10 Questions with Erik Larsen

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Erik LarsenErik Larsen is a man who’s very outspoken (especially on his Twitter account) and has no trouble saying what he’s thinking.  A frequent focus of our Tuesday Twitter Fun (and partly the inspiration for it) articles he’s often spoken out on the topic of politics, which makes him a natural pick for our first interview ever.

A 20 year vet in the comic book business he’s the creator/writer/artist of Savage Dragon and current Publisher of Image Comics, the company he helped found in 1992.  He’s also the first to answer our 10 Questions.

Graphic Policy: I’ve always felt that comic books are rooted in politics.  The earliest strips often looked at class and social differences even before the great depression.  Thoughts on this history?  Agree/Disagree?

Erik Larsen: Some of the earliest cartoons were political commentary–editorial cartoons.  And Captain America was punching Hitler before we were involved in WWII–but largely comics have steered clear of such things.  Few publishers want their characters to take a stand for fear of alienating part of their audience.

GP: You’re very vocal when it comes to politics often infusing it into your series (the Savage Dragon endorsed President Obama for example).  Where does your interest in politics come from?

EL: I dunno.  I’ve always given a shit.  I became really fascinated with Nixon when I was younger and I read a lot of books about him–just trying to get a handle on what made him tick.  I imagine it stemmed from that.

GP: Outside of comics are you politically active?  Do you vote, volunteer, attend events?

EL: I vote but I don’t get out there and join marches.  I live in the Bay Area and marches here really carry no weight whatsoever.

GP: Where do you get your political news from?  Do you consider yourself a political news junkie?

EL: All over–radio, blogs, news sources.  I definitely follow things but I’m not nearly as obsessed with it as I was when Bush was in office and things were just going over a cliff.

GP: There have been some recent incidents of backlash with comic books dipping into political territory, the Marvel/Captain America incident being a perfect example.  What do you think of comics in general being politically charged and creators speaking out on issues through their works or on their own?  Do you want to touch on the censorship that surrounded that particular incident?

EL: I didn’t follow that incident particularly.  I have a vague idea of what happened and then heard there was some apology for it.  I think it was a mistake to apologize.

GP: Do you feel comics lean one way or another politically?

EL: As a whole–no.  Different creators have different viewpoints and they express themselves through their work.  Comics don’t speak with a single voice.

GP: Do you think that the comic industry should be speaking out on issues more and there’s an obligation to push boundaries?

EL: In some cases it would be wholly inappropriate.  I think it would be a huge mistake for a lot of the characters in comics to take a stand.  Do we really need to know which candidate Archie Andrews supports?  I think it would get in the way.  I don’t feel there is an obligation.  On the other hand–it does make for a more well rounded character.  The trick is to be honest about it and try and present both sides.  That’s not always as easy as one might think because both sides try to paint the other as evil or naïve but it’s important to remember that everybody thinks they’re doing the right thing for all the right reasons.

GP: Have you seen any backlash one way or another due to either a creator’s beliefs or the nature of a story or character?  Have you yourself experienced censorship due to the political nature of a story or character?

EL: Nothing I can point to as concrete.  I’ve gotten some letters and read a few posts on message boards but there’s been no drop off in sales to point to.  In regard to censorship–not so much.  Again, there may be storeowners boycotting my book without telling me but since I’m an owner of Image–there’s nobody censoring anything that I write or say.

GP: Have you ever thought about doing a story that is just based in politics and its world, and with no capes and tights?  Other than biographies, why don’t we see this more?

EL: I have not.   It’s not the kind of story that I feel I’m well suited for.  And I can’t tell you why we don’t see more of it.

GP: Thoughts on the current state of American politics?

EL: It’s pretty bleak.  With the Supreme Court stacked the way it is, our freedom is being undermined.  It’s not pretty.

GP: Thanks so much!