Irony, Thy Name Be Larsen

Being completely unaware, but not surprised that Erik Larsen writes a column over at Comic Book Resources, I stumbled upon his latest entry. It’s an essay on the days of old when comics came out on time, come what may. He makes some good points, and I agree to an extent, but what gave me pause was the following passage:

“Bendis and Bagley are doing an impressive run on “Ultimate Spider-Man,” but how often does that book make the news these days? It’s monthly, consistent and entertaining, but how is that “news?” What’s newsworthy about another issue of “Ultimate Spider-Man” by Bendis and Bagley?

Or another issue of “Usagi Yojimbo” by Stan Sakai or “Groo” by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones or “Savage Dragon” by Erik Larsen?”

I believe it’s been a long time since we saw a regular issue of Savage Dragon, and while this may have been the case at one time, I don’t think he’s in the same group as the others he mentioned.

Again, while I agree that it sucks that books come out late, and something should be done. I think Larsen misses some points. For example, he fails to mention any notion of an artist who might do different work because he likes that work better. It seems to me like he’s pining for a simpler time; something we’re all guilty of, but something we’re never going to get.


  1. now now,not to be a Larsen apologist, but his run on Savage Dragon is indeed a complete run, with the exception of one issue (which he cleverly dealt with, that awful Image crossover where creators swapped books), he has written and drawn every issue. You’re right that there have been very long gaps inbetween issues, which we all hate, but he has done every issue – no fill-in artists, no other writers.

    Your overtly anti-sentimental take on comics and the opportunity and opening for working on or doing something else is fine, but so is the desire and hope for an extended run, which in fact you just applauded by Bendis/Maleev over on Daredevil.

    He does have a point though, that Ultimate Spider-Man has not been particuarly newsworthy, at least not since they killed Gwen Stacy. I for one look for and applaud the extended run, but then again, I’m overly sentimental and tend to stick with books through thick and thin, whereas you drop it at the first sign of “unpleasantness”.

    Two different approaches, neither is “right” or “The way everyone should be”… but you can’t not acknowledge one or the other.

    I tend to agree with Larsen in that while Jim Lee on Superman or Batman was great, how many issues was it for? Give me Maleev on Daredevil for 4 years or Bagley on Ult. Spiderman for 4 years etc over a one year long engagement that is fleeting and forgettable by Azzarello and Lee or what not.

  2. I think you misunderstand my point of view. I agree with you entirely on long, good quality runs. But, as you know, they have to come out on time. Part of the consistency in quality I expect comes from being there when it’s supposed to, and Larsen’s discussing deadlines, and while he did do every issue, they weren’t all on time. Now, I know he did all the shipping, and stamp licking of the individual orders of Savage Dragon, he was late, and there were large lapses in the schedule.

    Now to the other point, of my “anti-sentimental stake” and how I ‘drop it at the first sign of “unpleasantness”.’ I think you mistake my meaning. I have deep connections to some books, which coincidentally are all mostly tied to consistency in the creative team. See I don’t tend to stick with a title as much as I’ll stick with the creators. I read every issue of the Flash that Mark Waid wrote. I then got on with Geoff Johns, and after a year or two, I wasn’t enjoying it that much, so I stopped buying it. I loved Rucka’s Detective even more, bought it for years, but when he left, I read a couple, and the quality was much diminished, so I stopped. When it gets real good again, I’ll come back. You might imagine that I could get to a page or two I didn’t like in an Ultimate Spider-Man, and just fling it across the room into the fire, never to buy another issue, but it doesn’t work that way. Now if for some reason, Ed Brubaker starts up on Daredevil and 4-5 issues in, I’m not enjoying it, I’ll drop it until it gets good. Then I’ll start buying it again. Conversely, if Bendis and Maleev were to have lapses of 3-5 months between their Daredevil issues, I might have dropped that.

