Unless you've been actively avoiding the online comic book scene, you've likely already heard that Overlord is coming back to "Savage Dragon" with dreams of blood and triumph on the mind. But Overlord's shocking return isn't the only milestone event in store for readers - Dragon himself is getting ready for a monumental event.
In July, fans of the fin-headed hero will witness the 150th issue of "Savage Dragon," one of the longest running comic books published by Image Comics. Created, written and illustrated by Erik Larsen, "Savage Dragon" has seen renewed interest thanks to some politically minded guest appearances from Barack Obama and a much-praised return to form as Dragon rejoined the Chicago Police Department.
And while it's undoubtedly a great time to be a fan of the series, it's anything but roses for Dragon himself. Not only has Chicago's greenest found himself going toe-to-toe against a newly energized Vicious Circle, but his entire precinct was blown sky-high along with several close friends. Hell, even Dragon's own kids have found themselves motherless and in the crosshairs of their father's enemies. Like Kermit once wisely mused, it's not easy being green - and for Savage Dragon, there's no sign of things getting easier.
CBR News spoke with Larsen about the upcoming double-sized issue, his feelings regarding the landmark, the return of Overlord, some previous mistakes in the book, and his ambitious plans for the future - namely, a "Savage Dragon" title without Savage Dragon.
CBR: Erik, when you originally started "Savage Dragon," did you ever imagine that you'd actually have 150 issues under your belt?
Erik Larsen: When I was younger, I'd said to myself that once I started doing Dragon comics that I would do that for the rest of my life. I'm just happy to have been able to hang in here that long. It's extremely gratifying to have made it this far. I can't express how grateful I am to the fans who have supported me over the years. Certainly many books have not made it anywhere near that long.
You have lived with this character in many incarnations for nearly your entire life. Can you imagine yourself ever getting bored with him, or is his story potential pretty much limitless for you?
I can't imagine getting bored with him. That having been said, the eventual plan is to pass the book on to his successor eventually and have Savage Dragon pass away. The plan is to tell his life story from start to finish and then do the same with the next generation. I would like to do this book for the rest of my life. But if that's not [possible] - if I couldn't make that work - I'd find something to do. I have a lot of stories to tell regardless.
If the day comes that you decide you've grown tired of writing and illustrating the character, would you consider letting another creator or creative team tackle Dragon?
I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. At this point, the answer is that I really don't want to read somebody else's "Savage Dragon" comics. But if I'm dead at that point, what do I care? The plan is to make this my life's work and then let my heirs sort it out.
In 150 issues, what is the moment that has surprised you the most, be it creatively or a way that readers reacted to something you did?
I thought that I could make a smoother transition from #75 to #76. I'd had Dragon kill a time-traveling foe and it created a divergent reality and I had anticipated it going a lot smoother than it had. It's all good now, but for a few years it was a bit awkward. Readers didn't know what bits counted and what didn't. My thought was that he lived through it all and that the readers were on the same ground as he was - they could learn about this new reality as he did, but it was a bit messier than all that.
Dragon's been back with the Chicago Police Department for a little while now. Is the character at his best when he's in that uniform?
I think it fits a lot better than I'd thought it did. When I was a kid, Dragon was never a cop. I'd created him in 4th grade and I drew a mess of comics with him. In those, he was just a superhero who eventually led this huge government super-team with branches all over the United States. When I started up the "Savage Dragon" book, I had a goal I was working toward and that was it.
At the end of my fan period I published a couple of Dragon stories in a fanzine called "Graphic Fantasy" and it was my goal to work toward those. I'd start someplace else because the comics I did as a kid were done by a kid - they were pretty silly stuff. I clearly had no knowledge in regard to how the world worked and as I grew, those comics grew with me. So, having Dragon be a policeman was a means to an end. It was a way of getting from Point A to Point B. Little did I know how much readers would latch onto Point A and how well it would work. I'd thought I could have the character bounce from one job to another like most people do.
Let's talk about #150's marketing campaign, whereby you released a series of Overlord teasers. Who came up with that, and are you guys happy with how it's turned out?
