WW Chicago: Larsen Steps Down as Image Publisher, Stephenson Steps Up

On Ferbuary 19th of 2004, CBR broke the news that Image Comics founder Erik Larsen would be moving into the Publisher's chair at the publisher. Now, more than four years later, Larsen has decided to leave that position, handing it over to his right-hand man and now-former Executive Director of Image Comics Eric Stephenson. Official word came down during Wizard World Chiago Saturday afternoon.

CBR News spoke briefly with Larsen Thursday evening upon his arrival in Chicago to discuss the move and what fans of his work can expect next, including the status of "Savage Dragon" and a mystery project teased at last September.

Erik, I guess we should start out with the most obvious question: What's going on?

Let me tell you what's going on -- I quit, dammit! And I don't care who knows it! [laughs]

Seriously, and the God's honest truth is, I've put a lot of thought into this and I want to get some work done on my comics and I've not been able to do that as Publisher of Image Comics. So, really, it comes down to I'm stepping down from my position to get some work done. I think I'm far more useful to the company in a creative capacity versus and administrative one. I've been doing this for about 4 years now and it's time to get somebody else in this seat who isn't as old and jaded! [laughs]

I loved the job and it was great fun doing it; we put together some awesome books and there are a ton of cool things in the pipeline that will, frankly, blow your mind. Now that things are on the upswing at Image, I don't think I'm as needed in that position as I was at one point. There are a number of people who are looking out for Image Comics. I'll still be one of them and I'll still be out there actively talking to people about books and recruiting talent. And I share an office with Eric Stephenson, who'll be taking over for me, so it's not as though this is going to be some drawn out, awkward learning period for him as he takes over. He was Jim Valentino's right-hand man when he was in the Publisher's chair and was my right-hand man when I was in the Publisher's chair, so he's certainly up on the company and how it works. And he's been in and around Image Comics since its inception, going back to working with Rob Liefeld when he had his studio. Eric's been around, knows the rope, knows what we're doing and is a hell of a guy. I really think he's the best guy for the job and I think it would be great if the guys who founded this company spent less time sitting in a chair pushing papers around and more time sitting in a chair pushing art boards around.

Just to be perfectly clear, you're not being pushed out and you're not unhappy with the position, it's just time for you to move on.

Exactly. It really was a situation where I was at HeroesCon in Charlotte last weekend and all sorts of people were coming up to me saying, "I really miss your books, man. I wish you'd publish on a more regular basis." Over the last year I've really felt that I wasn't doing what I wanted to be doing. I've had more and more stories I've wanted to tell with less time to do that and that's been very frustrating for me. I like being sort of Image's spokesman, that's a fun position to be in, to play Stan Lee if you will. But there was a time there where we had six spokesmen and it was kind of everybody for themselves and I think now it's fine for us to go back to those days of utter chaos again! [laughs]

I'm sure Eric will be out there banging the drum and writing all those same goofy editorials like I have been. I'm just looking forward to getting back in the trenches. I've got some big things going on with my book, "Savage Dragon," and outside of my book. I have another book that a year ago I sat down and drew the first issue of and I'd like to get a few more under my belt before I start to release them, but I haven't had time to really get any of that work done. There was a time where I was producing "Savage Dragon," "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine" and "The Defenders" at the same time, so I'm certainly capable of handling multiple books at once and it would be nice to do more of that. I really do like the creative process and want to get back to that.

What's the first order of business once you walk away from the Publisher's chair? Is it attend to "Savage Dragon?"

It really is. The book has been very late. The last few months I've been soliciting it and getting covers in previews, so now it's time to make those issues happen. I've been working on them, a lot actually. #136 will be out next week. #137 is being lettered right now and I'll have pages to finish when I get home from Chicago after this weekend. Then it's on to the one after that, which is already penciled and has been sent to the letterer. The one after that I actually penciled a lot of on the airplane to Chicago. So, by the time I'm home, I'll be damn close to wrapping that one up. I have a lot of issues mapped out on that and once I've built up enough of a buffer and see the title return to a monthly schedule, I'll start working on some of these other projects that I've been thinking about.

You and the Image founders got together in Phoenix at Atomic Comics for Free Comic Book day in May, and I'm sure you all got to talking about old times.

We sure did.

And I'm sure there were discussions about the future, and I'm wondering if anything cool came out of those discussions. I'm sure fans of Image Comics would love to hear that all the Image creators are back to work on comics again.

Uhmmmmmm... [paused] ... let's just say we're not all ready to be put out to pasture just yet.

Will we be hearing something this weekend during Chicago, or maybe at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month?

I think there might be something people may find a passing interest in announced during Comic-Con, yeah! [laughs] I wouldn't put it past any of these guys! [laughs]

What about some final words of wisdom for Eric Stephenson?

Well, we share an office, so I can tell him any time I want if I come up with something good! [laughs]

Seriously, I think he understands where things are and where they need to be and I think the boat is headed in the right direction. It's just a matter of him getting it on course and keeping it going. A big part of that is going to be me getting back behind the drawing board to get some work done. Having me there in a creative capacity, creating a boat-load of comic books, is a big part of getting things going the way they should be and setting the proper example. It would be really nice not to be the creator of the latest Image comics. I'd like to lead by example rather than telling them how to do it.

Look for an exclusive interview with Eric Stephenson later today right here on CBR.

Tags: image comics, eric stephenson, erik larsen, image founders

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