Daredevil Doesn't Mess Around: Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon #188

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SD188_00This month was a pretty major sea change for Savage Dragon; with about a dozen supporting characters heading off in their own directions for a variety of reasons, Malcolm seems to be positioned more and more as a lone figure.

Was that the mission statement? Series writer Erik Larsen and editor Gavin Higginbotham joined ComicBook.com to discuss the issue.

Remember that this commentary track is a spoiler-filled discussion. If you haven't read it already, buy one and read along with us!

ComicBook.com: Obviously, this isn't your normal logo. We've seen you've been playing with it a bit recently online--is this for keeps?

Erik Larsen: It's not. This one is based on the Silver Streak Comics logo and since this issue featured a rematch between the Claw and the Golden Age Daredevil I thought it would be appropriate to approximate the logo from the book where they first battled.

ComicBook.com: Where did you come up with this Chitty Chitty Bang Bang conversation? Is it something you've talked out in real life or just something that occurred to you to put in the kids' mouths?

Larsen: It's something which occurred to me while watching it with my kids. It is pretty messed up and Maxine is really the perfect person to voice these things. She's so awesome.

Gavin Higginbotham: Wildstar! Or... Plain Michael Gabriel I guess nowadays. Rex wasn't kidding when he said he was wrapping up loose ends. This particular dangler has been hanging since around 2002!

Was getting Wildstar's story finished up in Savage Dragon something that you've wanted to tackle for a while? It reared its head a few times over the years but never quite got completed.

SD188_01Larsen: We are both tying up loose ends. Rex needs to get things wrapped up so that he can move on and join the SOS and I felt I needed to walk away from those characters.

At the end of the day, Wildstar and company are not my characters and I can't do with them as I see fit. I had told as much of a story with them as I could reasonably tell and it was time for me to move on. I don't know that this is his story getting finished so much this is me abandoning ship. I felt I needed to leave the characters in pretty much the same shape but I found them in. This was me accomplishing that and, for Rex, it was a way for him to tie up his loose ends before moving on.

Higginbotham: Horridus really is crazy, right?

Larsen: Not really, no. She's lived a very sheltered life and is quite socially awkward. She simply doesn't know better.

Higginbotham: Maxine seems to be coping with Malcolm's crazy life pretty well so far. However, his ex-girlfriend Tierra started out that way too and was excited by it all at first. Do you think Malcolm has fears over history repeating and Maxine getting scared off?

SD188_02Larsen: Malcolm really hasn't had so much experience with girls yet to see any kind of pattern forming necessarily. But, I would think he would take precautions to ensure that Maxine is not exposed to the kinds of things Tierra was exposed to, if he can help it. Tierra saw Malcolm kill a man in self-defense. I certainly don't think Malcolm would like to have Maxine experience anything like that.

Higginbotham: Dragon gets the death sentence? Whoa! Judge Coffin always looks sinister....Does he bear Dragon any ill will or is he just an evil looking dude?

Larsen: That's something of an unknown. Certainly Dragon's lawyer might try to make that case if it were within the realm of possibility. If he could show that the judge in this case was prejudiced against Dragon that would help him get a retrial, which he would desperately like. But I don't see Judge Coffin as being especially evil, more by the book and intense than anything.

Higginbotham: What may be the most shocking scene in the book for some time is the brutal murders of the Little Wise Guys. These kids have been a near constant presence in the book since they showed up a few years back. And Dart butchered the poor fellows, finishing the job she started all the way back in issue #150 with poor Jock.

What made you kill these guys off? And in such a nasty method. Scarecrow in particular died horrifically!

SD188_03Larsen: I think the Little Wise Guys were always something of an odd fit in this book. That having been said, I always think in terms of story and what various characters's agendas are. They had, I thought, run their course and for Dart they proved to be an opportunity. I thought that would lead to better stories ultimately than them kicking around taking up space and killing time.

ComicBook.com: Is clearing the board of both WildStar and the Li'l Wise Guys in the same issue indicative of a shift in philosophy? It seems like you're really contracting Malcolm's world, not leaving him with a lot.

Larsen: There's a big shift coming up and it's going to be a good jumping on point and I'm trying to wrap up a lot of those dangling subplots that are just hanging there. And the Li'l Wise Guys just had it due. They'd reached their expiration date and were starting to stink up the place.

ComicBook.com: Does Dart have a real approach here, in terms of using that blood, or is she just hoping that she can ingest it? It's not as though people have always had the best of luck using freak DNA for their own purposes in this title...

