A new age begins–officially, at least–today with the release of Savage Dragon #169, Malcolm Dragon’s first full issue as the titular protagonist after last issue’s, ahem, electrifying conclusion. A new era for us here at DragonQuestions, too, as we head back to our original home at Comic Related. Starting next month, the column will be running predictably on Wednesdays at Comic Related, although this month’s interview is going to be handled in a kind of odd way. Gavin’s questions, which nobody’s seen or heard before, will be published here and now, while tomorrow an expanded edition will go live over at Comic Related that will feature not only Gavin’s questions for Erik on the occasion of this momentous issue, but a number of questions transcribed from the podcast interview I did with Larsen last month (which have never appeared in the column, only on The Related Recap.
Speaking of the Comic Related podcasting network, this Monday I launched Panel Discussions, a biweekly podcast that will, after the technological fiasco that was our first episode, feature me with a rotating cast of guest-hosts. This week was just me, however, talking with J.M. DeMatteis about leaving Booster Gold in May to make way for Flashpoint and Troy Brownfield (formerly of Newsarama fame) about the Buck Rogers annual he recently wrote with former ‘Rama honcho Matt Brady.
All that said, let’s make way for Gavin and Erik to talk about a very special episode of Savage Dragon.
Gavin Higginbotham: The opening sequence being a reworking of the opening sequence from the very first issue was perfect. It’s a great way to introduce new readers while also giving a massive nod to old readers who were around at the very start.
Erik Larsen: That was fun to do. There are a few outright swipes there from myself and other panels that were simply reminiscent of what I’d done before. I think they work both as an introduction to something new and as a callback for old readers.
GH: We’ve had a few second generation heroes (or future heroes) in the past, but Cutthroat Kid is the first child to carry on their villainous parents’ legacies. Will this be a recurring theme?
EL: Absolutely. Though a lot of it will be somewhat behind the scenes because we haven’t exactly been privy to a lot of the villain’s family lives.
GH: Malcolm clearly doesn’t have the same confidence when it comes to witty banter with his enemies. Is it fun working out Malcolm’s character traits like this? That simple line of “Anyway… yeah” was brilliant. It showed that Malcolm isn’t quite as settled into his new role yet. Good fun.
EL: A lot of Malcolm’s speech patterns come straight from my son Joe and he actually suggested the battle with Cutthroat’s kid that started off the issue. Joe’s a few months younger than Malcolm is but I’m using him as something of a guide for Malcolm. But yeah, I don’t want Malcolm to be a carbon copy of his old man. Malcolm is his own man and it’s fun exploring his personality.
GH: Speaking of fun, the artwork really shines here. Did you enjoy yourself more than normal with this issue? There weren’t necessarily a lot of surprises in this issue but it was incredibly exciting in terms of building the future of this series.
EL: It’s an exciting time to be on the book because it’s transitioning into being something else. In a way that started with #151 where the kids started taking a more active role but with this issue it’s an even bigger step as they fully take control of the book. I had a ball. Malcolm is just fun to draw–as is Angel.
GH: The funeral scene featured a number of characters that haven’t really been seen for a while. Was this just to allow them to bid farewell to Dragon or is this a way of re-introducing these characters for more regular appearances?
EL: A little of each. Barbaric and Ricochet will be more active shortly and I wanted to touch on some of the others.
GH: With the confirmation that Dragon’s body remains and Virus is still being kept frozen in Rex Dexter’s laboratory, are these hints that Dragon could return one day?
EL: That remains to be seen. But regardless of what happens in the future–this is Malcolm’s book now. The comic is set in real time and these characters age. If Dragon returned, he’d be pushing 50 and the reality is, at a certain point, crime fighting becomes increasingly less feasible. In the real world boxers retire, athletes retire, older police get desk jobs. We’ve all read enough comics to know that a resurrection is possible. The pieces are there and pretending they’re not is just silly. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it can’t be done. At the same time, I want to make it very clear that the torch has been passed and that the focus has shifted.
