If it really is darkest before the dawn, that’s a really good sign for next month in Savage Dragon–right now it’s looking pretty charcoal. In the second of two issues whose covers Larsen had embargoed before publication, Emperor Kurr’s people come to Chicago just as Kurr faces off against Virus–who still has a fraction of his mind controlled by Dragon–along with Malcolm, Angel and OverLord in the ashes of the city while Kurr’s people drift overhead, led by their new emperor, Krull.
It’s important to note that these columns are meant as a creator commentary to the comic, to be read by those who have already seen the issue in order to illuminate the content. SPOILERS ON is a serious understatement for the next two months, as we’ve got some pretty massive developments coming up and it would be impossible (and lame) not to ask Erik about them here.
Gavin Higginbotham: The initial four page sequence as a reworking of SD 0 was an interesting way of introducing us to Emperor Krull, and re-introducing us to some of Kurr’s people. Was there any temptation to have Kurr’s heir be a girl or had you always had Krull in mind since you did the origin story? Or had you never really intended for these characters to return originally?
Erik Larsen: Early on I didn’t want to reveal Dragon’s origin so this really wasn’t something I had given much thought. Once I decided to go this route–I decided to go with a male because I wanted somebody that looked like Dragon and I was concerned that his daughter would look too similar visually to Mutation–a character already in the book.
Russ Burlingame: Does introducing Krull give you a chance to create some genuine suspense about Malcolm’s face-off with Kurr next issue? I mean, having a male who looks like Dragon and has a decent soul in circulation provides an opportunity to kill Malcolm if you really wanted to and still have a potential main character out there.
EL: That wasn’t entirely the reason but it’s there. Certainly Krull looks the part a lot more than Malcolm does.
GH: Malcolm witnessing first-hand WildStar’s death has to be tough on him. He’s known WildStar since he was very young and seeing such a horrific death will have to scar the poor guy, right?
EL: I would certainly this so, yeah. Really, at this point–the kid’s gotta be a mess. His actions inadvertently led to this point and that has to weigh on him. Had he not tried to revive his dad and give him a blood transfusion Kurr would never have resurfaced.
RB: Not only do you mention it in an interview, but Malcolm says something about his culpability in all this this issue. Assuming he survives the story arc, will that be an element of his character?
EL: I would think it would have to be. Malcolm can’t help but feel that all of this is his own fault (although Angel had as much to do with it as he did–she pushed for that as well). Still, at the end of the day, it was Malcolm’s blood which revived his father and resurrected Kurr.
GH: Glum’s head on a spike… I guess we now know the outcome of his encounter with Kurr!
EL: Yeah. Years back Glum had made a remark about putting somebody’s head on a spike as a warning to others and I thought it would be fitting for it to have happened to him.
GH: Overlord’s actions here are interesting. He’s demonstrated in the past that he has good intentions and shows remorse for deaths he has caused, but the deaths of everyone seems to have created even more heroic tendencies. It appears that Kurr killed Overlord before we got to know his true identity but it’s possible that it was just his helmet torn off and not his actual head…
EL: It was just his helmet. If it was his head it would have been a bloody mess.
RB: Will we find out, then, that OverLord is a freak even without the suit? It seems like losing his helmet would be a death sentence anwyay if not.
EL: We’ll get a resolution to the Overlord story shortly. This issue isn’t his last appearance, despite what it looks like.
GH: It’s alarming at how easily Kurr defeated Overlord. Does this just mean that Dragon held back more when facing him? Or is Kurr just that much more of a skilled fighter than his other self?
EL: Kurr is far better at this kind of thing than almost anybody. That, and he’s far more likely to go for the kill immediately. Dragon was generally out to take ‘em in alive, if possible.
RB: On the note of Kurr being better at this than almost anybody, do you think the best opportunity for a truly powerful character to have a shot at taking him one-on-one would be for Malcolm (overcome with rage) or Virus (only semi-coherent) to come at him as truly “savage?” A total lack of predictable action, a la the way DC writers have said Joker manages to fight Batman?
EL: We’ll see. Both of them get a shot next issue. We end this issue with Malcolm fighting mad and we’ve seen the cover to the next issue with Virus and Kurr mixing it up. Virus, at least how we’ve seen him in this issue, seems more disoriented and confused than cunning or unpredictable. That might make things difficult for him.
