Erik Larsen: The Man Behind the Dragon
Updated: Jan 24, 2020
Erik Larsen has written/drawn some of the biggest characters in comics ( Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Aquaman, and of course Spider-Man). He followed Todd McFarlane's run on Amazing Spider-Man with an awesome run of his own. In 1992, along with 6 other big name creators, he left Marvel to form Image Comics. At Image he created the character he's most famous for, Savage Dragon. Savage Dragon which is now going on 239 issues, is one of the longest running creator owned series. Erik has not only written but drawn every issue as well. What Erik and his fellow founders did when they formed Image Comics changed the landscape of comic books forever. Image is now one of the biggest comic book publishers and produces some of the best comics on the shelves every month. I have been a Savage Dragon and Erik Larsen fan for years, so getting the chance to talk with him was such an awesome experience.
Comic Lounge: How did you first break into the comic book industry? Erik Larsen: It was a gradual process. I wrote and drew a story featuring my own character “the Dragon" which ran in a book called Graphic Fantasy that I self-published a couple of friends. A young publisher named Gary Carlson bought a copy of Graphic Fantasy through the mail and contacted me about working on his book, Megaton and that got the ball rolling. After that it was submitting my work to various publishers and going from one gig to another. Working my way up the food chain.
Comic Lounge: Who were your favorite creators growing up? Erik: Jack Kirby, Herb Trimpe, Gil Kane, John Byrne, Walter Simonson and a few others.
Comic Lounge: You did a pretty significant run on Amazing Spider-Man, what was it like working on such a
big character, especially following Todd McFarlane? Erik: Every job is fun and everything has its frustrations. Because Todd was such a big deal at the time the pressure was kind of off—because everybody expected the book was going to take a big hit. They expected that orders would drop. If sales maintained it would be a miracle but they actually went up. So that worked out pretty well. It was fun getting to work on the book and to get to draw so many of his greatest foes. It was a fun time. Todd and I were friends. He had recommended me for the job and I’d actually pitched in and helped him out a bit of an earlier issue.
Comic Lounge: What was it like leaving Marvel to form Image? What were your main reasons for doing it? Erik: For me it was all about creative control. I wanted to own and completely control the lives of my own characters and I couldn’t do that at Marvel.
Comic Lounge: Where did you come up with the idea for Savage Dragon? Erik: I created him when I was a kid living up in Bellingham, Washington. I was in 3rd or 4th grade. He was a Batman knockoff. That obviously changed a bit over time but that was how he started. A lot of the characters in my book date back to my childhood.
Comic Lounge: You've done one of the longest creator owned books and it doesn't look like there's any sign of you stopping now. Did you ever think the book would still be going strong 26 years later? Erik: I had no way of knowing. That was certainly the goal. I wanted to do the book forever. I’d always told myself that if I ever started doing Savage Dragon comics that I’d do it for the rest of my career. So far, so good.
Comic Lounge: I love that the book has grown past the main character and now Malcolm is the star. Was this always your intention to have the characters age in real time? Erik: It was. It’s one of those ideas fans always bandy about. Everybody wants to have Spider-Man grow up with them and we all get to those magic ages where you know that you’re older than this or that character is supposed to be. Superman is eternally 29. At some point you realize that you’re older than Superman. But while DC and Marvel can’t do this (and they REALLY can’t) I can. And it’s been interesting to see what works and what doesn’t telling a story this way. It forces on you a very different kind of storytelling.
Comic Lounge: What are your plans going forward with the book? Do you have an end in sight? Erik: The plan (such as it is) is to simply keep going. The plan is to see where this road takes me. There are a lot of choices to make and I’m looking forward to making them.
Comic Lounge: Image has become one of the biggest comic book publishers now. Did you or any of the other original founders think Image would be what it's become? Erik: We had no way of knowing. Certainly that was the hope. I had thought more of the original characters would still be going but that didn’t exactly pan out. It’s been a long, strange trip. We ended up becoming the kind of company our harshest critics wished we were at the start. Less superheroes and more everything. I do like the variety that we bring even if I miss the shared Image universe.
Comic Lounge: Where do you see the Image in the next 5 years? Or the comic book industry as a whole? Erik: I don’t see things changing a huge amount in the next five years. But if things go well—I’ll be closing in on SAVAGE DRAGON #300 and I very much look forward to passing that barrier.