Earlier this week on Twitter, Image Comics co-founder and Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen let the cat out of the bag about a recent move he made that’s quite interesting from a creator rights/creator owned work aspect:
So…in case you’re the one guy that didn’t figure it out…I’m the guy who bought ANT from Mario Gully.
— Erik Larsen (@ErikJLarsen) October 9, 2012
For those unaware, ANT was a title that was created by Mario Gully and first published at Arcana and then by Image Comics (while under Erik Larsen’s tenure as publisher) in 2004. After disappearing for years, it recently came to light that Gully had sold the rights and ownership to ANT, and with the above tweet, Erik Larsen confirmed that he did indeed acquire ANT.
Coming off this confirmation, we caught up with Larsen to get the scoop on the acquisition and what he plans for it. He also provided us with a bunch of art of ANT that you can see below the interview.
iFanboy: After years since being published, why did you decide to acquire the rights to ANT?
Erik Larsen: Mario contacted me out of the blue. We had talked about ANT extensively when he had brought the book to Image in 2005 and he knew that I saw the potential in the character. I had a lot of ideas and suggestions for ANT and I ended up doing sketches for the first couple covers and talking through a lot of ideas with him and whatnot and he knew I liked the character. Now he wanted to sell it. He had another interested party and ANT was going to be sold to somebody. If I didn’t buy the character somebody else would. Mario had moved on. He was doing other things and I think he knew that if the character stayed with him that he wouldn’t be able to give her much attention. He felt he needed to sell her or end up neglecting her. And the more Mario thought about it–the more he thought I’d give her a better home. He called me up and asked if I’d be interested. It turns out I was.
iF: ANT was something you believed in while you were publisher of Image, but wasn’t a huge success, do you think the character has the potential to be more of a success?
EL: I always thought so. She’s a great visual. An iconic visual. It’s so simple but it doesn’t need to be anything more. It doesn’t need shoulder pads and an ammo belt or a pony tail. It’s like the Silver Surfer–so simple you ask–why the hell did nobody think of that before? And her story–the person under the costume has the potential to be so compelling. Again–simple–straightforward. I just saw what could be done and wanted to be part of that. I wanted to tell that story.
iF: As someone who’s a strong proponent of creator owned work and has cultivated your own characters for 20 years, what’s it like to now acquire another creator’s creation and make plans for using it?
EL: It’s very weird. On one hand it feels a little wrong–on the other–I feel like I’ve just rescued a person from a burning building. This character could have died or have been scarred for life and has instead been put in my care. I’m really thankful that Mario thought of calling me before selling the character off to somebody else.
And this is part of creator’s rights. As a creator–you can do this. This is part of what we fought for–to be able to make your own choices with your own creations. Plenty of other creators have simply walked away from their creations and their characters are essentially dead. I look at a lot of the creator-owned stuff that I liked as a kid and those characters are gone. A lot of characters have vanished and in some respect–this is better. The character has a second chance at a new life instead of being relegated to shelf somewhere to gather dust with so many others.
iF: Now that you have acquired the rights, what are your plans? Will you be re-releasing Mario’s original work? Will there be new ANT work coming in the future?
EL: Mario wanted a last goodbye and I don’t like leaving things hanging so we agreed to wrap things up. I laid out an issue #12 for him and it concludes her initial Image series. He’s picking away at it between jobs and when he’s finished–we’ll publish it.
In the meantime, I’m diving in and starting fresh in a new series. If Mario finishes first–great–it’ll be published first–if not–I’ll launch the new series and we can put that one out later–because the new book doesn’t pick up after his issue–the new book starts a new series from the beginning and that’s not a reboot in the classic sense of the word–it’s filling in the missing pieces.
Much of Ant’s “life” in the issues Image has already published was flashbacks and false memories. It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to sorting it all out and what to consider canon. She never really met anybody for the first time in that series, for example, there was always a reveal that she’d met these people before and that she had forgotten the incident. Honestly, the book was something of a mess. Five different writers over 11 issues talking over each other and writing and rewriting things into and out of continuity. Nobody could agree on what counted and what didn’t and each guy jumped on board and tried to go in a different direction. There were all kinds of hints to her mysterious past and no real payoff. Her back story is a minefield.
So, we’ll sew things up as best we can with that #12 issue and I’ll essentially start over–but not really start over–not tossing out continuity but rather finally showing what we missed. I’ll start with her origin–show the events that led to that and see her life unfold for the first time.
The issues that Mario did may be collected at some point. When Mario wraps up #12 I may just do a light edit on the whole series and clean up a few typos and glitches and collect it–or not. It’s not essential that a reader knows what happens in those issues to understand what I’ll be doing. I’m doing that quintessential “good jumping on point for new readers” you’ve heard so much about. And in this case where I’m starting at the start it really does make sense to start over with a first issue. It would be more confusing not to, really.
With that said, until ANT #12 or the new series launches, Larsen provided us with some eye candy, including the original issue #1 cover with a new logo treatment, some sketches of his own of the character and some sweet J. Scott Campbell art of the character: