Tag Archives: Erik Larsen

Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies

Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies is an anthology series edited by Michel Fiffe which originally appeared in single issues of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. Now, TSDF resides in a trade paper back collection, and it spotlights the work of many excellent cartoonists doing their own Savage Dragon stories.

I’ve been meaning to write about this anthology for a while. Not that I have any ground breaking observations to add nor any comment of great length. I just really dug this project. So much so it will most likely pop up on my “Best Of” list at the years end. Because here’s the thing … Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies pulls off the impossible. Or better yet, the “dream.” This is a comic book work with idealism written all over it, and I’m happy to say I own a copy.

Because this project completely represents the type of comic I’ve wanted to read for years. I don’t know about you, but I used to spend much of my free time on comic book discussion forums. There was a heyday for such a thing, believe it or not. Some are still trying to keep it alive … Anyway, on such forums, threads pertaining to armchair quarterbacking would pop up frequently, and the simple question usually asked would be: what would you like to see more of at Marvel and DC? Or it might have been something like: what would you change about Marvel and DC?

Anthologies were my usual answer.

Because here’s the thing … while they tend to suck 9 times out of 10 (except for the possible awesome underground comics ones I haven’t read) … I love the anthology concept. There’s potential and room to run in an anthology. Multiple stories. A mixture of creative talent. No needed editorial barrier. An anthology can just be about good comics, and the necessity of shorter stories can only make them more kinetic.

But my reaction didn’t even really pertain to the anthology format as much as it did the idea of variety in stories. Because that’s the key to my enjoyment and the constant “rooting for” attitude I have for anthologies. They’re a fun tool to break the formula chain we’re so used to in mainstream comics.

So my ideal thought’s always been: put a group of great creators on a Marvel or DC anthology and let them go absolutely nuts with the properties. Basically make the anthology a backdoor or think of it as a small “What if.” What if the entire Marvel or DC line was spontaneous and ever changing? Just every fanboys’ favorite character taken over by a set of wild creative minds and put through stories designed specifically to fit the creators’ will.

The anthology would kind of bring that idea to life.

And those projects did happen with the advent of Wednesday Comics and Strange Tales, except neither of those soared past mediocrity. Wednesday Comics gets its cred for the experimental packaging and both series delivered a few enjoyable works, but for the most part both projects suffered the usual anthology gripe by not delivering in every single story. Or, more plainly, they supplied more bad than good.

Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies picks up where those projects left off by obviously carrying over a similar approach, but TSDF does it a little differently when you consider the project’s serialization in Savage Dragon. Whether intentional or not, I feel the literal proximity of TFSD to Savage Dragon comments on the larger idea at hand, which is what I mention above – taking the established and handing it off to someone else for an extreme makeover.

The proximity, or actually having both works share the same staples as a comic book, works as a before and after. Or kind of a reminder. Like, look … here’s what Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen is and here’s what an underground artist free of constraint might do with it. It’s that juxtaposition of styles and choices in storytelling, as well as the clarity of it via the format, that brings home what I think the overall idea of Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies is. That no two artists tell the same story. Because contained within this project are only Savage Dragon stories and none of them come off as repetitive.

The artists involved do all they can to make Erik Larsen’s baby their own. There’s respect in the storytelling, but there’s also no sense of worry. The creators brought in understand what they’re there to do, and that’s to create whatever comics they want. No holds bar. In fact, I’d say artist Zack Soto’s story “Screamin’ Bones” echoes such a sentiment. The entire story is basically a dream sequence in which Dragon experiences all sorts of crazy and then dies. It’s the dream aspect in Soto’s story which allows the character to go through such extremes, but really what I feel the story is saying is “comics can go anywhere. why not go there?”. A certain panel at the end of the story pretty much boils that idea down to one, visual instance as Dragon drunkenly stumbles through a door marked “Do Not Enter.” After which, he falls into a pit of fire, dies and then wakes up, back where Soto’s story began. The reader gains the sensation that, “hey, none of that really happened.” But it did because it’s clearly printed on the page and you can easily see so by flipping back. Both instances of “happening” and “not happening” can exist in the same moment if you chose to view two separate pages at once. Or you could just take the reveal as a comment on how easily you can make the impossible happen in comics. Similar to Morrison’s Animal Man, when Buddy’s family just comes back to life. Because it’s fiction, and you can do that in fiction. Just how Soto kills Dragon then doesn’t.

And, hey, the story even references Memento. I’m cool with that.

What makes Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies hit even harder for me, though, is its embodiment of unity.

