Erik Larsen On Ditko Homages and Introducing a New Big Bad in 'Savage Dragon' #237

This week's Savage Dragon #237 is a jam-packed issue, featuring a birth, another apparent major [...]

This week's Savage Dragon #237 is a jam-packed issue, featuring a birth, another apparent major cast death, the introduction of a new and deadly villain who may be Malcolm's own Overlord, and a backup feature that takes tongue-in-cheek aim at the 2016 election.

...Yeah, for that last one, there's a story behind the story. We'll get to that.

Series creator Erik Larsen joined to discuss the issue, which goes on sale today. Remember that there are spoilers ahead, so if you have not yet read Savage Dragon #237 and do not wish to be spoiled, buy a copy at your local comic shop or pick it up on the Image Comics or ComiXology websites.

Obviously there is some very meta-textual dialogue going on between Malcolm and Angel during the sex scene. Does he start to come around to her way of thinking when Maxine is sitting there through that whole conversation and doesn't really take much in the way of offense? It seems like she is very tunnel-visioned.

I think it's very much things Malcolm knows but doesn't necessarily want to hear because of the benefits he gets out of it. It's working out great for him and he's willing to take Maxine at her word that this is what she wants, so everybody's happy, right?

I think readers forget just how young these characters are. Malcolm Dragon is a young father at 21 years old. His wife Maxine is 23. Angel Murphy is not quite 24. These aren't super mature people just yet. And people can be a bit reckless, impulsive, self-centered and even oblivious or less empathetic when they're young. Most often young adults grow out of it.

But some people really need to be hurt before they see what should be obvious to them. In the meantime, they're plowing right ahead and taking things one day at a time. Malcolm's mindset at the moment is to not fix something that's not broken.

Blaming it on the near-death experience seems a little short-sighted though, right? I mean, I feel like she was taking chances and getting down in front of the kids before that.

Angel missed some of it though. And we can all take wild guesses about the hows and whys. Likely it's not one event which triggered it all but a series of events, one building on another. Maxine has lived an unusual life, in large part because of relationship with Angel Murphy and Malcolm Dragon.

Now that Julia is here, what can you tell us about what you're thinking about having both a human baby and a Chosen One baby in the same family at the same time?

I think it's important to ground any book in some semblance of reality and having their be normal human supporting characters is part of that. I wanted these super kids to have non-superpowered supporting characters to bounce off of.

There are a lot of grids in this issue. Was that in part because of Steve Ditko's recent passing? Obviously it isn't as though you don't use them pretty often anyway.

It was, actually. I worked on this issue in an unusual way. I was going on a vacation and I had a delivery date which needed to be hit or the book would be bumped two weeks because I would be missing in action.

In order to keep pages flowing I'd pencil, ink and script pages one at a time and feed them to my colorists and letterer so that they could keep pace with me. That way, when I finished my last page the book could be sent to the printer the very next day, giving everybody the most possible time to do their job.

Steve Ditko passed away while I was working on the book and I thought it'd be a bit different to do a subtle Ditko homage, while telling something of the villain's backstory and giving the character some motivation. I haven't done a lot of origins of late and it seemed a good opportunity to do that here. Start the character off at the start rather than jumping ahead and just saying Scourge is already a well-established crime boss with no actual backstory. I liked the idea of starting the character off small instead of retconning in backstory.

Okay, so even in the context of comic book names, "Crawfish Kettlecorn" is kind of impressive, huh?

I like the rhythm of names like that. It's completely preposterous of course but, so what? Ditko would often give characters strange evocative names that no human would ever possess and I figured—what the hell. While I'm doing a subtle Ditko riff—why not go all the way?

It seems like the Savage Dragon schedule is humming right along.

I'm trying. Vacations do throw me off. It's been years since I took a real one—to the extent that I took no work along. Hopefully the next gap won't be too big.

With the grids, the splash pages, the sewer combat, and all the expository dialogue, I almost feel like this is a perfect jumping-on issue. Was that by design?

The idea is to try and make every issue a good jumping on point and I've had some success with that. The goal is to include enough information not to fill you in on everything you missed necessarily but to have every issue be cohesive and self-contained to some extent.

It's all part of a much bigger, sprawling narrative, of course, but you're introduced to the key players every time and get the gist of what they're up to. I've heard from a few new readers and they never seem completely lost. So, it seems to be working relatively well.

With Angel back in the picture and Maxine so enthusiastically embracing polyamory again, is it safe to assume that the reality show is fraught with tabloid danger?

Yeah. Danger lurks around every corner and there's always the chance somebody will say or do something that will get out and make everybody's life uncomfortable. Maxine likes to hint at things as well, much to Malcolm's dismay.

I'm as worried as the next guy about Angel, but I'm just not even going to ask questions about people dying in this storyline anymore. Fool me once...

That's probably just as well. If we see a funeral — chances are that it's over. And even then there can be surprises crawling from the grave.

Is it safe to assume that Scourge is a long-term storyline? Given that it's powers derived out of science/his suit, it feels a bit like he could be Malcolm's Overlord.

That was the thought. Scourge will be back and building an existence of sorts. We'll be there to witness the rise to power. Again, I didn't want to just say that Toronto has had its own Overlord all along.

I want to introduce villains as they become villains this time out. With Chicago, the idea was that it was overrun with bad guys before Savage Dragon was pulled out of the burning lot. With Toronto and Malcolm Dragon, I wanted to go a different route and be there from their inception for the most part. I would think there may be a few established bad guys here and there and maybe a few more established heroes but largely I wanted to start at their start — not come in on a story already in progress.

I gotta ask about the "Save the Future" backup. Is this something you have had percolating for a while? I feel like we have talked about it before, but obviously it could have just been a joke somebody made.

It was written a while ago. I had another artist initially drawing it and he just stalled. I gave him some pointers at one point and that just seemed to do him in. So by the time it was in Billy Penn's hands it was already a bit out of date.

Ideally, I would have liked for it to have ran in #226, the Donald Trump issue, but obviously that didn't happen. I kept giving the other artist second chances and it got progressively less timely as the calendar pages fell like autumn leaves. Billy Penn is a Savage Dragon alum, having drawn a Deadly Duo story back in Savage Dragon #130. It was nice to work with him again. It's a shame that it didn't run earlier but it is what it is. There's no point in my crying about it.

Was that backup something that will be followed up on with SuperPatriot and Daredevil, or just a one-off?

The intention is for it to be a one-off. But as with many things — that'll depend on where it settles in my brain. If a good idea for a follow up occurs I wouldn't be opposed to revisiting the idea. I've established a couple bleak futures and having there be more to come from those doesn't seem impossible.