Erik Larsen on Preparing for the End of an Era in Savage Dragon #191


Next month is when Savage Dragon will turn a corner and officially, totally become Malcolm Dragon's book, according to creator Erik Larsen.

The title character hasn't really been the star of the series in years, but he's been appearing regularly in the book and often, his actions have had as big of an impact on the larger direction of the series as Malcolm's--but he's currently on death row, and this issue had a guest drop in from another world who, when last we saw her, was keen to take her back off-planet with her and sire a new race.

So, along with whatever other options we aren't considering, there are very real possibilities that Dragon could die (as difficult as it is to kill hi, it has happened before) or that he could be exiled somewhere with his de facto spouse. Last month saw Dragon take a beating in a bloody battle with Mako and in recent months, he's seemed almost defeated and ready to die--but this month was a bit of a different Dragon, helping to quell a prison riot at the detention center full of supervillains that he's been living in and taking out the latest iteration of Dread Knight, with whom a conflict has been teased and building for a couple of issues.

Larsen joined to discuss this month's issue--but there be spoilers here. If you haven't yet read Savage Dragon #191, please buy it and read along with us. Tierra seems pretty defensive here; are we to understand that she's had a conflict with Malcolm off-camera, or is she just paranoid?

Erik Larsen: Part of the reality of having a book which is set in real time is that there has to be implied scenes that we missed. All we see is not all that there is. Between issues Frank and Tierra moved home and here is the implication that things have not been going entirely well. When Malcolm says, "not again." We are led to believe this has going on at least once before, if not for weeks. When Malcolm paused last issue he was anticipating what it might be like to have the three of them move in with Frank's mother and the reality is no better than he had pictured. They are all just a bit on edge and Tierra is somewhat defensive about having moved in on Malcolm. This was his house and now it's not his. She feels the need to justify why she and Frank are more entitled to live there than he is and she does have a point, Malcolm isn't related, after all. That is a VERY short nightgown. Just a style choice or will the fact that she's dressed like that around her ex come into play?

Larsen: It's an undershirt. Like many people, Tierra doesn't put on special nightwear. She's wearing what she would wear to go to bed with Frank and isn't taking other people into consideration especially. Safe to guess, then, that this is the last we've seen of Virus? It certainly goes hand-in-hand with the overall reduction in Dragon-like characters in recent months.

Larsen: Yeah. His inclusion was really to put to rest the question of what happened with Virus's remains once Dragon was put back together again. It wasn't one of those things where I was feeling like I really needed to bring that character back-- it was more of a sense of obligation to give that particular dangling plot line closure. There are certainly some recognizable faces in that giant pile of plush toys Malcolm won for Maxine. What's the ratio of characters that exist just stuffed animals.

Larsen: Can't say that I tallied them all up. Usual state fair fodder – a few recognizable stuffed animals thrown in with the generic bulk of them all. You know, it's interesting to see deadly force used more or less as a first option in the prison riot. It makes sense in context, but do you think practically that would be a hard sell to the public, or do you think fear of how the freaks would behave without it would be a big contributor?

Larsen: The latter. In most cases those incarcerated are deadly murderers and they do not want them unleashed on the general public. I think we talked about this a bit, but incorporating the OverLord armor into the Dread Knight is a great look. Did you know when you got rid of Overlord that you wanted to keep that around?

Larsen: It actually looked a lot closer to Overlord's armor than I had intended. It was supposed to be simply an update of the Dread Knight armor and unrelated to Overlord but I guess it did have a bit of that look. Whatever the case is – it's gone now. And good riddance. It's funny because in the last fifty issues or so we really haven't had Malcolm faced with much of the consequences of being who he is, but what we get from Maxine here is that every element of him--being a freak, being a hero, and arguably being black, since the non-Chinese thing is an issue--is part of the problem.

Larsen: In a very real real world sense they are just being practical. And, of course, they want what is ultimately "best for their daughter". It is not atypical for parents to want their children to end up with like-individuals. Jewish mothers wanting their sons to marry nice Jewish girls etc. Naturally they don't want their daughter to be imperiled and being the girlfriend of a superhero is dangerous business. Is there a concern on your part about repeating yourself a little, with the prospect here (which obviously isn't yet a done deal) of shunting Dragon off into space instead of killing him in order to give Malcolm the book?

savdrag191_p2Larsen: Dragon really has no way of getting to space. Vanguard is long gone and Lorella's ship was just flown into the sun. And regardless I'm not one to repeat myself so no – there really is no danger of that happening. That said, can you clarify for us what the heck is up in the next few months? Newsarama reported that you "confirmed" for them that Dragon will die but no such words came out of your mouth in that interview.

Larsen: I'd rather just leave it all up to speculation at this point. It really is hard to guess whether Dragon's actions in the riot matter. Certainly they're heroic, but at the end of the day, he killed a bunch of people in a prison riot. Without Urass, though, it could be that the justice system views him differently, no?

Larsen: That remains to be seen but as the prosecuting attorney said during his trial just because Dragon saved a bunch of people in the past it doesn't entitle him to kill others and, frankly, that applies here as well. Just because Dragon effectively ended the riot--it doesn't mean that what he did to get him convicted and sent to jail in the first place goes away. They've seen this before with Dragon – after the "possessed" storyline he was all heroic again but then years later he went into full on Emperor Kurr mode and killed all sorts of people so as far as the general public is concerned, here's a guy who flips from being good to being evil and what did he really do in jail anyway? Got in fights and killed some people! How is the general public to react? "Geez, Dragon just killed a bunch of people while he was in prison-- I guess he's all better now-- he should be released!" That seems unlikely. Dart is an interesting choice to be going on this roaring rampage, but I suppose it makes sense to give Malcolm a major villain who's also a legacy character. With her and Thunderhead, it seems that more and more that's what we're going to be seeing in this book in the near future. What's the appeal of that kind of torch-passing, beyond the simple fact that you don't get to do it anymore at the Big Two?

Larsen: Well I think part of it does help emphasize the real-time aspect of the book – that characters are aging and passing the torch to younger characters. I also think there's something comforting about having "familiar" characters around. Even if they're not the original versions. The vast bulk of the characters, however, will be new characters.

0comments I was wondering who would take out Mako. Try as they might for a jail break, it seems to me that in his state he wasn't really going ot make it out of the building with Dragon carrying that gun and feeling better and then Dart on the loose. Was last issue kind of a grand finale for him, finally having that massive, bloody throwdown with Dragon?

Larsen: Yeah, I really wanted Mako to have his time in the spotlight-- his big final victory--and to go out on top. I also knew that if somebody was to defeat him it should be Dart because she had so many damned issues with him.