Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen is known not only for his creativity but also his devoted position in favor of creator rights. Erik is an important figure in the history of comics, playing a key role in the creator revolution which began in the 90s. Erik Larsen has been producing Savage Dragon comics without interruption for decades. It is this tenacity and creative intensity which makes him a fan favorite. We had a conversation with Erik about Savage Dragon, creator rights, digital comics and much more.
StashMyComics.com Can you give us a little background information on yourself?
Erik Larsen: I started drawing comics as a kid. I drew dozens for my own entertainment, using my own characters. When I was 19 I got my first paying comic book gig. After that I worked my way up the food chain, jumping from one job to another. Eventually I was drawing Spider-man at Marvel and then Savage Dragon at Image Comics.
EL: I write and draw Savage Dragon and I write and pencil Supreme–both at Image Comics.
SMC: Do you feel the work you did to advance creator rights in the ’90s bears fruit currently?
EL: Sure, although it has made publishers more savvy as well. Often they’ll manage to get their claws in creators through ancillary rights. They’ll arrange to get pieces of movies or toys. Creators need to be very wary when dealing with those.
SMC: What is your view on digital comics vs. physical comics? What do you prefer and how could this new media still be improved?
EL: I prefer the physical books. I do think there’s huge potential with digital to do other things–adding back matter and interviews and whatnot but I like to limit the amount of time I stare at a computer.
SMC: There was recently a news spot from FOX news on DC comics and the bad influence they present on children. How do you feel about this topic? How do you see comics as a positive influence in children’s education?
EL: Comics haven’t been aimed at kids in decades. It’s kind of a silly argument and it’s sad how poorly researched the Fox piece is. They single out Starfire as an example of a character that has been “sexed up” at the new DC and yet the children’s cartoon they cite was watered down from the comic book where she ALWAYS had that overdeveloped physique. The Fox network seems to think we’re all still living in the ’50s. At the same time–I do think there should be better comics for all ages. When I was 12 years old there were literally no comics being published that weren’t okay for me to read. Now there are hundreds. Strange to have a Batman comic that a mother wouldn’t want their kid to read.
SMC: You work on Savage Dragon pretty much by yourself. Do you think it is easier to do this or work in a group? Could you list some of the positives and negatives for this?
EL: The plus is that nobody else is messing with my work and that I have the final say. The minus is that it’s a lot of work and there’s nobody I can lean on. With Supreme I’m working with Cory Hamscher who’s doing more of the heavy lifting–so it’s the best of both worlds.
SMC: What’s your favorite thing about the comic book industry? What has been your favorite period in time in the industry? Does this change from year to year?
EL: The people are great. The work is fun. The readers are engaged and enthusiastic. Being in the industry–I’ve lost that sense of wonder somewhat. It was a lot easier to get enthusiastic when I wasn’t seeing the man behind the curtain. Every period had its high point but that period when Byrne was on the X-Men, Miller was on Daredevil, Simonson was on Thor and Chaykin was on American Flagg will always be high up on my list. I loved stuff earlier on as well–and I’m extremely grateful to have been around as new Jack Kirby books were coming out.
SMC: What do you think you will be doing in the next 5 years?
EL: Much the same. Savage Dragon.
SMC: Will you ever turn over Savage Dragon to another creator when you are ready to move on, or will it end with your departure?
EL: I anticipate doing the book until I pass on–what happens with it after that is up to my family. That’s the point when I stop caring.
SMC: If you had to pit the Dragon against anyone in the real world to teach them a lesson who would be and why?
I don’t think you really teach anybody a lesson by beating them up. There are plenty of jerks who could stand to be taken down a peg or two but that’s really not what a superhero should be doing. They’re heroes not bullies.
-Huge thanks to all SMC members who contributed questions.