When we spoke with Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen at the time, he promised that when the story caught up with Legacy -- which was a flash-forward issue -- there would be changes to the book...and boy, were there. While most of the art was the same (except for a few added pages), the dialogue was wildly different and some scenes featured characters having entirely different conversations than in the Legacy one-shot.
Larsen joined us again to talk about the changes, the new direction, and why he's happier with this version than the one released in May.
The cover, obviously, is different, and there's a bunch of new content. What would you say is the biggest difference from Savage Dragon Legacy?
The two books serve different purposes. One was supposed to be a tantalizing glimpse into the near future. The other is a follow up to events we've lived through. For example, having the reveal of Maxine being pregnant works as a tease. With that knowledge already out there--it no longer works as that.
Now, we have context for a lot more of what happened than we did when the book came out. Did you think as you were reworking it how that would change the reader's perception of the story?
I did. It was a time to pay off things which were left unexplained in that story and bring some clarity to it all.
Both Frank Jr. and Maxine have been kind of wait-and-see about whether it's ACTUALLY Malcolm's kid. Is that just wishful thinking, or caution, or distrust of Tierra, or a little of everything?
A little of everything. And don't forget--although we saw the baby in an earlier issue--they didn't. It's not unreasonable that they'd be a bit skeptical. Tierra was not beyond being somewhat manipulative.
Just because I've been conditioned by years of comic books to look for this kind of thing: is the guy standing in shadows in the cemetery on Page 2 something we should notice, or just a guy visiting his loved one's grave?
Passersby were strategically placed at both the graveyard and at the clinic where Lorella is examining Maxine. Are they spies or other random people? That's anybody's guess but it was no accident on my part to include them.
You know, I never noticed the first time around that Wraith calls him "Officer Dragon." I like that even during in-battle trash-talk, he can be respectful and use titles.
Heh. Yeah--I wanted to put that out there early on. Malcolm's dad was Officer Dragon and Malcolm would naturally be that as well. And, really, it's all inflection. Wraith could say it mockingly as well. We can't really hear the inflection.
Do you think some of the expository dialogue — you can thank my mom for that one — feels a little clunkier when it's not a Free Comic Book Day issue? Or do you just like the idea that anybody can pick this book up and read it, even if it ain't free?
I took out a ton of that stuff. I'd really gone overboard with it and I think it was a bit clunky. I left things where I thought they worked okay. It's a tightrope walk. Overall, I think this reads a lot better than it did before. Lesson learned. Sometimes less really is more. If you're bombarded with too much it just gets too confusing.
I like the idea that Malcolm will be making up some time at the end of the week. Even though most of what we see is superheroing, any given issue of the comic takes — what? — like two hours to unfold, probably? Battle time, I mean? So he's likely not filling forty hours a week with super heroics most weeks.
It's hard to pin down exact time covered. This issue takes place over two days -- the graveyard scene taking place the day before the rest of the issue. I need to paint with a broad brush out of necessity. We can't possibly hear full exchanges and witness every blow landed.
Comics would need thousands of pages and the routine would be mind-numbing. Dealing in real time is especially problematic when you're seeing a day or two, here and there. I've already made a big jump--Malcolm's police academy experience is skipped. The funeral was missed. If Malcolm and Maxine's honeymoon took much time we didn't see a lot of it. I'm falling behind even still. The foursome took place in #202. Tierra had a baby in 209--seven months later.
Maxine confirms that she's pregnant in #205. #211 is six months after that, sure, but why would Maxine take a pregnancy test so early on? Wouldn't she wait until she'd missed a period or two? The math is problematic. I suppose it's possible that she was checking because the other girls were pregnant and she didn't want to be the odd girl out but it's still weird. The upcoming birth issue is a full nine issues after Maxine announced she was pregnant but in theory--all three girls got impregnated at the same time. I can certainly cover that with some explanation but don't forget--the events in #200-202 followed in rapid succession and Christmas was observed at the end of #202, which followed the aforementioned foursome.
It gets messy. If I'm sticking by the calendar it's a problem and at some point I'll have to do some serious catching up. Do I set the next bunch of issues in 2015? At what point do I start playing catch up? Because skipping over baby stuff is a bitch. At that age changes are rapid and even at a month-to-month pace they'll be walking in no time.
