The Goon Series 1

The comic business is a tough business. It's tough enough to be successful as a writer or artist on a mainstream character, let alone find success by creating a character all your own. Arguably, Todd Mcfarlane is the most successful in that vein today, but you can add folks like Jeff Smith, David Sim, Neil Gaman, Erik Larsen and others as well. And if you skip Eric Powell, then you're missing out big time.

Eric created the Goon, a unique character in a rather odd world. The Goon is an enforcer for the Labrazio gang, or so it seems. He arch-nemesis is the Zombie Priest, who has an army of the undead at his side. The Goon, along with his sidekick Franky, hunt down and kill the zombies in their 1930'ish world, looking to bring down the Zombie Priest.

Powell's art is amazing, bringing the rather hybrid world of old and new together nicely for the reader, and creating character designs that are both fresh and familiar at the same time. The writing is solid, and the Goon has been a huge hit with comic readers.

Mezco picked up the license to do a line of action figures, and have brought their own special flair to the mix. The first series just hit stores last week or so, and includes the Goon himself of course, along with Franky, the Zombie Priest, and Joey the Ball. Joey is definitely second string, and might seem an odd choice for the first series, but I suspect Mez had his reasons.

One nifty feature of the line is that if you buy all four, you get the body parts to assemble your very own zombie, adding a fifth figure to the set. These retail for around $15 - $16 each, and are at specialty shops like Media Play, or online stores like those I have listed below in the Where To Buy section.

Packaging -  ***1/2
Mezco has done some of the most outstanding clamshell packages on the market with past lines, so I suppose that's why I can be so hard on them in this category. I know they have that ability hidden within them, they just don't always let it through.

This time the did a nice job with the graphics, although the insert is generic and used for all four characters. The only specific information is on the bubble sticker, which does list the accessories as well. The clamshells are sturdy, show off the figure well, and there's not much to complain about. Thankfully, the color and design are unique enough to set them apart on the peg.

Sculpting - Franky, Zombie Priest ****; Joey, Goon ***1/2
Mezco's style of action figures and Powell's style of art meshes beautifully. Since the styles are already similar, it was cake for Mezco to capture the essence of the 2-D characters.

Before I get too far into the sculpt discussion, I wanted to point out that yes Virginia, there are face variants. If you know Mezco, then you know they love their face variants. In this line there is the 'regular' Goon, who has a solid overbite of teeth, and then there's the one per case variant that I've reviewed here that has the snarling teeth.

The quality of the sculpts vary slightly, but not much. This is an outstanding line, and ranks up there with the movie and comic Hellboy lines as Mezco's nicest work so far.

The figures are a combination of rotocast and injection molding, so they are lighter than you might expect, but the joints have the general strength and durabilty of injection molded figures. It's a good hybrid, giving us the better qualities of both with few of the negatives.

On to the specific characters. Of course, The Goon himself is the one most people are excited about. Hey, it's his name on the front of the comic book! His head sculpt is excellent, including the scarring down the left side of the neck. The hat you see him in during most of the comic (and that is attached to his head in the package) is actually removable, but it fits tightly and actually 'snaps' into place.

The work around the stylish hair cut and popping veins is particularly good, and while the character is cartoony (he is a comic book character after all), there's still the right level of detail and realism. Of the four figures, he probably varies the most from the actual source material, because his head is a bit pinhead-like, so that with the cape on he looks the best. That's a fairly minor nit though, and is one that comes from the need for him to look perfect in his most common form, wearing the hat.

My one big complaint is that he's damn hard to get to stand on his own, even with the reasonably good articulation. He leans back too far on his legs, and the sculpted shape and angle of the feet don't work well with his general center of gravity. That was a big disappointment to me, but after playing with him for 10 minutes or so, I found a sweet spot where he could stay up, at least until you bumped the shelf.

My number one favorite of this series, the Zombie Priest, doesn't have that issue. He also has one of the most detailed head and hair sculpts I've ever seen in a comic book based line. It's difficult to find the words to explain how a comic line could be realistic as well, but this series manages to pull it off. Perhaps it's the varied use of textures on the clothing, hair and skin, or just the level of small detail that exists. Whatever it is, Zombie Priest stands out as one of my favorite figures of this entire year.

His hat is also removable, and stays put once it's on. The hand sculpts are terrific, and work with some of the accessories and all of the poses. He stands great on his own in any number of poses, and looks sweet doing it.

