Erik Larsen Answers All Your Questions About Paul Dragon and Savage Dragon #251

This week saw the release of Savage Dragon #251, the first full issue to feature Paul Dragon, the '80s analogue to Dragon who managed to survive the Merging of Multiple Earths. At the end of Savage Dragon #250, the character showed up at Malcolm's house without explanation -- and this week, between bouts of some pretty serious punching, we get a pretty full explanation as to how a character who has never been a canonical part of the book, is now here -- to stay? That's the way it seems, and just to get this out of the way, Larsen told us that there are no plans to make him any kind of impostor.

The issue itself sees Paul and Malcolm social-distancing from the rest of the family, making it a very different issue to what's been going on recently, where Maxine and the kids have had a huge role. It also brings back a villain who's been around for a long (long) time.

You can check out our conversation below, but it's full of spoilers. Grab a copy at your local comic shop or buy a digital version and read along with us.

So, as you pointed out in our last interview, the first line of dialogue here is "you got the fin wrong." I had actually seen this issue before that interview, but kept the joke in because it was my first reaction. Obviously it's something that Dragon fans say ALL THE TIME, so did you just assume it would be the joke everyone was making?

Yeah, this was for them. It does make sense for the character though--if a person was an imposter posing as Dragon, getting that detail wrong would be a dead giveaway. I appreciate a good in-joke as well as the next guy but I don’t want to include them if it doesn’t make sense in the context of a story. Even if you don’t get the reference here, and know that it’s a common complaint fans have when artists drawing weird-looking fins on Savage Dragon, it still makes sense as something Malcolm would say when encountering Paul Dragon for the first time.

Obviously if the story takes you in a different direction, anything can happen -- but at this point is the intent really that this is Paul Dragon and not some elaborate hoax?

I think it would be an awfully strange and specific hoax to perpetrate. If you’re going to fake that--why get the fin wrong? Why not nail every detail? Why go to all that trouble if you’re going to get it wrong? What purpose does that serve?

For the anal-retentive collectors out there, does the introduction of Paul as a stand-alone character mean Graphic Fantasy isn't REALLY Dragon's first appearance anymore?! (I kid. Mostly.)

If anything, it makes those appearances MORE valuable because they are clearly canon--and they absolutely ARE in continuity and DO matter. Hell, they’re even being referred to in footnotes.

Why did Tootsie not give Malcolm a heads-up? Or tell Paul about the pandemic? Is that just a question of dramatic necessity so we could have that mind-blowing cliffhanger last issue?

It seemed Paul Dragon wanted to surprise Malcolm and Captain Tootsie could see the fun in that. Since Dragon had come from Dimension-X, he wouldn’t have COVID-19 and Tootsie knows Malcolm is immune, so maybe he didn’t think it was worth mentioning—or maybe Paul was just being flippant.

Do you think Malcolm's first instinct is really that he's not buying what Paul is selling, or that he's not ready to deal with it?

I would think that he would find it suspicious. There have been imposters and shape-shifters in his life and having his dad return without all the answers he wants to hear at the ready is throwing up a few red flags. Maybe he’s thinking that weird thing on his head is a distraction.

So Paul is able to exist because he was outside of time and space when things went tits-up, right? My first thought was to overcomplicate it with Virus and regeneration and blah blah blah.

He wasn’t on his Earth when it ceased to exist. It’s kind of like why Alex could remain even when there’s a version of her dead and buried, and why there could be two versions of Widow’s daughter. In those cases memories were transferred. And in no cases did bodies physically merge--it was all memories followed by the planets blinking out of existence.

Do you think Angel's different reaction to Paul is in part because she spent so much time and hope looking for Dragon in Dimension-X, too? She had to think at some point that it might actually be possible to bring him back.

Yeah, both Angel and Alex were more receptive to the idea because they both went looking in Dimension-X and thought that there was a possibility that he could be found. They thought it was possible and were relieved to find that was the case.

I gotta say, every time Maxine goes flying in the bedroom, the book makes headlines somewhere!

This one was pretty low-key, all things considered. And honestly--who cares? It’s just funny--it’s not especially provocative. I can’t imagine anybody finding this arousing. If a person heard that "Savage Dragon is just a porno comic now" and picked up the title looking for stroke material, they’re going to be awfully disappointed. It’s just not there. If anything I occasionally show the messy, ugly or awkward aspects. I don’t think it’s ever been sexy. In many cases the characters are drawn sexier when they have their clothes on.

I like Paul's very authentic reaction here, but it does make me wonder: how are you going to differentiate him from Dragon, personality-wise?

He’s the same guy even if his other world experiences have informed him differently. It’s not as though he’s going to be wildly different, although he hasn’t bonded as closely with Malcolm or his family because they weren’t directly a part of his life.

What about his powers? Is he on the same basic scale as Dragon (albeit dimmed with age)?

In the Graphic Fantasy appearances we saw that his eyes would go white when he was enraged but there was no depiction of him healing or regenerating. At the same time, he was shot with lasers in Graphic Fantasy #1 with no evidence of scarring or damage, so t’s safe to say that he’s no cream puff.

Was the scene with Dart blowing off Dragon meant to reassure readers that Malcolm is still the lead, and we're not going to suddenly be following Paul fighting bad guys?

Not necessarily. It’s there to establish that she’s moved on and doesn’t especially consider him a threat, though that didn’t stop her from commanding MindWarp to have him attack Malcolm. I would think she wanted Malcolm to have to kill his own father in combat and crush his spirit.

I mean -- eventually both Paul and Alex will be gone, because this book is Savage Dragon. But for the moment, is this kind of giving them the happy ending that so many fans wanted after she reappeared in the book?

It’s not over until it’s over. Is there ever a happy ending, really?

Is there any special significance to 76 as Dragon's jersey number? My first instinct was that might be when you first created him but I feel like it was earlier than that.

It was my football jersey in high school. There’s really nothing more to it than that but in context here, it’s an indication that Alex kept some of Dragon’s old clothes as a reminder of him.

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It's been a long time since we saw Mindwarp. Since he has mental and not physical powers, though, eh could theoretically have been a threat into old age. Why did he pick the short straw?

In the past Dragon has had his mind-controlled but he grew an immunity to that over time. Because of that, Dart knew that mind-control wasn’t a viable option but having his body controlled was a possibility, because it wasn’t a mental thing but a physical thing, much like Magneto manipulating metal. His one shortcoming is that his power isn’t especially long-range and so he had to be fairly close by in order to do what he needed to do. Nobody plans for defeat. They plan to win. He’s managed to hang in there for nearly 30 years. He first appeared in Savage Dragon #5, after all. He could well be in his old age. He’s had a pretty decent run.