Yesterday, Erik Larsen talked with Gavin Higginbotham about Savage Dragon #175, which featured the return of the title character from the dead at the hands of Darklord, the very guy who killed him (most recently) in the first place. Today, we'll follow up that conversation with a few questions from Russ Burlingame, the ComicBook.com writer who puts bits of fluff into the gaps between Erik and Gavin's terrific discourse in this here column.
ComicBook.com: Obviously there will be fans who cry foul. The first comment on one story about Dragon's return was “Well, I said I would drop the book if he came back anytime soon. I guess I'm dropping it.” Even though you're confident in the story, how do you address those people?
Erik Larsen: I think the phrase you're looking for is "this person." There was one very vocal guy who was essentially trying to rally support and force me to do things his way or he'd drop the book. It was tantamount to blackmail, frankly and I'm not about to change my plans because one guy is threatening to walk away. Besides--that was the plan from the start and you can see that the pieces were in place to make this happen. It's like putting dinner in the oven and having some guy say, "that better not be meatloaf or I'm leaving the house forever!" It's already in the oven, big guy. Maybe you might want to see how this meat loaf tastes before walking off or maybe you should quit acting like a spoiled child and join the rest of the adults who realize that they don't always get their way. I dunno. It'd be like somebody going and seeing a magic act and getting all fired up after the reveal and shout, "you told me that woman in the box had been cut in half--you stinkin' liars!"
ComicBook.com: I'll say this: The “build an obvious backdoor so it's not such a sham” resurrection is something that you've done with Dragon a few times. Do you catch hell for it every time in spite of the fact that each time that hell seems sillier and sillier because there's precedent the complainers should be aware of?
EL: Not really, no. Most readers are relieved. I've said that he will eventually die and he will--but it's still pretty early, all things considered. It's still Malcolm's book at this point. Dragon is coming back but in a supporting role--not a starring one.
ComicBook.com: Last one on this, I promise: Even when an obvious backdoor is built into the story, there are wide differences in execution. Do you think, for example, that there's a major difference between the way you've handled Dragon's most recent rebirth and the way Marvel handled Johnny Storm's?
EL: There is a difference between making a big deal about a character dying--and advertising it as a way to boost sales and then later saying, "Ha, ha--fooled you--again!" than doing what I did in Savage Dragon. I didn't promise the death of a major character at any point. From what I've seen--in the Fantastic Four comic itself--it was handled in a way where there was considerable wiggle room. It seemed like the Torch could certainly have survived. And since there was "no body" and the character was merely left fighting monsters behind a closed door it seemed pretty obvious that he would survive. I have no issue with how he got out of that pickle but rather how it was sold to the public. If I'm being sold a book based on the death of a character--if I'm investing in that--and the publisher is knowingly fooling people--I have a problem with that. I mean, think back to the Death of Superman--some people tossed down some serious coin because they were told--and they believed--that this was it--he would be gone forever. If you undo that--you are betraying a trust, in a way--and it's because you made such a big deal out of what you were selling the reader and what you were selling was a lie. If the death of the Torch wasn't hyped so much--if it came out of the blue and caught readers by surprise--and then it was revealed later on that he escaped death--I wouldn't have a problem with that at all. It could be the same comics even. But I take issue with being lied to.
ComicBook.com: Even having aged Dragon a bit to catch up with the story and differentiate him from Krull, is it still fun to be able to essentially draw Dragon Classic right alongside him in the form of his son?
EL: It's kind of weird. His son is younger than Dragon has ever been depicted. I haven't quite figured out a good visual hook for him that really sets him apart from his dad.
ComicBook.com: The backgrounds on this issue reminded me a bit of Sin City. What was there was interesting and the characters interacted well with it, but for the most part they were pretty spartan. What kind of thinking went into that?
EL: I was echoing back to Dragon's origin story with its flat colors and simple shapes. Trying to find something which looked visually different from what's been in the book of late.
ComicBook.com: The sci-fi elements of this issue had to be fun to play with, too—both the outfits and the backgrounds. Do those things just kind of come to you after so many years of drawing a book that's dabbled in so many genres, or is it really fun and challenging every time?
EL: A bit of each. The challenge is to try and find ways of doing things that I haven't done already. If this alien technology looks and feels like stuff we've seen in the book previously then it's not going to seem all that foreign. That part is a challenge.
ComicBook.com: Certainly Dragon's initial distrust of Darklord and the situation he's in is pretty reasonable—but the Krylans just seem exasperated by it, even puzzled. Are we looking at a race that pretty much just takes things at face value?
EL: Their race is very naïve in some ways. And they really don't know what this guy has been through over the last 20 years. So, yeah, it seems kind of crazy to them that Dragon is so suspicious and paranoid.
ComicBook.com: The last time we had one of these big oversized issues with a bunch of backup features, we got to see those characters interacting with the A plot for months thereafter. Dart, in addition to being a dangerous and powerful villain, is one of those characters who feels like a better foil for the kids than she ever was for Dragon. Is it safe to assume that after her escape from custody we'll be seeing more of her soon?
EL: After a short while, yeah. WE have an alien invasion to contend with in the immediate future.
ComicBook.com: That asked, it's an interesting thing—Dragon's supporting cast is largely earthbound, and yet we've got Dragon in space while most of the characters have no idea he's back yet. Is it strange to think that you'll be creating a whole new supporting cast for Dragon while Malcolm and Angel get to hang out with the remaining members of the original cast?
EL: It's a big part of why this book seems so fresh to me and the readers. There's a constant flow of new blood into the book. It's not Lex Luthor or the Joker month after month for 70 plus years. Older characters die--newer ones are introduced. Things change and evolve. This
isn't the same book it was 20 years ago and it won't be the same book 20 years from now.
ComicBook.com: So the panel where Dragon comes right out and says “I had assumed that once a job was handed to a successor, there was no turning back...”--we shouldn't read too much into that or anything, right?
EL: You do what you want.