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Eric Powell: A Chat About Hillbillies, Goons and Exploding Funnybooks

ERIC POWELL IS A BIT OF A LEGEND AROUND THE CLUBHOUSE, BUT IF YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW ALL ABOUT HIM HERE’S A QUICK RECAP… HE’S A WRITER AND ARTIST WITH A PENCHANT FOR THE SUPER-STRANGE. His longest-running creator-owned book, The Goon (from Albatross Exploding Funnybooks and Dark Horse – and soon to be a Kickstarted movie), might very well have a cheesy synopsis that reads: “A former carnie kid turned henchman teams up with a pipsqueak with a knife fetish to defend their town against a horde of zombies.” But that only scratches the surface of the weirdness, since all of his stories can take a turn from absurdist humor to heartbreaking drama in two pages flat.

Chimichanga Vol. 1
Chimichanga Vol. 1

Then add the following to his repertoire: “Old West sharpshooter gets tangled up with a circus freak show” (Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities from Dark Horse) and “Bearded little lady from the circus opens weird egg from local witch to find her hairy new friend” (Chimichanga from both Albatross and Dark Horse). Looking for more mainstream strange? Well then, he’s also done fantastic takes on Godzilla for IDW Publishing and Big Trouble In Little China for BOOM! Studios.

But right now Powell’s gone back to his roots, returning to Albatross Funnybooks as an imprint to be reckoned with. He’s launched his flagship series, Hillbilly, returned to the character that could’ve killed his career with Satan’s Sodomy Baby II, has published the Eric Powell Coloring Book, is releasing a horror anthology called Spook House (that should be dropping in time for Halloween), and more recently has teased a couple of upcoming books featuring different creators (Namwolf and La Diabla).

How is Albatross holding up as an indie publisher? The fact that issues #1 & 2 of Hillbilly sold out and are headed to a second printing should speak volumes. We recently convinced Powell to take a breather (the fact that said convincing involved a photo featuring Bigfoot dressed as a luchador and wrestling giant inflatable chicken is neither here nor there) to answer our silly questions. So…let’s get to it:

WE KNOW A BIT ABOUT HILLBILLY, FROM READING THE FIRST ISSUE AND HEARING YOUR PROMOS. WITHOUT HUGE SPOILERS, WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT THIS BOOK?

ERIC POWELL: It’s a fantasy story and will have horrific elements in it, but it will be a bit more accessible that some of my other work. I wouldn’t have a problem giving this to a kid.

Unlettered panel from Hillbilly #1
Unlettered panel from Hillbilly #1

DO YOU HAVE ANY DREAM TEAM MEMBERS YOU’D LIKE TO ADD TO THE ALBATROSS FUNNYBOOKS STABLE? AND DID YOU REMOVE THE “EXPLODING” PART FROM THE TITLE TO MAKE THE IMPRINT SEEM LESS LIKELY TO KILL NEW TALENT?

EP: *laughs* Yeah, to me it will always be Exploding Funnybooks, but the name is a little long. Rebranding it a little seemed like a wise move. There are quite a few people I would love to bring on board. A few are already in the works. Too early to speak of, but I think 2017 will be an interesting year for us.

THE BUZZARD IS ABOUT TO CROSS OVER FROM THE GOON INTO HILLBILLY’S WORLD, WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION: HOW THIN ARE THE WALLS BETWEEN THOSE REALITIES?

EP: I don’t want to give too much away, but for anyone who read the Buzzard mini-series, which was his last appearance, to see him in this book is not a stretch or a hard sell. The character has changed and this story only further clarifies that.

LET’S PLAY: DRUGS, FEVER DREAM OR HEAD TRAUMA! WHAT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT WHERE ANY OF THE DELIGHTFULLY DEMENTED VISIONS FOR YOUR CREATIONS CAME FROM?

Hillbilly #2
Hillbilly #2

EP: Who knows where ideas come from. A lot of times my ideas springboard off a simple concept or doodle from my sketchbook. Hillbilly has been long in coming. It’s been sitting in my sketchbook for years. Growing up in the rural south, I wanted to take that environment and mold it into a straight up sword and sorcery fantasy story. I’m having a lot of fun with it so far.

YOU’VE TEASED US WITH THE LORDS OF MISERY SPIN-OFF FROM THE GOON – IS THERE ANYTHING FURTHER TO TEASE? OR A TIMELINE FOR WHEN WE MIGHT SEE THAT?

EP: No, I’m taking my time to write it. I don’t want to rush that story. I’m going to let it happen when it’s ready to.

EVERYONE AT THE CLUB IS GIDDY ABOUT YOUR COLLABORATION WITH THE WONDERFUL STEPHANIE BUSCEMA FOR THE CHIMICHANGA SEQUEL AT DARK HORSE. ANY NEWS YOU CAN SHARE, LIKE A POSSIBLE RELEASE DATE?

EP: Yes, announcements coming soon. Stephanie has been amazing to work with. I really can’t wait for people to see what she’s been doing. Knocked it out of the park. (Update: It looks like issue #1 will be released on October 12th!)

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS MORE OF A GAMBLE TO YOUR REPUTATION: SATAN’S SODOMY BABY PART 1, THE RECENT SEQUEL, OR YOUR SON’S RECENT TAKEOVER OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA?

EP: Probably Sodomy Baby 1, but luckily I don’t have much of a reputation to tarnish.

DO YOU FIND THAT THERE’S MORE FREEDOM IN WORKING IN AN ESTABLISHED PLAYGROUND, LIKE GODZILLA OR BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA? OR IS IT MORE NERVE-WRACKING TRYING TO LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS THAN TO CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD?

EP: Much easier to do your own stuff. You have to get approval on everything for licensed products. It can be nerve racking. Always be your own boss when you can.

The Goon and Franky, movie promo still
The Goon and Franky, movie promo still

MANY CREATORS HAVE SPECIFIC BANDS/GENRES THAT PROVIDE THE MENTAL SOUNDTRACKS FOR EACH OF THEIR BOOKS – DO YOU FIND THAT DIFFERENT STORIES HAVE THEIR OWN UNIQUE SOUNDTRACKS? WILL YOU HAVE INPUT ON THE GOON MOVIE SOUNDTRACK?

EP: We aren’t even close to a soundtrack stage for the movie yet. But, yeah, I have specific music I listen to for specific things. With The Goon it was a lot of Tom Waits.

SPEAKING OF THE MOVIE, HOW CLOSE ARE WE TO SEEING THE FELLAS IN ALL THAT BIG-SCREEN GLORY?

EP: No new news yet, but it’s looking optimistic.

SAND FINALLY, OUR SIGNATURE CLOSING QUESTION: WHAT’S THE STRANGEST THING YOU CAN REMEMBER DOING AS A KID?

EP: Looking for Indian burial grounds.

Left to Right: The Man, The Myth, The Legend...aka Adam Connor (my brother-in-law), Eric Powell, John MacLeod (me)
Left to Right: The Man, The Myth, The Legend…aka Adam Connor (my brother-in-law), Eric Powell, John MacLeod (me)

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Written by John MacLeod

Dubbed "The Dorkmaster General" in his home territory of western Massachusetts, John has what some would call an "unhealthy obsession" with comics, horror movies and geek culture. He is a staff writer and editor for the web site Zombie Zone News, and is a freelance editor for his own imprint, Surfin' Dead Enterprises. In his spare time, he breeds free-range chupacabras to sell for ludicrous amounts of cash.

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