The Mind Behind Savage Dragon speaks!....and That MInd is Amazing!
What a legend Erik Larsen has become. His accomplishments are legendary, and may I say perhaps “SAVAGE” ….it is worth pointing out that this picture below was taken by his son Joe Larson. After a few messages we decided that a few normal and random interview questions would be a tiny bit boring. Erik felt some of his interviews had become a touch dull or predictable, so I tried to be original. I might have failed, but I did try. …We talked about a few subjects. If you are expecting anything in any logical order, you might be very seriously disappointed. I apologise in advance..... He was also kind enough to share some great photos with me. Jack "The KIng" Kirby is included in them.
Paul: Can I ask how your relationship with comics began? Could you possibly name the first comics you especially enjoyed reading?
Erik: My dad let us kids read his collection of Golden Age comics when we were too young to fully appreciate them. So, that was the start--and I can't cite any particular title, but he had most of the EC titles and a long run of Captain Marvel Adventures as well as Barks Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge and a pile of other books. We destroyed a lot of them. On my own, the first comic I remember owning was the Incredible Hulk #156.
Paul: I believe you are famous like many artists for creating characters before publication. What was the one character you loved to draw for fun?
Erik: I’ve pretty much used them all. I did do a few comics about myself and my friends, but largely Dragon was my main hero.
Paul: Can you possibly say who designed the original Image comics logo?
Erik: Hank Kanalz designed the Image "i" logo with input from Rob Liefeld.
Paul:There is wonderful comic character called Venom. Todd McFarlane is rightly credited as a co-creator. Yet there is some debate amongst many comic fans over who created the characters tongue?
Erik: I added the tongue. Venom had a standard tongue prior to me. For some time, I actually credited Todd with having come up with the tongue, because I saw that he gave Venom a tongue on the cover of a Spider-Man trade paperback, which I hadn’t bought because I had the comic books already. My faulty memory filled in the details, but I thought, Todd had given him a long tongue and so I decided that I was going to give him an even bigger, crazier, more wicked looking tongue. Years later, I saw Todd ‘s cover again and noticed that he didn’t give Venom a monster tongue at all. He just had Venom’s mouth open, and you could see that he owned a tongue, but it was a standard issue human being tongue. So, it was me all along.
Paul: That is an awesome answer. These interview questions may not come in any logical order in that case. Is that okay?
Erik: That’s fine.
Paul: Did you like working for Marvel Comics?
Erik: I enjoyed working at Marvel comics for the most part. There were always struggles, of course. Editors would say no or ask for changes or have changes made without consulting me, and I wasn’t happy with those, but on a day-to-day basis, I got to work on a lot on iconic characters which I had grown up with and had affection for, and that was a lot of fun.
Paul: Was that a rehearsed answer at all?
Erik: That’s just the thing, after having given dozens of interviews, inevitably, I’m asked the same questions over and over again. The answers to those questions don’t change. The only thing I can add about the Marvel question is that it didn’t feel particularly oppressive at the time, but that going back and doing work for them later on, I was able to contrast it with doing work at Image, where I did have complete freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted. And at that point, I had something out there, “oh, yeah – – that’s why we left!”
Paul: You have created you own comics for many years, could you possibly explain how Savage Dragon is lettered? I have often felt lettering is an often-unappreciated skill. How do you approach it?
Erik: I work closely with the various letterers who have lettered Savage Dragon. There’s something of a consistency from one letterer to the next because I give every one of them balloon placement. A lot of writers and editors these days leave that up to the letterers themselves to place balloons, captions, and sound effects. I prefer to give them a guide to follow so that balloons and sound effects are placed where I’d like them to be placed. I’m usually composing pages with lettering in mind.
Paul: Have you ever lettered yourself? It is it is a skill to be sure. Have you ever tried? All artists and writers must have tried at one stage surely.
Erik: I have lettered myself, and I am terrible at it. I even briefly lettered Savage Dragon. I wasn’t happy with it.
