With 100 pages, dozens of contributors, and a big "25th anniversary" tag on the cover, Savage Dragon #225 was always going to be one of the series' biggest issues -- but a pair of major deaths have likely forever changed the face of the long-running Image Comics series.
In "The Merging of Multiple Earths," Mister Glum has destroyed the multiverse in order to try and win the affections of Angel Murphy, an alternate version of whom was Glum's one true love before she was killed while Angel, along with Malcolm Dragon and their ally Rex Dexter, attempted to take Glum into custody.
The destruction of the multiverse comes as a shock to Darklord, who has been cultivating it for years, attempting to engineer a perfect universe. Once all the players are on the stage, it becomes Dragon, along with his kids Malcolm and Angel as well as the reconstituted Freak Force, against Darklord and Glum.
That's where we start -- and hoo boy, do we have some spoilers for this issue. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy at your local comic shop -- or digitally here -- before you read on.
After a readthrough of the whole, 100-page monster, ComicBook.com spoke with series creator Erik Larsen about the lead feature and one of the handful of backups -- an issue of Graphic Fantasy which marked Dragon's first appearance in a mass-printed publication back in 1982.
Read on, but again: here's your last warning for spoilers!
(Literal) first thing first: When did you decide to put the Graphic Fantasy story in here? Was it when you knew it would be Dragon's last issue?
I’ve know that this was going to be Dragon’s last issue for quite some time but the idea to put the Graphic Fantasy #1 story in here was unrelated to that. I decided to put that in when I was planning the issue long ago. I’d been talking about it with Adam Pruett for a while now. Adam did flats for much of the story and we’d talked about coloring this and other Dragon stories that have never been colored. The 25th anniversary issue just seemed like the ideal time and place to run this.
While it's somewhat crude compared to your later work, obviously there are elements of the early material that you kept going back to. Was the reference to Paul Dragon in this issue intended to make sure fans knew that the pre-Image material "happened?"
Yeah—the characters remember everything after the Merging on Multiple Earths. The only thing is—Dragon was never actually called “Paul Dragon” in that story! It wasn’t until Graphic Fantasy #2 that I started referring to him as Paul. But the idea was that suddenly Jennifer remembered everything—just as all the other characters remembered things from their alternate lives. I even included a small image from Graphic Fantasy #1 in Savage Dragon #224 when I had a spread of all of the realities merging. So it’s in the mix somewhere.
You use a lot of grids in the lead feature -- were you trying to do something specific or was that mostly to help you keep things moving along, considering how much work you had to do this month?
There was no particular rhyme or reason for that this time around. Sometimes a particular panel configuration just works for a given scene. I wish I could come up with a specific theme each and every month but more often than not there isn’t something that works and I end up doing something a bit more random. Each configuration has its own advantages and disadvantages and I really didn’t want a theme getting in the way this time out.
How much of a role will all of these alternate-earth memories have going forward? Some of them, like Kevin killing a guy, seem potentially like story drivers.
It’s there if and when I need it. There are things to play around with. Definitely the Kevin setup was there for a reason but some of it’s there just to make things simpler. Having Freak Force exist and have a history that all of the characters are aware of was a big part of it.
It's been a while since we checked in with Darklord. Is it safe to assume that this is the same Darklord we last saw wearing a hoodie during the Dragon War story?
That is my assumption. The thought here is that we’re down to one Darklord. The other realities are gone—those voices are silent—he’s alone. And that’s why he’s investigating.
The merging of multiple earths seems to be fueling some internal struggles that Maxine was already having. Is that coming ot a head here, or are we going to see it continue on past this storyline?
There’ll be more to follow. It’s not going to be every issue, all the time, but there’ll be bits and pieces forthcoming. She’s a changed person to some degree, as is everybody else and we’ll explore that going forward.
The fact that Malcolm immediately assumed it was Glum, while Dragon jumped to Darklord -- was that a subtle way of communicating which villain belonged to who going forward?
Not really, just that the two don’t necessarily think alike.
Jennifer coming to accept the situation with Dragon just before losing him for good seems like a very powerful moment for her. Is she going to continue to be a big part of the series once Malcolm and Maxine have moved out of Chicago?
We’ll see. The cast isn’t going to be tossed out the window. As for what her role will be exactly remains to be seen.
Do you think Glum is really so delusional as to think everything would just be cool between him and Jennifer, even IF Angel was willing to go along with him?
