After 28 years of continuous publication, Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon reached a milestone 250 issues this week. In an issue that sees Malcolm and Maxine dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and sheltering at home while the Vicious Circle gets settled into Toronto, there's a lot going on and even with 100 pages, it feels like not a lot of time to unpack it all -- especially when unexpected guests turn up at the Dragons' residence. But whether it's sex tapes or smackdowns, family drama orworld-shaping superheroics, Malcolm seems to be at least a little more at home than he has since moving to Canada.
So of course, that means there's going to be a few status quo changes in the issues to come. The first of them, we get a glimpse of in this issue.
Larsen joined ComicBook.com to discuss the issue, including a big twist that comes at the end of his lead feature. You can check it out below, but there are spoilers ahead. If you haven't got a copy yet, hit your local comic shop and come back, or grab a digital copy and read along with us. Before we get into the interview, here's how Larsen and Image Comics described the issue in solicitations:
For 28 years, ERIK LARSEN has chronicled the lives and times of the Dragon and his extended family in one of comics’ only series set in real time. This monumental oversized milestone issue is a sweeping culmination that sets the stage for the next phase of comics’ most uncompromising series with its most shocking story yet! Forces have conspired against Malcolm Dragon and his family—but is this a turning point or…THE END?! Find out as SAVAGE DRAGON becomes the second original Image title to reach its 250th issue and begins the countdown to #300!
Getting back home
Given how BIG the last couple of issues have been, and how big this one is, it starts very small. Did you feel like the readers needed a reset?
I knew a fair number of people would be likely to check out the book with this anniversary issue, so I bought it’d be a good idea not to make this the culmination to events already in motion. Better to start small and build from there than have the fight roll over from #249, which was my plan initially.
I feel like most husbands would fear for their lives if they said "I really don't think you're on the moral high ground after your escapades." Is that just a sign o Malcolm being young and not especially tactful, or is it more that he and Maxine can be that blunt with each other?
They have that kind of a relationship where they can give each other shit. And I don’t think Malcolm is too terribly worried about Maxine storming off. Plus, she’s quite aware that Angel Murphy is ready, willing and able to step right in and take her spot if things went south. But mostly, they have that kind of a relationship. They tease each other and speak frankly to each other and try not to hold a grudge.prevnext
Comics in the comics are harder to make than the actual comic is
I won't lie: Kevin in a sweater vest is a great image. Are we missing some character stuff with how Mei is changing him a bit?
Yeah, and we’ll touch on that when space permits. I should dwell on them a bit more. They’re a lot of fun conceptually. I like them visually as a couple. It’s such an odd pairing.
Yeah, the editor is based on Marvel editor and Savage Dragon enthusiast Jordan D. White, the writer is Gail Simone. the penciller is Larry Stroman and the inker is Bill Sienkiewicz. Usually I just make up people to be in the Savage Dragon creative team but I thought it’d be fun to feature a few pals in those roles this time out. As per usual, it’ll be another group entirely next time.
That said, when will Gavin get that job? Or is it too dangerous for him in this universe?
I don’t ever want to use the REAL Savage Dragon creative team in the book. The last thing I want to go is have me show up and Gavin’s a bit too close as well. I like the comic book team to be fictitious and constantly changing.prevnext
You rarely want for story. Is there any truth to struggling to get the anniversary issue together, or is that just for Malcolm and company?
Not really, no. The COVID-19 thing did get thrown into my lap at the last minute and I felt I NEEDED to make some adjustments there, and more so than in Savage Dragon #249, where it was addressed in the script but not in the art. I decided to address it a bit late in the process. Originally I was thinking of having #250 be a big clusterf--k with more villains piling on and additional heroes coming in to save the day but once COVID-19 came about—I just couldn’t ignore it. And honestly, I think it’s better for it.
Obviously it's important to address how Maxine is dealing with the pandemic while she lives in a house full of invincible people. Is it tough to try and read the room and figure out how timely these things will be by the time they hit the stands?
Very much so, which is why I included dates on pages to remind readers when this took place. I’m working on my September issue now and Tyrone, Jackson and Amy should be starting school in the fall—but at this point I have no idea what that might look like. So it becomes complicated and my workaround at this point is to take it day by day and see where things are at and put dates on pages. It fucks everything up. What does Halloween look like? What about Thanksgiving or Christmas? Who the hell knows at this point? Toronto seems to be handling this stuff better than parts of the US certainly but I can’t begin to know what things will look like a few months down the road.prevnext
What's going on in Toronto?
I know you reached out to fans for some information about how Canada and Toronto in particular were handling the pandemic. Did anything make it into the issue based on their comments?
Not much, no. Mostly I’m just checking Canadian news outlets for updates. When there’s a TV with news playing, most often that’s right off of the air. I do try to keep those parts accurate. It grounds the book in some kind of reality.
Frank and Angel feel like that sitcom couple where there's just always...something. Is there a destination in mind there, or are you just letting the story pull it along?
As secondary characters I think I have more leeway to just let things unfold as they will. As with everything, I have an idea where I’d like to go but if something better materializes I’ll do that. I’m not married to anything, really. Well, other than my wife. Her, I am very much married to.
Does spending so much time with Angel and Malcolm when he's in Canada put Frank at risk with the US authorities?
I don’t think it’s an issue, really. He’s not smuggling her into the States of anything. Plus he works for local law enforcement, he’s not a fed.prevnext
An old-school Image Comics look
Is Malcolm FaceTiming with Angel and she's just not looking? Or is he just holding his phone like that?