SD188_04Larsen: Dart overheard the conversation about their blood in the previous issue and is hoping to put it to good use. As far as she is aware--that's how it works. I expect she's inject herself just to make sure it does what it's supposed to. The kids are normal kids in every other way so it doesn't seem as chancy as using the Dragon's blood.

Higginbotham: Others want Rock to be a hero? Is he another target for the SOS? SuperPatriot seems to be gathering up every hero he knows for the new team!

Larsen: That is certainly the implication. While I like Rock and his group being in the mix I do miss him being on some kind of active duty. And it's kind of a shame that these characters, while still young and vital, are essentially sidelined because they're running a diner. SuperPatriot and the government are trying to put together the best possible team and if he can recruit those guys it would certainly be in his best interest to do so.

Higginbotham: Daredevil doesn't mess around then, eh? The Claw has barely been back and he's been killed off already. Is this a case of you messing around with readers' expectations? Claw looked like he was shaping up to be the next big bad and he's now dead!

SD188_05Larsen: The Claw really was too goofy to be a mainstay over the long haul. I knew I was shuffling Daredevil out of the book and I wanted to give him a nice little send off. Since Daredevil never got in the final blow with the Claw in the Golden Age, I thought I'd fix that.

ComicBook.com: So now, we're rid of OverLord AND The Claw. Do you feel like Savage Dragon as a series NEEDS to have a "big bad"?

Larsen: I think there needs a big bad guy--and the nature of the Vicious Circle lends itself to a single person at the top--but it doesn't necessarily need to be one of the Golden Age Daredevil's big bad guys. The Claw is pretty goofy. I really didn't see him as a strong contender for the role of the big bad guy.

Higginbotham: Dragon really is a badass. That threat he delivers to the group of villains in prison was excellent. He obviously meant what he said last issue that he won't stop fighting until he's been cleared.

Larsen: Dragon is in a precarious situation. He is surrounded by all kinds of guys who have it in for him. If he hopes to survive the the experience it's going to take some doing. Bluffing can at least buy some time.

Higginbotham: Thunder-Head cannot catch a break. He's lost his job, his home, his place in the Vicious Circle, the chance to get his dad back and now he may never walk again. Things have got to get better for him soon.

...Right?

SD188_12_13Larsen: One could argue that things of gotten better for him already simply by the fact that the Claw is no longer in the picture.

Higginbotham: The coloring changes styles again with this issue. Are you still experimenting with what style you'd prefer? Last issue was obviously more obvious but this issue continues with the increased use of flats and is very different from recent issues.

Larsen: It's all about finding something that works. Something that's both distinctive and effective. I was getting a little tired of what had been going on in the book previously and I thought that this would be a good time to experiment a bit. I'm not unhappy with the result.

ComicBook.com: Certainly Malcolm does seem to have ONE friend - even if it's his crazy, sometimes-evil half-brother who may never walk again. Is that a relationship you're interested in exploring more going forward?

Larsen: There will be more and I'd like to build his cast with more normal people. I do like Thunder-Head but I don't want him to be ALL that Malcolm has.

ComicBook.com: You've teased some pretty seismic changes in the book on social media. Any cryptic hints you can give us as to what we should watch out for over the next four issues?

Larsen: I'm preparing to hand the book to Malcolm for good. There's not much more to it than that. In a way it's similar to Invincible when it began but the big difference is that we got to read the adventures of Malcolm's father whereas we were just told that Invincible's father had some adventures. It's going into its Batman Beyond phase where Malcolm is the new Dragon and he's got a mentor helping to show him the ropes.

ComicBook.com: You do realize that I'm going to make it my mission to get one of my musician friends to record a version of the Mister Glum song, right?

Larsen: I should hope so.

ComicBook.com: I've been on Facebook and seen the Dragon story from 1984. You said that's going to be in the next issue?

Larsen: Yeah.

ComicBook.com: Any particular reason you felt an urge to pull that one out of a drawer just now?

Larsen: It's about the right length and I had some space to fill and nothing else was quite ready to go so...there it is. And I do like it.

ComicBook.com: I'm sure Gav has, but I've never spoken to you about the fire and all I know is the general buzz around it. Do you have much--especially complete stories--from before that time?

Larsen: Not really, no. There were a few odds and ends that saw print here and there. There was a Deadly Duo strip that ran in my high school newspaper, which I'd really like to see again. I remember it as being awesome but I imagine it was pretty wretched. Thankfully there are a few pack rats out there who have saved things over the years. But I never made copies of the 15 or so unpublished Deadly Duo stories or the 55 issues of Sgt. Marvel's Greatest Comics, which featured early Savage Dragon adventures. Those are lost forever. What's survived are the stories that saw print...those from Graphic Fantasy and Megaton.