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"Savage Dragon" Erik Larsen Interview

Comics legend talks POPGUN & Savage Dragon

Erik Larsen needs no introduction, so I won't even try one. He did a short feature, "Reggie the Veggie", that was featured in the fourth volume of Image's POPGUN anthology that hit shelves last week. Billed as the "ultimate comics mix-tape" the thick 450-page-or-so volume is a showcase for both new, young talent and an "experiment lab" for more familiar names, like Larsen. If you have eclectic tastes, like diversity in your comics and love to be surprised, check out the volume at your store and online. Mr. Larsen "sat down" with us recently to discuss POPGUN.
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Comic Vine: Your bio in the back of POPGUN Vol. 4  says that your Dad “co-created ‘REGGIE THE VEGGIE’ twenty years ago, and he was pretty tired of waiting for his stupid kid to get off his fat ass and start drawing the strip.” That’s an intriguing note, to say the least. What’s the “secret origin” of this father/son co-creation? 

Erik Larsen: My dad taught workshops all over the place and I used to go with him and do some of the driving. We spent a lot of time together and the  idea came from long hours and little sleep. He's always a good source of bad names--usually real groaners--like "Abner Cadaver" or "Indigo Hugh" (which I've used in Savage Dragon). Reggie the Veggie was a rhyming name and the idea was that he's a complete vegetable that would get caught up in wild adventures that he was oblivious to. We'd talked about starting off slow and building to more involved stories where he'd be winning surfing contests and inadvertently scoring with the ladies.  

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CV: If “Reggie the Veggie” was created 20 years ago, that would be right around Image’s founding. The story of that, of course, is a lasting demonstration of the power of creator-owned comics. Considering that we’re approaching the two-decade anniversary in a couple years, do you think Image's founding could happen again today? Has the industry changed too dramatically?

EL: Actually--my estimation was off--I was just looking through a fanzine I'd done when I was 19 and saw that I'd stuck the name on a T-shirt so that would make that name date back almost 30 years. They really creep up on you.

I don't think there's a strong enough group of creators today to pull something like that off, honestly--and after all of the failed Image-wannabe companies I'd imagine retailers would be less likely to embrace a new company like that. It was a case of lightning in a bottle--the right creators at the right time walking off the right books in unison. There isn't a core group of six or seven artists that produce monthly material that everybody's crazy about--and if a group of writers made that move--well, they'd need strong artists and we've seen a lot of them dabble in creator-owned material so I dunno that it could come off the way Image did. It's a shame, really, because the most exciting thing in comics really shouldn't be some old guy jumping on to some tired old book that's been running for 40-70 years. This generation should have its own heroes and instead we're getting old stuff with a new coat of paint.   

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CV: As the “ultimate comics mix-tape” POPGUN encourages a spirit of experimentation from its contributors.  You’ve used a different rendering style for “Reggie the Veggie” that’s almost reminiscent of Charles Schultz’s work. Was it as simple as wanting to mix things up or was that a different approach you’ve wanted to take for a while? 

EL: My POPGUN stuff has always been experimental. It's me playing cartoonist. I can do anything here and that's awesome. There's no pressure to have to carry the book. On Savage Dragon it's just me and the book rises or falls based on my efforts. With POPGUN I'm part of something bigger and I feel like it's okay just to do some odd little strip. I like doing comics and I can do a lot of different things. It's fun to experiment. 

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CV: You’ve written and drawn THE SAVAGE DRAGON yourself for more than 150 straight issues, now, and taken the Dragon through many drastic twists, turns and role-redefinitions. How far in advance have you planned the title’s story arc? Or has it been a matter of playing it intuitively and just seeing where the character takes you? 

EL: It's both. The book is mapped out in very broad strokes and within that I feel like I have a lot of freedom to go where I want. I kind of write as though I'm doing a "choose your own adventure" book. I have a lot of possible directions and I just pick the one that seems the most interesting. A lot of the paths not chosen have worked their way back into the book. I don't throw things out. In a lot of cases I've come back to things I started five to ten years ago and incorporated them. 
CV: Going back to the previous question… the Dragon’s pretty much the only character in the Image universe who’s aging as his stories go along. Do you have a specific end for the character in mind, or will you only start considering one once you decide the time is right? 

EL: The latter. I'm playing it like a real life--and in real life you never know what's going to happen for sure. Again, I have a few appealing options--but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  
--Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Comics and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia Comics.   Watch out for the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover collection this March - - available for pre-order now on