Eric Powell in the Home Office
“I was up ’til 5 a.m.,” admits artist and writer Eric Powell as he shakes away his sleepiness during our interview, scheduled a mere five hours after his bedtime. This night owl isn’t club hopping until the wee hours – in fact, he’d be hard pressed to find many Paris Hilton-approved joints in his hometown 20 minutes outside of Nashville.
Instead, the creator of the original comics series The Goon was simply, “working late,” but his dedicated efforts have proved to be a worthy time investment. Cited by Ain’t-It-Cool-News as, “a wild ride filled with imagination, intrigue, horror, and laughs,” The Goon has quickly climbed the ranks from cult-favorite to critical darling, earning praise from Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter while picking up a few Eisners along the way. (For those not familiar with the industry, the Eisner is the equivalent to the Academy Award in the comics world).
Things weren’t always so rosy for Powell – his ascension in the comics industry included a series of rejection letters and slammed doors. Powell first considered making comics a career goal while writing and illustrating stories in junior high. However, with a turn of events at the end of high school that included Powell becoming a young father, initial plans to attend the Memphis College of Art were put on hold. In addition to his concerns about being too far away from his family, a visit to the school itself proved less than impressive. “One of the sculpting students showed me their thesis, which was a giant bird nest made out of cow dung and I thought, ‘You got to be kidding me. I’m going to pay you to teach me how to do this?’ I wanted to learn more about the technique behind art, not ‘We’re crazy artists and we do crazy shit.”
From the Tattoo Parlor to the Comics Shop
Cover from Goon #17
Image Courtesy of Eric Powell
Powell occupied his time with a series of odd jobs and freelance art gigs, including painting helmets for Motocross and designing flash art for a local tattoo shop. He even entertained thoughts about becoming a tattoo artist himself, but the $1,000 apprenticeship fee and local clientele changed his mind. “I was a little wary about who I’d have to tattoo. I’ve seen people in this area who have tattoos and some of them I wouldn’t want to touch for that long.”
Powell continued to remain focused on his pursuit of a comics career, but his experience was less of a Cinderella, overnight success story and more of a Long Day’s Journey Into Night. “I got tons of rejection letters – I still have them all,” he says. His first real dent came as a result of attending a Bernie Wrightson signing at his local comics shop. “I put a bunch of stuff in a portfolio and went down to see if he’d look at it. Tom Sniegoski was there too – he was writing Vampirella at the time – and he looked at my work, too. I asked him if I had a shot, and he gave me his card.”Sniegoski and Powell ended up forming a friendship, talking occasionally via phone about working together. It wasn’t long until Sniegowski called with an actual job opportunity. “He said, ‘I have some work if you want it.’ I said, ‘Yes!’ He said, ‘Well you don’t know what you’re getting paid.’ And I said, ‘I don’t care.'”
Powell’s foot in the door (a gig for Acclaim’s Razor: Uncut series) lead to a steady stream of work from independent publishers for awhile, but once that dried up, he decided it was time for his own creation. Continue reading →