Then there's Franky, who might not be the biggest or the baddest, but he's another amazing sculpt. In his case, the sculpt and articulation work extremely well together, allowing him to hold a weapon in a two handed manner, and allowing for great looking poses. The sculpt matches the comic extremely well too, and like the two figures I already discussed, his hat is removable but fits perfectly.

Finally, there's Joey the Ball. Now, Joey isn't a big name character in the series, so under normal circumstances, he'd be a serious peg warmer. However, with the smart marketing move of including the Zombie parts with each figure, I'm sure he'll still sell pretty well.

His sculpt isn't bad, just not as outstanding as the rest of the line. It doesn't work quite as well with the articulation, since the left arm only really works right in one pose, and the large right arm can throw his center of gravity way off if you aren't careful. He can stand on his own, but it takes a little effort. Surprisingly, there's no peg holes in his feet for any stand.

These are done in a 8" scale, with Goon measuring in at just under 8", while Franky is just 5 3/4".

Paint - ****
I beat up Mezco on a regular basis about paint ops, but whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And they are definitely getting stronger in this area. The paint ops on this entire series are outstanding, with particularly amazing work on the Zombie Priest. The paint application really shines on him in large part due to all the small detail paint work, and special shading and colors for the skin. other characters like Franky or Goon look great, but don't have quite the same level of micro work.

Since some of the parts are hollow plastic, and others are not, it could have been very easy for various parts that are supposed to be the same color to end up not being that way. Just look at the recent Riddler from Mattel, who's legs and arms are a distinctly different shade of green from the body. Here, parts like the Goon's arms and torso could have easily been different skin tones, but they are definitely not. Again, this is the kind of thing that shows their dedication to this line, and elevates it above the average.

Articulation - Franky, Zombie Priest, Goon ***; Joey **1/2
All the figures (with the exception of the pack in zombie) have a ball jointed neck, which works quite well, and gives them a ton of personality.  It's a great addition for this line, and one I'm very happy to see.

The Goon has ball jointed shoulders and hips as well, but the range of movement is a little limited.  The hips don't swing forward quite far enough to get him to stand easily.

He also has pin elbows and knees, and cut ankles, wrists and waist.  Oh, and let's not forget the chest joint!

Zombie Priest has that ball jointed neck, along with cut shoulders, waist, wrists and ankles, and pin elbows.  He doesn't have as much leg articulation, but stands better than the big man.

Franky has that cool ball jointed neck, and has perhaps the greatest range of movement in it of all four figures.  He also has great ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows, cut wrists and ankles, and waist.  The legs aren't very articulated, but the arms make up for it, and work great.

Joey the Ball has ball jointed neck and shoulders, along with a pin elbow on the right arm, a cut wrist on the right arm, and a pin wrist on the left arm.  There's also a cut waist and ankles.  He has the least amount of poses though due to the general character design.

Finally, there's the snap together zombie.  He has cut joints at the places he snaps together - neck, shoulders and waist.  It's not amazing, but considering that he's a pack in figure, it's fairly decent.

Accessories - The Goon, Franky ****; Joey, Zombie Priest ***
The Goon and Franky come with a buttload - and we're talking a Oprah buttload, not a Paris Hilton buttload - of accessories. The Zombie Priest and Joey don't do quite as well, but still have a nice share.

The Goon has an extra set of hands, one gloved and one bear. Depending on which variant you get will depend on which set he has on in the package. The gloved version has a left handed fist, and a right hand sculpted to hold the gun accessory. The bare set has the closed left hand as well, and the right hand is sculpted to hold either the axe or the hammer. They pop on and off easily enough, but the pegs and holes are very sturdy and unlikely to break.

As I mentioned, he also has the gun, hammer and axe. There's also his small book, his removable hat, and the head for the build-it-yourself zombie. Another cool feature is that this zombie head is sculpted with a slot in the back of the skull, just the right size to fit the axe blade.

Franky has the next biggest chunk of stuff, with his own extra set of hands as well. These hands are both fists, to complement the two open hands he comes packaged wearing. There is also his removable hat, his huge wooden mallet, his very cool machine gun, a knife stuck into an eye, and the zombie legs.

The machine gun is really a highlight. The sculpt has a great 30's gangster feel to it, and it fits perfectly in his hands. The club is nice as well, and quite surprisingly, the design of his legs allows him to hold it in a variety of poses and still not topple over.