GH: Kurr shows happiness for the first time when he recognizes that his people have arrived. I guess we know now what he was doing when Vanguard first caught him up on his spaceship?
EL: Yeah. I’d thought about including a footnote about that but I couldn’t find a good place to do that. Footnotes are tricky because they can be real mood killers if placed in an inopportune location. I thought readers could figure it out.
GH: It seems that Kurr has a stalker in the shadows. I guess Kurr’s plague wasn’t quite as effective as he thought?
EL: That’s for next issue and it can be taken to mean that either it wasn’t as effective as he thought and some humans did survive–Kurr’s people reacted in time and lives were saved or simply–that stalker isn’t human. It was left intentionally vague. Give readers something to look forward to.
GH: Dragon’s return to action, even as part of Virus, was great to see. Did you enjoy getting to write Dragon being heroic again after so many months, no matter how briefly it was?
EL: It’s always fun writing Dragon’s dialogue. I do love the character and I do miss him. But I’ve got other characters and it’s part of my challenge to turn them into characters that I love as much as I do him. But I’ll admit–there are days when I just wish I’d done what they do at Marvel and DC and freeze the character in some status quo forever so I could keep writing this one guy as is for the rest of my life.
GH: Another surprise cover but this one wasn’t quiet as literal as the last one. Why keep it a secret?
EL: I had this idea of doing an EC Comics style invasion cover. The scene doesn’t happen at all in the book–in fact–they don’t haven travel in flying saucers so it isn’t something that could happen but it’s the gist of the idea–that Dragon’s people have arrived on Earth. I kept in a secret because I didn’t want readers to know that Kurr’s people were on their way. In retrospect, both covers are kind of obvious. Readers knew we’d get to the WildStar future eventually and given Kurr’s visit to Vanguard’s ship–this wasn’t completely unexpected but I didn’t see any advantage to spoiling things.
GH: And the big one… Angel’s dead?! Seeing one version of her killed last issue was tough enough but I don’t think anyone would have been expecting BOTH the Angels to get killed in quick succession… Have you no mercy?
EL: Every one of these characters comes out of my head and I can make more. That’s the big difference between what I do and what goes on with other superheroes in other comics. In other companies they can’t break their toys because they won’t have any more toys. Creators aren’t actively creating new characters that could replace their existing ones. Once they’re dead there’s nothing left–but I introduce new characters all the time. And while that does mean that we lose a big one every so often–it also means that there’s an endless supply of new characters waiting in the wings to be introduced.
RB: It’s interesting–I feel like one of the other differences between your characters and the franchise characters is if someone said of a Superman supporting character, “They’re fictional characters and can be replaced–relax,” the readers would revolt. Both you and Robert Kirkman have managed to really successfully do that. Do you think it’s a difference in the mentality of readers of creator-owned material?
EL: Sure. I mean, with Spider-Man or Superman there really hasn’t been a whole lot of quality additions to their supporting casts or rogues galleries in the last 40 years so it’s a hard case to make that there are plenty of awesome characters just waiting to be introduced. With creator-owned books you can look and see that there is a constant flow of new, cool characters being introduced and that, if anything, a lot them are better than what was there before. With Batman, if you killed off the Joker, Two-Face and the Penguin you’d be sitting there going–”oh, crap–there goes everybody cool. NOW what?” but I don’t think readers would feel like Dragon would have nobody worthwhile to battle if I knocked off Overlord, Mako and Doubleheader.
GH: Next issue will have Kurr vs. a pissed off Malcolm… considering what you said in the letters pages for issue 166, Malcolm might be making a HUGE mistake here…
EL: I don’t want to say too much–but the cover to #168 is out there as well and Virus isn’t exactly down for the count. It may not be as bleak as all that–or–it may. That’s the one thing about this book–you never know for sure where it’s going to go.
RB: How long have you got the book plotted out for? It seems like after the last year and a half or so it’ll be hard to keep up with this pace of crazy plot twists and unexpected deaths?
EL: The plans are always both very long term and somewhat etherial and malleable. I have a basis idea of where a mess of threads are going but it’s not so specific that I can’t introduce plenty of other things along the way. I know the grand scheme but not every little detail. It’s like building an arc. I know what I’m building but I couldn’t tell you where every nail is going or which specific piece of wood goes where. There are times where I have several possible paths that end up at the same destination ten or fifteen years down the road and I’m picking and choosing which is the most exciting path to take.