    Then there’s the rare JMS syndrome, where the book has the same writer, but begins to suck in every possible way, and only comes out once a year, yet I buy every issue, and even a spin-off by mistake here and there. Never again I say!

    I’ve got Alan Moore keyboard vomit disease today. I just keep typing. Except when Moore’s keyboard vomits….why, the angels, they sing.

  3. Oh yeah, one more thing. I’ve got every issue of Azzarello and Risso’s 100 Bullets, and I’ve been ready to drop that for months, nay, years. But I just can’t. If they were to switch creative teams, I’d be gone in a second.

  4. Okay. I’ve read Savage Dragon. I’ve read Ultimate Spider-man. I collect niether.

    Allow me to pull back and look at the big picture.

    In time, Savage Dragon will be seen as a medicore book at best that helped to keep the fledgling publisher, Image, afloat. I have never thought Larson to be an outstanding artist. He’s a clever writer, at times, but not great.

    Ultimate Spider-man, in time, will be viewed at the book that brought a whole new generation of comic book readers to the industry. While, yes, there are dry patches, the idea was fresh and the new take was fun. Bendis is one of the more profolic writers of our times – and frankly, has done much to promote the whole industry, not just his comic.

    If you guys hadn’t posted it here, I probably wouldn’t give Larsen a second thought. And this little article makes me think he’s just dying for attention. What better way to get it than by taking a poke at the populars?

    Sad, really.

  5. I recently bought the USM warriors trade and when i finished the book I told myself that Im done with USM for now. The stories just dont hold my interest anymore. The samething happened with Savage Dragon. As for Larsens column and comments,he seems to find ways to say how mediocre dc/marvel books are and that Image is a better company. Its really funny because I dont think he would even publish Savage Dragon if someone else was doing the book.

  6. Ultimate Spider-Man rebounded nicely in the last few months after a creative lull. Possibly due to the fact that Bagley seems to finally be getting the hang of his new robotic drawing hand that relaced his flesh and blood hand that was drawn to a bloody stump.

    You might be right about Larsen not publishing Savage Dragon if it wasn’t his book. But then what do I know, I don’t think I’ve bought that book since high school or early college, which was longer ago than I care to acknowledge.

  7. Ok, let me try and address a few points:

    1. Savage Dragon – Dtaylor, very good thought, I wonder if Dragon was done by someone else, if Larsen would publish it – but then again, its his company. If he wanted to he could pretty much publish his sketches on the back of cocktail napkins. It’s funny because Toga points out how much Bendis has done for the industry, and he has. And Dtayler points out how Larsen stabs mediocore DC/Marvel books and thinks Image is a better company. Of course he does! He’s the publisher. And while Image doesn’t have the audience Marvel or DC does (or what Image once had), he’s doing his part for comics. I happen to have always enjoyed Savage Dragon, up and down. I like his art and his storytelling and his appreciation of the medium. I also really like Invincible, which because of books like Savage Dragon, we get to read Invincible and Walking Dead etc.

    2. Josh – I see your point – to break it down baseball style: You root for the player and not the jersey. So if you’re favorite baseball player was Roger Clemens, you wouldn’t care if it was the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees or Astros, you’re wherever he’s pitching (when he’s pitching well.) Whereas, I root for the jersey, as Conor can attest, I live and die by the Mets in good times and bad. Again, 2 different approaches, both sound and unique and respectable.

    To quote the immortal Ron Burgundy, “Agree to Disagree”

  8. Man, we sure could use Clemens back in the pinstripes next season…

  9. don’t even get me started on Clemens…

  10. Seriously, I’m not OK with this turning into a baseball discussion, and honestly, do you think I’m the right guy for a sports analogy?

    Baseball, that’s the one where they ride horses right?


  11. oh stop – you get the analogy though, right? It’s a common one, especially in baseball and I really think it does apply here…

  12. I think that’s a very apt analogy to describe our reading habits.

    “When you root for a team these days, you’re mostly rooting for laundry.” – Jerry Seinfeld