Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon #270 and the Looming Threat of Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse prepares for his big showdown with Malcolm and Maxine Dragon next issue.

Last issue's cliffhanger pays off almost instantaneously, leading into a non-stop issue of Savage Dragon in this week's #270. Creator Erik Larsen juggles plot threads between Malcolm and Maxine, Angel and Frank, the Dragon kids (plus Paul and Alex), and even Mickey Mouse in an issue that blends action, comedy, and character. The issue starts with Malcolm and Angel taking on a giant sea monster, and ends with a new, armored terrorist supervillain ready to throw down with them next time.

While Mickey will be a primary antagonist next issue (per those solicitations we have seen), Larsen promises that he won't go full supervillain. After all, much to Angel's chagrin, Larsen already has a Mister Glum.

Larsen joined ComicBook to discuss the issue. Check it out below (but go get a copy first if you haven't already because this is a spoiler-filled interview).

I love the monochrome covers, but was there something in particular that made you go that route for both versions?

It just felt appropriate. Neither called out to me to be fully colored. I'd just drawn a string of covers on my computer and I had decided to get back to doing things on paper. I was also somewhat curious to see what a difference it might make to do different covers. I'd been doing two version with the same art and different cover treatments and I was curious to see if doing different covers made any difference in terms of demand. I dunno. It just seemed like the thing to do. 

I feel like sometimes people forget how strong Angel is, since she's not the lead and Malcolm is so powerful himself. Was the opening, at least in part, to catch people up with her playing a bigger role in the book right now?

That makes as much sense as anything. As with a lot of this I'm working very spontaneously. I had a number of directions I could have gone following the ending of #269 and I thought—I should have them take immediate action and try to take down that big monster. I expect Malcolm thought he might just knock it out or something but Angel does have one hell of a throwing arm. 

They took down that monster pretty quick once Angel and Malcolm got involved. Was there originally more of a plan to have a fight, or did you just think it was more fun this way? Obviously the cliffhanger last month set us up to expect a battle.

There was never a thought of the two slugging it out with a giant sea monster, really. The sea monster is so much larger than them that a battle like that is pretty challenging to choreograph. If we're seeing the entire creature, Malcolm and Angel would be almost invisible and having them slugging a fingernail or a portion of an eye doesn't really work all that well visually, so I thought it was this or just cutting to Malcolm and Angel in the hospital, bedside, fretting about their wounded teammates. It honestly came down to me not wanting to draw another scene in a f---ing hospital.  

The near-death experience Malcolm had really made me think: at what point is it reasonable to have serious fear for him? Obviously Dragon's death proved that bad things can happen to our heroes, but you had also done A LOT with Dragon over the years and it felt like his story had run its course.

There are days when I think—hey, maybe I could just do a book with Maxine and the kids. I've honestly considered impulsively bumping him off—not because I don't love him—just because of how much it would mess up all of my plans and radically change the whole direction in the book. It would force be to do something unlike anything I've done in the book before. So—yeah—nobody is indispensable. I could lose any of these characters and the book could continue without them. Once I realized that I could do Savage Dragon without Savage Dragon anything was possible.  

I really like the Malcolm/Paul dynamic. What is the balance there, between wanting to explore and repair that relationship versus making it feel like you have two of the same guy, and/or that Dragon didn't "really" die?

As long as he acts differently from the Dragon and everybody treats him as though he's a different character—he's a different character. Malcolm doesn't see Paul as his Dad and I would think that he'd feel that he was betraying his real dad by embracing Paul. I dunno—to me they feel different. And because of that, it's not quite a father/son dynamic. 

Is it safe to assume that in a universe that has never shied away from pastiche characters, Latoya has at least a little in common with Amanda Waller?

They're both overweight. Other than that—they don't play a similar role. Amanda is in charge of stuff. Latoya is support. There'll be several characters who are there to help make things run more smoothly. There are some visual similarities and maybe that was a mistake on my part.

Given some of the buzz on the Facebook page and beyond, did you feel like it was important to have a character with some moral authority come out in support of Maxine here?

I think so. It's also important to remind people that just because somebody is dressed (or undressed) a certain way—that doesn't mean they consent to let anybody touch them. I wanted Maxine to feel more empowered and having somebody say to her, "You do whatever you want to do. These are your choices and you are in charge of how you want to live your life." 

Bay to Breakers just happened, and for those of us who got to read the book when it was finished, the issue was done before that event. Is this a sign that the series is planning to get back on more of an even keel in terms of scheduling?

I do want to get back to producing this book on a more regular basis. I wish I could say that it's gotten easier over the years but it really hasn't. Plus there are a number of things I'm just tired of drawing. I've drawn enough scenes in hospitals for a while. I'm sick of drawing funerals. And those are both tough to work around because the book is loaded with death and destruction. 

Obviously we're getting a little more of a sex-pest Mickey this time around. Do we have to worry about him becoming a serious threat to safety? Maybe getting an OverLord-style suit?

A super suit seems like a step too far. He's a spoiled, entitled little shit, but he's not a supervillain and that's supervillain stuff. Time will tell how much of a threat he becomes but I do think there are limits. He's not Mr. Glum. I have a Mr. Glum already. I don't need another one.

Seeing that Maxine took Latoya at her word, is it possible that we'll finally see Maxine get a real friend/confidant/mentor? It feels like its' been a while since she had anyone in her life who wasn't also part of Malcolm's family or work world. I know you tried to establish some friends in the early days in Toronto but most of them didn't really stick.

I hope to expand their circle of friends beyond what we've seen. It's always a bit tough given the page count to do everything I might want to do. There are only so many pages and there are far too many characters in play but I do want to get more normal humans into their lives so it's not costumes and superpowers every where you turn. At the same time, it can be difficult to integrate normal people into the mix. 

I like the response that "I was wondering when [Walter] would show up." Did you know when they left town how long it would take to bring him back into the picture?

I didn't know the exact number of issues but I knew Walter would eventually wander into San Francisco. Realistically, given real time—it could have been as quick as the issue after the family arrived in the city—but I wanted to show the trek a bit and give them time to miss him. Real time can be a real burden. On one hand it allows me the opportunity to have characters' lives progress and real change happen over time—on the other hand—there are things which end up getting the short end of the stick because of how much there is. The kids have already been in school for a full school year and we've seen none of it because of my schedule and other things in the book taking priority. 

Will Walter stay a friend and companion to the kids, or might we see him on the SOS side, too?

He will not be joining the S.O.S. The book needs more normal supporting characters—even if one of them is a talking tiger. 

On that note – it's kind of ironic that they're at a secure SOS site that can take a beating, now that the kids are a little older and less destructive, isn't it?

There's still plenty of things they could break if they put their minds to it. 

We're back in the US and we've got right-wing terrorists for villains again. Is that a commentary on the state of things, or just kind of how timing broke down?

It's the reality we live in. It only seems to be getting worse now that the leader of "the party of law and order" is a convicted felon and others in the GOP are going along with his delusions. It's embarrassing, frankly, that it's come to this.