The Goon: Rough Stuff
By: J.R. McNamara on March 26, 2009  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Writer: Eric Powell
Publisher: Dark Horse
Pages: 88
You get the idea of what writer/artist Eric Powell's The Goon: Rough Stuff collection is going to be like by the small written advice before the 'Special Thanks' section, which itself is before the 'Forward'. And I quote: 'No chimpanzees were harmed in the making of this comic… except for the one we strapped to a table and bludgeoned with a baseball bat. But honest injun, that was the only one.'

Eric Powell, it sounds to me like your comic The Goon should, no, DESERVES to be a part of the reviews here at Digital Retribution.

The Goon is the story of well, The Goon: a gigantic muscular beast of a man who has a drinking buddy named Franky, who appears to be a milky eyed, wimpy sufferer of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid gland, but he could still kick your wimpy little ass. Now these two friends live in a tough neighborhood…

Real tough.

Now you may think you live in a tough neighborhood because of the biker gang at one end of the street and the meth lab/ weapons factory at the other end, but that would be the sort of place these guys would go for a holiday. These guys have to deal with gangsters of the WORST kind. The Undead Kind, and not just zombies, but giant chimpanzee zombies, and werewolves, and the Deep Ones-ish Fishy Pete, not to mention the Zombie Priest, and the insane Joey the Ball, who has to be seen to be believed!!

To me, Powell's art, even here in this early work, is like an amalgamation of Bernie Wrightson, co-creator of Swamp Thing and illustrator of Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf, and the mighty comics legend Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit, and a man whose work is so well-respected in the comics industry that the comic version of The Academy Awards is known as 'The Eisners'. I would maybe even say that there was a little of Harold Grey's influences here and there (he created Little Orphan Annie) although via Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder's Little Annie Fanny, and maybe a touch of Al Capp as well, he who created L'il Abner. If you look at the work of all the artists named here, you will see a common thread in artistic styles, and Powell's is evident here, even in this raw, early comic. There are occasions where the panels look disorganized or clunky, but in general his art is a delight.

His writing on the other hand in these early tales is somewhat lacking. The story is fine, and a bit wacky and out-there, but the pacing of it is a little off. This is something sometimes expected of an early attempt, especially by a writer/ artist as it is incredibly hard to self edit. I think the only comic artist who ever, in my experience, did it really well was Jack Kirby.

This collection is a reprint of a reprint, that is it is a collection of Poewell's first three Goon comics from 1999, which was originally collected by indy press company 'Albatross Exploding Funny Books' in 2003, and has since been reproduced by Indy comic company come good Dark Horse comics, the folks behind the Aliens Vs Predator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr Giggles comics, just to mention a few. This edition though sees the art colored by colourist extraordinaire, Dave Stewart, and it is exceptional!

After the comic is over, there is a great article titled 'The Evolution of The Goon' where Powell shows us how the characters evolved into what they are now, and also has a little bit of uncolored art, so we can see Powell's panels before the coloring took place. These sorts of extras in a trade paperback are like those on a DVD: not always necessary, but the development of the comic crafting process can occasionally be a surprise.

Contrary to what you may think, The Goon: Rough Stuff is not about a backyard party in South Australia: The Goon eventually becomes a well drawn, cleverly scripted story about monsters, violence, more monsters, violence, gangsters, violence and violence…. but the Tom and Jerry type of violence…. and this collection of early stuff hints at what is to come, but just doesn't pull it off. The 'Rough Stuff' in the title doesn't only refer to the violence in the tale, but also to the fact that this is Powell's early work, and he definitely improves as The Goon comics go on. This is a nice distraction, and certainly better than a hell of a lot of comics around, but when you pick up later issues or collections, you'll see the difference.
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