State of the Union | Erik Larsen

sdThe Savage Dragon creator catches us up on the state of Image Comics, one year after taking over as publisher.

 

 

Erik Larsen tells it like it is. Those that don't know the guy might be off-put when Larsen, chatting over burgers at the 2005 edition of Wizard World Chicago, is asked what his State of the Union address would be at Image Comics, the third-largest comics company which he serves as publisher, and he says "Things don't suck quite so bad anymore."

 

The cover to Savage Dragon #120 by Erik Larsen.He's kidding, of course. Larsen took over publishing duties in the summer of '04 with a simple goal in mind. "I would like there to not be a single person who goes into a comic book store and can honestly say ‘I don't read a single Image comic,'" he states. "My goal is to publish pretty much something for everybody." Image's line runs the gamut, from zombie horror (Walking Dead) to high adventure (Fear Agent), from comic strip funnies (PvP) to traditional superheroes (Invincible, Witchblade). "It's one of those things where not every book is for everybody, you've just got to kind of understand that that's the case. People shouldn't feel bad that there are comics that aren't for them being released. I think that it's a good thing that there are comics out there that I don't like because that means that there are comics out there that people do legitimately enjoy. I don't go and watch every movie that comes out, I don't watch every television program, but there's enough of a variety of different things out there that there's something for me if I choose to read that book, watch that movie, read that comic book, what have you."

 

Due to his publishing duties, the one comic that has suffered is Larsen's own book, Savage Dragon. The thrilling superhero story, which Larsen has written and drawn all 121 issues of to date, has not had a new issue since April. "This particular issue has given me more grief than a lot. But after I'm over this one, then it's cake," he laughs. It was announced recently that Savage Dragon #122 will hit stands this January, returning as a monthly comic.

 

This month, however, impatient fans have the fortune of checking out Image Comics #1, a special hardcover originally meant to commemorate the company's 10th anniversary but just barely making it out in time for it's 14th birthday. Image was created as an outlet for the hottest artists of the time to break away from the oppressive Marvel and DC regimes and create their own characters that they would own outright, and the hardcover pays homage to that, as each of the four remaining Image founders – Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, and Larsen – returns to their first Image creations.

 

In order to have a story for fans to get excited about, he decided to finally reveal the long-secret origin of Dragon. "It wasn't a story that I particularly wanted to get out there," he remarks. "I myself like him better as sort of a man-of-mystery, and once you get rid of that, I think something's missing. But I really had nothing else to do, y'know? I'd still been doing my own book. It wasn't like I could just go ‘here's another Dragon story, folks!' and have anybody really get that excited about it."

            The future of Image Comics looks bright. "There's always books that I'm excited about," Larsen concludes. "But pretty much everything we do at this point, I'm somewhat excited about." | Jason Green

 

 

 

 

The Complete Erik Larsen Interview

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the timing should be that you've been pulisher of Image for about a year now, right?

 

Right.

 

What would you say in your publisher of Image "State of the Union" address?

 

Good lord… "Things don't suck quite so bad anymore." [both laugh] I don't have a lot to go with.  The thing about the whole publishing process is that not everything is immediately ready. So a good long while of that was winding down some of the old things that happened and ramping up the new things and getting things ready to go. So it took a while.

 

What exactly is it that you're trying to accomplish as publisher? What is your overall philosophy?

 

I would like there to not be a single person who goes into a comic book store and can honestly say "I don't read a single Image comic."  My goal is to publish pretty much something for everybody.

 

Does it frustrate you when people say things like, "Oh, the Image hardcover is three years late, that's just like Image," Image is this entity…

 

I think it is.  After a while, it's just getting over those hurdles, and then it's not a problem anymore, y'know?  But initially Spawn, when I came on, was over a year late.  We had had retailers who were like, "I opened up a store, I've been in business for a little over a year, and I just got the first Spawn I ordered."  Y'know?

 

They were still soliciting them every month?

 

They were soliciting it monthly and the book just got later and later and later, and eventually it got 14, 15 months late.

 

That's ridiculous. Now that the Image hardcover is finally coming out, are you excited to see what fans think of Dragon's origin?

 

NO. [laughs]

 

Because I withheld looking at those pages, so…

 

The cover to Savage Dragon #118 by Erik Larsen.I don't know. It wasn't a story that I particularly wanted to tell, or particularly wanted to get out there.  I myself like him better as sort of a man-of-mystery kind of thing.  And once you get rid of that, I think something's missing. I personally would prefer not to tell it, but I really had nothing else to do, y'know? It was a special Image comic book where all the original creators come back and did their own stuff. And I'd still been doing my own book. It wasn't like I could just go "here's another Dragon story, folks!" and have anybody really get that excited about it. There were a lot of…because I knew the timing issue of the thing, that there was a chance that these guys might NOT get their act together, I didn't want to do something that was in continuity because, you know, as it turned out, it took nearly 4 years for the book to come out. So I would have been treading water for nearly four years.  That's no damn good.

 

That's Spawn! [laughs]

 

UH…UH…UH…. [laughs]

 

I'll leave that part out.  CUT! [laughs] Are there any books coming down the pike that you're really excited about?

 

There's always books that I'm excited about.  I'm looking forward to there being more issues of Godland out because I really like that.  But pretty much everything we do at this point, I'm somewhat excited about. There are very few books that we put out that I don't like…although there are a couple.

