The GeeksverseTalking With Erik Larsen

Talking With Erik Larsen
Published on Saturday, February 25, 2012 by

Extreme Studios relaunched some titles this year, including Supreme with Erik Larsen picking up where Alan Moore left off. We got a chance to talk with Erik recently about his plans for Supreme and Savage Dragon.

At the recent New York Comic-Con, after it was announced that Erik Larsen would be writing the relaunched Supreme series, I got a chance to talk to him quickly. I was able to talk to him more later in a series of e-mails.

Comixverse: How did you come to be involved in the Extreme relaunch?

Erik Larsen: I don’t recall exactly how and when things went down. I know that Rob said that at one point I told him what I’d do with the book and that he was taken with that idea and pushed for me to follow through with it. I know that I was regularly going into the Image office at the time when Extreme returning this was being floated as an idea. Eric Stephenson felt very strongly that it should return at Image. He felt it would be a bigger news story and it would have a better chance of succeeding if it came here rather than elsewhere. Certainly there were other publishers vying for it and they made pretty aggressive offers. But while other publishers could offer pretty covers they couldn’t guarantee decent creative teams. And one in particular had a track record of gift wrapping turds in the prettiest possible paper and that wasn’t something Rob was interested in. He knew that, long term, if these books were to succeed that they needed good stories and art and that was something we were willing to guarantee. Another publisher couldn’t deliver the others and another publisher certainly couldn’t deliver me.

It definately makes sense for Extreme to return at Image, the place where those titles began. It wouldn’t have had as big an impact if they were somewhere else.

You’re doing the rough pencils and Cory Hamscher is finishing. Why’d you decide to do it that way and will that continue once you take over fully as writer?

I’m still very much committed to Savage Dragon and I knew I couldn’t do full art. I knew Cory was a strong artist and knew he could pick up the slack in areas where my work wasn’t quite so finished. My work here ranges quite a bit. Sometimes it’s pretty tight and others a bit vague. Cory’s a strong enough artist that he can take a faked car and turn it into a real one. This is kind of how comics used to be done. The penciler would do loose pencils and the inker would be a strong artist in their own right and finish the art, adding textures and details and refining things which weren’t finished. These days inkers are largely tracers. In this case, Cory is really taking on the bulk of the workload but I provide the fundamentals–the structure and storytelling and I think we’re compatible enough artistically that the finished product looks consistent. It’s a nice amalgam of our work.

I enjoyed Alan Moore’s run on Supreme but always liked the character better when he was a jerk. At New York Comic-Con you told me that you’d be returning the character to his jerk roots. Why does that version of the character appeal to you more then Alan Moore’s?

I’m trying to move away from it being an homage to Silver Age Superman comics and toward having a unique voice all of its own. With the advent of DC’s aggressive trade paperback program we can get Silver Age Superman stories in bulk and Supreme became somewhat less unique with those available. I’m not rebooting things necessarily or erasing his efforts but rather advancing the story in such a way that it includes a version of Supreme which is more like the one which preceded Alan’s run. It’s like Beta Ray Bill in Thor. He wasn’t replacing Thor–he was in addition to Thor. If you read Supreme #41 it’s made pretty clear that Alan’s Supreme was a new version of the character–the latest version–which poses the question, “well then–where did the preceding version disappear to?” and I’m addressing that straight off. The goal is to have fans of Rob’s Supreme to be interested in it and fans of Alan’s invested in it. The end result is a new book with a new direction and a new voice. Alan’s Supreme doesn’t go away. On the contrary, he’s joined by several other characters which Alan introduced and they form a team of sorts.

How far out do you have Supreme planned?

I never nail down every nut and bolt. I know the grand arc–the major turning points and character progressions for a couple years. I know where I want it to be by this time next year and the year after that. Beyond that–it starts getting pretty vague. But it’s all pretty broad strokes. If something comes up I can slot things in. If Joe Keatinge called tomorrow with a great crossover idea with Glory that I could work with–it’s all flexible enough to accommodate that and I would like there to be more crossover with the Extreme title because that was part of the fun.

Savage Dragon is unique in the way the stories follow real time, with characters aging and truly changing. What made you decide to tell the story that way?

It’s something every fan has asked for at one point. As we age there comes a time when you realize, “hey–I’m actually older than Spider-Man.” I mean, I am, and yet Spider-Man was created before I was born–Superman was created long before I was born–Batman too. And a lot of readers, at that point, tend to ask, “why can’t Spider-Man grow up with me?” it’s kind of a selfish suggestion, really. You’re essentially saying, “screw the next guy–I want these characters to grow up with me–my kids can grow up with Spider-man jr. and whatnot.” Nobody stops and thinks that IF Marvel had aged these characters from the beginning that Spider-Man would be 67 and Reed and Ben would be pushing 90 (since they were in WWII). So I took it as something of a challenge–to see if it could work.

Has there ever been an instance when you wish you were telling the story in traditional comic book compressed time?

Often during continued stories. I can certainly see its shortcomings. The biggest being the learning curve. While a character may have trouble learning to fly, for example, that learning period might last, at best, a few months and that really doesn’t seem right if it’s dealt with in an issue or two. There are times when it can’t help but seem like you’re glossing things over.

