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Goon: Rough Stuff (Volume #0)
Dark Horse, 2004
Some of our culture's most memorable movies aren't exactly highbrow
entertainment -- for every Shawshank Redemption there's an Evil Dead
II that appeals to our desire for off-the-wall slapstick and severed-hand
mayhem. Likewise, a great comic book doesn't have to be intellectual, nor does
it need to shake our perceptions to their very core. Eric Powell's The Goon
doesn't necessarily challenge readers with complex storylines or sociopolitical
commentary, but if good old-fashioned monster beatings and a wildly creative
sense of humor are your cup of tea, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more
entertaining book on the shelf.
Before Dark Horse propelled The Goon into the mainstream spotlight,
Powell's muscle-bound, bucktoothed enforcer could only be found in a small-press
black-and-white series published by Albatross Exploding Funny Books. Rough
Stuff collects these issues in color for the first time, along with a new
introduction, three original strips from
thegoon.com and a
sketchbook of The Goon's earliest manifestations.
As Powell freely admits, The Goon was still very much a work in progress
at the time these stories were originally published -- the homely protagonist's
overbite is now a little less pronounced, he no longer wields a talking
chainsaw, and the artwork has become more refined over the years. Even so, this
was a remarkably inventive, albeit simple, creation from the very start.
Sporting a wife-beater T-shirt, a newsboy hat and one hell of an ugly mug, The
Goon inhabits a world in which zombie gangsters, melodramatic vampires and
drunken werewolves are everyday nuisances. Alongside his foul-mouthed sidekick
Frankie, he opens a keg of whoop-ass in the name of goodwill. That's it. There
aren't any profound interpretations -- just a gangster with a monstrous
bowling-ball arm, black-market brains, a salty peg-legged monster named Fishy
Pete and a whole lot of crazy fun.
Though the artwork is admittedly rough when compared to later publications, it's
still on par with almost anything published in recent memory. At times
cartoonish, at others roughly textured, the book is crammed with exaggerated
detail and subtle visual gags that bring The Goon's world to life. And
between the Depression-era tone and the clever absurdity of the characters, the
dialogue is an absolute riot. As an added incentive, this collection also sheds
some light on The Goon's origin, both within the three-issue storyline and as
part of the supplemental "Evolution of the Goon" sketchbook. The latter is an
especially enlightening treat for fans, providing a look at The Goon's humble
beginnings as Mog (a Liefield-esque werewolf/gorilla-looking guy), alongside an
informative commentary from Powell. All in all, this is an indispensable little
package for dedicated readers who want to see where all the madness began.
Even in its earliest stages, The Goon's colorful villains, wacky dialogue
and over-the-top, pulp-serial storylines make it a pure joy to read. Part
Hellboy, part film-noir, and part Mad magazine (if Mad was
actually funny), Powell's endearing creation should appeal to anyone who
survived hours of grade school by inventing comic book heroes of their own. It's
rip-roaring comic book junk food that's much smarter than it lets on, and there
ain't nothing wrong with that.
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