Erik Larsen On the Many Deaths of Savage Dragon #262

Last week saw the release of Savage Dragon #262, which pitted Malcolm and Paul Dragon against the Vicious Circle, while the rest of the cast dealt with something a little darker: the death of Horridus, a long-standing member of Freak Force who had declined to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. After her death as a result of a COVID infection, the cure intended to save her -- a shot of Malcolm Dragon's blood, coupled with some Freak-Out -- was instead given to another patient in the hospital...and the end result was catastrophic, with a "Dragon variant" of the virus burning its way through the entire hospital and exploding hundreds of victims.

Yeah, yuck. We talked with Erik Larsen about the decisions that went into making one of the bloodiest issues of a mainstream superhero comic...maybe ever? Certainly in terms of overall casualty numbers.

Spoilers ahead for Savage Dragon #262.

Given that the pandemic hit basically just as Malcolm moved, are we going to start seeing a reintroduction of some of those characters we met back in the early days of the Toronto run?

Some, yeah. Not many made a real strong impression but the idea going forward is to reconnect with some of these characters and flesh them out some. Unless things go seriously wrong in the real world-there's not likely to be a lot more pandemic events to speak of. It's been disruptive enough not being able to draw characters' full faces at times and it's especially hard with characters who we barely know.

Is Malcolm intentionally knocking out a guy who looks like Thanos in the double-page splash, or is that just a happy accident?

That was never the intent. He was designed initially as a suitable Abomination-type but once established purple-I can see the resemblance but it was never an intentional riff on Thanos.

When you know you're just going to mow down a room of goons, is it a lot of fun to choreograph a big, chaotic fight like this? There's almost a black humor to some of it.

It's not especially fun. There's a lot to keep track of from defining who's in the room to establishing the confines of the room and in cases where there's mass carnage there's always the issue of who's dead and who isn't yet dead. Then there's the characters themselves, some of whom have barely appeared before and who have body parts which were ill-defined or not depicted at all. 

It involves a lot of combing through old comics and trying to find every character and see what's been stipulated and what hasn't. It's a lot easier with well-established villains that I've drawn a hundred times. This ended up being a real nightmare. It's fun to do some of the visual gags and drawing characters slipping and sliding in guts is fun enough, but the logistics is maddening.

On that note, are we going to just straight-up run out of villains at some point? It feels like we've offed entire rooms of them a few times lately.

There is no danger of that. Part of the reason to clean house was simply to clear the deck so that we don't have so many Dragon sr. bad guys hanging around. The baton needs to be passed in every respect. This incentivizes me to create some new villains. There shouldn't be so many hand-me-downs. Plus, much of the house cleaning is of characters who hadn't distinguished themselves terribly, Brawn, Chaos and Control being the notable exceptions.

Once he's done with his roaring rampage of revenge, what is Mako 2.0's endgame? What does he actually want once he's done killing people who pissed him off?

Prior to injecting himself with Mako's blood, Benedict Milhous, AKA the Executioner, was a serial killer. So, he's a killer at heart. I don't see him as having lofty ambitions beyond doing whatever the hell he wants to do. He's not a leader. He's not really a follower. He's more of a force of nature.

On the other side of that, we lose Larry, Ann, AND Sara this issue. Those characters have been around for years. Was it just time for them to go, or is the Dragon Variant building to something bigger?

Part of it is simply to shake things up. Both Ann Stevens and Larry have been out of the picture for years, so losing them doesn't really change things beyond what it does to their daughter. 

With Sara, it was at a point where her naïveté seemed a bit silly-she was pushing 50, after all, and he'd been through a lot. Her story seemed to be running down anyway and I wanted a significant Covid death. Because she had a daughter with many of her attributes, and bit by bit, Freak Force was being passed to a younger generation, I decided to go with that. The Dragon Covid-19 variant seemed like a fun idea, and it could lead to paranoia in and around the Dragon family,

What does this mean for Mighty Man in particular?

Well, Betty Bradford is 12 years old, so while she's not an infant, she's far from an adult. I would assume that there's some kind of inheritance there and possibly a chain of custody. Certainly other members of Freak Force would step up to help in some way.

The variant seems to have burned itself out...does that mean it's unlikely to come back? It feels a bit like this was a very dramatic way of cutting off the whole "use Dragon blood for a cure-all" thing.

I don't rule out having it run rampant again but the thought, at least initially, was to have it end here. As with everything, that's going to depend on story possibilities. If a brilliant idea comes up, I do have it in my back pocket. And, yeah, the blood cure was becoming a convenient out whenever things went bad and it seemed a good way to take that deus ex machina off the table. 

The issue also saw the destruction of the remaining power glove, which had been a semi-regular weapon since their introduction back in Savage Dragon #23.

It really seems like Billy can't catch a break. How many guardians is a li'l Dragon gonna need to go through before he stop seeing them die horribly?

It's not been an easy life for the little guy.

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On that note, though...is that just an assumption that all these characters have to work with at this point? That eventually everyone, even if it's Malcolm and Paul, will probably not go peacefully in their sleep?

Something gets everybody eventually. Nobody lives forever. But, you know, Sara went relatively peacefully, all things considered. The thing is-most of these characters are relatively young, so having them die peacefully in their sleep could mean well beyond my own lifespan, and where's the fun in that?