I was absolutely thrilled, and that happens pretty rarely with comics nowadays, when recently you had the Wildstar runs into Malcolm scene. I remember that exact scene from years ago (I can’t remember the exact number) and to see it again brought everything full circle and connected the past with the present. Did that scene end up how you had originally intended it all those years ago?

Not really, no. at the time I was thinking that WildStar would age and Dragon would have a kid and that sometime in the far-flung future the two would meet in this awful ravaged world. But WildStar really couldn’t age that much –it was a real stretch that he would appear THAT much older than Malcolm. There was a time I was toying with having the guy be Malcolm’s son or even grandson but then it occurred to me that WildStar started off as a young man–younger than I was–and this was him as an old man–and I might never live to see it played out. Ultimately, I decided the only way it could work was to have him age artificially. It was a huge relief to finally get that behind me. Oh, and the issue you were thinking about was #29. (Editor’s note: the scene referenced occured in the Savage Dragon issues #168/169)

With the Savage Dragon, and that Malcolm/Wildstar scene in particular, it seems you have a pretty rough idea of where you want to go with the book. What is your writing process for Dragon? How far out is the book planned and/or plotted?

Again–broad strokes–pretty far. This is a book set up where characters age and progress and grow. Three and a half years from now Malcolm graduates from high school. Angel goes off to college or–something–in the fall. It’s set up to change. Things do change–things will change–things are changing. Do I know where it will be in a decade? Roughly, yeah. Can I tell you what will be in issue #219? Not necessarily.

Storylines change from when first outlined to the final product. What moments in Dragon changed the most from how you originally envisioned them? Which moments would like you to have back and maybe change things?

I can’t look back. I do think in some ways that the end of the world story which led to the Savage World story was a mistake. I do regret it because of all of the questions it raises. Much like after DC did Crisis on Infinite Earths there are a lot of things left hanging. What happened exactly? Did this character meet that one? How did that scene play out here? I wasn’t going to sit down and do a revised 75-issue stretch so there can’t help but being a few minor questions that linger out there. In retrospect I would have preferred to have had it be one solid timeline but again–you roll with the punches and make the most of it.

Recently you’ve been doing back-up features in The Savage Dragon. Is this going to continue and what’s next after Vanguard?

In will be an off and on thing and I’m not 100% sure what goes on post-Vanguard. I’ve been pretty busy doing everything else. There are a few options. Time will tell as to what drops first.

With Extreme returning to Image, are there any chances of us seeing a return of some of your other books?

It’s certainly possible. It really depends on the demand–and that means readers. If they’re there–it all works. If they don’t show up that’s all she wrote. Most of my titles ended in a very final way. If Freak Force was to come back it couldn’t be what it was. SuperPatriot is getting ancient. I’d love to see more of the Deadly Duo though. It’s tough because I’m, very hands on and I only have so many hands. Right now retailers tend to order Savage Dragon spinoff books at roughly 2/3 Savage Dragon numbers and those numbers don’t really work. There’s not enough coming in to pay the help so I’ve gotta build up Savage Dragon first. I do what I can.

Where the other Image founders seemed to want tons of books out on the shelves, sometimes at the expense of quality, you only wanted a handful. Why did your idea of what do to differ so much from the other founders?

Common sense was that quality would outlast quantity and I was trying to put out a small group of really solid books. I also wasn’t looking for a house style while others were attempting a more unified look. In retrospect that may have cost me but looking back–there’s very little I can point to that I thought wasn’t a good book. I think some of the others had a higher percentage of duds. Not on a commercial level necessarily because in those early days it was all selling like gangbusters–but in terms of basic readability and professionalism. Those were some damned fine comic books.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently? Anything you wish had turned out differently?

Really–I wish I’d have pushed harder to get more books on the shelves sooner. But whatever–life’s too short for regrets. I don’t sweat it. I live in the present. The present I can do something about–the past is what it is.

If you don’t already, you should pick up Savage Dragon and keep an eye out for Supreme to see how Erik brings back the jerk Supreme.

5 Responses
    • I like his reasoning for wanting Supreme to no longer be just a Silver Age Superman analogue and to focus on telling new stories that aren’t strongly motivated by a need to deconstruct superheroics. 

      I like superhero metafiction as much as the next guy, but between Watchmen, Marvels, Kingdom Come, Astro City, The Authority, The Boys, Nextwave, All-Star Superman, etc., I don’t really know if there’s anything uniquely intriguing a renewed “deconstructionist” Supreme book can offer.

    •  Yay for Jerk Supreme!

    • I always enjoyed Alan Moore’s Supreme.  It was a good read with awesome Chris Sprouse artwork.  But it was just another look at Silver Age Superman.  Even though it was never the best book on the market, I always like the jerk Supreme from day one, because it was a different take on the Superman archetype.  Wildstorm’s Majestic was the same way.  Different views on the superman.  And to me they always ran more true then Superman did.

    • Broad strokes seem to be enough to make the series work for him. I haven’t hopped back into Supreme but I do love S’Dragon.

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