Paul: Given the “Cops” angle I'd be amazed if you had not seen options for Savage Dragon to be a TV series given all the opportunities that are available these days has that ever been the case?
Erik: There was a cartoon in the’90s. Beyond that, it hasn’t come up. And I haven’t shopped it around.
Paul: How did I miss the cartoon? I thought I was a geek. Can you talk about it at all please? Was it successful?
Erik: The cartoon was on the USA Network, and it was relatively successful. It ran two seasons, and it was the only cartoon to be renewed for a second season. The problem was that USA had trouble putting together a successful block in that time slot. They wanted to run four cartoons over a two-hour period, but their only success was Savage Dragon. Internal turmoil killed it. The two owners of the USA network were suing each other and production on everything shut down. That, coupled with not being able to assemble a successful block brought the show to an end. It’s not especially good, but it is streaming on the Peacock Network if you’re curious.
PauI: I can see Savage Dragon making a great movie. Out of sheer silly curiosity who would you cast in the role? I could see a younger Clint Eastwood in the role, but you might fairly have a different perspective on the character.
Erik: I could see Clint Eastwood playing Superpatriot, but I had imagined Bruce Willis playing Savage Dragon. These days I’m leaning more to Josh Holloway.
Paul: Despite COVID throwing a spanner in in the works, are comic conventions a part of your job you enjoy?
Erik: I haven't attended a show post-Covid. The last show I went to was in January 2020. So--no. Currently not enjoying or participating in them.
Paul: Do you have any fun convention stories that you are allowed to share? You are pretty famous, but I ask humbly have you ever been starstruck meeting anyone during a convention or a signing?
Erik: There were certainly a few guys that I went out of my way not to meet because I didn’t want to have a bad experience meeting them. I didn’t, for example, go out of my way to try and meet John Byrne. I would consider myself a pretty big fan of his work, especially when I was younger, but I didn’t want to have a nasty encounter and he seemed very bitter about Image’s success. But seeing him from across the room doesn’t count as much of a convention experience.
Paul: I can certainly see your point of view there. It may have been an odd experience.
Erik: When I blew up and drew enormous crowds it was pretty intense and gruelling but, again, that’s not much of an incident. At one point I was at a convention with Chris Eliopoulos, my letterer on Savage, Dragon, and he saw something that I missed completely. A fan in line was so worked up and nervous to meet me that afterward, he literally threw up, which kind of blew my mind. I wouldn’t think that I would have such an effect on anybody but there you go.
Paul: That sounds like a very strange experience.
Erik: Generally, speaking conventions have been pretty uneventful. I can remember one show in New York where I borrowed Marvel’s Spider-Man costume to appear on a panel, and that was kind of fun. I just showed up as Spider-Man and participated in the panel without making mention of being in costume at all, somebody asked if working on Spider-Man had changed me, and that was the only real reference to it. I answered, “no, it hadn’t. “
Paul: That is an excellent story. Thank you.
Erik: I had Darwyn Cooke yelled at me during his convention. His last words to me were “fuck you” So, that’s a nice memory. I had been giving people grief about working on Watchmen comics after Alan Moore had voiced his objection to the idea and he took offense, but what can I say? I thought it was a shitty thing to do.
Paul: “Before Watchmen” was certainly very controversial.
Erik: Overall, it’s been nice to meet some of my heroes, Herb Trimpe being one of them. I got to spend a lot of time with Herb and work with him on a couple small projects which was a dream come true. Herb was a huge, huge influence of mine early on. He was one of the first artists whose name I knew. I can’t think of too many times where I was all that intimidated. I guess meeting both, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. I was somewhat starstruck and found myself without much to say which is unfortunate. I don’t have any cool stories about either of those two.
Paul: That sounds amazing.
