By Joshua Rivera
February 02, 2015 at 06:24 PM EST
Eric Powell

For more than 15 years, cartoonist Eric Powell has been creating a world full of mobsters, zombies, and other strange creatures in the pages of The Goon. At the heart of it all lies the titular Goon, a big-hearted bruiser of few words and simple motivations: He likes to beat bad guys up. With a devoted following thanks to its unique blend of over-the-top comedy and exuberant storytelling, The Goon  is an indie comics staple—one that’s about to change in a big way. 

According to Goon creator Eric Powell the next Goon story, Once Upon a Hard Time, would serve as an ending of sorts.

“I don’t plan to ever leave this mythology,” says Powell. “But the stuff that I started with the very first issue of The Goon, I’m going to be wrapping up and taking it in different directions.”

While previous Goon stories are designed to stand alone, Once Upon a Hard Time is very much a sequel to the one that came before it, Occasion of Revenge—in fact, Powell originally had called it Occasion of Revenge: Part 2, but changed his mind later on, preferring a fairy tale title. 

The Goon has always been a weird, dark fairy tale,” says Powell. “So to have the story where I’m kind of wrapping everything up use that fairy tale title—I thought it was appropriate.”

Like Occasion of RevengeOnce Upon a Hard Time is a tragic story, veering away from the violent comedy Goon stories are known for and leaving its central character in a pretty dark place. If Revenge was about how vengeance can drag a character down and cause them to violate their personal code, Powell says, then Hard Time is  “what do you do when you hit that breaking point?”

“Often there’s a fine line between a good guy and a bad guy,” says Powell. “The Goon has definitely skirted that, but he’s always had a moral structure that was put in place by his aunt. He’s never been a 100-percent good guy,but he’s always trying to help the people around him for the most part. This is getting him to the point where he’s pushed so far, he’s starting to lose sight of that, he’s starting to lose focus, and the bitterness and the anger and everything is destroying the person that he was. Which is exactly what the coven of witches wanted to do, because they wanted to add his tragedy to the curse of the town, which would build their power.”

It’s a pretty dramatic tonal shift, but it’s one that The Goon has pulled off before to great success in Chinatown, one of Powell’s most acclaimed Goon stories. 

“I like a lot of humor, and I like sad stories,” says Powell. “For me, it seems like those are the deepest set of emotions. If you can make someone laugh, or if you can make ’em cry, then you know you’ve done something good.”

The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time is on sale Wednesday. Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics, here’s an exclusive three-page preview:

Eric Powell

Eric Powell

Eric Powell