I have been a fan of Erik Larsen for many years and applaud his dedication to his pet project, Savage Dragon, about a tough Chicago cop with green skin and a dragon fin. I enjoy his quirky style, action-packed art, and offbeat sense of humor. Larsen left the comfort and limelight of Marvel Comics along with a handful of other super stars to found the creator-owned Image Comics, and the rest is history.
Erik was kind enough to answer a few questions and reflect on Dragon's road to #200.
Michael Fitzgerald Troy: Hi, Erik. First off, I'm a long-time fan. I think I first discovered your work in DC's post-Crisis Doom Patrol. Can you tell us a little about your early interest in comics and how you started working in the industry?
Erik Larsen: I grew up with comics. My dad collected comics when he was a kid, and his mother never tossed them away, so we grew up with all of his old, wonderful Golden Age comics. I was drawing as a little kid. Started drawing my own comics for my own enjoyment when I was in 4th grade, and I just never stopped. I self-published a fanzine called Graphic Fantasy when I was 19, and a of couple of people who bought my fanzine through the mail hired me to work for them. From there it was just going from one job to another, working my way up the food chain. Jim Shooter gave me a big break by having me draw a Thor vs. Hulk job and that led to the DNAgents at Eclipse, Doom Patrol at DC, and Spider-Man at Marvel, among other projects. Ten years later, we formed Image Comics, and I was back to self-publishing.
MFT: Who are some of your artistic influences?
EL: Jack Kirby, Walter Simonson, Frank Miller, Gil Kane, Herb Trimpe, Arthur Adams, Steve Ditko, Adam Hughes, Gene Colan, Alex Toth, Mort Meskin, Joe Kubert, John Byrne, Terry Austin, and Klaus Janson, But, that's just the tip of the iceberg, really, because everything has something to offer. I've learned a lot from people whose work I'm not fond of, although often it's a lesson in what not to do.
MFT: You were part of the "young gun" comic superstars that broke from Marvel to start Image Comics. That must have been an exciting time for those involved.
EL: It was--and a bit scary. We were leaving pretty decent gigs, and all of us had bills and obligations. I'd just bought a house and was getting ready to get married, so I had this huge financial obligation when I took this leap of faith. It was a thrilling time.
MFT: How do you feel about those days looking back on them now?
EL: It was a risk, but it was a risk worth taking. I think what we built is something to be proud of. I really think it has benefited the comic book community in a big way.
MFT: Image is almost 25 years old by now. Does it seem that long ago?
EL: Not really, no. It went by in a heartbeat.
MFT: You are probably the most consistent and dedicated Image founder, having created 199 issues of Savage Dragon on your own. How do you stay the course and keep the fire alive for so long when you're the only one cracking the whip?
EL: Happily, it's something I've wanted to do since I was a kid--in fact, it's what I did as a kid. Except for that brief tour of duty at Eclipse, DC, and Marvel, I've always written, drawn, and created my own comics featuring my own characters. I do it, because it brings me joy.
MFT: What do you have planned for the epic 200th issue of Savage Dragon?
EL: I'm doing a little, self-contained story where Dragon is taken hostage and Malcolm and Angel have to come to the rescue. The bulk of the issue has other goodies featuring the cast in a number of stories, mostly written by me and with art by Chris Burnham, Herb Trimpe, Frank Fosco, Nikos Koutsis, and others. It's a pretty sweet, 100-page package.
MFT: With superheroes dominating mainstream entertainment these days, Savage Dragon seems prime for a film or television series. Any plans?
EL: There's a script--whether that ever becomes anything is another story. Honestly, I'm more concerned with making comics than selling screenplays. I got into comics to make comics.
MFT: I loved the spin-off "Freak Force." Do you have any plans for other off-shoots of Savage Dragon at this point?
EL: Not outside of the Savage Dragon title, no. If I do anything else, it'll likely be another self-contained title, instead of part of that universe. I have a few things I'm working on.
MFT: Lastly, what does the future hold for Savage Dragon and more importantly his creator?
EL: Hopefully, decades of solid entertainment for your funny book dollar.
Make sure to check out the upcoming Savage Dragon #200.
*The picture accompanying this article is a convention sketch of Savage Dragon that Erik did for me a few years back at SDCC, I believe (filtered through Instagram, naturally).