Two of three?
I think ya got scared!!!
Cool interview, though. I like it!
Having recently stepped down from his administrative position as publisher at IMAGE COMICs in order to get back to doing what he loves most: Creating Comics, Erik Larsen found he now had enough time to chat with me about his decision, Savage Dragon, Golden Age characters, The Punisher's face, and Christmas!
SEBASTIAN PICCIONE: OK, Erik, I’m gonna skip the usual fluff questions for now. I figure if there’s someone on a site called PROJECTFANBOY who doesn’t know who you are then they are on the wrong site.
So let me start with something a bit more substantial…
You recently announced your decision to step down as Publisher at Image Comics and to get back into the creative seat, full throttle. Care to fill us in your thought process there?
ERIK LARSEN: fans wanted more Savage Dragon and I wanted to do more Savage Dragon—but it was not possible to be both a fulltime publisher and a fulltime cartoonist efficiently. Something had to give and given the fact that Image was in a good place—going in the right direction-- and Eric Stephenson was completely up to speed and ready to go—it seemed that the timing was right.
SEB: You say in your myspace blog that there was no big conspiracy (sorry, conspiracy hounds!) or violent coup. You just put feelers out and decided Eric Stephenson was the right Eric/k for the job. What made him the natural choice?
ERIK: He was Jim’s second in command and mine as well. He worked with Jim and Rob Liefeld before that. He’s been with Image almost from day one and he lives and breathes comics. He really was the best man for the job.
SEB: So, this means we won’t see your name on the ever-growing fan-rumor-list of creators gunning for Dan Didio or Joe Quesada’s jobs?
ERIK: I can’t control what anybody says. I do think both of those companies would benefit by having a person in charge that gave a damn about comic books, sure—but I’m certainly not putting myself out there as a candidate for the job.
SEB: NOW for the question that would have been fluff earlier, but here becomes an insightful follow-up (aren’t I the clever one): What is it about creating comics that has you so enthralled that you’ve given up the Boss’ Chair to pursue it?
ERIK: This was what I got into the field to do. It wasn’t to be an administrator. I like telling stories. I like drawing. This was what I was born to do.
SEB: What would you say, is the hardest thing to give up in terms of this shift in responsibilities?
ERIK: A steady paycheck.
SEB: What would you say is the easiest part to let go of?
ERIK: the responsibility and the headache.
SEB: This is Image Comics’ “Sweet 16” year. Looking back at the company that Larsen, McFarlane, Silvestri, Lee, Portacio, Valentino, and Liefeld founded back in ’92, to the mega-company that it has become. Let’s face it, this little company of artists, that most people thought would fold in a year or two, has gone on to become a contender. You even get your own section in PREVIEWS! Does that give a severe case of the “proud papas” or what? Did you ever think it would take off to the extent that it has 16 years later?
ERIK: Certainly, it was my hope that we would be here for the long haul. I certainly can’t claim to have known we’d still be around 16 yeas later but it was definitely something I had hoped would be the case.
SEB: In SAVAGE DRAGON, you’re currently wrapping up Dragon’s Tour of the Image Universe with appearances by a small army of Golden Age characters that have entered the public domain. There has been quite a lot of that in comics, lately, including several other companies adapting their own versions of the same characters you’ve chosen. Long considered “dated” or “uncool”, what is about these characters that makes them relevant some 5 decades later?
Erik: I don’t think it’s so much a case of these characters being cool as these characters have a potential to be cool and often that’s just a case of some of them being well designed. I’ve read a lot of these old comics and, frankly, there’s a good reason a lot of these characters vanished. Many of them are generic and dull but there are some visuals there that are pretty strong and my goal is to enhance the characters as they exist and play with them. I don’t want to re-imagine them and “make them my own” particularly. If I wanted to turn them into different characters I’d make up my own guys. I look at what has been done elsewhere and wonder what the point was. It would be like guest-starring Spider-Man but giving him a new costume, powers and personality. What’s the point of that? Why even bother using the Golden Age Blue Beetle if he doesn’t look like, sound like or act like the Golden Age Blue Beetle? I look at these characters as untapped potential and it would be fun to flesh them out a bit. But that’s not my focus anyway. They’re guest stars in this book. Savage Dragon is the star.
SEB: The Dragon himself has a come a long way, and his fan base is still rock solid. To what do you attribute Dragon’s continued success?
ERIK: I think readers get invested in the characters because the characters grow up with them and with one creator steering the ship—they can count on characters to have a certain consistency which is lacking in a lot of titles where creators come and go.
SEB: So, now that you have more time to devote to your work, what can we expect to see in SAVAGE DRAGON?
ERIK: More issues on a more regular basis. I don’t want to get too into the twists and turns here but readers of old are going to be very pleased very soon with the direction the book is heading in. It’ll be a lot more urban and a lot less cosmic in the future. Readers that miss dragon being a complete badass are going to be very pleased with the direction the book will be taking.
SEB: With all of that in mind, in today’s genre laden cinema, will we ever see a SAVAGE DRAGON movie?
ERIK: Oh, I imagine so. For the longest time I’ve resisted the notion because of the limitations of what could be done but effects have gotten to a point where I’m looking around and saying, “Hey, they just might be able to pull this off.”
SEB: You also say that you’ve penciled the first issue to a new project. What can you tell us about that?
ERIK: It’s a new book that is nothing like anything I’ve done before yet very much like the sort of thing I’m known for. This is really the kind of book that I would think readers would have expected me to have done following my run on Spider-Man. It has a lot of the comradely that I wrote when I worked on Nova a few years back. It involves a group of friends and a mysterious old house and superpowers and monsters. But I can’t say much more than that at this point.