There’s a rift between super hero comics and underground comics. I don’t need to tell you that; the internet will clearly do so. If you haven’t, you should read Michel Fiffe’s (the editor of this fine project) blog piece titled “The Big Fusion.” I’d say it’s a pretty clear companion piece to this here collection of comics.  In it, Fiffe discusses the always interesting mash up of indie cartoonists and corporate comics, and says in the piece that these instances are usually the best celebrations of the medium. To Fiffe, these mash ups are, as he puts it, “the real TEAM COMICS.” As in, it’s the rare situation in which everything comes together.

Well, I think Fiffe threw his own party when he set out to do TSDF because that’s what this is. Savage Dragon may not be corporate, but the book via its tone represents all things super hero comics. It’s the quintessential super hero book, and it portrays the genre in the classic way you’d envision. Fiffe brought the best of the best in terms of today’s underground market to this quintessential super book, and we the readers got to enjoy this excellent work.

Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies exemplifies what comics are. The book spotlights all the different elements present in this medium and industry. It represents all sides while exploring the notion of limitless boundaries. And while numerous artists are involved, I think Fiffe as an editor really conveys the strongest voice. Via his blog post Big Fusion, I get the sense Fiffe is a fan of the super hero/underground mash up, and with TSDF the guy gets to guide one of his own and champion the concept.

The book is really a love letter to all comics. And as an anthology, TSDF delivers in each and every installment. Yes, some hit harder than others, but all of them offer something. The book also stands as a great sampler for indie cartoonists. As someone trying to learn, I’ve gained much from this book.


Filed under Savage Dragon

NYCC 2011 – An Interview w/ Erik Larsen

I took the opportunity and used this year’s New York Comic Con as a means to conduct a few interviews. This time around you’ll hear from Erik Larsen.

Larsen is a cartoonist, one of the original founders of Image Comics, and sole creator of the comic book series Savage Dragon.

Larsen still produces Savage Dragon. You could even say the title has entered a new revival period as its creator takes the book and its cast into new directions while remaining on a tight schedule.

Erik was also announced as the artist of the upcoming Supreme relaunch from Extreme Studios … illustrating Alan Moore’s final Supreme script and picking up where the writer left off so long ago.

In the interview, we discuss his work on Savage Dragon as well as cover the basics of the Supreme announcement.

Click the link below to listen, or right click and select “save link as” to download the interview to your hard drive.

NYCC 2011/Erik Larsen/14:52


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Savage Dragon. Read it.

As Joe Keatinge points out, Savage Dragon is the comic book you all want.

Consistent creator? Spontaneous, episodic adventure? Big sequences? Real consequences? Commentary? Experimentation? Artist connection? African American protagonist?

Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, and CHECK!

Shame on you for not paying attention.

Erik Larsen’s  pet project means many things to me, but it first and foremost represents an artist’s love of comic books and super hero convention. Larsen’s passion for comics hinges freely open. Just a short stint following his Twitter account and you’ll see the interest and opinion he broadcasts. Twitter is the man’s personal soap box, and by following him you become subject to his care and interest in sequential story. When there’s big news floating around or controversial developments, you can always expect at least a few tweets from Mr. Larsen. Twitter’s a recent development, though. Long before the invention of social media Larsen and a few other hot talents ditched their secure jobs to pursue an unfiltered vision of comics. Image Comics was the biggest risk of its day. If it bombed, the men attempting were surely out a job and possibly blacklisted. A lot rode on the simple desire to create without limits. As the story goes though, Image boomed and took its founders to new levels of fame, but think back to the start once more. Larsen risked it all just to create comics the way he desired. That’s big, and once he became the subject of Image’s success he could have done anything. Larsen had the freedom. His next comic book project could have been a cosmic romantic comedy staring ape squids for all I know, but at the end of the day Larsen created a super hero centric title. It was obviously the genre he wanted to work in. That chance and choice, sir, shows a strong love.

So why write about Savage Dragon? Other than holding my heart as my favorite comic book, I feel Savage Dragon lacks discussion from both casual readers and the critical community. The critics damn it as weak and laugh at its existence, while the mass readership ignores it to pursue the corporate icons. An unfair shun, if you ask me. Savage Dragon may read as quaint and simple when cast a quick glance, but really Dragon is rocking some levels. The content and context make this comic a rare and special work in today’s market, but in true hypocritical fashion moaning, sobbing comic book fans roll their eyes at its presence.

As I point out on a recent episode of The Chemical Box, there are hardly any (maybe none) ongoing comic book series working issue to issue. Marvel and DC possess long running, high numbered series – even though they renumber every month – but most of those series rely on 4 or 5 issue story arcs or chapters. These chapters usually work as smaller stories within the long narrative, and they could honestly be removed from the ongoing series and be sold as finite stories. In fact, they are. These finite chapters traditionally see some form of repackaging before they are sold in trade paper backs as individual stories. In most cases, transitioning creative teams or the need to spice up product completely destroys the concept of  long narrative.

