After the shocking and baffling events of last month’s super-sized Savage Dragon #150, Erik Larsen was back this month with a story that revolved mostly around Dragon’s supporting characters—as his children learned of his apparent death, and the Chicago PD teamed with Golden Age Daredevil and the Li’l Wise Guys (and hesitantly accepted an assist from Dragon’s kids Malcolm and Angel) to take on Mako, the shark-man who was blazing a destructive path to…visit his sick mother? We sat down with Larsen to discuss the issue. As always, spoilers on.
Blog@Newsarama: So with Dragon missing, presumed dead, in this issue–and with the cover to October’s issue hitting solicitations recently and featuring a horrifying Zombie Dragon, is it safe to guess that we won’t be seeing him in #152? Or will we simply be seeing “him” make his way to Chicago?
EL: Well, he’s on the cover to #152. That last scene is building to his–resurrection, for lack of a better word. But he’s not exactly the guy we’ve known for the last 150 issues. In any case–he’s in Chicago already–or rather–what’s left of him is in Chicago. He never left.
Blog@: That said, can you say whether this is the evil intelligence whose body Dragon was inhabiting, a combination of their two minds a la Onslaught, or “other?”
EL: Well, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? No point spoiling everything right here. Up until #150, Dragon was very much in the driver’s seat although one could certainly see bits and pieces of other people’s memories drift to the surface. Following Overlord’s blast, which obliterated his head– things aren’t going to be quite that simple.
Blog@: I like the fact that Daredevil comes onboard and two issues later you’ve already got him being dispatched on the first page. It kind of subverts that comic book trope of someone being AWESOME for their first handful of appearances. Are you taking his overly-trusting nature and his relative power levels from the old books?
EL: Yeah–I’m treating the ’40s and ’50s as a more innocent time. The Golden Age Daredevil was a bit all over the place personality-wise back then but I’m basing much of what I’m doing on his latter appearances because that is what he became. He’s essentially a non-powered hero–I’m treating him as a Captain America level guy–peak level human. It’ll depend on who he’s up against. Mako is not somebody he should be tangling with.
Blog@: But does he have a Captain America-sized sense of responsibility? As in, will we see him continuing to get batted around by guys like Mako and Overlord, as he just tries to do stuff he has no business attempting? Or is he going to learn a role for himself? Maybe training Dragon’s kids instead of the Li’l Wise Guys?
EL: With few exceptions–I have characters grow and learn from their mistakes. I certainly don’t picture DD jumping into battle with Mako again without more of a game plan. Ultimately, the lesson learned here is that he’s going to need to step up his game if he’s going to be effective in the new millennium. Dragon’s kids are both more powerful than the Golden Age Daredevil is at this point.
Blog@: Is it hard to incorporate a character like that, with an established universe that’s different from Dragon’s, into the book without worrying about whether the old stories will make sense anymore?
EL: I really don’t worry about it too much. There are relatively few readers (if any) that would be familiar with the old Golden Age Daredevil comics and catering to those few would be a bad idea. I know most readers are completely unfamiliar with the Golden Age Daredevil–I certainly can’t expect readers to have access to the back issues so I’m just treating him as one of my own characters and running with it. He was not an especially well-fleshed out character in the Golden Age and since he was frozen for 60 years it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for him to pick up where he left off and that works better for me anyway. It’s better for me if I can start anew with the character. I’m not tampering with his origin–I’m not inserting a mess of old stories into his old continuity–I’m just taking him from a certain point and continuing it. There shouldn’t be any Star Wars Episode 1-3 type fiascos where things just don’t jibe with what had been established. I’m going the other direction and taking him from where he was left off.
Blog@: Was the “boomerang in your pocket” joke something put in to establish that the kids being the front of the book won’t necessarily make it family-friendly? Or building toward character beats with these two?
