I first met Travis Fowler through Twitter earlier this year when he posted up a picture of his collection of do-it-yourself hardbound Savage Dragon comics. It was enough to make any Dragon fan green with envy! I had to know more about this super-fan and his do-it-yourself hardcover collection. Travis generously agreed to answer all my prying questions about his love of Savage Dragon and the ins-and-outs of binding comic books. Check it out:
Travis Fowler (left) and Franchesco, artist of the She-Dragon one-shot, displaying a sketch of She-Dragon in one of Travis' bound editions of Savage Dragon.
So Travis, how long have you been a fan of Erik Larsen and Savage Dragon?
My first exposure to Erik was his issues of Spider-Man (adjectiveless) after McFarlane had left the series. I was 10 when Spider-Man 21 came out, which is my favorite cover of all time. Seeing Erik’s Cyborg Spider-Man was awesome. From that point on is when I started to notice artists and what I liked and disliked. A few issues later during the Mad Dog Ward, I realized I hated that art and started looking for more of Erik’s work. Lucky for me as soon as Erik’s Sinister Six story ended the Savage Dragon mini started up around the same time. It was a seemless transition to the title.
How did you get introduced to the Savage Dragon comic?
I read the mini and loved it. At the time I read Spider-Man exclusively and Dragon was something different. I wasn’t used to guns and shooting in my comics. I remember thinking, “WHOA people are actually being shot in this book. This is awesome!” Once the mini ended, I admitted didn’t read an issue of the ongoing until I read the Savage Dragon article in Wizard 68. I’m not sure why, but the book just fell off of my radar. Honestly, I was enthralled by the Clone Saga and tried to read anything and everything about it. This article brought me back in hook, line, and sinker. From that point on, Savage Dragon was on my monthly pull list and hasn’t left since.
It’s funny how “guns and shooting” is now a mainstay in modern super-hero comics. I think new readers to Dragon may not realize that Erik pioneered a lot of what is considered normal in comics today, which wasn’t the case 20 years ago. What is it about Savage Dragon now that you enjoy so much that keeps you coming back?
I feel like I’ve grown up with Dragon. There has been some direction changes in the book, but the constant in everything and every story has been Dragon. As I’ve gotten older, Dragon has also gotten older. It’s also been an ongoing story, no revamps or relaunches, there is no past comparisons. You don’t hear people say, I liked Pre-Crisis Dragon more than modern Dragon. It’s just Dragon, nothing more and nothing less.
How many issues of Savage Dragon have you bound and how many volumes do you have? Has Erik seen them?
I don’t know the exact number of issues, but it is close to 400 comics bound in 13 volumes. Erik has seen Volume 0 this past April at Emerald City Comicon. My friend Jason Palmer graciously took it to the show to get it signed and sketched in. Jason told me Erik loved the book and flipped through the whole thing.
What made you decide to bind you Dragon comics? Do you have other comic series that you bind as well?
I remember coming onto the Dragon message board and reading a thread where a gentleman (I can’t remember his name at the moment) posted a very thorough reading order for Savage Dragon. There were the different levels of fandom, one of the levels was called Gluttens for Punishment. It had every Dragon appearance and crossover to date up
to Back in Blue. He also had rough layouts of where the mini’s and crossovers fell in Dragon continuity. I already had all of the main title, so I thought why not go all out with this. After seeing that post I wanted to have the complete/definitive Dragon story at my fingertips. Adding the mini’s and appearances added so much more to the base story taking place in the main book. It wasn’t needed, but was definitely worth collecting it.
So I started buying all of the minis and appearances of Dragon. Once I finished that I took it one step forward and decided to get all of the variant covers. I wanted this to be the definitive Savage Dragon collection. Some people might consider it OCD, I just thought it was fun.
If I remember right, I think the poster was “Eddie K.” who had the list. It’s pretty cool that it helped you put together this spectacular complete collection. Can you tell us about the binding process and how much it costs to bind one volume?