It was a collaborative effort between [Image Comics Publisher] Eric Stephenson, [Image Comics PR & Marketing Manager] Joe Keatinge and myself. It came out fine and reader reaction has been very enthusiastic. To many readers, Overlord is Savage Dragon's arch nemesis. There are others who have never actually read a Dragon/Overlord story and this is exciting for them. But even those who thought Overlord had played itself out are excited about it because they've seen how [Dragon's return to the police force] has broken new ground. They were anticipating more of the same and they didn't get that and that will be the case here as well. This is a new Overlord. There's a new guy in that suit of armor and it's something of a mystery as to who is in that armor.
I did not want to dig up the dead. It saddens me just how cheap death has become in comics. Years ago fans would say a character was "Bucky dead" when they thought a character was gone for good and was not coming back - but now Bucky is back and Jason Todd is back and Norman Osborn is running around and that just sucks. It's one thing if a writer pulls off something clever and sets up a fake death with a back door. It's quite another when they're digging up the dead and trotting them out again. I don't want to do that. So this is not a situation where I'm bringing back Antonio Seghetti, the first Overlord. This is a new guy and he won't be acting like the old guy. I'm excited about [the return of Overlord]. If I were repeating myself, I wouldn't be - but I found a fresh angle and it's going to lead to a lot of cool stories. I can't help but be excited about that.
Tell us about the story of "Savage Dragon" #150?
It's going to get pretty damned crazy. It really sets up the new Overlord - it brings the armor back and puts all the pieces in place so that Overlord's a bigger menace than ever. The old Overlord, Antonio Seghetti, was the guy calling all the shots in the Vicious Circle and this new Overlord wants that role as well. Seghetti was a mob boss who saw the rise of the freaks in Chicago and had a suit of armor built so he could maintain his position. This Overlord sees what's been going on with the Vicious Circle and its current leader and pictures things going in an entirely different direction. So this new Overlord goes about systematically getting the crown and nothing is going to get in the way. It's pretty brutal ... [it's] a whole new world. It's a whole new Overlord and this is not going to be easy for Savage Dragon. The new Overlord is definitely not the guy we knew before and this new person is ruthlessly efficient but at the same time, less of a stuffed shirt. It's really not what it was.
The marketing itself mentions the words "Overlord is Dead, Long Live Overlord," so can we take that to mean that Seghetti isn't involved at all?
He's mentioned as having once worn the armor but he is not brought back to life. Antonio Seghetti is dead and nothing about him remains. Years ago, in Spider-Man, the Green Goblin costume was passed from one guy to the next and this is akin to that. But unlike the Green Goblin, there's no attempt to have the new guy act like the old guy.
Will we find out who's behind that Overlord mask by issue's end?
It's a mystery, and like all good mysteries, the clues are there for those who know where to look. Older readers will have an easier time of it. It's not revealed in this story who's in the armor but I don't intend on stringing it out forever, either. I can't say at this point when it will be revealed, but it will be revealed. Because older readers have a leg up in the clue department, I'll be refreshing readers and reintroducing suspects so that everybody's on the same page.
Looking ahead at the solicitation for #151, it sounds like Dragon is going to be "out of commission" following this confrontation. Are we looking at a situation where - dare we say it - Dragon might not survive the encounter with Overlord?
You'll have to wait and see. Like I said earlier, the book will eventually continue without him. I'm not sure that readers are ready for a Savage Dragon book starring Dragon's 12-year old son - but if Dragon were to drop dead in #150, that's what we'd be looking at.
Speaking of, Dragon's kids Malcolm and Angel are taking a front-and-center role in #151. Will they be at the forefront of the book for a while following the Overlord encounter?
They've been a part of the book since their mother died in #143. They both have superpowers and want to be helping out battling bad guys, and Dragon's kind of been there trying to keep them out of harm's way. In #146, they were kidnapped by the Vicious Circle and they found out that they're not invincible. That was a sobering lesson. In Savage Dragon #151, they are thrust into the spotlight without a net. Dad's not there to catch them if they fall and that makes their battle that much more difficult. Plus, they're facing Mako - and he's a bad ass.
What else can you tease about "Savage Dragon" #150?
Well, the Golden Age Daredevil is still a big part of the book and the Little Wise guys are as well but that's more of a side story. There are other players as well [in #150] but I'd rather not go into it too much. I could blow the endings of a whole list of issues if I'm not careful.
[But] "Savage Dragon" #150 will not be Overlord's last appearance. That much I can say.
"Savage Dragon" #150 hits shelves on July 15 from Image Comics.