EL: Both. The book has pretty much been a step beyond what has gone on in Marvel Comics since day one. It’s not an all-ages book– and really hasn’t been–it gets a bit too racy and quite a bit too violent. But I’m also setting up a character dynamic for those two. I have an idea where this is all going. Actually, I have several ideas. I kind of write the book as though it’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of thing. I figure out a few different directions and then pick the one that looks to be the most promising. With every issue I have several possible directions where I could go. Planning things out too far makes for a predictable comic book. If something is set up as a mystery–then yeah–I’ll plan that out but determining everybody’s life story beforehand would be a nightmare. And doing a book like that would feel like painting by numbers. I don’t know what I’ll be doing six years from now–why should I know that about all of my characters?
Blog@: That said, do you have a concrete endpoint for this current arc in mind (even a malleable one) or are things pretty much still up in the air?
EL: Define arc. Some things end every issue and over all stories can continue for years. In a way, it’s all been one continuous story. I tend to think of this as characters’ lives–and lives don’t have neat arcs that fit nicely into trade paperbacks. You’d almost have to pick a specific character in order to determine when their arc ends.
Blog@: Is Malcolm a little jealous of DD? Outside of Angel’s feelings, there’s the fact that he’s the new hero in town and obviously Malcolm is very much his father’s son.
EL: Malcolm is very confused when it comes to Angel. They’ve been through a lot together and she’s his big sister in a way but not really because they’re not actually related. He’s attracted to her at the same time that he’s protective of her and yet there’s still that sibling thing going because they have kind of been raised together. I have a couple friends who went through something like this–where their parents remarried and suddenly they’re sharing a house with a person of the opposite sex who is roughly their age. Oh, and also they had superpowers. But yeah, Malcolm sees DD as a rival for Angel’s affections–even if he’s not sure what he’s do with her affections if he had them.
Blog@: What the hell’s wrong with the captain? Who would bring his kids to that scene?
EL: The thing with that is–the kids would ask to go–they’d want to see where that happened. They wouldn’t just take somebody’s word for it. There are a lot of scenes which, by necessity, need to be left on the cutting room floor. I assumed that the kids asked to go see the site where Dragon was killed. They wouldn’t just take somebody’s word that Dragon was dead. They’d want proof.
Blog@: Does hearing “Alison” from DD put Angel in the way of some serious danger?
EL: It’s certainly a cause for some concern. At this point, however, Angel doesn’t know for sure if the Alison mentioned is the Alison she knows as the deadly assassin named Dart or somebody else. All she knows for sure is that there’s another girl in the Golden Age Daredevil’s life.
Blog@: This “nobody ever believes a guy who looks like me” stuff rolls very nicely into what the new Overlord was saying about “Do you think a guy with a chicken head can get a job in normal society?” or whatever it was. Was this whole thing staged?
EL: Not staged, no. It’s more of a sentiment held by a few guys that have been around a while. As cool as it might be to be able to rip a tank apart with your bare hands–it would also be nice to walk down the street without causing everybody to panic. Mako was not a young man 17 years ago when he was first introduced–and now that he’s in his mid-50s he’s gotta be getting a bit tired of all of the attention. Overlord wants to force the issue and Mako would be on board for that.
Blog@: So what kind of position does that put law enforcement in, if we’re going to see a lot of supervillains ambling harmlessly down the street, drawing attention and, presumably, fire? Doesn’t it kind of throw the whole system under a microscope if activists start to think the cops and heroes are overreacting?
EL: Well, Mako is still wanted for the murder of Jill August–or at least he’s wanted for questioning. It’s not as though the kids attacked a person at random. Mako is very much a threat.
But it does make things very difficult for the police. Had the kids not gone after Mako a lot of people would not have lost their lives. But does that mean that the police should just let known criminals do whatever they want? Realistically– their job is impossibly difficult in this world. They really do need a hero and if Dragon can’t be that hero they certainly need somebody who can help deal with these vicious bastards.
Time will tell where this all leads.