The binding process is what you make of it. It can be as simple as putting 20 books together and getting it bound, or you can remove back covers, double side ads, add a table of contents, make a custom cover or dust jacket, or add bonus materials in the back of the book. There are two binding companies that I use Single Bound Studios through David Banks (www.singleboundstudios.com) and Herring & Robinson (www.herringandrobinsonbookbinders.com).
I personally have found that the best results in binding is having a book between 1″-1 1/2″. This is normally between 18-22 issues. I also remove all back covers, double sided ads, and inserts. To me they aren’t needed in modern books, when I’m rereading the story, I could care less about a Playstation ad that was currently popular. It is an extra page turn if the back cover bound. It’s immediately in front of the next issues cover– to me there is no need for that. Now I’m also working on an original run of Marvel Team-Up, with this collection I have decided to keep the advertisements and letter pages, but remove the back covers. That is the beauty of binding, you can do whatever you want and it’s not wrong. There is no right or wrong, it’s all personaly preference.
The normal turn around is four to six weeks depending on the binder’s work load, the details of the book, and time of year. The price of the book depends on the binder, a basic bind is between $18.50 – $20.00. A premium bind with more bells and whistles and extras can run around $65.
Binding extras is also a personal preferance. For Savage Dragon, I added EVERYTHING: Vanguard, Freak Force, and even Badrock! Those books and appearances might never be reprinted in trade form. Why not include them? It just helps the story evolve.
That’s awesome! Did you make dust jackets for each collection?
I personally do not make dust jackets. I have absolutely no Photoshop experience. Lucky for me though I have made friends in the binding community that have helped out: Steve Topper, Corwin, Kerry Graham, and Michael J. Smith. They have all done some amazing work for my dust jackets and custom cover books.
Nice! In the future you need to share with us some of the images of the dust jackets that have been created for you! Here’s a hypothetical question: If Erik put you in charge of choosing any Savage Dragon supporting character to get his own on-going AND the creative team to work on the comic, who would you choose?
Honestly I would love a She-Dragon ongoing. Other than Dragon, she is my favorite character in the book. My dream team for this book are no strangers to the Dragonverse– Joe Keatinge and Franchesco. Franchesco’s She-Dragon is absolutely stunning. I would love to see Franchesco’s art with Joe writing. Joe is knocking it out of the park with Glory. He writes a strong female lead and knows what he’s doing. To me it would be a perfect match of great writing with a sexy pinupish art style. A win/win in my book.
Great choices. Especially since both creators are big fans of the series and would know how to work with the characters. So here’s another hypothetical question for you: If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have one of the volumes from your bound collection, which issues would be in that collection and why?
It would be the most recent volume, #12. It’s issues 145-174, the entire Emperor Kurr saga. It’s basically the entire run of Dragon condensed to 30 issues. Everybody shows up in those issues, major plot points are completed, death of Dragon, and a new beginning with Malcom and Angel. It’s just an amazing run of issues. I could reread any time and not get bored with it.
Agreed. That was a great arc which I think got many longtime fans excited about the book more then ever. It’s up there as one of my favorites as well. Lastly, to wrap this up, based on your experience, do you have any tips for someone that wants to bind their own comic collections?
Honestly first and foremost, just have fun with it. There is no right or wrong way to bind anything. Here are the key places to go for binding:
ComicBinding.com (www.comicbinding.com) This place has tons of mappings for comics. It helps out a ton to see what and how people have bound books that you are considering.
Uncollected Editions: Marvel Masterworks Forum (http://marvelmasterworksfansite.yuku.com/forums/2/Uncollected-Editions-The-Homegrown-Hardcovers-Binding-Forum) This is the definitive forum for all binding. Lots and lots of information here. This is a great community that will help you out with anything and everything binding.
Thanks for talking with us and sharing your pictures, Travis! There’s a lot of great information here for other Savage Dragon fans who may want to bind their own collections. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us!