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Larsen On “Savage Dragon,” FCBD

by  in Comic News Comment
Larsen On “Savage Dragon,” FCBD
February’s “Savage Dragon” #145 welcomes new readers

In 2009, Image Comics’ “Savage Dragon” plans to kick into high gear on the way to its 150th issue, but according to series creator Erik Larsen, you don’t need to have been reading the title for the past 16 years to enjoy the landmark issue. In fact, as far as he’s concerned, new readers can feel free to drop the final two numbers off of February’s issue #145.

“I’m really trying to get it as clean of a break as I can so that a person could start with #145 not having read any issues ever,” Larsen told CBR News. “I’m kind of thinking like when [Walt] Simonson took over ‘Thor’ or Frank Miller took over ‘Daredevil,’ and they went, ‘Okay, if you know what’s gone on before, that’s fine, but you don’t have to know all that.’ And really, the important thing is that you know this is the main guy, this is what he’s all about, and let’s take it from there.”

And speaking of the swashbuckling Daredevil, Larsen told CBR exclusively that he’s bringing a twist to the new status quo in the form of May’s issue #148, by prominently featuring the original Golden Age Daredevil in the story that will also serve as Image’s Free Comic Book Day offering for the year. The schismatic superhero (originally popularized by Golden Age artist Charlie Biro and now existing in the public domain) will work as a vigilante agent to the Dragon, who resumes his Chicago policeman’s job in “Savage Dragon” #145.

“What I wanted was, when I’m taking Dragon back to being an authority figure, making someone who can be a vigilante in town. If Dragon is Commissioner Gordon, there’s got to be a Batman,” said Larsen, who’s written and drawn every issue of his series. “There’s got to be someone out there doing their own thing and being a thorn in his side to some extent even though he’s trying to do the right thing.”

Taking Dragon back to both the police force and to Chicago represents his creator’s desire to both streamline the series into a more grounded superhero reality and to entice readers who identify with the character’s early stint in a blue uniform. “To a degree, I think what had happened over the last few years is that it had gotten to be so crazy in terms of going ‘Hey! Anything can happen. I can be all over the place and do all kinds of crazy stuff!’ without there being any kind of restrictions of any sort that I think the book kind of lost its focus,” Larsen confessed. “It was all over the place going, ‘Now he’s in space for an issue! Now he’s meeting the gods! Now he’s getting married and having a romance! Now he’s got crazy kids running around and a cartoon character living in his house’ without there being any structure or rhyme or reason with anything.

“To one degree, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is great! You can do anything!’ and to another degree, it’s like, ‘Holy crap, man! What is the book about?’

“For a lot of the readers, the book has been sort of burned into their brains that this book is about a superhero cop who lives in Chicago. And try as I might for the past 12 years, that’s pretty much what people have as their idea of what the book is about. And it’s almost as though I’ve been doing the Electric Blue Superman for the past 12 years, and people have been going, ‘Can you put him back in the real costume already?'”

When asked exactly what the Dragon’s first adventure back on the Chicago PD will entail, Larsen simply laughed, “Uh…I don’t know! I know he gets back to being something more of an authority figure than he has been in a little while. That part I’ve figured out. But in terms of all the rest of what other characters are going to be in there, most of the supporting cast I’m thinking is going to be fairly new. The thing about having a police force in a book that’s set in real time, the way the book is, is that at a certain point it becomes kind of unrealistic to have these characters be around for a huge amount of time just because they’re getting old. The police force to some extent is going to have people who don’t make it and people who have retired or moved on to something else. A lot of people who are on the force, sort of like being on a football team, get to the point where they go, ‘I’m just can’t do what you have to do physically to continue doing this.'”

Still, while he is working out the finer points of the new status quo, Erik Larsen promises readers who’ve stuck with the book over the years need not fear a complete jettison of past stories. “It’s not that they didn’t happen, it’s just like anything where you’re taking over a book that’s been around for a while – you pick and choose what you’re going to pay attention to and what you’re not,” he said.

“Savage Dragon” #148, guest starring the Golden Age Daredevil, on sale in May

What Larsen is paying attention to is the release of the Dynamic Daredevil and other Golden Age heroes into the Dragon’s world in “Savage Dragon” #141, an event precipitated by his growing interest in classic superheroes who exist in the public domain and have become part of Image’s Next Issue Project, a line of titles that resume the numbering of long forgotten Golden Age comic books, imagining what the next issue would have been. “It got to a point where you go, ‘These are cool, and you can do things with these guys,'” Larsen said of the Golden Age heroes. “And it’s neat that they’re just available to everybody.”

With respect to the Golden Age Daredevil, Larsen explained, ” I thought of that Dragon cop period as Dragon’s ‘Daredevil’ period. When you’re reading Frank Miller’s run on ‘Daredevil,’ you’re aware of the confines of it as a book so you never have to go, ‘Yeah, and then the Silver Surfer shows up.’ You’re very aware that it’s grounded in reality. I wanted that with Dragon – to have it be more grounded and a little less ‘And then Doctor Strange shows up, and he’s got his magic!’ I thought of the early Dragon as being very much aligned with that sort of Miller Daredevil mentality. So when I’m sitting there doing this, I go, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to bring in Daredevil.’ And I can’t bring in Marvel’s Daredevil, but I can bring in this public domain Golden Age Daredevil.

“Plus, it’s just one of those costumes that really begat the stuff that came later. It’s one of those defining superhero comic books and costumes where you go, ‘Wow! That is a great look!'”

Larsen says 2009 will be a big year for the Dragon in terms of stories and output, as Larsen has rededicated himself to the book since stepping down as Publisher of Image Comics. “I would say I ‘got my shit together’ because it sounds a lot nicer,” he laughed. “I’m trying to get back on the stick and into the swing of things. It’s actually kind of funny how when [the book is] coming out more regularly like that, you just kind of get into that mode of, ‘Okay, cool. We’re just cranking this thing out every couple of weeks here’ than when it’s supposed to be monthly. Sometimes it seems like there can be a little time to screw off, and then you take it. Your work expands to fill the time you have to do it in.

“I’m actually trying to get disciplined enough on this so I can do ‘Savage Dragon’ in six months and then do something else the rest of the year. I’ve got other stories I want to tell and other books I’d like to be working on — things I’ve been talking about or promising or whatever. It hasn’t quite worked out with the way things have happened, but it could.”

“Savage Dragon” #145 hits stores in February, with #148 debuting on Free Comic Book Day on May.

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