SEB: And, I believe your exact words were that “the ideas were stacking up like cordwood.” Any insight you can share as to this stack o’ ideas?
ERIK: One of the things I like to do is surprise people. It’s hard to do that when you tell people too much about it. As a kid there was no Previews. Often all I had to go by was a “Next Issue” blurb at the end of an issue and I miss that. I miss reading a comic book and not knowing what to expect on the next page. Given that—I’m hesitant to say too much.
SEB: I also understand you are very excited about how the HOWARD CHAYKIN’S AMERICAN FLAGG collection turned out. How much work ended up going into getting it “just right”?
ERIK: Three and a half years too much. The end result was stunning though. It actually looked way better than it had any right to look. It’s just beautiful.
SEB: One of my favorite creations of yours is FREAK FORCE. Now, over the years, you’ve certainly put them through the wringer. And you’ve done so on various earths no less. So here’s my two-fold question: Do you have any future plans for the Force (or what’s left of it), and why do you so enjoy torturing the Freaks?
ERIK: I love Freak Force. I’d love to do more with them but the audience just isn’t there. Given that, while I can use them in Savage Dragon—I don’t want Dragon to become a bit player in his own book so I really can’t do that much with them. Mostly due to space limitations.
SEB: Now for that brand of hard-hitting journalism, only I can bring to the table!
For about 20 years I’ve wanted to know…..WAY back when you were drawing THE PUNISHER for Marvel, you used to put these little “v” shapes on his upper & lower lips, on both sides of his mouth. What were those? Were they scars? War paint? Was it to give him a more skull-like grin? For 20 years I’ve lied awake at night pondering these facial markings. Erik, if not for me, then so my wife can get some sleep, what were those?
ERIK: Scars. I wanted him to look meaner—more vicious—and it gave him a more skull-like appearance. He just looked mean. Had I done a story with it—I’d have had Wolverine slash him one with his claws.
SEB: And a million fanboys mourn the missed opportunity.
SEB: In keeping with that line of thinking, remember we ARE called project FANBOY for a reason, at my house Christmas means ERIK LARSEN. One of my mainstay decorations is the old Marvel “MERRY CHRISTMAS” Banner. The one where each letter is on its own little card, and you drew like EVERY marvel character with little Santa hats, presents, or wreaths. How does it feel to become a beloved Christmas icon?
ERIK: Few people remember that SEASONS GREETINGS banner. It was a fun thing to draw. I actually love doing stuff like that. Drawing a big pile of characters and all that.
SEB: OK, Erik, the following questions come from the gang in the WRITER’S FORUM over at Digital Webbing. The first one sparked a debate that shanghaied the thread, so I figure I’ll let you put it to rest:
EUGENE SALASIE: Why do we need to an artist attached to a project to get into IMAGE? Why don’t you take just writer submissions?
ERIK: Because most novice writers are terrible. And we simply don’t have the manpower to read through hundreds of pitches and pair wannabe writers up with willing accomplices. It’s something of a risk doing a creator-owned book and for an artist it’s even more of a risk. A writer can write a book and still do plenty of other things to put food on the table. An artist often needs to spend every waking hour at the drawing board in order to make their monthly deadline. Working with an unknown is one hell of a gamble for these guys and given the limited artistic talent pool—it’s in their best interest to work with creators who are bringing something more to the table. If a writer can “sell” his idea to an artist—they have a better chance of selling it to us. If he can’t get an artist excited enough about it to be willing to work on it—chances are that it’s not an idea that would be a huge hit anyway.
MARKLCBERTOLINI: Is the IMAGE reunion actually going to happen?
ERIK: Yeah. It has. It is. And the IMAGE UNITED project is more than a reunion—it’s the first time we’ve every worked together this closely. It’s unprecedented.
MAVERICK: Now that the original Image founders are getting...um...older (not trying to call you "old" here), do you have plans of brining in any more younger creators as partners (like with Robert Kirkman)?
ERIK: We’ve had new creators working at Image since day one. Most of the new talent out there is talent brought in and nurtured by Image Comics. As far as letting them become partners—we’re not doing that arbitrarily. To become an Image partner takes more than simply being young and talented and enthusiastic. Robert Kirkman has all of those qualities. At this point I don’t see a lot of others who I would want to tap on the shoulder and invite into the brotherhood.
FORBY: This may go into internal policies somewhat, but what made the partners come to the decision to let Robert Kirkman become a partner?
ERIK: His undying loyalty to the company and enthusiasm for comics in general. Robert is an “idea man” of the highest degree and he brings a lot to the table.
FORBY: What does being an Image partner actually mean? Can you talk about responsibilities of the partners?
ERIK: I’d rather not go into a lot suffice to say that the partners concern themselves a lot more with the big picture policy making and less with the minutia.
LIL GREEN MAN: What’s your favorite topping on a chicken sandwich?
ERIK: I don’t know, man—but the guys at Fred’s Market across the street from our office have that dialed in.
SEB: Before you go, is anything you’ve always wanted to mention in an interview, but were never asked?
ERIK: I get this question a lot, actually.
SEB: Thanks, so much for taking the time to talk to me! This has been a real pleasure!
ERIK: You’re certainly welcome.
Last edited by ScottWilliams; Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 06:23 PM.
Two of three?
I think ya got scared!!!
Cool interview, though. I like it!
It was all space restraints, really.
....and I got scared. :eek:
hanging with the man... you must be on cloud nine.
Cloud Seven, actually.
I like to do my own thing, ya know?
I'm a regular visitor of digitalwebbing.com and read that posting. Your interview was good, man. I do like how he expresses some dislike about the way things are being handled over at Marvel and maybe someone who actually cares about comics should be in charge. Although it's not a job he wants to go after himself.
Yeah, Erik definitely has no problems saying what he's thinking!