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John Byrne And Erik Larsen – It Must Be Love


Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen has been visiting the John Byrne Board. Just that very piece of news had me itching to start CTRL-C-CTRL-V-ing.

I love both guys work. Angel and Savage Dragon are on the top of my pull list. And each has been known for making outrageous and outrageously entertaining statements throughout their career, engaging in public spats, fighting their corner and putting the record straight. No matter what shape it was originally in. So when they "cross over", well it's like X-Men – Teen Titans all over again.

Read the full thread here, and I encourage you to do so for full context, but here are a few gems for the record.

It all began with John returning to a favourite topic of his, the timeliness of comic book writers and artists, specifically a quote from Todd McFarlane from an old Comics Buyers Guide article. Byrne wrote

Allow me to beat a dead horse for a moment or two.

As noted elsewhere, many times, somehow being late has become associated in the minds of some (presumably) feeble-witted fans with being good. The books are late because the creative teams involved are "growing roses", to use Todd McFarlane's phrase, while books that are not late are, again in the Toddler's words "shit out on a monthly basis.

As the Byrne Boarders backed up John's statements, co-founder of Image Comics with Todd, Erik Larsen popped by saying;

You put an awful lot of stock into a tossed off comment made by a guy trying to excuse a few of his pals who were struggling to launch a new universe with no game plan…

Reality check: not every word out of everybody's mouth stands up to scrutiny. Sometimes people say stuff without thinking through all of the possible ramifications and interpretations and misinterpretations. The idea that Todd's wisecrack was the philosophy of a generation is ludicrous.

Naturally the thread began to drift, onto Image's record as a publisher, and the lawsuit with Neil Gaiman over the ownership of certain characters featured in Todd McFarlane's Spawn comic, found in Gaiman's favour, though Todd then made the liable company bankrupt.

Neil got a far better deal than he would have elsewhere (as promised) and Neil decided that wasn't enough and the issue has still not been resolved. The other three writers all took the same deal and were perfectly happy with it. You don't hear people talking about how Dave Sim was "screwed" because Todd McFarlane "only" paid him $100,000 to write a single comic book…

Todd has spent millions defending himself against a guy who, at best, co-
created a couple characters.

Byrne replied to that last one

Imagine how much he would have had to spend if he wasn't a champion
of "creator's rights"!!!

Answering mocking posts about Todd McFarlane's event baseball collection, that cost him millions of dollars, Larsen revealed

Folks tend to laugh at that one but those balls led to him producing action figures based on baseball players and that paid off handsomely. If Todd hadn't invested in those balls he may very well have never been able to strike that deal. as it was Todd got his name out to a huge crowd of people who would never have heard of him and it allowed him to take his
business to the next level.

We should all be so "foolish."

Regarding the late comics that started the thread, Larsen noted to those who said they'd fire late creators if they were in charge

So–you'd be the guy who fired Frank Miller, Brain Bolland, Mark Millar,
Adam Hughes, Jim Lee, Joe Madureira, Brian Hitch, Jeff Smith and a dozen
other of the top names in the field?

I'd gladly be your competition.

To John's retort,

Is there a fly buzzing in here?

John Byrne decided to define Image's influence  thus,

Image showed people at the time that they could work at Marvel, make a ton of money, find another company to bankroll them and take all the risks until they were sure they were going to make it on their own, and then unceremoniously dump that other company — all the while knowing that for most of the Seven Little Shits (McFarlane's term) there was absolutely no risk, since Marvel would have welcomed them back with open arms…

There is nothing in the Industry as it is today that is directly as a result of Image. Hell, Atlas had a greater impact in the early 70s, by raising the page rates and forcing Marvel and DC to do likewise.

Larsen kicked back

Bankroll my ass–we were paid NOTHING up front by Malibu. They took ZERO risks– they took on the most popular creators in the industry– took a flat fee and a percentage off every book they produced and paid us AFTER they had collected money from the distributers and paid the printing bill. Since they paid the printer after they were paid by their distributers, at no point were they out of pocket much of anything…  we helped turn those guys into our competition and into millionaires.

