Eric Powell and The Goon or Why was I not reading this all along?

The cover to issue # 34–and yes, they are picking on the Twilight films.

At this year’s C2E2, I made a point of looking for books and creators I had previously not seen.  Sometimes it is just that I had not been exposed to them, but more often it was something that most fans of comics can identify with:  the “I really should give this book a read SOMEDAY” syndrome.  There are lots of great books that manage to survive because of a core following and the fact that they are a labor of love for the creators.  They can last for years sometimes and never sell more than a few thousand copies an issue, never getting the chance to be seen by a wider audience.  Others are popular enough to survive comfortably, but never really take off to a level that the book deserves.

One book that had been on my personal “SOMEDAY” list was Eric Powell’s The Goon.  Eric was there this year, so I made a point to go over and talk with him about The Goon and see if it was something I should be reading.  I spent several minutes speaking with him about the title and found out things that the anal fan-boy in me needs to know before jumping into a new title, particularly a creator owned one.  We have all been burned by creators that fail to live up to the promise, or simply fail to put out the book.  James Owen’s Starchild is a great example of a creator that had a great book and failed to keep it up.  Sometimes he would manage only an issue or two per year, even leaving the book hanging in the middle of an ongoing arc. as far as I could ever find, the series most current arc, ended in April of 1998 with issue four, part one of a new arc.  We all have stories like this in our reading history, so I am quick to see if there is a good track record of the creator sticking to it and wanting to tell stories.

The Goon first appeared in Avatar Press’ Dreamwalker #0 in 1998, quickly making the jump to his own eponymous title in a few months.  There were publisher related delays at first, but landed at Dark Horse in 2003.  While Powell does step away from the book periodically to work on other projects, he always comes back to this title.  Up to issue # 39 so far, this title is released a little irregularly, like most creator owned books.  There have been a few years where only a couple of issues have come out, due mostly to other projects like Chimichanga, an odd little story more for younger readers.  The Goon is up to ten collected trade editions with number eleven coming in a couple of weeks.

The book is continuity soft, meaning that the trades can really be read in most any order (another anal fan-boy question I asked Mr Powell when we spoke), but I am still doing them in release order.  The title is all about the daily adventures of The Goon and his pal Franky, two tough guys living in a dark town infested with zombies (slack jaws) and other slimy undead creatures.  Combining equal parts horror and humor, this violent book, while rarely excessive, is definitely not for younger readers, but it is some silly fun reading.  It is an adventure comic with lots of odd characters and history being told along with the main stories.  One of the faults that many creator owned books have is a lack of depth.  The characters are one-dimensional or just under developed, showing that very little thought went into the book’s creation.  This is not the case here and the world seems fully formed almost immediately.  Things start off right away neither assuming familiarity with the world, or spoon-feeding you everything.  You get what you need to know as the book flows.  If you don’t need a bit of the back story for a particular book, you are not given it.  If you do, even if it was covered in a previous issue, it is worked in to the current story in a fresh way that works well and keeps the interest of even the long time reader.

Issue # 39. Freely abusing everything stupid about comics.

An example of books with a similar feel would be Atomic Robo and Nextwave (for the silly adventure aspects) and Paul Chadwick’s Concrete (for the surprising depth and intelligence the book is written with), there is a little of everything here.  There are monsters and genre parody, the recent issue picking on the Twilight franchise was a real treat.  Industry satire (see the cover at right) and monsters getting splattered!

With a huge supporting cast and piles of undead mayhem, this is a great book that will have me as a fan for as long as Powell keeps giving me stories to read, and anyone that likes fun, silly and violent books that never take themselves too seriously and don’t abuse the reader will love this book.

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