It's Here! Erik Larsen on SAVAGE DRAGON #178 (And, Yes, BEFORE WATCHMEN)

With the release of today's Savage Dragon #178, the war of the worlds that Dragon and Vanguard have been waiting for years to see has arrived in Chicago. And while Malcolm and Angel juggle new developments in their personal lives with stopping both run-of-the-mill superfreaks and the Tyrraneans, the dominoes are moved into place for the Li'l Wise Guys' next storyline and one supporting character won't make it to see who wins the war.

Russ Burlingame: Well, I guess that today it's hard not to at least mention Before Watchmen today. What do you think of the announcement?

Erik Larsen: It's hardly a surprise, is it? I mean--we knew this was in the works. It's a shame they wouldn't respect Alan Moore's wishes but what do you expect? Corporations are going to exploit their IPs [intellectual properties]--that's what they do. If you thought DC was going to treat Alan Moore any different from all of the other creators they've screwed over the years--surprise, motherf--kers!

RB: Is the Christmas thing in the opening just a result of delays in shipping the issue, or is that kind of detail less important when you're writing than the story stuff?

EL: It's just establishing a timeline. It's there to say that it's a New Year and Chritmas happened without incident.

Gavin Higginbotham: After the debut of the latest cool new villain at the start, we witness our hero's first relationship end. Getting dumped by a girl... Malcolm really is growing up!

EL: It happens. I'm trying to "keep it real" and this is part of that. I think in a real world--some people are going to be excited about being with a superhero and others would be freaked out once they found out what that meant.

GH: Was it fun to write the dialogue between Malcolm and Tierra where Malcolm awkwardly talks about sex? That's a different kind of writing as far as tormenting your creation.

EL: It's always somewhat challenging writing this kind of dialogue. I think it worked reasonably well.

RB: I kind of got the impression that Tierra was something of a starf--ker, and that she leaves here basically becuase things got real when she saw the way Malcolm's life sometimes turns out. Is that an overly harsh assessment?

EL: I think so--to a degree. I mean, we all do what we do for any number of reasons. Malcolm is an attractive person in a number of ways and people will be attracted to him. A lot of people cozy up to famous people because they want to be friends with famous people. It's human nature. I don't think it makes her a bad person. You could say the same thing about Malcolm being attracted to her--that he only went out with her because she was hot--but on a certain level--that's the way things go. We're attracted to people we find attractive.

GH: The homage to Savage Dragon #65's scene with Tierra walking from Malcolm was fun. That was from one of my first issues so from this long(ish)-time fan, thanks!

EL: Sure. This is one of those nods which is fun if you get it but completely unnecessary. If you miss it--you're really not missing anything important.

RB: You talked about the nod that's not strictly necessary for new readers but enriches the old readers; there have been a lot of those in the last year or so of Dragon. You'd said before that you thought things like copying layouts would make life easier, and it did not, so is it really just about echoing some of the same themes with the new lead character?

EL: It's me being a lazy f--k and stealing from myself. It was the best shot I could think of and it made more sense to repeat it than settle for a weaker shot.

GH: PJ was remarkably accepting of his possible newfound immortality. In fact, he seems to be able to cope with most scenarios with a lot of indifference. Is he one of your favorites from the newer cast to write (and draw for that matter)?

EL: I do love PJ. He's a fun character to write and draw. I like cartoon characters in realistic comics. It's a throwback to the Golden Age when often straight superheroes would have goofy-looking sidekicks like Woozy Winks or Doiby Dickles. The Little Wise Guys were that for Daredevil back in the '40s and PJ was created to join their ranks and diversify that group.

RB: Was seeing his reaction something that you thought needed to be in-story so that it didn't look like you skipped over him finding out, or was it just a fun scene to write?

EL: Both. It's always something of a debate with myself over what to include and what is assumed. Given the eventual repercussions--I thought it was important to establish this.

GH: With this issue, Angel seems to be getting more of the spotlight. Mildred finding out about her and Frank's relationship and the couple's subsequent conversation about travelling... Was this an effort to make sure that people know that Savage Dragon isn't just Malcolm's book?

EL: At one point I was seriously considering having Angel be the lead. I do enjoy writing and drawing her and have for years. Angel and Malcolm are a team--and sometimes the focus will swing her way but given Malcolm's physical resemblance to his father he's a more natural cover star. And once Angel graduates things will get a little--interesting. Savage Dragon has generally had an ensemble cast and various characters rotate in and out of the book.

RB: Between Angel graduating and the revelation that Malcolm accidentally made this issue about her budding relationship, are we going to see her leave the house soon?

EL: She's still in school at this point but yeah--it'll happen in the next year.

RB: It's kind of a trope of ensemble casts that when the kids go off to college, they never go far. Will she at least stick around the area?

EL: Not necessarily. I'd like to have some time where the kids aren't close. I do think she will eventually settle in Chicago.

GH: Maxine looked a bit jealous about Malcolm heading off with the other girls. Malcolm's definitely inherited his father's way with the ladies.

EL: It's been pretty fun to jump into that whole high school scene. It's not something I've ever done before in any book.

GH: Larry Bradford was quite the unexpected identity to a potential threat to the Little Wise Guys. This is building up into an interesting sub-plot.

EL: I don't know that I'd call him a "threat" necessarily--at this point he's just the lone guy who's aware of their predicament.

GH: The local bully Spoon gets himself killed here after repeating the brave (and stupid) act of confronting a dangerous super-powered threat. Were you always planning on getting rid of Spoon at this early stage or was it another impulsive execution?

EL: A bit of each. After his first appearance it was pretty clear that he was something of a one-note character and I really didn't want another analogue character and he was pretty well established as a Flash Thompson type. I could see it playing out a few ways and in real life it's interesting to see these types grow up and find out that in the outside world they really aren't as special as they appeared to be in high school but ultimately--this made for a more interesting story and it sets things in motion that can pay off later on. It's not as though a guy like that wouldn't have friends and family.

RB: Not to sound callous or anything, but when a character is an asshole, is there some catharsis in killing them, even if death is more than their particular brand of asshole deserves?

EL: Not really. I don't really feel like that. I'm more concerned with how the story plays out and the domino effect of what follows.

RB: (Does it make me a sociopath that I read it and say, "Oh, thank God he's gone!"?)

EL: No. I do think that's natural to some extent. When I was a kid there was this older boy who was a real d--k--just a bad kid--a real bully--and he was a menace and he'd threaten people and destroy property and whatnot. He ended up killing himself and the neighborhood breathed a collective sigh of relief. And yeah, in a way that was sh---y--but at the same time--he really was this monster. He'd hurt people and push people off their bikes and punch kids--so the reaction to his death wasn't uncalled for.

RB: It's also worth noting, I think, that the way he approaches the alien seems to indicate that he was ACTUALLY delusional and not just a jerk to Malcolm.

EL: That or he thought his bluster would be enough. Sometimes you'll see a kitten stand up to a big dog and it backs off because the kitten seems like he means business. And I would think his previous encounter with Overlord empowered him somewhat.

GH: Both the main and backup features of the past two issues have shown us just how badass a single Tyrranean can be. Is this a full scale invasion by these guys? If so, is the Earth pretty much screwed? These guys are damn powerful!

EL: It is at that. Things get pretty crazy over the next few issues. I know how much you like death and destruction in these pages so--needless to say, this is right up your alley.