Greetings, folks. Ambush Bug here with another interview I conducted at the San Diego Comic Con. Special thanks to AICN’s unsung hero, Muldoon, for transcribing all of these back and forthings. Expect a ton of interviews to be released daily until my interview well is dry (and believe me, it’s going to be a while after this con). Eric Powell’s creation THE GOON has rocketed the writer/artist to superstardom. With a film in the works, THE GOON couldn’t be hotter. Powell is also an aficionado of all things GODZILLA and wrote the first GODZILLA series for IDW. I had a chance to talk with Mr. Powell about both THE GOON and GODZILLA and more. Enjoy!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Alright, so here we go. I’m here with Eric Powell at the IDW booth. How are you doing right now?
ERIC POWELL (EP): I’m good. I’m just wading through the madness.
BUG: Yeah, this is day two and a half?
EP: It feels like it’s day 50 at this point.
BUG: Yeah, it feels like it. So you have a couple of projects coming out through IDW, mainly GODZILLA. Let’s talk about that first. How is that going for you?
EP: It’s fun. I was always a huge GODZILLA fan. When I was a kid they used to play some of the movies on Sunday afternoon and there was only Godzilla. I had the giant SHOGUN WARRIORS toy and you know all Godzilla, so the chance to actually do a comic…
BUG: Was that the one where you pressed the lever in the back and tongue came out?
EP: Yeah, the tongue came out and the fist would shoot off. Yeah, so I love Godzilla and I’ve kind of jumped at the chance to do something with it and it was just fun with giant monsters and everything.
BUG: I actually talked with Phil Hester at C2E2 about the fact that Godzilla came out right after the whole earthquake over there. That was one of those just terrible coincidences that happened. What were the reactions that people had when that came out so quickly after that happened? It was the same week I think it came out, right?
EP: I don’t remember exactly, but not only that, there were a series of really weird coincidences with GODZILLA. There were…right in a row Tracy and I wrote these issues and we had kind of signaling the coming of the monsters, like dead birds, dead fish, earthquakes, and in the news literally the following two weeks “Mass dead fish float up on shore. No one knows the reason why.” “Mass flocks of dead birds lay...” Tracy and I were emailing each other going like “This is really creepy. It’s like we are predicting the future and we need to write in GODZILLA that we become millionaires or something,” because it was literally like weird things…it was bizarre, but as far as the devastation in Japan it was just like…the good thing about the comic was it was spread out globally, because I think that kind of eased the awkwardness, but something that tragic lands it goes way beyond a funny book, you know? It was just heartbreaking and I remember writing Chris and you know as soon as I heard about this stuff and was like “Is everyone in Toho okay?” With your basic connections to this, you just want to make sure people are doing okay.
BUG: And then you guys put out a benefit comic. Is that coming out or has that been out?
EP: I’m not really sure. I talked to IDW about it to see if they were doing anything and they were like “Yeah, we are doing a benefit comic.” I think it’s already come out, but I didn’t really have any involvement with the production of it, yeah.
BUG: So what else do you have that’s going to be coming out then with the GODZILLA characters or anything else?
EP: Well our run goes up to issue #8 with Phil Hester and Eric Chester. We are doing the first two arcs and then I’m also going to do an illustrated version of HUCK FINN with IDW, because Mark Twain is one of my all time favorite writers. He’s one of the greatest satirists that has ever lived and HUCK FINN was that book like when you get assigned a book in class and you hate it and then you get that one that changes your whole opinion of literature, HUCK FINN was like that. It was the one where it wasn’t a chore to read it, I just got wrapped up in the story and they were talking about doing illustrated versions of books and I was like “I would really love to HUCK FINN.”
BUG: That’s really exciting. Did they announce that at the Con here?
EP: I’m not sure if they have, you might be the exclusive here. (laughs)
BUG: That’s awesome. Very cool. And yeah, there’s shades of the orneriness of HUCK FINN in THE GOON with all of the orphans in there.
EP: I loved THE LITTLE RASCALS…I love kid stories, because…I don’t know, I love feisty kids…they are not old enough to be jaded about everything and they are still…when you are a kid you don’t have the depth of knowledge of the world and everything, so everything is kind of a little new and magic and everything, so I just love that, the mistakes they make…everything has an extra consequence when you are a kid. It’s something when you are an adult and you are like “Well, that’s not a big deal….” If you are a kid and it happens it seems like everything is blown out of proportion.
BUG: So so far you have done mostly writing for IDW, is HUCK FINN going to be you drawing it as well?
EP: Yeah, I mean it’s just illustrations for the novel, so it’s not going to be a comic, but yes, I’ll be doing the illustrations for this version of the book.
BUG: I’ve been a huge fan of THE GOON since the beginning. I think working at AICN Comics, one of the first books that was actually sent to me was one from you guys back before when it was ALBATROSS and everything like that.
EP: Did I send you a comic? I think I might have.
BUG: Yeah, thanks for that. Through the years I’ve seen you evolve so much as an artist, what’s it like? I mean just looking at those early GOON books and seeing the work now, it’s almost like a different artist.
