Tuesday, April 1, 2014

[replay] Back Matter Interviews #3 - Erik Larsen

When I first started writing about comics, I wrote for a now-defunct website called "Independent Propaganda."  The name of my column was BACK MATTER, and a fuller explanation can be found here.

Along with spotlights on specific comics, I also interviewed a handful of people working in comics.  This interview was with Erik Larsen, known today for his creation, Savage Dragon.  One of the Image founders, his experience and knowledge of the comics medium is vast.  I hope you enjoy the interview.


Erik Larsen grew up in Bellingham, Washington and Albion, California where he created numerous comic books featuring a character known as ‘Dragon.’  Continuing to make his own comics, Larsen eventually published a fanzine which led to him landing his first professional gig on the comic book Megaton for creator Gary Carlson.

Over the next twenty years Larsen worked for nearly every major publisher on characters that included Spider-Man, Doom Patrol, DNAgents, and the Punisher.  Currently, he continues to write and draw the adventures of his creation the Savage Dragon, with issue #128 set to hit comic stands in July, while also steering Image Comics forward, the company he helped found in 1992, as its publisher.  Needless to say, Mr. Larsen is an incredibly busy man and I want to thank him for taking the time to answer a few questions for Independent Propaganda.

As the publisher at Image, what are some key things you look for when reading through a series proposal?

The basics.  It has to be good both conceptually and in its execution.  Too many guys try to do too much and their pitch gets murky.  A book needs to be solid.
What cardinal sin do you most often see from aspiring writers?  Artists?

Bad writing and art.  Writers tend to lean too heavily on clichés and artists often don't set their scenes well.  You get lost or disoriented.  But the bulk of them are simply not good.  Most are crude and incomprehensible or boring and ugly.  It's sad but true.

In your opinion what is the most valuable thing an aspiring writer can do to improve his/her chances of becoming published?  Why?

Produce comics in whatever form they can--even if it means drawing it themselves in stick man form.  It gives a potential client something visual so that they can tell that you're serious and that you know how to tell a story

What is the most valuable thing an aspiring artist can do to improve her/his chances of becoming published?  Why?

There are no tricks here.  If you suck there's nothing I can do or say that will make you NOT suck.  The thing most artists don't do is mail out copies of their work.  We're not mind-readers.  If an established pro is suddenly unable to get work, other publishers don't necessarily know who they are and how to contact them.  There are talented unpublished artists out there who haven't let people know what they can do.  Unless they send in samples, their phones will never ring. 

What do you feel is the most important factor from your personal history (education, family) that has allowed you to be successful in the comic industry?

I haven't the foggiest idea.

Marvel and DC seem to be pushing sales through a series of crossover “events” and relaunches meant to feed off that hive mentality of needing the next new thing.  Admittedly, they have to answer to shareholders, but what could they be doing differently in order to promote sales?

Doing good work would be a nice first step.

This apparent need to utilize gimmicks in order to artificially inflate sales in the short-term almost begs the question, what is missing from mainstream comics today that has caused this sales drop-off?  In your opinion, what do you feel is lacking in today’s mainstream comics?

I just don't feel that the characters are at all internally consistent.  When you can read several issues in a run and characters don't speak with the same voice or remember events that transpired--there's something wrong.  There isn't a lot of feeling that anything matters--like it will have a lasting effect.  The big crossover events are sold on the notion that they will "forever alter" their respective universes.  They're essentially saying that "THESE books DO matter.”  But I don't get a sense that the monthly books are anything other than disposable.  When the next creative team comes onboard, I've come to expect that anything that came before will be jettisoned or retconned out. 

The perception by some is that during your tenure as publisher at Image you have revitalized the Image brand by branching out from what had come to be seen as “the norm” at Image with a number of critically acclaimed series in a mix of genres, including Godland, Fell, and the recent acquisition of Rocketo.  Do you lend any credence to this statement and was this a conscious effort on your part as publisher?

Revitalizing the Image brand is job #1 and if folks seem to think that's going on then I'm glad to hear it. 

You can see what Mr. Larsen is doing and learn more about the publisher of Image comics and creator of the Savage Dragon by going to www.imagecomics.com as well as his own website www.savagedragon.com.

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