He’s like a lot of people—totally unself-aware. He has no idea.
What was behind the decision to make it Malcolm's blood and not Dragon's that "brought back" the traditional Dragon?
It’s what blood would realistically be around that Dragon could have access to. It also gave me the option of Dragon having Malcolm’s lightning powers, which was a nice surprise.
I'm really kind of bummed that Malcolm and Maxine are moving to Canada before we ever get introduced to the Olsens. They sound like a potentially interesting family.
It wasn’t meant to be.
Darklord hadn't been purely villainous the last few times we encountered him. Was the destruction of the multiverse a needed push to get him to where he needed to be for this story, or did he just kind of develop into it off-panel?
As far as Darklord is concerned—he’s not being villainous. He can go back in time and tweak Earth again and again—those world can exist again—he’d just be closing off this one renegade Earth and the troublemakers who reside here. Throughout this issue he’s concerned with the lives lost on those many worlds.
And while the people here might indeed die a horrible death—most would live again in another, better world. He still sees himself as the hero here, saving lives and restoring order. He’s fighting to destroy a world which he sees as the enemy.
With the return of Freak Force in a big way (complete with Mighty Man) to the pages of the book, it feels a bit like Malcolm's world is mirroring his dad's at around this point in his career. Would you say that's fair?
To a degree. At the same time, Malcolm can’t have a relationship to this world’s “Rapture” as he’s married and she’s his half-sister. The dynamic is very different even if some of the players are the same.
Is the scene at the hotel helping to kind of establish that the world is increasingly seeing a difference between aliens and freaks?
To a degree.
Seeing Dragon use Malcolm's lightning powers was kind of a cool moment, but was it deeper than that? In his final fight did you want to say something about the nature of the way this book has transitioned into a family title? Or am I overthinking?
I don’t overanalyze it. I just didn’t feel like having Dragon be restored to being the man he was. Change is such a big part of this book that I didn’t want to simply have him revert to the status quo—even if it was for a short while.
A few vocal Savage Dragon fans really wanted the original Dragon back and I didn’t want to give them that. Let Marvel and DC kill and resurrect their characters for all eternity. The whole point of this series is to grow and change and evolve.
This isn’t the same book it was 25 years ago or even five years ago and the book it will become isn’t what it is now. Change is inevitable. People age, people die, and life goes on in spite of it all.
The "Sput!" SFX has always felt vaguely comical to me. Did you consider removing it for Dragon's death, or were you confident that given his significance, it wouldn't undercut the image/moment?
I’d considered dropping it. I dropped it a few issues back when Barry Dragon exploded and a lot of readers just didn’t get what it was that they were looking at. I think it’s important to have recurring sounds that resonate with readers. So when they hear a SNIKT or a BAMF or a SPUT you immediately recognize that and know what it means.
In this case—I weighed the pros and cons and decided that it would work. I thought it needed it, especially after the previous death in the issue. It would have seemed weird not to have had it. But there are times that I regret using that SFX in the first place as it does kind of undercut the grimness of what’s occurring.
Okay...Glum's story took a turn for the creepier-than-ever in the end here. Was the idea there to change reader perception of him for his next story?
More of a way of reminding them that he’s not the adorable little plush toy he resembles.
MORE SAVAGE DRAGON
You can get a copy of Savage Dragon #225 at most comic book retailers today. If you can't, or prefer digital, you can pre-order it here.
In “The Merging of Multiple Earths,” Savage Dragon boasts a giant-sized 25th anniversary special that fans won’t want to miss out on. The Dragon is restored to his former glory as he bulks up to take on Darklord in a final battle! Mr. Glum’s devious plot to merge the multiverse comes to its cataclysmic conclusion! Savage Dragon and Malcolm Dragon join forces to save Angel Murphy and the very Earth itself!
Savage Dragon #225 will be available on Wednesday, July 26th. The final order cut-off from comics retailers will be Monday, July 3rd.
SAVAGE DRAGON #225 Cover A by Larsen, Diamond Code APR170688
SAVAGE DRAGON #225 Cover B by Frank Fosco, Diamond Code APR170689
SAVAGE DRAGON #225 Cover C by Larsen, Diamond Code APR170690
SAVAGE DRAGON #225 Cover C (XXX, $11.99) by Rafael Krás, Diamond Code MAY178162
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