Interview: Roundtable With John Arcudi And Eric Powell

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John Arcudi is well known for his work alongside Mike Mignola on B.P.R.D., now he has a new original tale under way, titled The Creep. Arcudi’s “The Creep” is a noir story that follows a physically deformed private detective who investigates a youth suicide, and in turn his past life. The first installment of “The Creep” is currently running in the pages of “Dark Horse Presents” with a four-issue follow up mini-series to be released in September.

Eric Powell, on the other hand, is the man behind the satirical horror comedy romp, The Goon. Powell has been writing and illustrating “The Goon” for over a decade, delivering a unique take on the paranormal, long before the current pop culture obsession.

Suffice it to say that John Arcudi and Eric Powell have been in the game for a long time and they continue to be trailblazers in the horror industry. Arcudi and Powell took the time to chat with us for a double team interview about their work, the merits of creator owned book, writing in the horror field, and a whole lot more. Plus, an exclusive look at the covers for “The Creep” #1, and “The Goon” #42.


Part 1: John Arcudi Interview

Can you give us a quick run down on The Creep?

JA: Oxel Karnhus is a former insurance adjuster who suffers from Acromegaly, a disease that causes, among other things, gross physical deformity. Living in the late 1980′s in NYC, Oxel is a private detective who, in this case, has been hired by an old girl friend (who knew him before he was struck with the disease) to investigate the suicide of her son.

The hardboiled detective is typically rugged, but attractive in some way, yet in The Creep, Oxel has a genetic deformity that makes him almost monstrous. What made you want to change the trope? Do you have other plans to play around with the crime/noir genre throughout the series?

JA: Acromegaly is actually not genetic. It’s usually caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland. Rondo Hatton was probably the most famous sufferer of the syndrome and was my inspiration, but as I started to work with the character, it grew beyond that inspiration. I liked how Oxel’s deformity made him stand out from his clients. They were all (at least compared to him) beautiful people coming to him, this “monster” for help. There was a kind of poetic quality to that.

Suicide is a tough subject to write about. When speaking to CBR you told them the only way to write about such issues is through honesty. Where did honesty come about for you in the series? Why is honesty such a key concept in your writing?

JA: Honesty should be the core of EVERY writer’s writing. if you’re not honest, you’re not producing anything worth reading. And I don’t think I’m really any different from anybody else in that friends of mine have committed suicide. It’s a huge problem and I imagine it touches everybody, even though we haven’t talked all that much about it in the public forum. So all the weird guilt you feel after you lose somebody to suicide, all the questions you ask, the ultimate futility of those questions, all that came into this story.

You’ve mentioned previously that there aren’t that many mystery stories about suicide cases. Why did you choose to take up suicide in The Creep?

JA: Maybe because I have lost friends to it, I’m not sure. It just seemed like a story worth telling, but I can’t give you a specific reason why it struck me.

Right now, The Creep is running in the pages of Dark Horse Presents. How is the experience of running it in an anthology different from releasing it in a single issue? Did you always plan on expanding the series after the DHP run?

JA: Initially I wanted to do it as an original graphic novel, or perhaps first as a 5 issue series, but the folks up at DH convinced me of the wisdom of kicking that series off in DHP. But yes, it was a little weird adapting those first 24 pages into 8 page installments. They had to break differently than I had planned, but then again, it was nice getting back to writing in the short form. I liked doing that again.

Anthologies like Dark Horse Presents aren’t very popular anymore, I think Dark Horse is the only major publisher who is consistently releasing comics in that format. Do you see anthologies making a comeback as a way for publishers to test out new series?

JA: It would be nice, but who knows? I love it, and wish other publishers would do it — not just to test out a variety of new series (it’s ideal for that) but to allow creators to work in the short form again. The eight page, ten page, twelve story is a lost art in comics and it once was the mainstay, the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes of the medium. And not just for hack work. Look at EC’s best stuff (much of Kurtzman’s work, or “Master Race”) or Art Spiegelman’s “Raw” magazine. That stuff was nothing less than vital to the survival of the industry at one point, so what happened?


Part 2: Eric Powell Interview

The Goon is a book full of adventure, mystery, and comedy. Recently, however, with issue #38 it took a more serious tone, and then #39, the “reboot” issue, was a potent satire on current happenings in the comic book industry. What made you change the direction, and what does this mean for the future of The Goon?

EP: Well, I’ve always been very flexible when it comes to the tone of the Goon. From the beginning I set out to make a book where I could tell any kind of story I wanted. For me I think it keeps it interesting to work on, and hopefully it keeps the reader guessing as to what I’m going to do next. I never want the book to become stagnant.

In your recent issues you’ve explored a lot of important current events. How do you approach such topics without compromising the world, the characters, and the horror?

EP: You just have to find the angle. Classic Star Trek was great about that. Finding a way to incorporate current events in a spectacular setting. And history tends to repeat itself. Doing a book set in an imaginary depression era world… it’s not hard to find ways to incorporate themes of greed.

In an interview with MTV Geek, you spoke about maintaining the focus of the book to keep it at this place that you’ve built up over the years. How do you plan on keeping the series fresh both for yourself and the readers?

EP: I think the first thing I have to do is keep myself interested. If I’m not getting bored with it, I don’t think the constant reader will either. You have to do the work for yourself before anyone else.

