This week's issue of Savage Dragon teamed Malcolm Dragon up for the first time with Spawn, a character well-known to Malcolm's father, the original star of the series.
Along with the pair came Ant, a relatively minor character who had been published by a number of publishers in he last decade or so before landing at Image and ending up as part of the Savage Dragon universe when writer/artist Erik Larsen bought the rights from her creator, Mario Gully.
In addition to teaming up three characters in whom he had a vested interest (Larsen just wrapped a stint as the artist on Spawn), Larsen took the opportunity to tie up a long-standing loose end from Savage Dragon: a character known as The Mighty One, who was giving super powers to people...many of whom wouldn't turn out to be so friendly.
About forty issues ago, The Mighty One had turned up and given powers to Brenda Funk, a girl from Malcolm's high school whose boyfriend had been killed during one of Malcolm's battles. She tried and failed to take her revenge on Malcolm, although it seems likely she'll be back at some point.
Along the way to taking down The Mighty One, Malcolm and the others had a number of disagreements -- chief among which was just how The Mighty One should be handled. Malcolm, a police officer, believed he should be arrested and tried unless there was no other choice, while Spawn and Ant both favored just killing somebody who was a clear and present danger to the world at large. The fact that Spawn doesn't exactly trust cops likely didn't help bridge this disagreement...!
Larsen joined ComicBook.com for our customary Q&A about the issue. The following conversation is spoiler-heavy, so if you haven't read the issue yet, you should buy it here and read along.
I feel like we're passing the point where this is exclusively for comic relief, and the kids are starting to present some real challenges to Maxine. Is there a point where she will consider letting Lorella take more of an active role, after the conversation they had at the hospital?
Maxine doesn't want to give up that control. She's afraid that if Lorella gets a hold of the kids that they will be gone forever. That she'll find some excuse to keep them. She doesn't trust Lorella particularly. I mean, she does and she doesn't. Plus, there's evidence that the hospital is not a secure location.
(And could Lorella even DO that? She seemed to think she could but there's not really any evidence she could handle it)
I'm not convinced that she can and Maxine feels much the same. There is a sense that because these children are "chosen ones" that that's the reason Lorella is so concerned and obsessed with them. The sense is that these children may serve a "higher purpose" and that Lorella may have something else in mind for them. Because of that, Maxine is understandably reluctant to hand them over.
This is I think the first time since #150 that there's been an honest-to-God crossover that I felt like I had to read the other issue to for the story...but, really, 217 stands pretty well on its own. How important was it to you that you dropped enough into the dialogue to make regular readers feel like they were covered?
Quite concerned. I knew that when it came time to collect issues of Savage Dragon that the Spawn part of the crossover would not be included. Because of that I wanted to make sure that enough of the pieces were there that readers would not be confused. The next Savage Dragon trade ends with the Ant half of the crossover and the following trade begins with the crossover with Spawn. Because I was beginning the next trade in the middle of a crossover I wanted to spoon feed it to the readers and make it as easy as possible for them to hit the ground running.
I feel like with the Spawn team-up, the bandaged stump and the numerous name-drops to Dragon, this feels more like a "classic" Dragon story than we've seen in a while. Was that by design?
To a degree. I wanted this to feel as though it were the meeting of three iconic characters as much as I possibly could. Also, the pre-orders were somewhat higher than usual so I really wanted to set the scene as much as I could in terms of who the characters were. There is a decent chance that some people reading this book will be reading Savage Dragon for the first time (or for the first time in a while) so I wanted to make it crystal clear who the players were.
And the politics got pretty overt here. For those of us not super familiar with Al Simmons: is that something that's common to Spawn, or was it just a matter of something you thought these two particular characters would disagree about?
It seemed to be a good fit. Al Simmons has been a soldier and a mercenary and has no love for authority figures. Malcolm naïvely believes what he says but he has a lot to learn. The sad reality of being black in America is that to many people you are an immediate suspect. Malcolm has not really had to deal with that. As time goes on and he is exposed to more of it, his position is likely to change somewhat.
The Black Lives Matter movement and other assorted controversies have been going on for a while now and you have a main character who is a police officer of color. Did you feel like, at some point you kind of HAD to address those issues a little more directly than the low-key references that have been dropped up to now?
To some extent, yes, it needed to be dealt with and I think I'm just sticking my baby toe in the water to see how cool it is. It can be a hard subject to tackle without getting overly preachy and I hope I didn't step too far over the line this time out. It's the kind of subject which I should probably cover in bits and drabs and not try to cover in a single issue.
Has it really been "several years" (per the Mighty One) since Brenda Funk became Slag? Damn, we're getting old.
It certainly does creep up on you. Time seems to go by a lot faster in Savage Dragon then in real life because we see and so little of it covered. We only have 20 pages in which to cover the events of an entire month. Because of that a lot of events need to be left on the cutting room floor. A year's worth of issues doesn't quite feel like a year. And by necessity, I can't show every holiday and every birthday or it would seem as though that's all there is. But, yeah, Malcolm was attacked by Slag back when he was in high school and he's since graduated, gotten married and had kids, so clearly time has passed.
Often it seems like I've left out important events because of space considerations. As I'm working on the next issue it occurred to me that I haven't shown a scene with the children meeting Maxine's parents, for example. It's hard to cover everything. That's one of the many limitations of setting a book in real time.
Is it safe to assume, then, that we're not going to be seeing a ton of follow-up stories with Malcolm and his good pals Spawn and Ant?
Not his "good pals", no. I wouldn't rule out having one or the other dropping by again at some point. I think it's somewhat natural for them to not get along. They're vigilantes and he's a police officer.
What's the plan on the Ant series? I know you had told Fincast that you planned on getting it going soon after Spawn was done.
That's the plan but I don't want to start out in the hole either. Ideally, I'd like to have a few issues in the can before I launch her title. That likely means having it come out sometime next summer. That way I can get a little more caught up on Savage Dragon and get a few issues under my belt.