Be careful with the knife, as it's REALLY easy to miss.  It's packed inside the bubble behind the sticker, and I almost tossed out the packaging before noticing it.  The eyeball fits into the zombie's eye socket as well.

Then there's the Zombie Priest. He has that nifty removable hat I mentioned earlier, along with a nice human skull, properly scaled and icky. He also comes with the two arms for the zombie. As you can see, he's a tad lighter than the previous two, but still not bad.

Finally we get to Joey again, who comes with the torso for the zombie, and the box he stands on. Now mind you, there are no pegs on the box or holes in his feet, but using the box allows his massive right arm to actually hang down further than it could otherwise. The bowling ball *might* be removable, but I tried pulling pretty hard and couldn't get it to budge.

So what do you get with all those zombie parts? One very cool looking zombie! The head sculpt is the best aspect, but he is also articulated at the arms, waist and neck. He pops together pretty easily, has excellent paint ops and sculpting, and is good enough that with a couple accessories thrown in could have been another $15 figure. Now that's my kind of accessories!

Fun Factor - ****
Interestingly enough, these aren't just great pop culture collectibles - they'd make great toys too! The decent level of articulation, along with cool accessories and an interesting theme make them great for play. Too bad any kids in the right age range for action figures are unlikely to have any idea who the Goon is. However, if any producers are listening, with all the fascination with both comic book characters and zombies in movies right now, I can't see how Hollywood has ignored The Goon so far.

Value - ***
I paid $16, but you should be able to find them for $15 if you're a careful shopper. And how much did you spend on those DC Direct Public Enemy and Alex Ross figures? And what did you get for your money?

These are an excellent value, and show a level of detail and quality that other companies should be noting. Now, I'll admit that with certain licenses, like the comic Hellboy and Goon, that Mezco's style matches up extremely well with the source material. I can't necessarily say they'd do a perfect Batman line...unless it was something like Long Halloween. But I'd certainly be interested in seeing them try it!

Things to watch out for - 
For the most part, there's little to worry about. I didn't see any serious paint problems on the case of figures I found, and there's little chance of breakage.

I would be a little careful with the neck joint on the zombie though. It snaps together pretty tight, and the post could get broken when twisting it.

Overall -  Zombie Priest ****; Goon, Franky ***1/2; Joey ***
Mezco now has their second hit line for this year, right after the release of the comic based Hellboy series. They've jumped to the top of the pack for best company of the year at this point, and both of these series have figures in them that will be vying for everyone's favorites lists come January.

I was a little disappointed that I had trouble with getting the Goon to stand, and perhaps Joey isn't the strongest character in the books to use. But overall I'm extremely happy with this series, and it did something that any great action figure line aspires to do - it convinced me to go out and buy (and read) The Goon comic book series! I certainly can say the same for many of the recent comic based lines from other companies.

Fans of the books should definitely pick these up. It's fairly unlikely that you'll ever get better plastic versions of your favorite comic, and by supporting this first series, you improve the chances of seeing a second series. Maybe we can get a Buzzard, or a Dr. Alloy!

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Franky, Zombie Priest ****; Joey, Goon ***1/2
Paint - ****
Articulation - Franky, Zombie Priest, Goon ***; Joey **1/2
Accessories - The Goon, Franky ****; Joey, Zombie Priest ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***
Overall -  Zombie Priest ****; Goon, Franky ***1/2; Joey ***

Where to Buy -
I picked these up at Media Play, but there's plenty of online options as well. Remember, let the sponsors know where you heard about them:

- YouBuyNow has the individuals for $15, which is a little higher than the others below, but they do have the variant reviewed here available separately for $17.

- Alter Ego Comics has the set of four at just $50.

- Amazing Toyz has the set for $52, but some of the individuals as cheap as $13 each.

- CornerStoreComics has the set for $52, or you can pick up the individual figures for $14 each. They also have a case of 12 for just $145.

- has the set for $55, or the individuals for $14.

Related Links -
Obviously I don't have any other Goon toy related reviews yet, but there are some interesting links:

- of course, you want to check out the official website of Eric Powell and The Goon, where they have a great message board as well.

- and if you like gangster style figures, and like Mezco's unique style, then check out the Gangsters, Inc figures they did last year.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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