Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon #249, How Superheroes Address COVID-19, and A Huge Cliffhanger For #250

As villains pour over the border, Chicago has lost most of its freak population. Unfortunately for [...]

As villains pour over the border, Chicago has lost most of its freak population. Unfortunately for Malcolm and Maxine Dragon,they're headed for Toronto, where Dart thinks a major city just over the border is going to be an easy "get." Between an army of familiar villains, a team of recognizable heroes, and an almost issue-long battle royale, this one feels a lot like a callback to Image Comics of the '90s. And, yeah, that was intentional. With one or two page layouts lifted from writer-artist Erik Larsen's own work on Spider-Man in the '90s and another Image partner inspiring him to double down on the Image nostalgia, it feels like a fitting run-up to Savage Dragon #250.

The issue sees a major death, a huge shift in the makeup of the series' world, and a situation that puts Maxine in serious danger going forward. And we haven't even gotten into the events of #250 yet...!

With just one more month to go before the super-sized Savage Dragon #250, Larsen joined to discuss the action-packed issue. There's spoilers ahead, so if you haven't read Savage Dragon #249 yet, you can get a copy at your local comic shop, or pick up a digital copy and read along with us.

What made you want to start this issue with a flashback to the Dimension-X years?

When I decided to "get the band back together" and have a battle scene take place in modern times with that same group of characters. It was a way of establishing their shared history and special connection. I thought readers needed to be reminded of it in order for them to better connect the dots.

The caption says March 25, but I don't see anybody wearing masks!

They don't all give a shit. Malcolm at least counts on having a certain amount of immunity. The others are essential workers, to an extent. And, yeah—this COVID-19 thing did kind of sneak up on me. Had it been possible, I would like to have made mention of it in the previous issue but there was simply no time to do that. The issue was printed already and was just sitting there while Diamond was closed temporarily. Even now it's kind of hit-and-miss. But in terms of the bad guys—their primary goal was to get out of Chicago. Their choice was to go north or lose their powers.

Seriously, though, how far into the issue were you when it became clear you would have to address that with Angel's comments?

Not far. The bigger problem was that wheels were already in motion due to the events in the previous issue. I'd already drawn villains crashing through the border and clashing with cops. It's not like I could just pop masks on everybody mid-story. I did what I could. It helps that they're superhumans and feel impervious to harm and that Malcolm can't get COVID-19.

Is it even plausible that the is the last we'll see of Bellco? It seems like a guy like that must have uploaded himself to the cloud or something.,

Never say never but at least at this point—that's the plan. Bellco seems unnecessary and with Genetech Laboratories up in Toronto, Bellco became somewhat redundant. Bellco Labs aren't gone forever, of course, but Melvin Bellco doesn't need to be part of that.

Obviously Belinda Bell destroying the Freak Out has far-reaching implications. We got a last hurrah out of it saving Angel again last issue, but is the idea here to just really take it off the board for a while?

I wanted to get Freak-Out off the table and eliminate it as a handy deus ex machina. I'd used it too many times of late and this seemed like a good way to kill two birds with one stone—to drive villains north and to eliminate that ace in the hole.

Surely it's a coincidence that your "Revenge of the Six" issue includes a new Octopus, right?

Yeah — not that they ended up getting as much play as I'd hoped having drawn that cover. A lot of my earlier plans got a bit scuttled due to the global pandemic. Initially I was thinking #248-250 would be one big blowout with a million villains and a cast of thousands but as I worked my way through it that increasingly made less sense and the logistics of a big brawl just seemed problematic. But the young team was put together regardless.

It really does take Dart like a minute and a half to take over almost anything she wants. Has she ever considered going to a city that isn't full of super freaks to oppose her?

That's essentially what Toronto is to her. Its freak population seems to have been less organized than elsewhere. There's still organized crime to some extent and an infrastructure in place to be taken over but it's not a freak army.

How did you decide which characters would be fully merged and which wouldn't following the merging of multiple worlds?

They ALL are. The idea is that characters will ALL have some bits and pieces from other versions elsewhere but if, say, you're married to the same partner in 99 out of 100 realities—that one aberration seems to be a fleeting thought, easily ignored. For most people that other stuff becomes so much background noise but I wanted to make it so that it ALL mattered—so that every issue mattered to these characters and all of the memories were there.

How does the rest of the world view the Dragons at this point, with multiple sex tapes out there in the world and the comic reflecting our comic?

Like the Kardashians meets the Marvel Universe. Both trashy and absolutely necessary for the survival of mankind. In many ways they feel indebted to them—but there's a trashy, lowbrow quality as well, which, in its own way, helps humanize them.

Artistically, this issue seemed more like an old school Image comic book. Was that intentional?

Very much so. I had been talking to Robert Kirkman and he was lamenting the fact that I wasn't doing the funky borders and more splashy layouts that I used to do and I thought I'd give it another go. There are a few artistic self-references here as I homage various pages and layouts from earlier in my career. It was fun to play around with that and it's reenergized me to some extent. I always thought those funky panel borders were too bouncy for Savage Dragon and that, as a cop, the approach should be more measured and mature but it really seems to work well with Malcolm, who's considerably younger than Dragon was. It helps that the book is a lot crazier than it was in the old days.

Fun times.