Interview: Jeff Fowler & THE GOON Need Your Help! Time To Start Kicking Y'all!

Sean Smithson, Contributor
Help Kickstart The Goon!!!

If you've ever read Eric Powell's insane comics series amalgam of monster-mash goodness, Bowery based, beer soaked noir called The Goon, then you are probably already on board with the idea of it coming to the big screen (as long as it's in good hands!).

If you haven't read The Goon yet, ooooh boy are you in for a treat! The Goon himself is a hulking ex-Carny strongman/mob enforcer gone good. Franky is his wise-cracking, bourbon swilling, height (and pupil) challenged side-kick. Their misadventures feature run in's with pie eating Skunk-apes, charlatan zombie priests, giant squid monsters, dangerous dames, supernatural mob bosses, crazed robots, zeppelin flying octopi, and it just gets crazier from there.

It all comes together wonderfully, popping out of Eric Powell's twisted brain and onto the four-color page. But something as grand as The Goon cannot be contained to one medium, and now David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Blur Studios' Jeff Fowler and Tim Miller are taking it to the streets in a quest to fund the show-reel needed to convince studio execs that a PG-13 humorous, animated noir style film about monsters can fly with audiences. Featuring the voice talents of Paul Giammati (a huge comics and genre nerd himself, and star of the Oscar winning Sideways, Shoot 'Em Up, American Splendor) and the inimitable Clancy Brown (Bad Boys, The Bride, HBO's Carnivale) have thrown in their talent and faith in the project.

I know I'm down like a psycho clown to see this hit screens, and indeed "got 5 on it" myself. I won't pitch away here though, just read my interview with Jeff and bask in the enthusiastic goodness of two Goon geeks who are praying to find enough other like-minded spaz cases to help make this crazy dream come true.

TWITCH: What was your first exposure to THE GOON?

JEFF FOWLER: Oh, it was probably about eight years ago? I mean Blur Studios is steeped in comic book fans, and obviously we do a lot of projects for video game cinematics, and we've done a lot of stuff over the years for Marvel and DC, and Tim himself is a huge comic book fan, probably the biggest one I've ever met. I mean, he has a regular weekly habit of about 250 dollars a week? I mean I've gone to the shop with him before and it's just hilarious. He walks up to the counter with just this gigantic stack. He'll take them home that night and gte through as many as he can, then he'll bring them in and put them into the collective. I mean if you come in to the studio you'll see every animator just has piles and piles and piles of comics. So of course, The Goon became part of that circulation, and it just caught on like wildfire, it really hit our sensibilities as a studio. I mean, we do a lot of the sci-fi action stuff, the fantasy stuff, with all the medieval imagery and the fighting. But we also enjoy some of the more light-hearted stuff, you know the comedies. The Goon is just kind of a great blend of the humor along with the gritty action, it was just a perfect match.

Yeah Powell's creation is just completely wonderful isn't it? And back when it first started coming out there wasn't really a lot of stuff like it, with the hybrid of noir and horror and comic relief. Damn, I love that book.

Yeah! One of the things we just put up on the site, for the 10 dollar donation, was Eric's (Powell, creator) five favorite comics, and somebody posted in the comments thread "I already own all The Goon stuff, but I can't wait to find out what Eric's five favorite comics are." and of course we want to include a little description from Eric why they're his favorites. But you know, it's just one of those things you never think about. You know to ask a creator what his favorites are and to have him explain it, it can go so many different ways. I mean of course all the actual Goon origin stuff is great, but Eric has all these great one offs as well. So it's going to be cool to see what he comes back with.

 Do you have a favorite Goon arc?

I really loved the Return Of Labrazio, and all that crazy gang warfare. You know he'd gone away for awhile, when Eric stopped doing at as a monthly, then returned with a year long arc of it. It was really great. Some of the moments are so poignant, like when The Goon finds out Merle was this a traitor, and ends up being totally brutal to him. You know, this was a guy who was a drinking buddy, who drank alongside him at Norton's (*the oft visited watering hole in the series). To see this side of The Goon was just so visceral. But obviously also, his loyalty and integrity towards his friends is unquestionable. Then when you cross it...wow...just to see that reaction was incredible. Really man, every one of those issues just had so much weight to it. And then one of my truly favorite moments of any of the comics is when The Goon and Frankie are on the edge of town, about to turn their back on everything, and Frankie delivers that line "Happiness is for pussies" and I was like Oh my God! That was just such an unbelievably cool moment. I wrote Eric immediately and was like "Dude, quintessential moment man". It was also great, because a lot of what will work itself into the film I feel contain elements from that arc, it just has so many great moments. Now we know, OK, in the film we have to get to that moment as well, where Frankie can deliver that line.  

How did you, Tim, Powell, and Fincher all come together?

Well Tim and David had sort of been wanting do a Heavy Metal remake, so David was here at the studio a lot, brainstorming about approaches to getting Heavy Metal happening, and that was some of the first exposure of us trying to team up to pitch a property. Of course at the same time we had just begun getting art together to try to do a Goon film, and he see's it on the wall and says "Oh my God! What is this? SO Tim filled him in, and David pretty much fell in love with it immediately for a lot of the same reasons we at Blur did. Backing up, prior to that as far as Eric goes, we had reached out to him a few years earlier to that wanting to option it, and showed him some concept art and said "Hey we really love this property and these characters, here's some artwork, we think this could really be something amazing for a film" and expressed our interest. He thought it was great, and jumped on a plane and came out from Tennessee, and all met up at Fincher's, and had a discussion one afternoon for a couple of hours about why we thought Blur and David would be perfect for the property, and Eric was immediately on board, and we all just kind of shook hands.

Man, you gotta love having your job on days like that, right?

