“Shocking” is a word “Savage Dragon” writer/artist and Image Comics founder Erik Larsen has often been labeled with. Whether pitting his titular character against God and the Devil or turning then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama into a comic book celebrity, Larsen has never shied away from targeting or otherwise utilizing some fairly sacred cows. He topped all that last week with the announcement that Osama bin Laden would make an appearance in October’s “Savage Dragon” #177. After a burial at sea, the real world villain is resurrected thanks to that age-old comic book power-granter: radiation. CBR News spoke with Larsen about the fan reaction to the reveal, whether he worries about backlash and his personal reaction to bin Laden’s death.
“Well, I was pleased,” Larsen said of his reaction to the news of bin Laden’s death on May 1, 2011. “I’m happy that happened. At the same time — the whole circumstance is somewhat oddly unsatisfying. We didn’t get that ‘Terminator’ moment where we all saw the bad guy get what was coming to him. The burial at sea only compounded it.”
As noted above, the terrorist leader finds himself back among the living (in the Image Universe) thanks to a healthy dose of post-death radiation. However, Larsen noted that his use of irradiated ocean water as a means of resurrection is less of a commentary on how the military dealt with things and more of a jumping off point from real world events.
“[The military] really had no choice,” Larsen said. “Any burial ground would be subject to vandalism and desecration. It would be a rallying point for bad guys and it would be a disaster.”
Leaving the real world behind, the real question for “Savage Dragon” readers is what exactly all this radiation does to a man already considered by many to be the absolute worst of humanity. “He’s essentially Godzilla with a Whitney Houston obsession,” Larsen said. “So, no real change from before.”
Mainstream publicity aside, the bin Laden story still serves to move the overall “Savage Dragon” saga along which now focuses on the Dragon’s son-turned-hero Malcolm after the events of the epic and game changing “Dragon Wars” and “Emperor Dragon” storylines.
“It’s a building year for the book and its new lead, Malcolm Dragon,” Larsen said. “This will be his greatest challenge to date and it will help establish him as more than a local hero — but a global one. It’s a turning point of sorts for our young hero.”
Larsen knew going into a story like this that fan reaction would be mixed, but wanted to keep things even, not intending to alienate any fans. “I do my best to present both sides of the situation,” Larsen said. “In a case like this it’s somewhat easier because we’re all pretty much on the same page. We all pretty much agree that [bin Laden’s] kind of a dick.”
While his subject’s social demeanor might be something most people can agree upon, but that doesn’t mean everyone who has heard about the storyline is on board with it, leaving the reactions Larsen has seen so far somewhat mixed, though leaning positive.
“There’s the usual outrage that somebody would dare to do something like this,” Larsen said. “That it’s a cheap stunt — that it trivializes bin Laden and what he wrought — that it’s ‘too soon’ and whatnot, but that’s a vocal minority. They’re the same guys who respond to any Image story with a snarky, ‘They still publish that?’ The overwhelming response has been positive. Most people get it. I’m not disrespecting the victims of 9-11, just disrespecting bin Laden. And frankly, he does not deserve our respect. If a lot of present day fans were around in 1941 and there were message boards, they’d be complaining about Captain America socking Hitler on the cover of ‘Captain America’ #1.”
Speaking of the “Captain America” #1 cover, Larsen homaged it for last year’s “Savage Dragon” #144 Wonder Con exclusive cover, featuring President Obama slugging bin Laden with the Dragon and Lady Liberty looking on. In fact, the general reaction to that cover was a gauge of his for doing this issue.
“I try not to think about that,” Larsen concluded, commenting on potential backlash from extremist groups. “I would hope this kind of silliness is beneath their notice. Osama bin Laden’s previous appearance on an alternate cover getting punched by President Obama didn’t cause a ripple.”
Savage Dragon smacks down the resurrected bin Laden in October’s issue #177
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