Erik Larsen Talks Savage Dragon #199

Savage Dragon #199 is a big issue.

The issue is told in widescreen -- all double-page spreads. Creator Erik Larsen, who draws his fair share of those anyway, got it in his head that it would be an interesting challenge to see if he could tell a whole issue in double-page spreads and still make it feel like sequential art that told a substantial story, rather than just a bunch of posters.

The end result was this issue -- and this interview marks the fiftieth consecutive issue of Savage Dragon for which Larsen has provided a commentary track with this writer.

We started at Blog@Newsarama all the way back in July of 2009 -- in an article so old that the link to it in my e-mail no longer works. That first issue saw Savage Dragon die at the hands of his archenemy OverLord...and while he didn't exactly stay dead, everything that has happened in the last five-plus years came out of that storyline.

Celebrating fifty of these interviews, Larsen and I sat down at New York Comic Con with the plan to turn this into a podcast interview, really have some fun with it, and do something different...

...but technology has not cooperated.

For some reason, though the audio files are fine on my voice recorder, they won't import to the computer without wild distortion that makes the interview utterly unbearable to listen to. After having replaced all of the hardware involved except the voice recorder itself, I've had to give up on the attempt so that we can get this interview out ahead of the release of Savage Dragon #200.

People with far more technical expertise than I have are coming soon, and Il be sure to pick their brains for help with the issue. If it turns out we can make the podcast interview work, the audio will be added just below this paragraph and above the interview proper at a later date.

Spoilers ahead. If you haven't read Savage Dragon #199 yet, go buy it!

The first thing about #199: You're working twice-up now. Do you do twice-up splashes?

Yeah, they were huge. They were like barn-door sized. They weren't pages that were butted and taped; they were one single sheet. So it was really straining my ability to scan to be able to make that work.

You had to do it in pieces, I assume?

Oh, yeah. I have to do that anyway with the regular twice-up. Each twice-up page means four scans so that there's enough overlap so that it works. So these were just insanely big.

In a lot of these pages,  you had giant, cavernous images and then word balloon placement where you couldn't really tell what the sequence was in some cases. Was that an intentional effort to convey the disorientation of the space, or was that just a challenge of doing these massive pages?

It's kind of both. None of the words are written prior to actually drawing the story so it's all afterward and it's all like, I need to fill the space here or I need to get the reader's eye going over here. In some cases, there were background things going on that I wanted to call attention to, so I would put word balloons to characters who wouldn't ordinarily be speaking just to go, "Hey, check this out."

The thing with a double-page spread issue like this is that there ends up being a lot of stuff going on and in some cases a lot of stuff that's going on in the backgrounds. So it's like, let's point this stuff out a little bit.

It's also interesting because I feel like you need to be hyper-detailed because you can't have even a panel where there's no background.

Yeah. Everything had to have a background and most of it was a cast of thousands. In a lot of those pages, there was no room for anything else, they were just crammed full of detail.

It seems that Angel is really having some fun this issue. Has she kind of found her footing in the SOS?

Yeah, I think so. She has, she's made friends there and there's people that she's part of. She's got teammates and it's a new thing. We'll be seeing more of her...well, the very next issue, so we'll explore some of that a little more then.

We actually got quite a bit of silent character work from the SOS guys. When you're doing a more traditional story, those minor characters might have been ignored because every panel has to be deliberate.

Yeah. If it was split up, too, you'd probably put more word balloons on all that stuff. There was a lot of stuff going on in the backgrounds, a lot of pantomime stuff where you might not necessarily want to call attention to it, but it's kind of fun to have it be there so that if somebody's looking at it they can go, "Hey, wait a minute -- this is happening over there. That's kind of cool." It was a fun and really challenging issue to do.

Dragon is often a pretty brutal book; do you think the idea that there's real danger on every page of this book helps to sell the fact that there are basically only ten story pages to work with?

Yeah, but at the same time, you can't do too much. You've got ten pictures to deal with. If I'd had a major character dying or something like that, they wouldn't have enough space for that to really resonate and to be able to follow up.

That last line in #199 is a very soft wrap to such a large-scale issue. Did you do that tonally on purpose?

It was definitely purposeful. I wanted it to seem like, oh, there's not going to be more. So many characters are standing here right now, can we just get out of here so we don't have to deal with them anymore? I kind of wanted it to end on a close.

Narratively, it was a huge issue and obviously it's one people will talk about for years, but did you want to kind of say, this is his day?

That's true. Just because of the nature of this issue, becuase it's all double-page spreads, I will have to add two pages to the trade. So there will be a one-page scene that takes place after this scene and a one-page scene that takes place before.

I'll do those shortly. I'm not sure if they're going to run in #200, but basically there will be another page where Daredevil and Angel kind of go, "Malcolm!" and it's like, oh, they didn't escape.

So #200 will leave off right from this scene?

Yeah, because I want the scene of them basically moving in together and if we jump forward two months and it's like, "Oh, we've been living here two months..." I don't want to do that.

Obviously with #150, you had a giant-sized issue and a lot of that stuff it seeded didn't pay off for years. Will we see that with #200, or is that issue a bit more self-contained?

It's a little bit more about what's going on...it's sort of like, we've been very focused on what's going on with Malcolm, but here's what's been going on in the rest of that world, you know? So here's Angel and Daredevil and the SOS having a story, there was a story of Malcolm joining up with the football team and playing on the high school football team for a little bit. There's a story of depowered Dragon versus Mister Glum. There's a story of Dragon back when he had powers and Malcolm when he's a younger kid going back in time and fighting Nazis in World War II.

So you actually got to use the Kirby cover!

Yeah, yeah. So Herb Trimpe is drawing that story about them fighting Nazis. I got to ink his story and he got to ink mine, which is Dragon versus Mister Glum de-powered. This story takes place a while back, this story takes place now. Then a bunch of just little, other stuff. I don't remember actually everything that's going on in there. There's going to be more Vanguard, and other stuff, and more of the funnies in there. Much excitement ahead. I'm looking forward to it.