Erik: It was nice to meet Stan Lee. Stan scripted the first Marvel job that I had done, and he was something of a Marvel figurehead, so it was kind of like meeting Mickey Mouse. Coincidentally, Stan had just read my Spider-Man story, Revenge of the Sinister Six, and was absolutely gushing about it to me. I met Todd McFarlane early on. He was working on Infinity Inc. At the time I was up at a convention in Victoria on Vancouver Island and Todd was a guest and we struck up an immediate friendship. He even asked where I was staying and when I told him I wasn’t staying anywhere and I didn’t have a hotel room, he offered to let me crash in his room which I thought was damn nice of him.
Paul: That is an incredible story.
Erik: Some good things came from conventions. I met Jim Shooter early on, and that led to my first Marvel gig. Jim looked through my samples and said, “So, you are a professional now!“And I said “Yes, I am! “He then asked if I wanted to do a story for Marvel Fanfare I said yes, let’s plot it at the convention and we did. We found a moment where we could sit down at the hotel bar and hammer out a basic outline for a hulk versus Thor story. So that was a positive convention experience. Mostly things have been pretty positive and relatively fun, but much of it is simply work. I’m frantically drawing or signing stacks of books or posing for pictures or what have you.
Paul: I am so glad I asked you that question. I am interested to ask one of my final questions please. Would you describe yourself as a fast artist. There is a chance other artists may read our interview. Do you have a strict 9 to 5 approach to artwork and indeed writing? For example, how many pages might you complete on a seven-day week?
Erik: I have been fast. I have been, at times, able to produce a staggering volume of work. At one point I was able to do three books a month--but it wasn't sustainable, and I'd fall into ruts, doing variations of the same shot over and over--solving problems in similar ways. These days I'm trying to break out of that and find something new--to grow and change and evolve. I don't know. I'm probably more concerned with that then I should be. The audience wants product and the delays hurt me in terms of momentum and sales. They'd rather have a decent book every month than have me sweating and struggling to do a book that is, honestly, marginally better but I'm happier with. But push comes to shove, I could do a book in a week--and I have.
Paul: Dave Sim famously said he always had an ending planned for his famous series named Cerebus after 300 issues. In your own mind, do you have an ending planned for your Savage Dragon title? Like many famous TV series, perhaps have you ever concisered or plotted out the very last episode or issue of the character you are most famous for creating?
Erik:I don't have a last issue planned because, unlike Dave Sim, I'm not writing a book with an end in mind. I'm not sitting here thinking it's going to end with #300 or 301 or 506. It could run three more years or 30 more years. So any theoretical last issue would need to predict the future on numerous levels--and then I'd be forever bound to that--which would make things difficult going forward. The book is set in real time--so where would I have it set? Now? Ten years from now? 20? 30? So--no. It ends when I stop and if that's on a cliffhanger--so be it.
Paul: Before I come to my serious final question. You asked for questions that were unpredictable. You've surely been asked about Spiderman and taking over from Todd McFarlane a thousand times. I'd guess if anyone asks you again about forming image your head might explode.... so, for fun what superpower would you wish to have? Also what character would you like to play in a superhero movie? (And you can't say Savage Dragon.)
Erik: I don't have a great superpowers answer--possibly invulnerability or something. Super health or super immunity so I can't get sick. Super speed would be nice to get lots of work done. Flying sounds fantastic but I have a terrible fear of heights but I'd worry about it conking out when I was up too high. If I was in a superhero movie I'd like to be cast as the Black Widow, since I'm such a hot piece of ass!
Paul: My final question is simple. What does the future hold for Eric Larsen. Where do you see yourself creatively in say perhaps the next decade?
Erik: Eric Larsen is an American Polar adventurer known for his expeditions to the North Pole, South Pole, and Mount Everest. I haven't actually met Eric Larsen, so I have no idea what he's up to. You'd have to ask him.
Paul: Oh lord, sorry. I apologise. How about Erik Larsen in that case?
Erik: I would imagine I'll be making comics. That was the goal from the start. This was the dream. I didn't get into comics in order to do something else. The goal was to make comic books. If I could be working on Savage Dragon #384 in ten years’ time--that would be great. That's the dream.
Paul: Erik, Thank you for your time.