An ongoing series like The Amazing Spider-man constantly bears witness to small stories. The years of “Brand New Day” brought forth different artists and writers every three issues, providing a constant inconsistency. These practices question a reader. Am I really reading the same story and the same character’s same narrative as I have been for 15 years? Really, no. Consider story arcs and creative swings a fucking reboot. You might as well. Comics are now written to serve the Hellboy model, but even the Hellboy model works with a solid, consistent creative vision. The ongoing narrative of Marvel and DC heroes is dead.

Savage Dragon keeps the narrative tradition of comics alive. It’s run for 18 years under the same creative vision, from a writer/artist no less, and hardly ever works its narrative through labeled story arcs. Savage Dragon is THE issue-to-issue comic. Never does it lull mid-arc but rather offer high points each and every issue. Every issue tells a complete tale while still belonging to a larger saga. Again, the ideal comic book everyone so wants.

But, yeah, I’ll just quit with the “you’re a hypocrite” act and get to it. There was a cool scene in the latest issue of Savage Dragon, issue #171 (actually #172 will be the latest as you read this as it hits comic stores the day I post this blog post – good timing, right?). I wish to write a few lines on this scene I so dug.

Thunder-Head a.k.a. Kevin Gorelick sits upon his dusty, worn couch as a youngster playing a video game. In storms his father a.k.a. long time Dragon villain Skullface and Larsen provides the audience with a face filled visual. A line of dialogue is bellowed. “Do your homework.”

Young Kevin proclaims that homework is unnecessary, especially in a world where his father is a “bad ass” and homework is not required to pursue bad-assery. Skullface looses his cool and lectures his son on his own terrible life. Skullface wants the best for his son, not a cheap life as a crook. Through persistence, Kevin promises his father to work hard and stay out of trouble.

Years pass.

Skullface lay deceased, and we see Kevin attending to his grave site. There’s an anger in Kevin. Through monologue, he reports of his father’s poor job as a parent yet announces the difficultly of living without his father. Kevin states that these are tough times and that there are “not a lot of opportunities for a guy that looks like” him a.k.a. guys who have a blue, skeletal face. Kevin persists to honor the promise made to his father, though. He says, “I guess you’re still looking out for me” as he walks away from his father’s grave.

Two pages later, Kevin types away at his formal office job when a young woman reports he is being “let go.” Kevin becomes upset and is escorted away by security guards. Soon we see Kevin pursuing his role as Thunder-Head. He’s communicating with the organized crime unit the Vicious Circle. Kevin breaks his promise and by the end of the issue combats with the book’s own protagonist, Malcolm Dragon.

Ok, so maybe it reads just like another, soap opera fueled origin of a super villain. You know, daddy wasn’t there (to change my underwear…) and all that jazz. Really, though, it’s not. In comics, the family aspect can spell out the coming of evil, but in this case Larsen reverses or twists the circumstance of family as motivation. Unlike the usual parent of a evil, Skullface cares. Granted, Kevin makes note in the grave scene that it was hard living with his father, but that could mean a number of things. I mean, it’s hard living with my mom, but that’s just because of her to tendency to annoy me – not poor parenting. From what we see of Kevin and Skullface’s relationship, things seem normal and well. Skulface looks out for his boy and encourages him to do well.

It’s then that the sub plot acts as expectation shifter rather than convention. Larsen, like Tarantino, poses Kevin’s story just right so that it plays with the audience. While reading, we expect Skullface to beat young Kevin when he enters the room, but instead he lectures. While reading, the flash forward instills pre-thoughts of criminal Kevin while it really depicts a white collar, office working citizen. Our guesses as to where the plot is leading land false. It’s not until Larsen takes away the respectable job that he folds to convention and portrays the orthodox, crime happy style.The play on the audience involves more than expectation tease, though. By showing this oddball circumstance of a character becoming a villain, Larsen suddenly brings an extra dimension to the usual 2-D comic book antagonist.  Most comic book baddies pertain to little motivation or explanation. They are simply bad to be bad, or because the story dictates them as so. If anything, a usual villain comes packaged with some line of vengeance or goal of world domination for a chosen idea of society. Not here. Kevin wants to be good and has every inspiration to be. The character, though, eventually loses sight and drifts away. The element of falling makes the character a bit more interesting, and Larsen’s choice of such shows his willingness to experiment with hero genre cliches.