Yeah — he's likely multitasking because he's got no focus or attention. He's playing some shitty game on his phone or looking something up on the web.
For whatever reason, that page feels a little different in terms of inks and colors. Is there anything to that or am I just looking at it too hard?
You may be looking at it too hard. In general I’m trying to do a more old school Image comics look. I’d done a few cheesecake shots and thought it was time to give Malcolm a nice beefcake shirt. This one’s for you, ladies (or dudes, whatever).
It might, but it’s a long way to go. Mostly it’s a place where they can be to try and ride out the pandemic. I’m really in no hurry to have the cast move back to the States. Malcolm and Maxine had a daughter in Canada, she’s a Canadian citizen, kids are going to be starting school, I’m not eyeing an Indian reservation in the United States as a possible one for the family.prevnext
Some fun parallels coming up
Was the idea of working through the days of the pandemic in part just a device because you knew the book was going to end up shipping late and this would be a way to catch the readers up too?
Not really, no. And I’m treating it as though I was coming out when it was solicited to come out as much as I can. A little less than a month passes over the course of the story if you check the dates.
Any chance PJ finds a home with the Secret Legion, or would that feel too much like he was just replacing the Little Wise Guys?
He’s not in their age bracket. He’s in his 20s and they’re still children. So, likely not. He’ll be making his own life. I haven’t forgotten about PJ.
It feels an awful lot like planting and payoff, the way you used Maxine diving at Malcolm twice and then the second time mirrored it with the badges crashing in. Was that something you came up with before starting the issue, or as you were drawing?
As I was drawing. I knew I wanted readers thinking that one thing was about to happen and then have it be something else with the page turn and this seemed like a fun visual to switch it up on. I don’t write an outline ahead of time, though I do have the story in mind, and that lets the artist part of me figure out the best visual way to tackle those ideas.prevnext
The Six didn't make it too long.
So, OpenFace Jr.’s death was really similar to his father's. But with a character design like that, could there be a better way to send them off?
There are numerous options but characters aren’t thinking about that. They’re not thinking about trying to mix things up visually — they're trying to survive in the moment. Malcolm was presumably getting chewed on and his vision would have been obscured. His impulse is to stop OpenFace and save his family, not find some never and creative way to defeat this foe.
It felt like last issue you were setting up OpenFace and Waylon and them to really be players. Pretty often, though, Savage Dragon is a place where villains don't recur for very long. Did you know going into last issue how this one would play out for them?
Not at all. This was a case where the events just took on a life of their own, or a death, as it turns out. Mostly, I got thinking that it was a bit of a cheat to essentially recreate characters who had died. Yes, they were second generation bad guys and there was some value in that—at the same time it just felt like I was bringing characters back from the dead and I decided not to continue down that path. What can I say? I can be somewhat impulsive at times.
Did Malcolm let the surviving attackers go, or did we just not see the part where they got taken away?
I am assuming they were arrested and taken away. Malcolm wouldn’t just let attempted murder slide. He’s gotta look out for his family. He doesn’t want these guys showing up again later if he can help it.prevnext
Things seem to be going well for Malcolm and Maxine. Obviously she's a little put off by the pandemic, but is it safe to say that some time alone with Malcolm and the kids may have helped her work through some of the trauma she's been dealing with lately?
Time helps. It has to. And bit-by-bit people claw their way back as best they can. I’m assuming there’s some therapy sessions going on as well. She’s doing the best she can. She wants to make this work and it’s not easy. He’s doing the best he can—but he’s a kid. They’re both relatively young. He’s 23 and she’s almost 26 at this point. It’s easier to bounce back when you’re young.
I'm so, so sorry for this, but I can't not say it: You got the fin wrong.
That’s literally the first line of dialogue in the next issue.
When did you know that you were going to be bringing Paul Dragon into the book? Was that why he got name-dropped back during the Merging of Multiple Earths?
It’s an idea I’ve toyed with for quite a while now. I didn’t want to bring back Dragon proper because I thought doing so would be a massive betrayal. But I did like the thought of Dragon as a grandfather figure and since I knew I was reprinting Graphic Fantasy #2 in this book, the timing seemed good. I thought there was some potential there. There’s actually a few things in the Graphic Fantasy story which readers might get a kick out of. Some details which would become significant decades later. And there are numerous clues to Paul’s divergent past in that story, along with some really clumsy dialogue and some terrible lettering. Now I just need to make sense of it all.prevnext
This story with Flash Mercury and Powerhouse is interesting; I was just reading back over some interviews from when Flash was OverLord and you had said that Powerhouse was a natural partner for him because he had often straddled the line between good and evil. Will we see more of this, or is this more or less an anniversary issue-only kind of deal?
They’ll be in and out of the book. I like them a whole lot. They’re fun to play with. There’s actually more to the Overlord story than was told and I’ll touch on that at some point.
I mean...it feels like Dragon would remember these guys Powerhouse and Flash Mercury take on in this issue, right?
Flash Mercury wouldn’t and Dragon’s not there.
With the Deadly Duo stuff and the kind of comedy feel of Mercury and Powerhouse versus the mutant turtles, this feels a lot less dark than it seemed it might be based on solicitations. Is that a matter of you making a conscious choice or just how it kind of came together?
It was a nice mix, I thought. I liked the variety of stories and art. With the Deadly Duo stories in particular, it was fun to see numerous artists take different approaches to a similar setup. They all found their own path.0comments
So, is Herakles dead?
No. He’s hurt but he’s a God. He’ll be okay.prev