Police, Obama and the Dragon - Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon

Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon #145

Savage Dragon #145

February’s Savage Dragon #145 has more than a few things going for it – not only does it feature the titular “Savage” Dragon returning to the Chicago Police Force, it also features the return of the Vicious Circle, and an appearance by President-Elect Barack Obama. Oh, and according to creator Erik Larsen, it’s a good jumping on point too.

“There have certainly been a lot of good examples out there of how to do something like this--from Thor #337 to Swamp Thing #21 to Daredevil #158 to a dozen or so other comics which came along and made readers feel that owning every previous issue was unnecessary,” Larsen says. “It's a little different because I actually wrote and drew the previous 16 years worth of Savage Dragon comics but it's the same sort of idea--give new readers the basic set up, take it off in a new direction and run with it.”

For the Dragon, the return to the Chicago PD marks the first time in 12 years that he’s put on the blue uniform. Long-time readers will remember that the character began his career in with the police, laying the groundwork for interactions and characters that have appeared in the book over the last 16 years.

“The funny thing is - a lot of people still refer to him as being a policeman,” Larsen says. “To a lot of folks, that's what defines the character. To a lot of folks that's as much a part of him as the fin on his head. I knew it had been a few years but nearly 12 was a few more than I thought it had been since he’d been with the police.”

Overall, the reason to return Dragon to the police was a simple one, according to Larsen - there were a lot of stories left to tell.

“Over the years it's hit home how much I miss that kind of set up--it's kind of a team without being a team book,” he says. “The other team members are there when you need them. There have also been quite a few times over the years where I felt that a given story might have worked better had he still been in law enforcement. His role has been somewhat nebulous and ill-defined. Plus there was the fan angle--for many of them, having Savage Dragon stop being a cop was the equivalent of Superman becoming that electric blue Superman or having Spider-Man get a new costume. It was fun for a while but everybody missed seeing the real version. Savage Dragon as a police officer is the icon. Savage Dragon as a married father and struggling author--not so much. I've had fans ask when he was going to be a cop again over the years and eventually it got to a point where it just seemed right--story-wise--and so I figured--what the hell...”

As for that other attention-grabbing aspect of the issue, that is, the appearance by President-Elect Obama, Larsen’s heard all the comments, both pro and con about putting a real-world political figure in the comic.

Obama's appearance with Dragon

“Nearly 70 years ago, long before we became involved in WWII Jack Kirby drew Captain America punching Adolf Hitler on the cover of Captain America #1,” Larsen says. “If there had been the internet back then I'm sure a few fans would have lambasted Kirby for mixing politics in comics, saying that ‘many people support Hitler.’ Politics and comics have been intertwined for decades. Some of the first comics were political cartoons and having there be that kind of commentary in comic book form is not only appropriate but patriotic. It's as American as apple pie. Having touched on the election four years ago and having featured several presidents in previous issue it seemed natural to have President-Elect Barack Obama appear in the pages of Savage Dragon, especially given their shared connection to the city of Chicago.”

All of that said, Larsen again stresses that for new Dragon readers, or readers wanting to get back to Savage Dragon, February’s issue #145 is a no-strings attached open door.

“Readers don't need any more information than is in Savage Dragon #145 to get into the issue,” the creator says. “I'm hesitant to say any more than that, given that stories are still unraveling, which set up the events that follow. I'll be wrapping things up over the next few issues so that Savage Dragon #145 starts clean.

“There will be a lot of familiar faces but more new ones. If you're an older reader - hey, it's great - there will be a lot of key villains coming back but at the same time, it's important to me that these characters are reintroduced in such a way that new readers don't feel as though they're missing a big piece of the puzzle. For the most part, I'd like to avoid doing a lot of score settling. Villains have their own agenda. They have crimes to commit. It's not as though a bank robber, in the real world, decides to shoot the cop who put him in jail, years ago, before he goes and robs his next bank. Savage Dragon's job is to serve and protect--not to simply defend himself.”

And for those who’ve never experienced Savage Dragon, Larsen says that his goal with the book has remained consistent throughout – make superhero comics the way he feels they should be.

“There is no status quo in Savage Dragon,” Larsen says. “It's a book you can grow up with and grow old with. Savage Dragon ages in real time. There are characters who were born during the run of the book who are entering high school and there are kid sidekicks who have moved on to becoming heroes in their own right. He's aged, the others have aged and there will be a lot of new blood in the mix. I can't tell you how many times I've heard fans wish that heroes from other comics would grow up with them instead of being stuck in time, the characters forever young, going through the same paces. Savage Dragon is a different animal. The changes made in Savage Dragon are real and lasting. The ramifications are real and lasting. And dead is dead.

“This is what superhero comic books should be. Not the revolving door, baton-passing that goes on elsewhere, where successive creative teams contradict and undo stories from creators that preceded them but a book that makes sense from start to finish, where one event follows another and progresses the narrative in a logical way. A lot of superhero readers grow jaded over the years as heroes get bumped off and resurrected and years of continuity get tossed out the window on a whim. Savage Dragon is a different kind of book. It's the comic book I always wanted to read.”

Twitter activity