First of all, if you know about the Goblins Animated story and our incredible cast, from members of Futurama, Samurai Jack and Star Wars, to the amazing voices of Winnie the Pooh, The Brain, and Homer Simpson, then pretty please, go and back us on Indiegogo! If not, read on!
About ten years ago I stumbled on an amazing webcomic called ‘Goblins.’ It was the creation of a guy named Tarol Hunt. He was this geeky guy from Vancouver who had gone from being a croupier and hating his job, to making the decision to write a webcomic in his spare time. By the time I picked it up, he had been working on it for three years and had decided to quit working at the casino and jump into the abyss of being a self employed creator. This is far before the overwhelming popularity of Goblins made it into the comic that shows up in Google before the definition of a Goblin!
The comic itself was straight up my alley, a pithy blend of brightly drawn animation that took a fantasy world (insert your favorite Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones quote here) and told a story from the point of view of the little guys, the monsters who are usually mowed down by the adventurers on their way to glory. A Cupid’s arrow straight into my nerdy heart.
I could also see Tarol’s progression as an artist through the art on the page. Moving from a talented amateur with a dream…
…to becoming this amazing artist with this fully rendered, gorgeous comic.
And as I read deeper and deeper, I realized that not only was this the expression of a really fun artist, but his talent as a writer was amazing. He was exploring really deep and uncomfortable ideas about racism, class, sexism, religion, rape, violence, family, and what we take for granted because of how we’re raised. All through the lens of this “simple” comic about adventurers and monsters.
Lemme give you two examples. ‘Cause I’m a geek, and I gotta:
Now, all of the Goblins have these vaguely Native American feeling names that express their personalities, looks, or the ‘blessings’ of the Seer who named them. So you end up with a character named Big Ears talking to a character named Dies Horribly. It makes for really silly fun early on, that turn into questions on whether a name defines your destiny or actions later on. This is typical of Tarol, to bury the lead so deep that you never see a plot twist that is going to hammer you when you least expect it.
One of the first moments in the comic that really got me was when I was reading about a character named Complains of Names, complaining (of course) about the names of certain things in the village, and he starts expanding out, questioning the centralized tropes of the Goblin’s existence. Why, for example, do they have a “poorly locked chest” in the center of the village filled with magical weapons they just don’t use? Why not use them to fight these humans that keep on killing the poor Goblins? And the response?
Now, as a Asian American kid who saw these weird holes in society that were so easy to fix, as well as as geek and a writer, I loved this. Because he was playing with these typical Dungeons and Dragons tropes, and using them to make commentary about tradition, society and the things we accept as normal. So when he did this in the first pages of the comic, I was thinking, “huh, that’s really cool.”
Then I started noticing this other thing. That no battle in the comic, no matter how small, left the combatants unchanged. It could be a simple change, like the edge of a cloak being cut off. Or it could be a massive change, like a character losing a limb, or a person they love, but every battle changed the characters and they carried those changes forward. So much of the media that we watch takes violence for granted. It’s become as blasé as getting a coffee in a romantic comedy. Yet we know for a fact that violence changes us, and I found it amazing that this simple comic was showing that to such an extreme degree.
Suffice it to say, I was hooked.
So I began to read the comic religiously, and after meeting Tarol when I was invited to be a guest at Vcon in Vancouver, I was determined to make Goblins Comic into an animated show that could bring these ideas to a larger audience.
Now, Tarol is the most Canadian Canadian I have ever met. He’s got the accent, he lives in the woods, he worries about bear and moose on a daily basis, he’s kind to everyone, and he’s nice to a fault. Simply put, he’s the kind of guy who apologizes to you if you bump into him. And he wasn’t even willing to put a pay button on his comic to get paid for it. Instead, he was drawing another comic as an incentive to pay for his first one. So he was completely unsure about this crazy animated show idea. Why would anyone be interested in his little comic? So I decided he needed to really see who could be interested. So I started talking to Phil LaMarr about it.
Phil and I had met while working on GI Joe together. Now, Phil LaMarr, if you haven’t met him at one of the conventions around the world that he’s at, is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever met. Apart from having his brains blown out as Marvin in Pulp Fiction or dancing back and forth as the UPS guy on Mad TV, Phil is this hitter of a VO talent, voicing Samurai Jack,
Hermes on Futurama and The Green Lantern. He’s iconic, and he can do things with his voicebox that would probably have gotten him stoned as a witch 200 years ago. And he’s also an uber comic geek. Which makes me love him more. So when I showed him Goblins Comic and told him about how it’s this hard charging, well written social commentary as well as being a great adventure, he jumped in with both feet.
Now when we started talking about it and what we liked about the comic, Phil and I quickly realized that the commentary that the comic made, sometimes getting quite dark, would very quickly get watered down by the Hollywood machine. And we we really didn’t like the idea of trying to bend ourselves into pretzels to respond to questions like: “Do they all have to be Goblins?” and “What if someone knows nothing about D and D or fantasy movies?” “Can we have a character who can explain these things to the audience?” or “The Goblins are so colorful, we need to tone down the violence so that we don’t get parents who let their kids watch it bent out of shape, don’t you think?” or “Do we really have to hit the race card so strongly here? We don’t want to offend our sponsors.” It was important to us that the artistic vision of the comic and the commentary therein stay intact, and not become a mainstream beige mess.
So we decided to do it ourselves.
We would write it, produce it, crowdfund it and get an animation studio to help us put it together.
The rest is pretty much history and hard work. Phil and I got together and worked with Tarol to adapt his comic to screen, we got advice on how to create an animation from the Emmy Award winning Jeff ‘Swampy’ Marsh and Van Partible over at Surfer Jack. We made an animatic to test out the concept and see if this was even feasible,
and we started bugging all of our friends in the voiceover world to be involved. And, kindly, they came out of the woodworks to help. So we’re here now, another Wednesday in Hollywood, on the cusp of being funded, trying to bring a piece of art out into the world.
So watch for us, and give us a wave and a share if you can. And really, really, check out the comic. It’s an adventure like you’ve never seen.