes. In the next panel, his captors return to find him leading a band of lurching pit monsters in a boisterous round of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” And when a gypsy witch comes to town to claim a blood debt, they chase her off by citing union bylaws about spell-casting on construction sites. It’s a refreshing alternative to the cumbersome, over-serious “graphic novels” that were popular in the early aughts.
Even the bad guys are more ridiculous than villainous. The Goon battles a giant zombie chimp, redneck werewolves, a pie-loving skunk-ape, a squadron of French-speaking octopuses in zeppelins, and Joey the Ball, a man with a giant, muscular right arm thanks to getting his hand stuck in a bowling ball as a child. Now there’s an origin story.
But it’s Powell’s refusal to follow the high-drama comic template or take his characters seriously that make its dramatic moments stick. One sepia flashback sees the Goon break down over a lost love. It’s crushing to watch his steamshovel mug crumple over several panels. Powell even wrote one poignant but Goon-ified Christmas issue modeled after A Christmas Carol.
20 years after the Goon wiped the floor with his first zombie, the franchise’s future is looking brighter than ever. In Powell’s new continuation, the Goon and Franky return to The Town with No Name after an overseas adventure (to be detailed in an upcoming graphic novel) to face fresh paranormal threats to the neighborhood. The Goon #2, released in May, reveals the backstory of a brand-new villain, evil crimelord Vinnie Nosferatu. And Powell is teasing future collaborations with other artists, but won’t name names just yet. The comic has a mob of diehard devotees, among them Brendon Small from Metalocalypse (who co-created the crossover comic “Dethklok vs the Goon” with Powell in 2009).
Most exciting of all, the cinderblock-fisted mob boss may be smashing his way onto film soon. Deadpool director Tim Miller’s Blur Studio is announcing that the Goon animated movie is officially being developed by 20th Century Fox. Powell and David Fincher will produce, but will Paul Giamatti voice foul-mouthed Franky, as he did in Fincher’s 2010 pitch reel? Stay tuned, ya slack jaw dinglepipers.