You do modify some of the expository dialogue in here. Malcolm gave a lot more information to Peckerwood in the FCBD issue; here he kind of just says "Yeah, that's all Darklord. It's super confusing." Was that just kind of addressing my earlier question about whether some of the exposition didn't work as well as you'd like in a monthly comic?
Not just a monthly comic--always. It was a hard lesson to learn but really--nothing is important until it is. Constantly reminding readers of information which doesn't pertain to the issue at hand really is a terrible mistake.
The FCBD issue, in retrospect, was a nightmare. Ideally, readers should need to know almost nothing to understand an issue. Who's the good guy? Who's the bad guy? What's the conflict? Okay--go. It's okay not to be entirely clear.
Dart is in this issue, unnamed. She kills two characters, both unnamed. Is that a problem? Not if it doesn't matter. We know she's evil--we hear that she's not happy with what her informant tells her. For now that's really enough. When she reappears we can find out more. If it's relevant--we'll get more information. More and more I've come to that realization.
Reading and following stories can seem very cumbersome or relatively simple. The FCBD book, Savage Dragon Legacy, was far too confusing with far too many information dumps and for a new reader, I would imagine it was more off-putting than informative. Lesson learned. Time to move on and learn from my mistakes.
The page 12-13 scene with Dragon is pretty wildly different, dialogue-wise, but the art is the same. Was part of that just the fact that now there's more stuff that you can overtly reference? Obviously you couldn't talk about Tierra's death and everything in the FCBD issue.
With Dragon there was a lot left on the cutting room floor. I had a long passage that I cut at the last minute where Malcolm talked about Evil Angel and her fate but it just didn't work--it was an information dump which went nowhere. Some nice bits of dialogue ended up getting cut. Such is life.
As it is--it's kind of interesting to peek into the creative process and see what was saved and what was cut. The last panel of this sequence in the FCBD story seemed very abrupt to me, very choppy. Malcolm blathers like an idiot as he heads for the door. This time there's more space, sure, but I also hacked out huge swaths of stuff which wasn't making it better.
The backstory is there if readers want to seek it out. Spilling it all here is not only a potential spoiler but awkward and unnecessary exposition. Those stories are better experienced live. I'd rather watch a cool movie than have somebody tell me everything about a cool movie.
The only exception to that is having Chris Giarrusso give me a summation of an episode of Saturday Night Live. That is almost always more entertaining than an actual episode of Saturday Night Live.
I know you clarified it in one of these commentaries, but is this the first time we've seen on-panel that it was Lorella who's been helping Maxine since Rex died? I can't remember if it was mentioned and I missed it.
Maxine mentioned it in #210 when she was walking through the jungle with Malcolm but this is the first time we see anything.
Do I even want to think about where Fountainhead gets all that water to shoot?
Does it really matter? Is there an interesting story? I would assume he has a gateway to some other place there somehow. I would assume Dung is in the same boat. That can't all be his poop.
Can I tell you how much I love that you still have thought bubbles? I'm not sure we've talked about that before, but it's something I don't understand the reluctance to use in modern superhero comics.
I use it sparingly. I can see why it's avoided--that and captions aren't in wide use because they can be pretty clumsy. They're too "comic booky" in a way. You don't see that kind of thing in movies or TV shows so it's frowned on, I guess. I kind of like them. They're tools we have in our arsenal and we should use what few advantages we have.
Is the "I imagine these are two of theirs" changing to "I would hope" in the post-Tierra version of the issue relevant, or just a dialogue choice?
It's Tierra-related, for sure. But I wish I'd have thought of it earlier.
Hopefully people don't feel I'm getting too George Lucas with these fixes. I suppose that, at the end of the day, there are more FCBD books out there than issues of #211 but still...
Did you consider not spelling out the possibility of Angel's fetus being alive until it appeared on the page? Halfway through the issue I was thinking about that, but expecting you to keep mum. Or was it just kind of an issue of Malcolm being smart enough to piece it together and you didn't want to "take that" from him?0comments
It was something I'd been considering hinting at a while back. I just thought I shouldn't wait much longer. It might feel like a cheat if I decided to reveal there was a surviving baby years later.
And why not let Malcolm have a moment of insight? It's his book, after all. It also gives the scene with the babies some meaning that it didn't have previously. Readers can suddenly understand what all that stuff with the babies was about.