Tags Matching: erik larsen

Venomous Commissions

I was all business at WonderCon. Sure, I attended some panels, but those were chosen with a focus on the goal I had in front of me: HAND EVERYONE IN COMICS MY NEW ASHCAN. I almost succeeded. Got the book in the hands of a lot of people and all the usual suspects. Overall, a productive weekend.

During my stalking of editors, I must have passed the Image Comics booth forty times. Erik Larsen was there 90% of the time and 90% of that time he was doing commissions for fans. From my informal visual survey, I’d say 90% of those commissions featured Venom. I always associated Venom more directly with McFarlane than Larsen, but there’s no doubt he contributed to the iconography of the character. With a new Venom book out, I started thinking “is Venom a legitimate character with some sort of relatable pathos? Or did I just like him as a kid because he was “really cool”? I’m not sure. While I think about it, let’s look at some takes on Venom from Mister Larsen.

Nova. Sort of a Green Lantern rip? Sure. But occasionally interesting and full of potential? Also, yes. Rarely realized and probably not realized at all here. This was the final issue of this series and it ends with a battle against a character he’s not really connected to? Rush-job editing there. Also, what is it about this cover that’s making me sick? Is it the colors?

Here we go. A proper Amazing Spider-Man cover. Venom right up front. I know this is pointless and annoying, but how does Venom actually work? Like how does that mouth do that without splitting open the head of the man inside the suit? Any answer (besides “it’s a comic book!”) will do. I’ll even settle for some Superman “it’s because of Earth’s yellow sun” sort of baloney. Any answer. Anyway, Larsen has done his own thing for years. Is it good? Who can even tell at this point? He’s an institution.

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Savage Larsen

Since that post detailing the Gaiman/McFarlane beef, I’ve become obsessed with one of that debacle’s periphery players- Erik Larsen. I mentioned in that post that Larsen seemed to be going for a Dave Sim level of commitment to his creator-owned book. Like Cerebus, The Savage Dragon has that insular feeling one gets from a piece of writing that has no editor. I mean that in the kindest way possible.

I follow the Twitter accounts of a few dozen comic pros, and uniformly the ones working for the Big Two hint at the art-by-committee nature of swimming in that pool. Larsen, more so than even the other Image Comics originators, does his work unprotected. No rubbers in Larsen’s world; dude operates without a net. The man drills a hole in the side of his head and allows whatever hits the page to stay there. Wether that’s to his benefit or detriment is a matter of opinion, but you’ve gotta respect the singular vision it takes to swat the flies away and do things on your own terms.

Here’s a smattering of Dragon paraphernalia from over the years. Let’s start with the basics. Savage Dragon issue #1. Check out the absolutely awful lettering on the cover. It was 1992, I guess. I had no idea there were variants on this issue and I had no idea the variants were just different colors on the logo. But apparently that passed for a variant back then.

Remember when every intellectual property needed trading cards?

Here’s a animation cell from the Savage Dragon cartoon, which aired on the USA Network in ’95. Check out these muscles. I’m usually not one to comment on comics or cartoons “not making sense” but what the hell am I looking at here? At least the sky is cool.

Here’s a decent Savage Dragon figure from McFarlane Toys. Dragon has a half-dozen toys in his likeness, but this is the one that works. The others have had him looking like a Muppet auditioning for the Village People.

Do yourselves a favor and follow @ErikJLarsen on Twitter. Some people compare it to beating your head against wall made of dried dog shit, other people find it insightful. I just like that the dude knows how big his professional cock is and doesn’t fear swinging it around. That’s what you get when you’ve been doing things your own way for 20 years.

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When Tigers Fight

So (further) verdict came down the other day and it seems that Neil Gaiman is entitled to royalties from use of characters he created for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn book and their subsequent (in the court’s view) renaming and continued use by Todd. This isn’t good for Todd because that millionaire’s company is struggling with bankruptcy as result of the “Tony Twist” case. I’m not a Spawn reader or a lawyer specializing in intellectual property, so instead of speaking on matters I don’t fully understand, I thought I’d give our readers the heads-up on auctions for some books from the key players in this thing.

For most of my youth Neil had the same sort of following Anne Rice is plagued with. You knew he was a good writer, but you didn’t want to be “into” him, you know? Cerebus was for the artier-than-thou kids who pretended they understood it, manga was for the spazzes, and Neil’s Sandman series was for the mopey loners. As it turned out, the series was great. But for my money, I thought this spin-off limited series was a creative high-point for the writer.

Here’s the issue that started the protracted legal dispute. Neil came up with some characters, Todd eventually didn’t want to pay, so he made characters that are nearly identical. I’m not picking sides here, but I thought creating nearly identical characters is central to comics? Regardless, I’m gonna be straight-up about this: Why anyone, even if money was at stake, would want to claim ownership of these characters is beyond me. I didn’t like Spawn when it came out, and I don’t like it today. I respect anyone who commits themselves to world-building and runs with it, but man, the Spawn universe is a world I could do without. Mercenaries, hellspawns, evil clowns… I know that probably sounds like fun to a lot of people, but it was entirely too Juggalo for my tastes. That said, Todd has made comics history a few times. Here’s another example, though it may not be history he cares to revisit.

What does Erik Larsen have to do with any of this, you ask? Well, Erik was the head of Image when the initial ruling against Todd came down (2002, maybe?). So this whole thing probably has some residual sting for him, but moreover, he’s an outspoken dude who didn’t shy from comment on the subject, then and now. His Savage Dragon book didn’t keep my interest long, but I’ve recently revisited it and while I’m still not a regular reader, his commitment to the book impresses me. I think he’s going for a Dave Sim longest-single-person-narrative-in-human-history sort of thing. This issue was apparently during Obama’s town hall meeting tour of comicland, because he was in every damn book for about two months.

And here’s an issue of Marvelman, er, Miracleman. Why do I include this? Wikipedia it. A lot of this Neil/Todd beef has overlap with the incredibly complex ownership entanglement over this British property Neil used to work on. Marvel Comics says it owns it now (that’s their reward for bankrolling Neil’s lawsuit… read the wikipedia entry), but who’s to say? If they told me Dr. Dre had majority shares in it, I would believe it at this point. Maybe I own it. I chose an Alan Moore issue of the book because I liked the insane asking price; Neil’s work came later.

If you want to watch professionals take shots at each other in a public forum, I urge you to follow as many of those involved as you can on Twitter. It’s like pro-wrestling but just slightly more literary.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #63

Todd McFarlane gets all the early 90’s Spider-Man fame.

But as someone who was there, when Erik Larsen took over, it didn’t skip a beat. And to be honest…

I like Larsen better. Better Venom. Better Mary Jane. Less bitter beer face. And then there was this two-parter right here…

#64 – Amazing Spider-Man 347

Maybe my favorite Venom story. It doesn’t even really make sense. Somehow they end up on an island, and it wasn’t Staten, Long, or Coney. It was a tropical island? Wash past that – those details were unimportant to the story. It was a fun romp, featured Eddie Brock (aka the real venom) in his most bonkers level yet, and Peter Parker faking his death, leaving Eddie in peace. And Erik Larsen nailed it. Bombastic, fun, and loose. It was not Hamlet – but it was never meant to be either.
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