When Savage Dragon #252 hits the stands in September, creator Erik Larsen has promised fans another of his "theme" or experimental issues. But this time, rather than playing with panel layouts or paper sizes, it's his cartooning style. Over the course of a standard-length issue, Larsen will draw the Dragon family in the styles of 11 different famous comic strips, working his way through the Sunday Funnies pages as he works his way through the comic itself. Over the weekend, Larsen shared with fans that he had finalized the list of comic strips that will appear in the issue, which include long-running favorites like Family Circus and Calvin & Hobbes, and a few curveballs thrown in for good measure.
This won't be the first time Larsen has used the Calvin & Hobbes strip as inspiration for a Savage Dragon story; when #236 featured a solo adventure by Malcolm Dragon's children, the strip proved as an inspiration for the issue. For that issue, much of the book felt pretty "normal," but there were double-page spleashes that were clearly inspired by Bill Watterson's strip.
"They're a nightmare," Larsen recently told me of the themed issues, which seem to come up around once a year in Savage Dragon. "Honestly, a lot of them are. But then, some of them I can also decide to do them impulsively, too. The cover for the comic strip one was sitting around here for a while and then it was like, 'OK, I think I can put that in now.' And for that issue where I started with 20 panels and then they merged and merged until it was one, I'd actually had ruled out all those panel borders and was going to do it for one story, found it didn't work, and then put it aside and had that paper just sitting there by my desk for three years before I finally just was like, 'alright, I think it will work with this one,' and then did it. So a lot of times it can be semi-spontaneous that I'll do this weird stuff but even now, doing this comic strip one has just been a nightmare. I don't naturally draw like all these other people, so that's a real problem, and it's especially challenging when you're drawing somebody who's legitimately terrible, and you're just sitting there going, so I've got to forget what a hand looks like because this person doesn't know how to draw hands, and every single part of this doesn't work in any way. How do I even do this?"
On Facebook, Larsen told fans that the eleven comic strips that will appear in Savage Dragon #252 will be Family Circus, Peanuts, Cathy, Doonesbury, Foxtrot, Dick Tracy, Thimble Theater (Popeye), Calvin & Hobbes, Rex Morgan, Blondie, and Tumbleweeds."
"Sorry if I missed your favorite," he added.
Savage Dragon has periodically featured some version of comic strip funnies in its back pages frequently over its 28 years of publication. Whether it's the old Savage Dragonbert comics, or the more recent Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies, Larsen has regularly given other artists some real estate in the back of the book to have fun, either using his characters or their own, in ultra-short serialized stories or stand-alone gag strips.
Savage Dragon #252 will be in stores on September 23.