EP: It almost hurts looking at my old stuff. (laughs) It’s so sloppy and so…I understand everyone makes a progression and everything, but it’s embarrassing to me when someone goes “I’ve never read THE GOON before” and they pick up that first one…it’s got its merits I guess, but it’s still like…like you said, I’m trying to progress so much that it’s almost embarrassing to me a little bit.
BUG: I always read every issue twice, because I read the story. I go through it all and then I go back and I read the art or I look at the artwork, because it is so textured and it’s so well developed. It’s as close at it could be to being three dimensional without it having that kind of CGI look. Was that intentional?
EP: Yeah, I try to give it a kind of depth of field, like it’s a thing that Frank Frazetta did really well. If you look at a Frazetta painting, the things on the outskirts of the image are not drawn in a sharp focus, they are blurry, they are rough, and he draws your eye into a focal point and that’s where all of the detail is and I do the same thing. I try to do the same thing where I will take the foreground image of the thing I really want the person to focus on and that gets all of the detail and background images and stuff like that, a lot of times, I’ll just do washes and leave it blurry, because you know it’s like your perspective or like a photograph, the foreground image is in sharp focus while the background is blurry. I don’t ever want to be happy with what I’m doing. I want to keep pushing myself to get better and try new techniques and do different things and just become a better artist.
BUG: What do you do to evolve yourself as an artist? What kind of techniques or exercises or books or anything like that…what do you do?
EP: Just constant experimentation, you know, trying new mediums, trying new products and techniques and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, but a lot of those things I did in the actual book. I just was like “I want to try this this issue,” you know? So actually with a lot of THE GOON comics you are seeing me experiment and I’m not sure that’s the way I should be doing it. (laughs) Like maybe I should be experimenting and then trying something else and then get it worked out and do it in the comic, but you know, it keeps it interesting and fun for me. I always want to keep evolving.
BUG: It does seem like there are one offs, single issue stories, and then there are the deeper kind of serious GOON stories. Do you prefer one over the other?
EP: No, actually it’s just what I feel like doing at the time, you know? When I first set out to do THE GOON I really wanted something that would give me no limitations and I could do any type of story I wanted to do, whether it was science fiction or just straight out humor and weird and horror, kind of more dramatic stuff.
BUG: I always mess up the name, but it’s CHINATOWN…
EP: …AND THE MYSTERY OF MR. WICKER, yeah.
BUG: I always have to google it in order to get the name right, but that was a really powerful story in itself.
BUG: To see the Goon in that kind of setting is kind of jarring to people who are used to just the poop jokes and things like that. What were the reactions to that?
EP: I was shocked. I always had this story in mind and I thought “I want to really get people and surprise and shock them and turn this thing completely on its ear.” I had the idea to do this really tragic, sad, story to this character that’s always been goofy and I thought it was going to get destroyed. I thought people were going to go “This dumbass should stick to the shit jokes.” I thought it was going to get destroyed. I was dreading it. I thought the reviews were going to be pretty nasty and then it came out and every body got the point of what I was doing and it’s definitely been the best reviewed work I have ever done and got lots of critical acclaim and everything. That was probably the most satisfying moment of my career when that became such a big hit and, you know, won some awards and stuff and it was really satisfying, because it’s like usually people just want you to keep doing the same thing you’ve done over and over again until they can start giving you crap for doing the same thing over and over again. It was such a huge departure, I mean the first page alone says “This ain’t funny.” It was really rewarding.
BUG: Do you plan on doing more of that in THE GOON?
EP: The tone is going to continue to change. The last arc I did when I was doing the year long monthly schedule got pretty serious and CHINATOWN was serious, but as we are restarting the bimonthly schedule it’s kind of going all over the place again. It’s going to be a lot of one off stories, a lot of self contained stories, which is what THE GOON always was anyways.
BUG: It’s kind of refreshing to have a couple of lighter stories after something like that. So back to GODZILLA, as far as the way you are portraying GODZILLA. He, it, has been portrayed in different ways throughout the years; it’s been kind of anthromorphized in some places, like the old cartoon. What is your take on it?
EP: Well the difficult situation you are put in when trying to do an ongoing story with something that’s so formulaic, which is Godzilla shows up, he stomps stuff, the military fights him, another monster shows up, he fights the monster, they go back into the ocean. You know, that’s pretty much every GODZILLA film. How do you make an ongoing story out of that? So we kind of set out with the approach of kind of making it a little satirical, kind of making it a little bit of observations of society kind of thing, and really kind of destroying society to the point where it becomes “THE ROAD WARRIOR” with monsters.
BUG: Yeah, well it reminded me…saying this might imply a kind of negative slant on it, but it reminds me of the way it was handled in INDEPENDENCE DAY or some of those big disaster films where it’s a broad scope. But, don’t get me wrong, it’s much better than INDEPENDENCE DAY.
BUG: Still, is that something you were going for? That kind of world spanning devastation?