 

Should I stop the tape so we can name names here? [laughs]

 

That's alright. [laughs] It's one of those things where not every book is for everybody, you've just got to kind of understand that that's the case. People shouldn't feel bad that there are comics that aren't for them being released. I think that it's a good thing that there are comics out there that I don't like because that means that there are comics out there that people do legitimately enjoy. I don't go and watch every movie that comes out, I don't watch every television program, but there's enough of a variety of different things out there that there's something for me if I choose to read that book, watch that movie, read that comic book, what have you.

 

I know you've answered this before, but now that you're the big head honcho at Image, are you ever going to play in the other big publishers' sandboxes again?

 

Not while I'm publisher at Image Comics.  I think it sends out a bad message that the publisher of a competing company is working someplace else. It's just sort of bad form, I think.  Although I do love a lot of these other characters, and it would be a hoot and a half to work on ‘em, it's just, I really kind of feel like I shouldn't be doing that.

 

So when do we get to look forward to Dragon coming back out?

 

The cover to Savage Dragon #119 by Erik Larsen.At the rate I'm going? I don't know. [laughs] I was hoping for August, but now that it's mid-August, I'm thinking not. This particular issue has given me more grief than a lot.  But after that, after I'm over this one, then it's cake.  It's easy from that point on.

 

Sincerely, you think? You think when Dragon comes back out it will be much more regular?

 

I think so.  I don't have these other humongous headaches and projects that I'm having to deal with so it should be much simpler.

 

How far ahead is the general plot that you're working toward right now?

 

Well, the thing is there are always threads that go way way way out there. You know, "I'm gonna pay this off in 17 years, it's gonna be so cool!"  There's always little things like that. Generally, it's 5, 6, 7 months ahead where I know fairly clearly what I'm going to be doing. It can vary. I always like to make plans, but then what tends to happen is that I get so excited about something that's coming out 6 or 7 months from now, that it's tough to focus on what I'm doing now to get to what's coming up 6 or 7 months from now.

 

Any frustrations with the election storyline, not being able to time it as closely to the election as you could have?

 

It was also one of those things where once I got that going… It had been suggested to me to have Dragon run for President.  And once I got that going, it was "This is not something I'm remotely enthusiastic about."

 

But neither was Dragon!

 

No, and neither was Dragon. And he kind of shared my frustrations.  I'll get a good supervillain out of the deal, so I don't feel too bad about that.

 

Is that Urass?

 

Yeah! We'll find out the secret of Urass! [both laugh]

 

When is the next Dragon collection coming out?

 

That's a good question.

 

The problem with the Dragon collections is that [colorist] Abel Mouton has to convert all these files from this other format into something that I can actually use. It was all colored on an IBM in an archaic coloring system called Pod Barrett. In order for anybody to make things that we can print from, they need to be converted to Macintosh Photoshop files. And there's always little coloring things that I want to fix…"Dragon's hand was totally colored brown, and I want to fix that for the trade" sort of thing. So I don't want to just print from the existing stuff, but Abel's not getting his act together particularly quickly in terms of converting those files.

 

Which is the next story arc?

 

It's 50…I'm not sure what issue it starts in. It's the story where Dragon and William become one guy and then ultimately Dragon gets back in his own body again and where it gets back to being whole, I believe it's Savage Dragon: Resurrection.

 

What do you think looking back at that one, since it was like mushing your old Dragon comics from your childhood into the current continuity?

 

The cover to Savage Dragon #121 by Erik Larsen.That was a fun little thing to try.  Kind of what happens along the way is that people will make suggestions or ask questions that kind of gets you thinking. That came from an inker who was doing a book for us at the time named Mark Lipka, who was inking a Savage Dragon mini-series [Sex & Violence], and he asked if I had done anything that was an homage to the comics I drew as a kid, because I created Dragon in 4th or 5th grade. And it just got me thinking, "Well no, I haven't really done that," and "how could I do that and have it be a cool story?" And eventually got him wearing this really retarded costume, with the sneakers and all that. [chuckles] That was sweet. It was fun for me.

 

So what's Erik Larsen going to have to talk about at Wizard World 2006?

 

I think he's going to talk about how he just completed his Marvel Family collection and how cool it is.  He just got all these cool Fawcett Comics finally.  I don't know. I'll have a new project, hopefully, and other stuff.  I think by that point, the Savage Dragon cartoon will be out on DVD, so people will be able to be appalled at that.

 

Hey, if they put WildCATs out, why not Dragon?

 

"It's better than WildCATs!" Put that quote on the box! [both laugh] I would like to be next year, doing much more Savage Dragon than I was doing the previous year and getting it out on a more regular clip.

 

Are you still going to be having Dragon side stories coming out like God War or War on Terror?

 

A little bit.  Frank Fosco and I are doing a one-shot, which is the Rock House Diner one-shot. Which is this 48-page issue. Basically, in the bio that I did of Rock years ago, there was some background that he used to be married and used to have a kid and all this stuff, so basically, Rock's daughter comes back to live with her dad after her mother has passed away unexpectedly. It's kind of a weird little story there, but it's cool, dammit.

 

She-Dragon 1-shot? Valentine's Day?

 

Yeaaaah…She-Dragon 1-shot, just in time for Valentine's Day [laughs] If we can get that out for Valentine's Day, I'd be really, really stoked.

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