Erik Larsen: Dick Tracy more then most anything else. I might even go as far as to say that most of the villains in TSD are Dick Tracy influenced as well. At least the sense that there are no definite limitations as to how bizarre somebody can look, and still be taken seriously as a menace. There's a big, fat Dick Tracy book that came out, years ago. And we always had that thing. It was actually-- my dad gave it to my grandpa, because my grandpa liked Dick Tracy. So whenever we would go visit my grandpa in North Dakota it would be "Oh cool, I get to go read Dick Tracy (laughs)." I would sit down and read this thing from cover to cover. I was huge! It was like 300 pages or something. So, I'd just pour over it and it was great fun. And then, y'know, move on, like "Okay, now were going home. Awww. I'm not done yet!"
Austin English: Is that really the essential influence on TSD, or we're there more important one's?
Erik Larsen: Really, the biggest influence is just Marvel comics in general. I mean, that's what I cut my teeth on. And a lot of the stuff--I mean it's not ripped off from directly or anything like that, but just sort of the sense of the way the world is and the way the world functions, just sort of comes generally from Marvel comics sensibilities. Just how it all fits together.
And I'm looking for an eraser here and I can't find it--it's driving me nuts--
Austin English: It's neat that your working on a page right now--can you talk a little bit about how you work on TSD?
Erik Larsen: I should do it all in sequence and all that stuff, but when I end up finishing the stuff, sometimes I'll script like the easy pages first (laughs), and Chris Eliopoulos, who letters it, almost always goes, "Well this was easy, I'm doing this one." And so I'll get back such a random sampling of pages which can be somewhat problematic because you're trying to keep all the character continuity stuff straight and you'll be like "oh there's a lamp in that room that need's to get smashed and I forgot to put the lamp in there." So it does get a little bit nutty sometimes.
Austin English: Another fun thing about TSD is the amount of reader participation. You have voting contests to see if Dragon should be married, character creating contests, etc, and at times the characters will talk back to the reader. How important is this kind of fan participation to the reader?
Erik Larsen: I don't know because it doesn't seem to be working (laughs). Y'know, I think the people that are into Dragon and read this stuff, really, really, appreciate it and really enjoy that aspect of it. I don't know that it's the only reason that they buy the book. I would hope that it might help to keep them buying it.
Part of the selling of comic books these days, and for the selling of comic books in the old days was really the selling of yourself and your own personality. What you've got going for you or whatever. I mean Marvel comics sold on the personality of Stan Lee in addition to the comic books. I mean prior to that the editorial voice that we heard wasn't much. There wasn't much of anything there. I mean there weren't a lot of letters columns that I recall. I know that EC comics ran letters, but I don't remember DC comics ever running letters. And then Marvel came along and the mail came in, and Stan would respond to stuff and it would be Stan's voice responding to stuff. It wouldn't be something impersonal or whatever. You'd be getting the scoop from the real guy.
And I think that probably plays into the work I do as well. That "Hey, I want you to know that it's the real guy answering the mail here." It's not an intern or somebody who's kicking around the office who's got some free time. Your getting the real answer from somebody who might know. If you're asking a character question you're not going to get something that dances around the subject or is evasive. Your gonna get what I know about it. The readers seem to have responded really well to that but I don't know that that's translated into more readers in particular. It's just the one's that are here and were here who read the book, wanna stick around.
Austin English: One of the things you do a lot with Dragon is put him through a lot of punishment. He'll get into a fight, be crippled, and then by the end of the issue, he'll be back on the frontline. There's one issue where his back is broken, people think he's gonna die, and then he heals, captures his arch villain and is a hero again! Why do you use this story device so often?
Erik Larsen: (Laughs) I think when you've got a character who can get messed up, and heal from it, you kind of wanna show that, that that can go on. And I think in some ways, when you're reading an issue and he doesn't get all messed up you go, well that wasn't much of a fight."
Austin English: Dragon is a character with very set beliefs. How often is it you talking through him?
Erik Larsen: Always (laughs). Dragon, more than any character in the book, kinda represents me. Y'know, I'm married, he's not, so there's other stuff that goes on. But he's pretty much got my personality, or the personality that in some cases I would like to have.
He says things that I would like to be able to say to people. He's a little more outspoken then I am at times.
Austin English: We were talking about you being really new to writing-- how has your writing progressed throughout your time on Dragon?
Erik Larsen: Hopefully I'm not making the same mistakes anymore. But, but really, even if I haven't been writing, I've been mentally writing this whole time.
When I did stuff at megaton years ago, I did a lot of that. When I first was doing stuff at Marvel and DC, I was always sort of analyzing the stories that would come in, and what was right with them, what was wrong with them, what was working, what was not. And, so I kind of felt, when I started doing my writing stuff, that I'd already had a fair amount of experience, just kind of in my own head. There wasn't really new writer jitters or whatever.