EP: Big disaster. You know, hopefully it wont be compared to INDEPENDENCE DAY, but yeah so we were going for the epic scope, global disaster, because we are really trying to make comparisons to Katrina and the oil spill and all of the big problems our society as a whole globally seem to be having lately that we can’t handle. It’s like we’ve lost our ability to handle big situations or we are not showing enough foresight to not get ourselves into those situations, and yeah, the monsters are kind of a metaphor for that. Another thing that a lot of the GODZILLA stuff doesn’t do is show a real consequence you know, like “Okay, if Godzilla comes through San Diego and rumbles through, the infrastructure is screwed. There’s going to be no power, no water. What’s this city full of people going to do? There’s really going to be no way to instantaneously fix that.” Then if he just keeps going from town to town, how do you keep up with that kind of disaster? So that’s where the apocalyptic side kind of comes in. We would not be able to keep up with the level of devastation if we couldn’t kill the monsters, so that’s where it kind of…
BUG: Yeah, that sounds like a great take. I had no idea it was an ongoing. I thought it was just going to be wrapping up there, but that’s great to know that it’s going to keep on going. It kind of reminds me of going back to the original GODZILLA, the black and white version with Orson Welles’ narration and everything where it was more of a metaphor of devastation and all of that stuff.
EP: Yeah, and I really wanted it to kind of emotionally attach it to the first film where it was more serious and it was more of a social commentary, and of course ours isn’t about the evils of the atomic bomb, ours is just about our inability to not be able to handle big problems, but I wanted that kind of…I wanted it to be a little more thought-provoking than just guys in a rubber suit pounding on each other, as much as I love guys in a rubber suit pounding on each other, because that’s fun.
BUG: So what are the other monsters that you are going to be bringing in? You’ve brought in a couple of them so far.
EP: So far we’ve got Rodan and Anguirus…Battra…we are introducing King Ghidorah. So there’s a whole bunch of Toho monsters that are going to be popping up in there.
BUG: Great, well can we talk a little bit about THE GOON movie?
BUG: Okay, so you are really heavily involved in all of that, is that correct?
EP: Yeah, on the creative end. As far as the getting a studio and generating the money to produce the film I am out of that completely, because for one I shouldn’t be involved in that and two I don’t want to be involved in that.
BUG: And so is this going to be an origin story? Not to reveal too much about it, but what can you tell us about it?
EP: (laughs) I think we have to kind of…I’m trying to…what’s the best way to describe this story? It definitely has the vibe of THE GOON comics, I’ll say that. It’s kind of crazy. It’s kind of got a little bit of horror, what we are talking about how it kind of covers a gamut of emotions and yeah, it’s pretty nutty.
BUG: So is it still in production?
EP: Oh no, we are still trying to get the money and get a studio attached. It’s all in test phase right now.
BUG: So it’s not going to be released later in the year?
EP: No, there is no release date. You know, they are still talking to people and trying to get a studio attached.
BUG: I just saw the clip that they were showing and it seemed really interesting. I just thought that it was still going on, but it’s still being worked on?
EP: Yeah, yeah it’s not…they haven’t started actual production on the film. We’ve got tons of preproduction art. We’ve got a couple of little test animations like they have been showing and Blur has done a ton of work on this, but we haven’t started actually producing the thing, because they are still trying to get the money to put the whole thing together and get a studio attached and you know work out the deal and everything.
BUG: How about something like CHIMICHANGA or something like that? That seems like a labor of love for you. Is that true? You still put that out through Albatross, is that correct?
EP: Yeah, it was really the first creator owned thing that I have done solely by myself since THE GOON, so I was like “I want, just as a little throw back, I’ll publish it myself,” but we do have a hard cover colored by Dave Stewart coming out through Dark Horse I believe in October and it’s going to have some bonus material, bonus story in it and stuff like that.
BUG: Are there any other projects you are working on right now?
EP: No, I’m just right now focusing on getting THE GOON back out there bimonthly.
BUG: Is that tough to do?
EP: No, it’s actually been really great. I’ve been kind of toning the schedule back a little bit, just to refocus myself and I just wrapped up an issue written by Evan Dorkin that’s great. I was so happy with it. It’s insane, as you would imagine the guy from MILK AND CHEESE and me doing a GOON issue.
BUG: Are you going to do more of that? I think I mentioned the last time I reviewed the book it’d be interesting to see other artists, other writers takes on that character, because it’s become kind of an iconic kind of character who has proven to be so versatile. Are you planning on doing more of that that or are you going to pick and choose people?
EP: I don’t have any active plans like “I need to get this guy and this guy…” THE GOON is just something that…I don’t know, it’s my thing and I want it to be a treat when someone else comes in to write it, so I don’t want to do it too much, but with Evan who has been one of my favorite comic creators for a long time and has such the right tone to his work that fits so well with THE GOON it just seemed like a no brainer, you know?
BUG: Great. Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. I know you have a signing here pretty soon, but thanks so much for talking with me. I appreciate it. Good luck with all of your projects. Every time I see your name on a cover I pick it up.
EP: I appreciate it. Thank you.
BUG: Be sure to check out THE GOON and GODZILLA in stores now!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and will be releasing FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA in October (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) Order Code: AUG111067! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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