By Edward Gambichler
The Goon Volume 11
“The Deformed of Body and the Devious of Mind”
When I first began to study comic book illustration, I came across a brilliant artist by the name of Berni Wrightson. I was amazed at, what I thought at the time, was a revolutionary inking style. However, while pursuing Wrightson, I came upon one of his early influences, another artist by the name of Graham Ingels. Ingels, along with Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Frank Frazetta, Johnny Craig, Al Williamson, and Reed Crandall ( to name just a few ) made up a stable of artists which produced work for an imprint known as EC Comics. Owned by legendary and controversial publisher William Gaines, the company specialized in horror, science fiction, as well as crime fiction titles. From out of this company sprang the popular “Tales from the Crypt”, “The Vault of Horror”, “The Haunt of Fear”, as well as “Mad” magazine. The stories contained in these books prompted a psychiatrist by the name Frederic Wertham to write book titled “Seduction of the Innocent” which blamed comic books for most of the juvenile delinquency in 40’s and 50’s era youth. This book in turn led to the creation of the Comics Code. And with that, and no pun intended, the final nail in the coffin of most of the horror titles associated with EC. Since these titles spoke more to my sensibilities at the time than did Superman or Spider-man, I was saddened by the industries lack of good and truly creepy horror stories since then ( and, I’m sorry, no matter how dark he could get……Batman was just not cutting it for me ). That is, til I picked up my first issue of creator Eric Powell’s “The Goon”.
The comic book title centers around a character called the Goon, a grizzled giant of a man who poses as an enforcer for a long dead gangster named Labrazio. The Goon killed Labrazio ( who was hiding out in the carnival the Goon was living in ) when the Goon’s favorite Aunt Lizzie was killed in a crossfire between the police and the gangster. Since then, the Goon has taken over all of Labrazio’s criminal rackets and kept up the illusion that Labrazio is still alive. Unfortunately, for the Goon, the town where his operation is located is continually besieged by supernatural creatures ranging from zombies, vampires, carnival oddities, and the occasional giant squid ( forcing the Goon to take on the role of the town’s protector as well ). He is aided by his best friend and sidekick, Franky ( who the Goon saved from a pack of bullies ).
And with the publication of the collected issues that make up Volume 11, well…I just can’t say enough about this title. First, the artwork. As an artist myself, I usually follow book titles based on the artwork inside and these collected issues are just pure eye dessert. There are few artists who can use black ink with such precision and balance as Eric Powell does in these issues. The only artists who I place in this limited talent pool are Wrightson, Wally Wood, Dave Stevens, Steve Rude, Mike Mignola and, of course, Will Eisner. I’ve scanned through this collection twice already and I cannot find one panel that isn’t a master class in inking style. The drawing style and figurework harken back to the old EC Comics house style as well as Eisner’s spirit with a dash of Jack Kirby’s vitality of movement. And the carefully chosen color palette only enhances the already beautifully rendered panels and doesn’t overpower them. There are a great many artists working in the industry today. However, not many of them have the capacity to breathe this much “Life” in their books as Powell does in these issues.
As far as the writing goes, this collection provides plenty of laugh out loud moments. Powell rips apart and satirizes horror movie and mainstream comic conventions. You will literally piss yourself with Powell’s take on the “Twilight” craze, as well as the prevailing and uninspiring cross hatch inking techniques of todays’s contemporary comic book artists. Eagle-eyed film buffs will also catch references to Dracula director Tod Browning’s controversial film “Freaks”. And as a member of the Communication Workers of America Local 1101, I particularly appreciated Chapter 4’s subject matter dealing with greedy corporations and labor union disputes. If only we had the Goon on our side to prevent us from winding up being among the dreaded “99%”. And with an extra retro cheesecake factor provided by special guest, real life Canadian burlesque performer Roxi D’Lite ( in Chapter 3 ) and you have a book which speaks to every reader’s sensibilities.
It is my greatest wish that film-maker David Fincher will procure the funding needed to go ahead and give The Goon the full length cinematic treatment that was hinted at in the teaser trailer released at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con.
Follow Ed on Twitter @EFG72