GH: Angel’s feelings of being ignored are really quite sad. Was this purely part of the story or was it mirroring things outside of the book itself, i.e. readers referring to Malcolm taking over the book when Angel is the child that’s been around the longest?
EL: It’s funny. That page was originally going to be something else entirely–and the last page in the book–but I decided after it had bee sent to Tom that the scene with Captain Stewart which worked better as a lead in to the new reality. There was a time when I was saying to folks that Angel Dragon would eventually be the star of the book and, in a way, that is the case, but Malcolm’s a better front man, visually. The book’s going to be more of a shared title, like Powerman/Iron Fist from back in the day. I guess the closest equivalent now would be Batman and Robin but they’re not really partners or equals in the way that Power Man and Iron Fist were.
GH: Jerry Rivers returns for the first time in many years. His aging appearance is another reminder that in this series, the characters really do age.
EL: Yeah. I’ll be doing more of that. The clock is ticking with these characters. That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about more and more, especially given the size of the cast. We can literally go years between appearances. In some cases there are villains that appeared once or twice early on and haven’t appeared since and we’ve missed them in their prime. That’s a bit sobering. I recently came into contact with a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple decades and in the real world that can make one hell of a difference.
GH: Frank Jr. becoming a dependable older brother figure to Malcolm brings about a new incarnation of the Frank and Dragon relationship. The death of both their fathers brings them closer together and it’s nice seeing Malcolm get a stable home life for once.
EL: The one scene missing here was an establishing one showing the whole family unit. We got a glimpse of that in earlier issues but I could have stood to shown that here. Basic stuff–here’s the house–here’s who lives there. That sort of thing–but there’s time to do that and yeah, it is nice to show these things. Frank hasn’t had a lot of panel time.
GH: Krull’s visitation with Malcolm ties up the dangling thread about Kurr having sent a message to his people but a pretty major thread remains, just how did WildStar return to Earth and where are Glum and Angel?
EL: We’ll get to them in the next few issues. There are a lot of characters to get to. Just making a list it’s kind of overwhelming how much there is to do. There are tons of villains the kids have never met and there are a lot of characters to touch on. With Overlord too, his real identity may not mean a hell of a lot to Angel or Malcolm so I need to get the suspects in place so I can eventually solve that mystery.
GH: Krull acknowledging Malcolm as his brother is one thing but does either Malcolm or Angel still have any other family out there? With Angel, she had a great aunt and uncle at one point and her grandmother was seen alive not too long ago, and we never found out what happened to Malcolm’s grandmother (Rapture’s mother), so could we see the kids gaining new family eventually to upset the dynamic set up with the Darlings?
EL: Oh, sure–especially with them being thrust in the spotlight. It’s not inconceivable that they both would have surviving relatives. We’ve met several of Angel’s relatives in the past. Angel’s grandmother was in #139 in an old folks’ home and she dropped a few names and Malcolm’s mother’s past is something of a blank slate. Now that the focus is squarely on the kids it’s somewhat natural to bring in more supporting characters–especially ones that are human who could help ground the characters in reality.
GH: Was the mentioning of OverLord being at war with the Vicious Circle on the final page to simply set up future stories or also to remind readers that even though we’re in a new era, the old threats still remain?
EL: Yeah, and there’ll be more of that but I do keep in mind that every issue is somebody’s first issue so I do make an effort to fill readers in on who these characters are and what they’re all about.
GH: The setting up of the new status quo with Malcolm and Angel unofficially working for Captain Stewart sets up the series for the foreseeable future. With the city’s primary protectors being two teenagers, is Chicago in big trouble? Or should we have faith in Dragon’s kids?
EL: Well, they’re not alone. At this point Overlord is fighting the Vicious Circle and the Golden Age Daredevil is still active–but it’s a different world, to be sure. Neither have to experience or skill of Savage Dragon. It’s not going to be easy for either of them.