In terms of how it's progressed over the years-- fewer typos I guess (laughs). I don't know. Well, the plot lines at least have gotten much more complicated. They've gotten more complicated, simply because there's more issues. When you start and you're just doing one issue, you can't have it be real complicated and convoluted out of the gate, because there's nothing to build on. Once you get to issue 60, there's a lot of pieces there. Lot's of stuff for me, to try and keep track of. And it gets to be complicated.
But the thing is, as a reader, it would drive me insane that there would be some dangling sub plot, in an issue of Daredevil, that would never resolve. So, that's just the most anal part about me, where I'm always coming in and saying "I've gotta resolve this, and it's gotta make sense." And I'm the same way with all the stuff I'm doing at Marvel and-- well not DC anymore. I say, "Well, this subplot was started and never resolved. Let's get in there and resolve it. Let's progress this. Let's take this to the next level."
I'm more aware and conscious of Marvel history, than DC history, so generally, you'll find that the Marvel stuff is better, since I'm more familiar with the material.
That's where Nova and Wolverine come in. There's gonna be a fair amount of tying up loose ends that other people have left. (Laughs). And that's crazy, and I realize, that it's nuts in my own mind, but I just can't let this stuff go. I've gotta find, there's that character that walked away into the sky in Daredevil #129, and I want to know what happened to that. (Laughs), How come he never showed up again?
Austin English: If you have this obsession, then TSD must be incredibly hard for you to work on, since it has so many sub plots! How exactly do you plot TSD?
Erik Larsen: The readers, because they're aware of my obsession, they go "Okay, these are your dangling subplots." (Laughs). They supply me with lists and stuff, so I'm like "Oh man, I didn't know there was so many." I'm trying my best to keep on all the stuff, and in some cases wrap some of it up. Some of it's not so convoluted. That's what I've really been doing a lot of lately, trying to wrap up some of this stuff, so that it's not such a cumbersome thing. Because it does get to be cumbersome, where someone might go "I'd really like to start reading the Dragon, but Jesus (laughs) you've got way too much going on here." (Laughs).
Actually, the most recent issue is a really good starting point, which is something I haven't done too much of lately. But this does have some sense of beginning, middle, end, and catches people up on some of what's happened already. But there are some things that are still hanging out there. Generally, when I'm re-introducing stuff, there'll be enough information there so that you can grasp what's going on. Dialogue will cover whatever it is. Your not gonna be sitting there going, "Well I don't know what's going on here at all." There'll be a fair amount of catching up material, where in most cases I'll have another character who's unaware of the situation, and needs it to be explained by someone who is aware.
Austin English: Another thing that is really important to you is a complete run on your book. You re-released issue #13, after Jim Lee worked on it, and you talk about doing 301 issues just to piss off Dave Sim, which I find very funny. (Laughs). How important is a complete run to you, because when I read old Sandman issues, it always bugs me that the artist is constantly changing.
Erik Larsen: It's essential. I couldn't-- I don't want a fill in. It's the same for movies, cause your going "Hey wait a minute, wait a minute, Sean Connery's James Bond. What the heck is Roger Moore doing here?" it can throw off the whole thing. Because, really-- in terms of how things are, and how things work in comics, and the world as we know it, a writer in a comic book is just a writer. It's equivalent to movies. A writer would be the screenplay guy. And the artist is the director, costumer, casting, cinematographer. He takes up a myriad of other roles. And to give up all those other roles, just to give the book to another artist for an issue (as he did on #13 with Jim Lee), or ten or whatever, really threw things off. Everything is different. Storytelling is not the same, the artworks not the same, all these pieces that I've come to respect-- are not the same. So-- I couldn't see giving that up, y'know.
Austin English: Right. So then, how long do you plan to do Dragon?
Erik Larsen: I don't want to be in a position where I'm paying for the privilege of reading my own comics. There certainly was a time, when sales were going down a tick. Every month it would go down one or two hundred copies, and it was getting to the point where I'm like "Okay, if this doesn't stop at some point, I've just gotta face reality. This one didn't make it-- time to move on to something else." At this point Dragon sales are going up one or two hundred every month, so that's not really much of a concern anymore.
Austin English: Probably largely do to your strip in Comic Shop News I would think?
Erik Larsen: I don't know. I mean, that's the reason for doing anything, for me anyway. Let's see if it'll help out the Dragon. Let's try out Wolverine, and see if it'll help out the Dragon. Let's try doing some other book, at some other place, so that somebody might go "Hey, this Larsen guy, he's okay. He's okay at this Wolverine character we've loved for all these years. I wonder how he is on his own stuff. So, that's where that is.
Austin English: Do you really feel that the reason you do Wolvie and the other books is to get exposure for Dragon?
Erik Larsen: That's one of the reasons. Another reason is just-- I like the character. I like the material. If I didn't like what I was doing I wouldn't do it. If they'd offer me something, or I tried out for something-- well, I don't think I would try out for something I didn't like. I'm doing books that I asked to do, or wanted to do, that seemed like they would be fun or challenging. But the ultimate goal of any of this stuff is-- MORE DRAGON READERS. (Laughs). That's what I'm after.