Week six, huh? I’m about due for a rambling directionless column about nothing by now, right? I hope so because here it comes.
I have been inspired.
In an upcoming book of mine, I’m not going to point out which, I decided to do something cool. My cliffhanger, ending splash page connects with the first page of the next issue, so that they appear as two separate splash pages, each existing on their own as cool images, but when the trade paperback comes out, they’re going to appear right next to each other, forming a kick ass double page spread. I mean– how cool is that?!
Here’s the thing, though– it wasn’t my idea. It was Erik Larsen’s.
Issue 30 of “The Savage Dragon” ends with a full-page splash. Issue 31 opened with a full-page splash. When the “Savage Dragon: A Talk With God” trade paperback shipped, these two images were printed next to each other, forming a kick ass double page spread. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world back then– so I’m going to do it.
I was talking to Executive Director of Image Comics, Eric Stephenson about the whole thing… because I was excited about how the art had turned out and was sharing it with him. During the discussion he brought up the fact that Erik had done this before, I hadn’t immediately told him I got the idea from Erik. We got to talking about Erik, and “Savage Dragon” in general, and something sort of came up that bugged me.
Where’s the respect, guys?
I’ll admit, Erik likes to shoot his mouth off. He’ll be the first one to tell you that. He just doesn’t sugar coat anything, he tells it like it is. Because of this, many pros out there either slightly dislike Erik or despise him. He’ll say the same thing any fan would say. “I didn’t like this issue.” “Your run on XXXXX wasn’t any good.” He’ll just say the stuff. But hey, that’s just “one fan’s opinion.” But since he’s Erik Larsen and professionals don’t usually speak so frankly about each other’s work in public, he’s gotten a reputation as a somewhat rude guy.
I think he’s just a little misunderstood. He routinely picks my stuff apart. He read the first volume of “Marvel Team-Up” the other day (“Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1: The Golden Child” if you kids are looking to buy it.) and sent me an email that said… and I’ll quote this for fun:
If X-23 didn’t know who Spider-Man was– how would she know Wolverine hates him– and that everybody hates him?
I immediately informed him that it’s entirely possible that X-23 didn’t know what Spider-Man looked like, but still knew who he was. (And for those of you unfortunate enough to have not read “Marvel Team-Up,” he’s referring to events in issue 5 and 6, collected in the “Marvel Team-Up: Vol 1: Golden Child” trade paperback, available at your favorite local comic shop and/or an evil corporate book store if a comic shop isn’t close by.) The thing is, he read the book and hit me with a criticism, no praise whatsoever. No: “Liked the book, what’s up with this X-23 thing?” He doesn’t bother; he doesn’t need to. But he didn’t tear the thing apart, so I’m assuming he liked it for the most part. I mean, “Marvel Team-Up” is a really, really good book, so he pretty much had to like it. Right?
Anyway, I’m getting off the subject, but hey, that makes for longer columns and over the past few weeks I’ve been scrimping a little, so I figure I owe you guys some text.
What I’m trying to say is: Say what you will about Erik Larsen, but “Savage Dragon” is a seminal work of our generation and should be as respected as any creator-owned book in the industry.
“Bone,” “Cerebus,” “Sin City,” “Hellboy,” “Usagi Yojimbo,” and all the other classic creator-owned books are well thought of and looked at as pinnacles of our fine art form. You’ll rarely hear anyone say one bad thing about them.
Yet “Savage Dragon,” I think, is sometimes looked at as a brainless, ’90s superhero book. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “The Savage Dragon” is one of the most entertaining, compelling, and innovative superhero books ever done. It’s really the precursor to modern comics. It’s one of the first mainstream superhero books to feature real sweeping changes for its title character.
Dragon changed jobs and never went back. He had a kid, got married, had people close to him die and never came back– if it could happen it happened. And let me tell you this, it’s a damn fine read. It has always been my favorite comic. And still is (when it comes out).