Admittedly, I only started reading The Goon this past year (which I regret), but it’s been around since the late 90s, which is a long time for a creator owned book. What do you feel allowed you to succeed when so many creator-owned ventures fail early on?

EP: Well, I stayed dedicated and focused. I didn’t jump ship to work on bigger projects when the book started to become popular. I think you just have to stick with it and focus on building a readership.

The mixing of horror and comedy is seen a lot in film, but it’s not something you get that often in comics. How do you feel the mediums differ in their approach to horror comedy? How do you approach the mix of genres?

EP: I don’t think too much about it. It just seems to be the natural flow of the book. I just think of scenarios I want to throw these characters into and their personalities kind of dictate where they go. I’m kind of a wise ass so I think the characters just kind of come out as wise asses on the page.

There’s a film adaptation of The Goon in the works with David Fincher attached. You’ve been asked about the project in pretty much every interview I’ve read of yours recently. Rather than telling us when it’s happening, can you tell us what the movie would look like for you if all went according to plan?

EP: It would look like my dream come true. Fincher and company want to do a straight up Goon movie. They want the tone, the characters, the dark twisted humor. They want a Goon movie. I think we’ll get there. It’s just going to take time to get the right people behind it.


Part 3: Roundtable Interview

Both of your books, The Creep and The Goon, are being marketed together by Dark Horse, was this something you two did intentionally, or did it just happen to work out with the titles?

JA: It certainly wasn’t my intention. in fact, it wasn’t until DH pointed out the similarity in the books’ names that I even thought of it.

EP: I’m not sure. That’s one for Dark Horse marketing. ☺

The Creep and The Goon are fairly old characters. How do you manage to keep them relevant for a modern audience?

JA: Relevant is a funny word. I just try to tell good stories. That’s about the limit of my ambition. Trying to do something bigger than that, you’re just asking for trouble. Not to say that great stories can’t come from that same ambition, stories that speak to people, but trying to be relevant forces the issue and almost guarantees preachy nonsense.

EP: I think I keep the Goon relevant by not worrying about keeping him relevant. I think the minute you start trying to make something modern or marketable, you fail. It’s pretty transparent what you’re doing.

John, you’re used to working with the paranormal from BPRD, and Eric, The Goon delves into the paranormal on a regular basis. Were you always interested in this kind of stuff growing up? Does this subject matter scare you at all anymore?

JA: You’d be hard-pressed to find a little boy who doesn’t like monsters, wouldn’t you? But these days I’m much more afraid of real people.

EP: Yes, I was always into monster movies and books when I was a kid. I lived for it. It’s pretty rare that a movie or something gets under my skin these days. I’m pretty jaded.

You’ve both been working with horror-oriented books for a long time, way before the whole vampire/zombie craze started. How has this pop culture trend affected your take on the famous monsters and horror as a genre?

JA: It kinda hasn’t for me. I don’t leave the house much, you know, so I’m barely even aware of it. I know there are vampire TV shows, and movies, but there always have been, haven’t there? See? I really don’t know what’s going on, obviously.

EP: Well, the only thing that’s been bugging me is when I hear people new to the Goon refer to it as taking part in the zombie craze. My book was out years before the fad. It was out before the Walking Dead. And there is more to the Goon than just zombies. Rarely over the past few years has the book even featured a zombie story.

One of the big debates going on now in comics right now is working on creator-owned series versus publisher properties. Both of you seem to lean toward the former. What made you take this route in your careers? John you work with BPRD, but would either of you ever consider working on major publisher-owned characters?

JA: It’s just more satisfying for me to tell my own stories. Not a really a big mystery on that count, so if I can find anybody willing to publish my creator-owned work, I’ll do it. BPRD is the next best thing because I work so closely with Mike and Scott that I have a say in the types of stories, even the types of characters, that we work with. Marvel and DC are not always so accommodating.

EP: I have no qualms about working for anyone if it’s a project I want to do. I just wish there was an equal playing field. If a great commercial movie comes out, no matter who the studio, it has a chance to be a block buster. In comics, unless you have a movie or TV tie in or it’s a super hero book from the big two, you can’t compete.

What do you feel would be good way to get readers to branch outside of the Big Two companies and start exploring series outside the superhero universe?

JA: I wouldn’t presume to tell anybody what to read. The only advice I’d give is to look for things you love anywhere you can find them. Don’t let the fact that one of your favorite creators is doing something outside of Marvel or DC scare you away from checking it out. The men and women who create your favorite super-hero stories are probably going to entertain you just as much outside of those parameters, so give `em a shot.

EP: If I knew the answer to that question, I’d be making a lot more money. It’s going to take a whole change in culture of the comic buying public.

Let’s close with a fun one. Can you list your top five horror movies? If it’s too tough, just tell us what you look for in a good horror movie.

JA: A story that never lets me take a time out. I never want to stop and say “Wait a second….” because then it’s all over. The illusion is gone.

EP: 5. The Changeling
4. Night of the Living Dead
3. Halloween
2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
1. The Exorcist

Thank you both so much for taking the time to chat with us, we really appreciate it! We can’t wait to see what you have coming up for us.

Look for The Goon #42 and The Creep #1 in stores in September.