The Goon - Eric Powell

Funnier than Dawn of the Dead, and more frightening than Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs with a shotgun

Feature by Bram Gieben | 15 Feb 2006
The Goon is built like a brick outhouse, scarred down one side of his face, a flat-cap pulled over one eye. His arms are thicker than his legs – great trunks of meat that hang down on either side of a barrel chest. His broken-toothed, Cro-Magnon jaw juts defiantly. A grey-fleshed old man in a battered top hat cries: "Behold, the great Zombie Chimp!" The Zombie Chimp stands there, a deep faecal brown, its face a rictus of aggression.

"That's it!" responds The Goon, battle-weary, mopping his brow. "I draw the line at giant dead monkeys. I've put up with the redneck werewolf, the little guy with the bowling ball on his hand, I'll even put up with the big, man-man eating rats. But this is all I can take tonight! I'm going home." Needless to say, three panels later he is chest-deep in un-dead simian entrails.

Set in a downtrodden, Depression-era town plagued by zombie gangsters, Eric Powell's ongoing saga about The Goon and his blank-eyed sidekick Franky combines Tex Avery levels of violence with a good dose of George A Romero schlock horror. The beautifully rendered cartoon world that the characters live in has some very dark corners - the Zombie Priest, head of the local un-dead crime syndicate, is a genuinely sadistic bad guy; characters in the background drink themselves into unconsciousness; a giant spider is harassed for child support by his ex-wife, bearing hundreds of tiny spiders on her back. Powell's humour is in huge, broad strokes, just like his art, and yet there is a curious, elegiac wistfulness of tone in every lovingly-drawn bar-brawl, or wiseacre exchange between the lead characters.

For readers new to the series, a good place to start is the collection 'My Murderous Childhood (and Other Grievous Yarns)' which tells the story of how The Goon became a crime boss, and includes a fantastic tale about a pie-loving Skunk Ape, who smells like: "Dad's secret drawer that's always locked." The incident with the Zombie Chimp is in 'Rough Stuff,' a collection of Powell's early work on The Goon, packed with pre-production sketches. The ongoing monthly series is now on Issue 15. As the Zombie Priest prepares to fight back against The Goon's mob dominance, Powell manages to pack in some beautifully inked silent panels, filling out the cartoon violence of the earlier collections with fantastical, epic flourishes. Last year he picked up a prestigious Eisner award for his work – and it is well deserved. This is a superlative title, funnier than Dawn of the Dead, and more frightening than Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs with a shotgun.
My Murderous Childhood (and Other Grievous Yarns)' and 'Rough Stuff' (Dark Horse) available from Deadhead Comics, Candlemaker Row, ask the staff for the latest issue.,