Oh absolutely man. I was thinking about that the other day, you know Eric took a photograph on that Day One, and I'd love to get it from him and put it on the Kickstarter site for people to see. We all walked out of there smiling, and you know...it's just not an easy thing. There's so many factors in trying to pitch films in this town, but with something as cool as The Goon, and Eric being such a humble guy, he's just really incredible, to put all the work he has over the years. The writing, the covers, the interior art. We're so fortunate to have this team together, and we aren't going to stop until we get this thing made man.

I remember when the teaser clip hit, gosh a long while back now, and I've been wondering since what was going on. Now is my chance to ask, again what's the story there? Tell us about the blood the sweat and the tears...and the beers that have gotten you all this far.

Yeah man (laughs) When we debuted the teaser clip at ComiCon 2010, and it's hard to believe it was two years ago because it feels like it was just yesterday. But it's this weird thing where, I mean, again nothing happens quickly in this town, there were these huge gaps in between, and while The Goon was/is a labor of love, we still had to pay the bills. So we were kinda squeezing the work on the proof of concept stuff in between the cracks of work. Then we decided "OK we need a hard deadline for ComiCon" which was good, and we pulled all the resources together we really needed to get it done and get it across the finish line in time. And of course it was great, because Paul Giamatti was able to be there at the panel an say a few things, and Fincher came down in the middle of casting The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and be at ComiCon for his first time and answer questions and stuff. It was just such a great way to roll it out to the fans, with us and those guys.

Giamatti himself is a pretty big fan of the geek stuff too isn't he? I know he's really bent over backwards trying to keep his project with Don Coscarelli alive, "Bubba Nosferatu" ("the sequel to Bubba Ho-Tep").

For sure. He was terrific. When we told him we wanted to produce a couple of new shots, he volunteered to duck into a voice over booth where he was in New York just for this Kickstarter campaign, so we could have some new content and keep things moving forward. As you can see, the Kickstarter video at the top of the page has some of us with Fincher, some of the test reel that everyone has seen, and some new shots designed specifically for the campaign.

Your voice talent is pretty frickin' great. With Giamatti as Franky the pupiless sidekick, and Clancy Brown as The GOON which, jeez I don't think Ive seen, or rather, heard  more perfect casting as far as a comic to film thing, since maybe Perlman was tapped to play Hellboy, and that's saying something. That said, how did you get Giamatti and Brown on board initially?

We already had the characters built, the CG characters, the models. So with Paul we went and grabbed some clips from his film Cinderella Man, where he's a trainer, and took some clips from the film and animated his Goon character Franky doing those lines, sent it to him, and said "Man look how perfect a marriage your delivery is with this character" and he totally loved it, then offered to come on in and help. Same thing with Clancy Brown, we used some stuff from Shawshank Redemption, which obviously has some really great lines in it, and matched it up and "Ta da!" there it was. The proof was really in the putting.

Speaking of the proof being in the putting, it's not any secret that many time the suits aren't the most creative ones in the room, so please go ahead and reiterate what this Kickstarter campaign is for. Because it is not to make the actual feature...

You are correct sir! The actual budget of the film is in the neighborhood of 35 million dollars, which would be a ridiculous amount to ask for at Kickstarter. At ComiCon all these fans were asking what they could do to help and for the longest time Eric was saying "DO a Kickstarter, do a Kickstarter!" but were like "Dude we can't do a Kickstarter for 35 mil, we'll get thrown out of town!" (laughs) So we thought about what we could shave off from the production and basically try to get the film going an start the first real steps together into making this into an actual film. Of course in animation, the thing that makes the most sense is a story reel, which is your blueprint for the entire film. We rely on that in it's entirety, every project we do at Blur we start with a story reel. You're basically working with a small team of storyboard artists, and some scratch sound FX and score. It's a very cost effective way of putting the whole thing together beginning to end. We had the script from Eric, completed, and it just seemed like the most logical way to go. We also want to be sure to go to every length to make that absolutely clear to the fans. It's not like "Hey we can do this all for 400 grand" it's so we can get the prototype done, A to Z, to show the studios. Story reels are great too, you can still put a lot of attention to detail into them, and really make sure all the emotional beats are reading and the story and character arcs are working. That's when you can figure it out, that's when you need to figure it out. Once you bring on a team of, say, 50 animators who start working on those shots you are committed. If you do have to make course corrections once you are into the 3d animation process it is incredibly, incredibly expensive. So story reels are a very manuevarable, very malleable way to completely work out your film before hand. That's what we are asking for the money to do. 

Being a total dork, I watch every bit of every extra on every dvd or bluray I buy. That said, if (when!) "The Goon" gets made, will the story reel be available as an extra?

Yes! And honestly we want to find as many ways we can to include the backers and financiers in this process. The production blog, which seems like an abstract notion, is something we'll really try to be updating regularly. Maybe from time to time we can include little clips form the story reel. We can't have huge chunks of it out there floating around, that would freak a backing studio out really bad (laughs) but we certainly want everyone to feel like they can see where their money is going. We truly want the fans to feel engaged, and to maintain a level of excitement as the process moves along.

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There you have it. We here at Twitch don't jump behind Kickstarter campaigns often. The reasons are numerous, no offense, but sometimes the smoke begets fire, and this thing could be one helluva blaze of glory. Again, I love this comic series that has poured out of the sick genius that is Eric Powell's brain. It tickles this comic geeks fancy on almost every level, and to think a screen version is a possibility...hell, screw five...I got ten on it!

Hit The Goon Kickstarter Page to contribute. It's chock full'o other vids and production art, and check the creative team 's plea for your dead presidents below!

Around the Internet:
  • Nick

    Soon as I get paid my money's going into this. Huge Goon fan and Eric deserves every bit of success.

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