Savage Dragon Creator Erik Larsen on The Animated Series Finally Getting a Full Release After More Than 20 Years
Earlier today, we noted that Peacock, NBC Universal's new streaming service, had given USA Network's '90s animated series The Savage Dragon its first-ever release for on-demand entertainment. The cartoon, which ran for 26 episodes in 1995 and 1996, is based on the Image Comics series from writer/artist Erik Larsen, which just reached 250 issues with today's release. It starred Jim Cummings in the title role and a number of other big names in animation along the way, including Rob Paulsen, Mark Hamill, and Tony Jay. It was designed as part of an action-oriented block of cartoons, but wen the shows it was lumped in with failed to connect with audiences, Dragon was eventually cancelled along with them.
The series centers on Dragon, a super-powered "freak" with a fin on his head and no memory of his past. When he wakes up in a burning field, he is rescued by the Chicago Police Department, who recruit him to fight supervillains and protect the city from a rising tide of crime. The central villain of the animated series is OverLord, an armored villain who served as the primary antagonist for the first couple of years of the comic.
"The cartoon was something of a exercise in frustration for me – – as I didn't have anywhere near the control that I would have liked to have had," Larsen told ComicBook.com. "There were times, for example, when I was asked for input and then overruled. There was a number of people who tried out to do Savage Dragon's voice and the guy I picked wasn't ultimately chosen for the job. Jim Cummings was fine and I'm told he loved voicing the character but it wasn't what I had in mind. There were numerous things like that along the way – – choices which needed to be made where I was consulted but didn't get the final say and it was really a case of 'too many cooks spoil the broth.' There were a lot of really talented people involved but they were all tripping over each other to some extent and what ultimately resulted wasn't everything I thought it could be."
In spite of that, the show connected with audiences, Larsen told us. The problem is that having one successful cartoon without anything else to support it or benefit from it was not feasible for USA, who pulled the plug after two seasons of fruitless attempts.
"The ratings for the show were fantastic. Clearly kids loved the show!" Larsen said. "The USA Network was very happy with it – – the problem was that they weren't able to assemble a successful cartoon block. Of the four shows they had during its first season only one continued – – Savage Dragon – – the others were all canceled and replaced with three other shows, all of which didn't perform especially well. Ultimately, they threw in the towel because they were unable to put together a successful cartoon lineup. Try though they might, they couldn't find three other shows that brought in the kids."
Ultimately, Larsen sees the series as a mixed bag, and was as surprised as anyone to see it come to Peacock (he wasn't given a heads-up it was going to stream on the platform).
"I have somewhat mixed feelings about the whole thing," Larsen said. "It was, of course, thrilling to see my character brought to life in some form and to see him turn his head with that being on it – – and it was cool to see all the other characters brought to life – – but I couldn't help but think of its potential."
The Savage Dragon is currently streaming on Peacock. Savage Dragon #250 is now on sale at your local comic shop or digital comics retailer.0comments