My adolescent comic book dollar was not well spent.
Growing up, we were terminally out of milk, meaning the circuit for any errand inevitably included a trip to the local convenience store. As much as my brother and I enjoyed the opportunities any store presented for squirming and line standing, my mother usually preferred to let her hellions run flailing to the nearby comic shop.
The baleful Comic Keeper had little patience for tweens in his store, and certainly not among the titles kept in mushy white-brown boxes on and under the store's mismatched folding tables. Rather, I was directed to a metal rack crammed in a back corner, one that displayed titles united by the Archie Comics logo: Archie & Friends, Jughead's Time Police, Koosh Kins, The Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa, and the like. I can't say I was terribly discerning at the time, but I certainly didn't scoff at what direction I received—the two dollar price stickers also went a long way to pique my interest (I was trying to make ends meet with a five dollar a week allowance after all). So I got in the habit of picking up the best from this collection, something I was familiar with both from television and mangled piles of action figures: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.
To clarify, these were not the Mirage Studios, 1980s, Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Rather, these were the the gritless and never grim, pizza loving, cowabunga crowing interpretations of Saturday morning cartoons, Nintendo classics, and KB Toys. I checked for the new monthly issue probably twice a week, and poured tens of dollars into that store over months and months, not resting until my 10 volume back issue collection was complete.
Eventually, though, the system failed. One day, unsuspectingly, I went into the comic shop planning to leave with something garishly colored, but instead got into the back of my Mom's van with pages of black and white. I don't remember why I picked up one of the Eastman and Laird volumes—maybe I just had fresh allowance burning a hole in my pocket, maybe I was more curious than I remember. Regardless, in this volume Raphael was dead (I think it was him, I was thoroughly confused on how to tell the turtles apart in black and white), being tormented through some horrible spire-filled afterlife by a foul-mouthed bone faced vulture.
This was not my comic. It also certainly wasn't from the cartoon. I was even fairly sure it wasn't the plot of the recently released TMNT movie. This couldn't have been from anywhere else, so what the devil was this?
That answer was something of a revelation. It was it's own thing—something that would never fly in any other format. These comics could tell stories other mediums couldn't. They could be visually bold and expressive beyond novels, but also mature and experimental in ways film and animation (that I was aware of at the time) couldn't be. Comics were different, and had unique tricks and potential. It wasn't a realization I expected for my $1.99, but it's stuck with me in the few years since 1990.
When the opportunity came around for Erik, Sutter, and I to contribute stories to Pathfinder: Goblins, I knew I wanted to tell a story I couldn't with a Pathfinder adventure or in a piece of fiction. It had to be a goblin story, but it couldn't just be goblins being quirky and fail-ready, it had to use the medium. That's where my story's main character got the personality trait that would land him in so much trouble, because Xoff—that's my gob—is a total liar.
In Pathfinder: Goblins! #4, along with Jeremy Holt's awesome tale "The Gobbling Goblin," you'll find "Horsechopper," a dual account of Xoff's encounter with the Lost Coast's most infamous inhabitant, none other than the Sandpoint Devil. I say "dual account" because Xoff's narration recounts his grand battle, while Jainai Jeffries's brilliant illustrations depict a somewhat less flattering reality. It's a creepy encounter about a goblin, a dashing hat, and—of course—one trusty horsechopper. I won't give away the ending, but things get messy and along the way a frog almost gets gobbled. Writing this, now I really wish I'd made that frog a turtle.
Pathfinder: Goblins! #4 is on sale now, a creepy pair of tales to share along with your other Autumn ghost stories, and one that backs up your Pathfinder game with an appendix including stats for our "hero" Xoff and details on a distinctly goblin haunted house. Order it here, or hunt it down at your local comic shop now!
Just remember, it's the one with the hairless green ruffians who aren't ninjas.
F. Wesley Schneider