For what Savage Dragon is – an analog version of 1960s/1970s Marvel – this move resembles perfect, “oh, of course” sense. Larsen’s book takes great pride in bending and breaking the cliches of corporate hero comics. The narrative always goes after the elements Marvel and DC will not touch, and it does what most readers won’t expect the Big 2 to do. Kevin a.k.a. Thunder-Head is only another classic Savage Dragon example.

I don’t wish to dress Savage Dragon as another super hero comment book, though. I find no problem in stories that simply choose to comment on the comics medium or super heroes, but for the sake of addressing those who do find error in such thing I’d like to point out that Larsen’s use of Kevin is a very real world, social comment. Most crime in our world does not derive from a soul of pure evil or sadistic drive. Most crime is survival based. Hurricane Katrina stands as the perfect example. Looting of retail shops made all the headlines as the flood waters climbed and climbed, but no where among any of those looters were thoughts of evil. The looters looted to survive. Whether food topped the list of stolen items or television sets, the looting became a necessary mean. Food nourishes while TVs provide black market cash. Either way, people need both results to make it.

As Kevin comments, times are tough. The character losing his job and turning to robbery represents many in America right now. People are making rash moves to make ends meat. Even Kevin’s extra incentive to join the way of crime speaks toward a survival instinct. The Vicious Circle mention their new mission as being one to bring Kevin’s father back from the dead, and as you recall Kevin announces how hard it is to live without his father. In some way, Skullface’s absence harms Kevin or inhibits his survival. Bringing back his father could only make it better for Kevin. At least, that’s the thought.

So, yeah. I just typed all of that, 1800 fucking words, to discuss one subplot in one issue of Savage Dragon. It may read as quaint, which I argue is apart of the book’s aesthetic charm, but goddamn, there’s something about Erik Larsen’s 1990s-born Image Comic. Read an issue sometime, and don’t even tell me the comic you ideally want doesn’t exist. You obviously ain’t looking.


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No Clever Title Needed #4

Bits of info that go no farther than this.

I’m expecting to be busy this week, so this post is it for the next few days. But, hey, I updated three times last week. I’m happy with that, especially since my writing made a little bit of progress. At least I felt that way. (Just read the First Wave post and compare it to anything previous). My writing still needs work though, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Most posts I write hold a “clunk” in their flow and my word choice lacks, but I’m working on it. I’m searching for the right flow, I’m cracking the code of verb choice, and I’m finding my voice in the words. I’ll crawl my way there. I hope.

Last week was good, though. The Chemical Box, after a four month absence, finally made its return. For those on the outside, The Chemical Box is a comicbook centric podcast hosted by Joey Aulisio, Just Jean, Chris Johnson, and myself. Why absent that long? Every other time we recorded, the show went sour. Plus, I had a bad case of “radio-Alec,” and I kept taking away from the show by trying to sound pro. Lesson learned. I’m loosening the tie and using podcasting as the escape. As it should be.

Listen in, though. We should be somewhat consistant now. link.


Erik Larsen took some shit last week. He tweeted a few thoughts on web comics, and people went crazy in true internet fashion. Larsen said:

Every crappy submission can “see print” on the web–every reprint book that would sell three copies in print would work on the web. The web is the great equalizer. Every crappy thing can get tossed up there. If it all went digital nothing separates a pro from an amateur. Print is far more discriminating. There are fixed costs which can’t be ignored for long. It’s not the wild west like the Internet is. That’s why the web doesn’t excite me a whole lot. Every nitwit can put stickmen telling fart jokes up–there’s nothing special about it.

Stickmen telling fart jokes is Watchmen as far as the internet is concerned, @BizzaroHendrix.

I mean–there’s things on the internet that people are willing to read but they would never pay for–and those are the success stories.

It’s an entirely different level though, @NoCashComics– even the worst pro comics have a modicum of professional standards.

I’m not saying everything on the net is bad–no need to take offense, @tsujigo @BizzaroHendrix just that there is no filter.

I disagree and I don’t disagree, @IanBoothby — how’s that for being agreeable? There are plenty of groundbreaking things in print as well.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the best online work is on par with good pro comics but the worst is far worse. I don’t think there is a web only comic that’s as good as Watchmen or Dark Knight. Correct me if I’m wrong. There are certainly web comics that are good for a laugh–and better than what’s in the Sunday Funnies–but not at a Watchmen level–yet.

Point being–anybody can do a web comic. There’s nothing preventing a completely incompetent idiot from doing it, @215Ink.

No. Nothing promising falls through the cracks, @drawnunder if you can’t get your proposed book in print somewhere–your book sucks.

