Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon #261, Gang Wars and Killer Sharks

Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon delivered a game-changing issue this week, with the new Mako getting more active, and destructive, while various members of the Vicious Circle vied for power in the vacuum left behind by the death of Dart. It's all building to a brawl next month, but in the meantime, we also got to see a little movement on a number of subplots, including Angel Dragon moving back to Chicago to get married, Malcolm and Paul Dragon finally starting to find some common ground, and of course Maxine's over-indulgent lifestyle once again taking center stage (err...table).

All of this while Horridus, one of the longest-running supporting characters left in the series, found herself on a ventilator with a life-threatening case of covid-19. Her solution? To borrow some of Malcolm's blood, try to use it to heal herself, and hope she doesn't go "sput," of course.

Larsen joined ComicBook to break down the issue and tease a little of what's coming next. Since this is a commentary track-style interview, you should get a copy at your local comic shop or pick up a digital version now and read along, because there will be spoilers.

We've talked before about the Mako/King Shark situation, but did you feel like you had to comment in-story because of the real-time aspect of the comic?

This seemed vitally important when I drew it and progressively less important with every passing day. My concern at the time was that movie King Shark would make the possibility of a movie Mako problematic, even though the comic book Mako predated comic book King Shark by a few years, but that may not be the case. The Suicide Squad movie didn't exactly set the world on fire. As soon as it was committed the scene paper I'd gotten it out of my system. Coming out now-it seems kind of weird-and I kind of regret giving it any air. Maybe this story is set back in August, 2021 or something during that brief window when it looked like it was might be a hit. But it does set Mako up a bit as an object of ridicule and having Makohave a chip on his shoulder in addition to an axe to grind with the Vicious Circle isn't a bad thing.

In terms of Maxine trying to go down on Malcolm at the game -- most of the time, Malcolm is on board with her sexual mania. Is it safe to assume this big "no" will play into a larger ongoing story?

I don't think so. If it becomes a pattern of rejection, maybe, but at this point he's just setting boundaries. He doesn't want to be part of Maxine's next viral video moment. He doesn't want the world checking out his junk. And she's not unintelligent, just impulsive, so this makes some sense to her.

This is the first time we have seen Malcolm and Paul have a pretty civil interaction without any angst. Do you think they're moving toward finding a middle ground somewhere between family and strangers?

I think it's inevitable that Malcolm and Paul find something in the middle. For their kids, this is the only Grandpa that they have. So, like it or not, Paul is going to be part of their lives. Plus, he's one of the few sitters who could keep the kids in line if it came to it.

The tongue vaccination makes sense. Did you just want to get the idea into canon that they are vaccinated, or was there something more than that to the scene?

Yeah, it was something of a public service. Initially I was going to go for an arm shot, but given their powers-that didn't make much sense and I'd established the tongue shot in previous issues so it seemed like a better choice. Plus, it's a funny visual.

Even just reading that scene with Marsha is exhausting. With Trump out of office, and the pandemic still raging, did you feel like it was time to dip the toes into politics a little more?

It is kind of crazy how people have politicized this issue. If Facebook and Twitter were around in the early 1900s we'd still be dealing with Smallpox and the Spanish Flu. Vaccines shouldn't be political. It's basic public health. Are we trying to put this pandemic behind us or not? Why is this even up for debate? In any case, I thought it was important to have somebody in the book get Covid and Horridus seemed an obvious choice.

People are also getting awfully comfortable using Dragon blood and Freak-Out as a cocktail to cure all ills. What's the odds of that coming back to bite us?

It's not going to work every time. The original Savage Dragon died after injecting Malcolm's blood and having the clock run out. It's really playing with fire here. But, you know, desperate times call for desperate measures. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Did Samurai really think declaring herself the boss would be that easy? Or is she basically looking to set up the fight that ensues, so she can win the role?

She, naively, thought as Dart's second-in-command that leadership would fall to her. There is a hierarchy, after all, and she thought she could just take over without bloodshed. We'll see how well that goes.

Seeing the Vicious Circle reduced to what it is now -- could this really be the end of the road for something that has been a part of the book from the beginning? Without spoiling future stories, obviously, is that something you've been kicking around?

It's not off the table. I do consider the various possibilities all of the time and weigh the potential for stories. Having a readymade group of adversaries is awfully handy from a storytelling point of view but there's an advantage to shaking up the status quo as well. There's a lot to consider.

That said, with the family stuff driving so much of the book, how important are supervillains to Savage Dragon these days? Now that he isn't a cop, it almost feels like Malcolm could take on the role of firefighter and solve problems that don't involve dropping brick walls on people.

That particular route may get awfully repetitive, both visually and story-wise, but there is some truth in that. I do think I could go quite a while without having villains play a huge role, but I wonder how much the audience would be onboard. Artistically, that part is a lot of fun but it's not always that fun to write.

With a big brawl coming up involving two Dragons and, I assume, Mako, how busy are you keeping Gavin coming up with the names of Vicious Circle members who are alive and recognizable enough to make the scenes dynamic?

We've compiled a list and I'm forever looking it over and making cuts. Taken altogether, there are a few themes that I've hit a few too many times. There are a few too many demon-looking guys or characters with little heads growing out of their heads. And after just having had Torment appear, I didn't want a few others with similar visual elements showing up in the very next issue. The problem with a roomful of characters is really defining who is and isn't there. It can seem like characters are appearing out of nowhere or disappearing. It gets complicated.

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The Circle tends to be at its strongest when there's a kingpin of note at the top, whether it's OverLord or Dart. Is it naive to assume that's a job for Mako?

I don't know that Mako is leader material. At least at the moment, he's more prone to burn the Vicious Circle to the ground.