Erik Larsen 2nd Interview
Originally published in July 1999. If you’ve been reading my republished interviews you can probably tell I was big on asking about controversies and conflicts that were going on in comics at the time. One of the reasons being was that Wizard Magazine (the most popular comic magazine at the time) wouldn’t cover those topics, even when the creators wanted to address it. I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of being dependent on big publisher advertising. CollectorTimes was an all volunteer organization and I took advantage of not having those constraints. Erik was one of those creators who wasn’t dependent on the big publishers and was willing to talk.
In April 1998, we kick started Collector Times Online with a short interview with Erik Larsen. It’s 15 months later and boy, have things changed! Erik has gone from just submitting two proposals to Marvel and DC to starting and leaving a couple of titles due to either editorial interference or low sales and he’s picked up Wolverine along the way. This time around we get Erik to discuss good and bad editors, Jim Lee and Image, Savage Dragon, Superman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Nova, Marvel Knights and more!
Jamie: Previously you said that DC editor Kevin Dooley asked you to rip off other peoples stories for Aquaman. Can you tell us what stories?
Erik Larsen: He asked me to do variations on a Batman story where a bunch of kids sitting around a campfire tell stories about what Batman looks like– I refused but he had somebody else write the story anyway for inclusion in Aquaman Secret Files. He also suggested that “we” rip off Frank Miller’s story where Stick gives Daredevil back his powers to give Aquaman back his powers– as luck would have it, he left before I actually had to write that story.
Jamie: Over the last 10 years you’ve gone through having normal editors, to having no editors, sometimes being an editor at Image, and then working under some free hand and heavy handed editors. In all what are your opinions on editors after all this?
Erik Larsen: It varies a great deal– I think those editors who actually trust the people they hired to do the job end up with better comics. Glenn Greenberg was great on Nova– he asked the right questions and his input made the story better, not worse. For the most part, however– I can’t say I’m too impressed.
Jamie: 6 years ago, in your famous “name withheld” letter you railed against mediocre writers. Now that your writing and dealing with editors and such, do you still feel the same way?
Erik Larsen: Sure. I think people misunderstood what that letter was about– it was in reaction to a writer bitching about artists! My basic point was– geez, guy– we don’t need you– we can do this fine without you. Now, people have taken it to mean NO artist needs to work with any writers but they’re missing the point– certainly there are artists who don’t write– who don’t want to write or am incapable of it– the point is some of us CAN do it and if it’s an option of mediocre stuff from established writers or something from a fresh perspective– I’d like to see that artist given a shot at it.
Jamie: What is your relationship like with Jim Lee? Has the Wildstorm split caused any friendship riffs between Jim and the other Image founders?
Erik Larsen: It’s no different than it was. People may get the impression that we always hang out together but in reality, all of the Image partners live nowhere near each other. I see these guys at shows and Image partner meetings– but it ends up just being a couple times a year.
Jamie: Some fans felt Wildstorm leaving Image would hurt the company. Economically speaking, what effect has the split had on Image Comics?
Erik Larsen: Each book Image publishes kicks in dough to run the office. Since Jim split, there haven’t been those books to help support the company. That’s about it– we did pick up some new books so it hasn’t affected us THAT much but initially it was a problem because the books were there one month and gone the next with no warning so that we could prepare for it.
Jamie: If returnables were a distributing option do you think Image Comics and other publishers would use it?
Erik Larsen: I can’t speak for the company but I’d use it.
Jamie: What’s the latest status of the Superman / Savage Dragon crossover?
Erik Larsen: Karl Kesel and Jon Bogdonove’s is nearing completion– mine has barely been started.
Jamie: What the status of the Mighty Man mini series? Have you given up on Gil Kane yet?
Erik Larsen: It’s stalled. The thing was written for Gil– if he’s not interested in doing it, I may just have it appear in Savage Dragon instead and do it myself– I’m not that pumped on just getting any guy off the street to do it.
Jamie: In both Savage Dragon and Aquaman, you’ve added pregnancies galore. Why do you keep using that as a surprise / story?
Erik Larsen: Planting seeds for the future. In a book like Dragon, which is set in real time, I need to prepare for the future. It may seem like overkill but if you’re that age, it’s not uncommon to have any number of your friends have kids. Since Savage Dragon started, I’ve gotten married, Reuben Rude (SD colorist) has gotten married and Chris Eliopoulos (SD letterer) has gotten married– My wife and I have had two kids, Reuben’s wife spit out one and as I write this, Chris’ wife is a few weeks from having twins– and that’s just people who work on Savage Dragon! I’ve got a number of friends who have popped out kids over the last few years. It’s far from unrealistic but it’s pretty rare in comics, I must admit.
Jamie: Many self publishers seem to be having trouble doing a monthly comic book. Yet you kept Savage Dragon monthly or almost monthly for 6 years now. How do you do it?
Erik Larsen: I’m on a roll. It can be mind-boggling at first to set things up but by now it comes pretty easily. You’ve just got to sit down and DO THE WORK. There’s no big secret here– you just have to work on your book rather than play video games, watch videos and screw off.
Jamie: With Savage Dragon, the types of stories have ranged from gritty cop stuff to Kirby style sci-fi stuff. What kind of stories will readers see in the future?
Erik Larsen: More of the same– I like getting in a lot of variety on this book– I don’t feel the need to restrict myself in any way.
Jamie: Would you do Savage Dragon in black & white if the sales dropped too low?
Erik Larsen: I’d certainly rather not. The next step would be to raise the cover price. Right now, I’m hoping to hang in there for a while longer.
Jamie: Do you think Marvel should consider doing ongoing titles in black and white?
Erik Larsen: It’s not my call.
Jamie: Spider-Man fans want to know when is the next time you are going to work on him?
Erik Larsen: In Nova #5– I wouldn’t work on one of the regular books unless it was “my” book– I like to do long runs on titles– I’m not interested in doing a story arc.
Jamie: In Wolverine #140 we saw ‘you’ as the big thug getting clobbered by Logan. Who were the other people in the scene?
Erik Larsen: That wasn’t supposed to be me as far as I know. The character designs are Leinil’s department.
Jamie: What does the future hold for Wolverine?
Erik Larsen: I have no clue– I’m just trying to keep the editors happy– my agenda keeps getting pushed back– I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to do stuff that I want to do.
Jamie: How much input do you have on the Wolverine getting his adamantium bones back story?
Erik Larsen: Zero. I told them that it was my priority but the actual story will be done in another book by somebody other than me.
Jamie: Nova has made some dumb mistakes in his first couple issues. Will he always make dumb mistakes are will he learn over the issues?
Erik Larsen: He’ll learn– but the book is just going to #7 so there won’t get to be THAT much learning! Obviously, had it continued I’d have the character grow and change but it was taken away from me.
Jamie: Who came up with the “Blast it to Buckethead” letter column name?
Erik Larsen: Me. I’ve wanted to use that for years.
Jamie: You’ve said Nova might not make it past issue 7. What would readers be seeing if Nova does make it past issue 7?
Erik Larsen: No point in going over it. I’ll try to work some of my plans into other books. We’ll see.
Jamie: You mentioned that if Nova does get cancelled, you would probably look for another book to write. If you were asked to do a Marvel Knights title in a super serious fashion, would you accept?
Erik Larsen: No.
Jamie: Anything else you want the world to know about?
Erik Larsen: I think Nova’s New Warriors costume is really awful just like the rest of you.