Now, this wonderfully organized collection of tweets originally saw “print” here, at Robot 6. The have every right to report on this. I mean, I’m “reporting” on their reporting. I just feel Larsen’s point was unfairly twisted.

“I’m not one for Internet triumphalism, but it seems awfully churlish — and odd, for an artist and publisher — to greet the Internet’s enormous boon to speech and self-expression in this way, quite aside from the question of whether he’s accurately characterizing webcomics to begin with,” the article comments.

First off, I do not feel it is “odd” for to Larsen speak his honest opinion. The guy holds a reputation, so this type of outburst should come as no surprise. I actually champion him for being so outspoken. Why? Bullshit grows old, and a lot of the “opinion” offered by comics pros never rings completely true. I understand why the tongue must be bitten at times, and I would probably follow suit if I too worked at Marvel or DC. Larsen does not work for either, though. The guy creates Savage Dragon and holds a comfortable relationship with Image Comics – who, in terms of quality, is probably the strongest publisher in the business right now. A guy should speak up when in that postion, holding that many years of experience. He will have things to say, and people will listen. The honest voice provides a nice break in the manufactured PR.

As for the point, all Larsen said was that web comics are open everyone, and they lack a professional standard because of that. That’s it. The guy told no one directly that they suck, nor did he say web comics are completely useless. They are just open. And he’s correct; web comics are open. Filters do not exist for quality nor does a professional standard. Sure, any “idiot” with a pile of cash could publish a bad print comicbook, but compared to the workload web comics require how many would go through with a print book? Then there still remains the question of Diamond and distributing your print comic to stores. Print weeds out the unnecessary just through its basic operation.

Granted, maybe Larsen could have been more direct in his statement. Someone just glancing at the twitter speech could take it farther than it needs to go. When the entire statement is blogged about though, I would expect people to actually read. People react to headlines, though. That’s the nature of journalism. People skim. I would be surprised if anyone actually read this far into THIS post.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go scour eBay for that Dart miniseries…,” the article says.

Oh, and I know it’s not cool, but I do like Savage Dragon. I would happily read that Dart miniseries.


Matt Seneca writes about comics, and he is quite good at it. The man reviews for The Comics Journal, produces a column for Robot 6, writes for Comics Alliance, and he has a blog. Matt Seneca runs all over the internet, but his recent blog post, entitled “HarmoniComix”, is by far my favorite thing he has written. Matt knows a lot about the medium. I love when he shares his thoughts on it because his voice is so distinct, and his writing feels like a peak into another outlook I would never come up with.

Anyway. Matt wrote a mind blowing piece on color and its function in comics. To Matt, color and music are basically one as they both produce specific sounds and tones. Comics may not look the same to me anymore.

Read. Be Educated.


Enough. I have other topics and thoughts, but this one is running long. Next time is down the road.

Also, I have a new job – a web editing job. The staff of The Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s student newspaper, has for some reason accepted my offer to care for their website. I won’t question it. I’m excited about the position and the opportunity. Hopefully, I can implement some cool online content in the next year. Plus, I have the option to write, and I plan on taking full advantage. Just another avenue.


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Image Addiction Review: Savage Dragon #170

As usual I review the new issue of Savage Dragon over at Image Addiction. Here’s what I had to say:

“The page layout matters in comics. The method of how the panels mesh along with the placement of borders and breaks determines the reading experience as well as the pacing.

Well, this issue of Dragon explores that as Larsen shows the effect of page design by repeating one particular layout for basically the entire issue…”

You can read the rest HERE.

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Image Addiction Review: Herculian #1

Cover of Herculian #1

I have posted a new review over at Image Addiction on Herculian #1. Here’s what I had to say:

“This comic book is a great example of Erik Larsen’s ability. True, Savage Dragon usually conveys that point, but with this collection of strips and off-the-wall tales an excellent sense of Larsen’s creativity and artistic skill comes forth, smacking you upside the head. Herculian carries an identity of a classic independent comic book. The pages and the ideas are all the product of one man, all directly thrown down in strategic patterns without being filtered through the perspectives of other collaborators. The book is 100% Larsen. A point really enjoyable when it comes to the department of coloring…”

Read the rest HERE.

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Image Addiction Review: Savage Dragon #169

Cover of Savage Dragon #169

As usual I review the new issue of Savage Dragon over at Image Addiction. Here’s what I had to say:

“There is always one issue of a comic book series that is all about catching up and re-iterating the status quo. These instances can be risky though because they walk a fine line between good and bad, and it is easy for a writer to make a breather issue boring by filling the page space with plain exposition. Luckily, Erik Larsen is better than this because Savage Dragon #169 allows room for breathing but also does not loose much momentum…”

You can read the rest HERE.

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