Erik Larsen On Taking Amy Dragon and Her Lovable Tiger-Man Friend on the Road in Savage Dragon #258

The setup for North Force, Image Comics's Savage Dragon spinoff and Free Comic Book Day title, came to a head in last week's Savage Dragon #258. The second in a two-part story teaming Malcolm Dragon with the Canadian super-team, the issue saw Thor defeated, ending the thunder god's bloody rampage from Savage Dragon #257. Unfortunately, that didn't mean the day was over for Malcolm, who discovered shortly after he got home that his daughter Amy had run off with her tiger-man friend Walter. While the Dragon kids are powerful enough to handle themselves in most situations, that still meant a search to find her...which they did, with help from North Force.

Next month's issue of Savage Dragon is set to be reworked slightly as North Force, with the standard backup features and funnies -- often done and owned by artists other than Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen -- omitted in favor of some bios and other "Secret Files"-style backmatter introducing fans to North Force. The heroes have shown up a few times in Savage Dragon but, for the most part, haven't been fully fleshed out yet. The cover of next month's issue shows Malcolm wearing the Canadian colors and joining the team.

Larsen joined ComicBook to discuss the issue, what it means for the North Force issue coming in May, and more. If you haven't read the issue yet, be aware that there are Spoilers ahead, and go grab a copy at your local comic shop or online at ComiXology.

There's a pretty serious tonal shift between issues here. Should we expect that every so often we'll get a kid-centric issue that feels different like this, or is this planned as a one-off?

This is the third or fourth such one-offs depending on how you look at it. The "Savage Little Dragons" story in 236 shifted the focus to the kids for an issue. "Amy Dragon Fight Alone" in Savage Dragon #243 was another and the salute to the Funnies in #252 could be a third, although a lot of other ground was covered in that issue as well.

As time goes on, the kids will occasionally have the spotlight shine on them and Amy seems the most prone to having solo adventures at the moment. It's a nice scheduled break from the rest and a tonal shift, for sure. This issue was still labeled as a Mature book but it could very much have been one labeled E for EVERYONE as it was more suitable for all ages. Maybe it was a bit bloody for that. But, yeah, this was very much a scheduled break from the rest and there will be more. When Malcolm was a youngster there were occasional spotlight issues on him as well.

Was the plan always to just exploit the cliffhanger and then end the Thor fight pretty quick, or did you have an idea at one point about having that story keep going a bit longer?

I actually had hoped to contain the Malcolm vs. Thor story to #257 but when I was drawing it I just couldn't make it fit. There certainly was no plan to have it go even longer than it did. I was cursing its inclusion as it was because it ate up valuable room which could have been devoted to more shenanigans.

Originally I was thinking of having Amy and Walter go to Australia or something in search of warmer weather, and I just couldn't make that work in the limited space I had left. I knew the next issue needed to be entirely devoted to North Force, so there was no room for spill-over this time out. The number of available pages is a constant curse.

We get Malcolm ruminating on the death of Thor's son, and it makes me think of all the talk of mortality lately. Might Malcolm discourage his kids from taking on the superhero life?

Malcolm knows that he's ultimately saving lives and that inaction would mean a greater loss of life. The Spider-Man quote about great power and great responsibility is pretty baked in. He would certainly caution his kids about acting responsibly but I can't imagine him discouraging them from helping out and saving lives.

It's kind of funny that Alex and Paul were scandalized by the adult nature of the Savage Dragon comic, considering that this is one of the tamer issues in a long while in terms of sex and violence. Was that a joke you planned, or just how things lined up?

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try and address one of the most raunchy issues in the series in one of the most all-ages friendly issues in the series. I was thinking about how they would dance around the censors in the old Seinfeld show by insinuating things without going into the gory details. But this kind of scene is necessary to establish where Paul is in terms of getting caught up to speed.

The visual of Amy sneaking past Malcolm and Maxine while they argue in the kitchen is classic sitcom stuff. Were elements of this issue a little broader and sillier because they were being told from her perspective or was that just lining up the tone with the content of the story's A plot?

I had fun with it. It's always something of a tightrope walk when it comes to going cartoony or not. Years ago, when I drew Angel as a straight up cartoon character reader reaction was quite mixed. These days I tend to think more manga where characters are more flexible and can go from serious and badass to cartoony and slapstick in a heartbeat. They're not pulling giant hammers out of nowhere or getting random nosebleeds when they're turned on but they can look pretty distorted when they need to. Having it focused on kids does prompt me to keep things somewhat lighter.

Walter really is a bad influence in some ways. In the world of a book like Dragon, can a character like that last very long? It feels like he'll stumble into trouble pretty quick.

At least he's not evil in the way Mr. Glum was. He's generally good-natured and doesn't mean any harm. He's also something of a coward, so he's not likely to compel Amy to get into fights. I expect him to be a presence in Amy's life for a bit. I do like their dynamic.

Is KFC especially popular in Toronto, or were you just going for an instantly-recognizable package?

KFC is no bigger in Toronto than anywhere else. I just wanted something recognizable and there isn't anything more recognizable than a KFC bucket. I honestly couldn't think of anything which would have worked better. Not enough food comes in buckets.


Did the resolution of the issue set the stage for a little less chilly relationship between the Dragons and the North Force?

That was the idea, yeah. To have Malcolm show to them that he was a capable individual so that they'd reconsider their assessment of him. This sets us up nicely for the next issue.