Aside from the actual content, another thing that’s really cool about “Dragon,” and that got me to write this column in the first place, is that Erik does all kinds of cool stuff with the format. He’s always changing things, trying something new, or different.
Issue 7, was all splash pages. The whole book was 22 panels. It worked, it was a thrilling story told in huge frames. Erik got the idea from an issue of “Thor” by Walt Simonson, but I don’t think these things should just be done once. I’m sure I’ll have my hand in an all splash page issue before all is said and done.
Issue 10 was drawn with stark heavy black shapes, like an issue of “Sin City.” It was different and it looked damn cool.
Issues 30 and 31 have the connecting first and last pages. Something I don’t think has ever been done before or since. Until I decided to steal it, that is.
Issue 47 is drawn on a loose 16-panel grid design, just like “Dark Knight Returns.” This is something I plan on doing with an upcoming series I’m working on. It’s been done many times before. I think Joe Casey recently did an issue of “Superman” like this. I think it’s a great way to tell a lot of story and really give the reader more bang for their buck.
Issue 86 is drawn in two vastly different styles. The last half of the book is drawn like Rob Haynes or Scot Kollins art, with no line weights and simple cartoon cell style coloring. It’s a great looking sequence. Something I’ve often asked Erik to do again.
Issues 101-103 are chopped in half, with two distinct stories being told at the same time. They take place in parallel worlds so there’s a lot of overlap and similar sequences and it’s all fun to watch.
Issue 113 did something really cool. The first page had 20 panels, and then for the next twenty pages, each page had one less panel. So that it ended on page 20 with a splash. It was just damn cool and a lot of fun to watch. I’m sure it was a total headache to put together, but Erik’s dedicated enough to give it a shot.
What I’m getting at, is that if you’ve ever enjoyed a superhero comic– and the simple fact that you’re visiting a comic book related website pretty much means that’s the case– you owe it to yourself to go out at your earliest possible convenience and pick up the first “Savage Dragon” TPB Vol 1: “Baptism of Fire.” It’s a great read. It’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as the story goes. And as good as volume 1 is, it really kicks into high gear in volumes 3 and 4.
You like TPBs right? Your bookshelf will thank you. In fact, to make it easy for you, if you’re thinking about picking these up, I’m going to list the TPBs with item codes right here for you:
SAVAGE DRAGON BAPTISM OF FIRE TP VOL 1 (STAR13080) $14.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 2 A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH TP (STAR01571) $14.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 3 THE FALLEN TP (STAR07266) $12.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 4 POSSESSED TP (STAR08392) $12.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 5 REVENGE TP (STAR09931) $13.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 6 GANG WAR TP (STAR11309) $16.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 7 A TALK WITH GOD TP (STAR12656) $19.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 8 TERMINATED TP (OCT031296) $15.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 9 WORLDS AT WAR TP (JUL031223) $16.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 10 ENDGAME TP (DEC031335) $15.95
SAVAGE DRAGON VOL 15 THIS SAVAGE WORLD TP (STAR1890) $15.95
Now, this column may seem like it’s just shameless ass kissing for the publisher of Image Comics. Just to make sure that you people aren’t thinking that… let me give you this little tidbit of info. Erik Larsen has the hairiest back I’ve ever seen and I’ve never even seen his entire back. When his shirt collar moves ever so slightly to reveal just a smidge of his back– it looks like he’s got a bearskin rug glued back there. It’s probably the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen.
He should get that fixed. And while he’s at it, he should start doing new issues of “Dragon,” because it’s getting ridiculous how late he is. That slack ass.
So there you have it, my rambling, directionless column about Erik Larsen and “Savage Dragon.” If you’re the least bit interested in these books, go down to the comic shop and check them out. If they don’t have them in stock, I’ve provided the handy dandy ordering codes needed to special order them. And hey, if you have to special order them, but you don’t want to wait to have something to read, you could always… BUY MY BOOKS.