Local comic book artist releases ‘Goblin’: A coming age story for younger readers

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All images provided by Will Perkins

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Greater Rochester area has a seemingly endless supply of great artists, some that have flown under the radar, like Eisner-nominated comic book artist Dave Chisholm, or the “Mandalorian connection” that is Jeremy Sniatecki.

But now, Rochester can codify another to the list: comic artist Will Perkins, who worked with writer Eric Grissom on a new work for a leading publisher, Dark Horse, called “Goblin.”

The plot follows a young goblin in a coming of age story named Rikt — and eventually his sidekick, a dog named Fishbreath — who seeks revenge after a human kills his family.

The comic is currently for sales anywhere books are sold, but Perkins recommends checking out local store Hipocampo, or the Pittsford Barnes & Noble for signed copies.

Perkins and Grissom also designed a game is a prequel to the book, and can be found here.

The Rochester area native had his comic interest sparked by the West Irondequoit Library, as he would dig and take home and kind of comic he could get his hands on.

With that literary start, he went to SUNY Geneseo to major in English to become a teacher, but as time went on, he was taking more and more art classes.

“Well maybe I’ll just get a minor in art,” he said over Zoom, recalling his thoughts as a student. “And finally, it was just like, this is obviously the thing that I care about.”

Over time, he started working on other projects, including previous work for Dark Horse Comics. Now, like almost comic book artists, he cites his work as built on the “foundation” of the greats, like Will Eisner, to Stan Lee, to Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

Ritk and his dog Fishbreath looking over a swamp

This prepared him for his more “mature work” with Dark Horse, but Perkins says he has another unique inspiration.

“I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes,” he said. “Bill Waterson was like, was the gold standard. I read it every single day. And it’s a kind of like looseness and, and like a whimsical kind of fun style that I’ve always kind of gravitated towards.”

That cultivated whimsy finally came to good use when the initial creative seeds for “Goblin” were being sown in late 2019. Perkins said that Grissom discussed the idea with him as a way to pursue a different kind of comic, one geared more towards young readers, complete with adult plots and themes, but with whimsy and slapstick.

On the whole, Perkins says that many of the most famous comic book heroes, like Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, and a Dark Horse staple Hellboy, grew up with their readership. They have decades of history, sometimes dozens of overlapping plotlines and universes; not to mention series of movies built around them.

But some newer comics not only have fresh worlds, but are designed to be for younger readers; like “Superman” was when it first came out in 1938.

“(They’re) just nice little adventures,” he said.

Rikt, the main character

“Nice little adventures” seems like a dainty way to describe some of these books — especially “Goblin” which follows a murder revenge story — Perkins says that these adult themes are present in almost every medium for kids.

“You want to make sure that you’re not subverting parents, and maybe putting something in there that’s a little too harsh, but we always kind of went back to like, when we were kids, when did we see Bambi’s mother die?” he said. “You know, that kind of thing. Like if you can handle that, then you can probably handle most things as long as you kind of have a gentle hand with it.

“We wanted to make sure we hit that middle ground without (anything unnecessary,” he said. “If it doesn’t serve the story, if it doesn’t serve the character, just kind of cut it out and keep moving.”

“Goblin” deviates from some themes and plot points of a “typical” big name comic hero like the aforementioned Superman or Batman. While the missing or dead parents parallels are obvious — as well as the Jungian hero’s journey — having a goblin as a hero protagonist is unusual, which he credits to another source of inspiration, video games.

“We played video games like Skyrim, and you go in, you slaughter all these goblins, you loot, you leave, and you leave one behind because you don’t want to waste the arrow or whatever,” he said. “And (Grissom) of reached out to me saying like, ‘what about that poor thing?'”

It also touches on themes of environmentalism, as Perkins draws comparisons to how destructive humans can be when they are too close to other species. But the high fantasy theme — think Lord of the Rings, or Zelda or Skyrim to keep the video game theme going — served as a welcome pandemic escape.

“I was sitting at my desk anyways, having this excuse to just escape completely and a world where… I can just make whatever I want out of it. And you can kind of have fun and just explore the space around it,” he said.

That pandemic-heighted vacuum made the long wait to get out in the world even worse. Without being able to even share “Goblin” with his friends and family, the excitement of finally putting this out in the world is overwhelming…

And getting the good feedback is pretty nice, too.

“Suddenly you hear someone else say the name that you’ve only heard in your head a billion times,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”

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