And it's doubtful that we would have been given back the gigs we left. I'm sure we could have found something to do but there was no guarantee that those would have been decent books–most likely we'd be stuck on a third tier book like Namor, She-Hulk or the West Coast Avengers–you know, the types of books they give to guys who left them in the lurch.

Page rates shot through the roof after we left. Creators benefitted a great
deal from Image Comics–at almost every company and creator-owned
deals have improved dramatically since we opened our doors.

Byrne also questioned the creation of Savage Dragon saying

But, in the end, a more accurate picture might be gotten if at some point, lo these many years ago, someone asked himself "What if the Abomination was a

To Larsen's instant retort

It's a good thing you threw that "might" in there because that is the
stupidest, most ill-informed and inaccurate piece of guesswork I've ever
read in my life in regard to the genesis of the Savage Dragon. As much as
he looks like the Hulk (and he looks very little like the Hulk) the Dragon
looks considerably LESS like the Abomination.

I've heard "Triton" I've heard "the Hulk" I've heard he's a "green-skinned
Wolverine" and "Martian Manhunter with a fin" but considering the fact
that he has nearly as much body hair as the Beast and the rugged good
looks of a movie star–the Abomination is about as poor a guess as one
can make with a straight face.

The real answer is: Batman.

That fin was, at one point, attached to a cowl that the Dragon wore. I
created him as a kid and eventually I got tired of drawing that costume
with the utility belt and the gloves with the serrated edges and I just
made the fin part of his head. You can feel free to call him a Batman
knockoff if you'd like but you're likely to provoke louder guffaws than
your Abomination guess would receive.

I created the Dragon in 4th grade–in 1972– about a year before I
started buying comics. We had my Dad's comics around but he didn't buy
the Hulk (he stopped buying comics when EC folded) he did, however,
have several issues of Batman. Needless to say, Dick Sprang was an early

Thanks to Byrne Board posters, thread drift managed to bring in all sorts of controversial industry feud topics over th last two decades. We even got onto the wonderful topic of the Heroes Reborn books, where Marvel brought in Image creators Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld to revamp Avengers, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Iron Man. Byrne talked about how this happened

Ron Garney and I used to chat a lot back in those days, and he was
certainly surprised when CAPTAIN AMERICA was taken from him. If this
was something in the works for a year, you'd think he might have been

Erik replied

By Bob Harras? Are you kidding me? Has this man ever been forthright
about anything? The fact that Ron was never told does not surprise me in
the slightest.

From everything I have heard– the Heroes Reborn plan was in the works
for quite some time before it was announced. They had quite a bit of lead
time when the books finally came out which is why the first issues were
longer than usual.

Byrne also revisited the famous "Name Withheld" letter to Comics Buyers Guide, written by Erik Larsen while he was at Marvel, imploring artists to discover their writing skills and branch out on their own.

Do you have any idea how many people thought "Name Withheld" was me? I wrote so many letters to CBG I practically had a weekly column, and in none of those letters was I the least bit shy about sharing my opinions (much like in this Forum), yet that cowardly piece of crap appeared (and multiple shame on Don and Maggie Thompson for publishing it!) and just about everyone assumed I had written it.

And even the Peter David/Todd McFarlane boxing ring debate got dragged in

A Fun Fact about that debate — after the Toddler had his head handed to him by David, he had his "people" get in touch with me to see if / wanted to "debate" him. My response: I said I didn't recall anything about the McFarlane/David debate that stated John Byrne gets to debate the loser.

There's lots more to enjoy and I urge you to read the full thread – especially where it develops from now. All this thread is missing is a visit from Peter David and we'll have a three way post-off between them all. Come on Peter, it's your duty to, okay?

Image probably copyright Erik Larsen, and bears some resemblance to the John Byrne cover for X-Men #138.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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