Savage Dragon #148 FCBD editionWe kick off a day’s worth of “green” related stories today with a conversation with Erik Larsen about May’s Free Comic Book Day edition of Savage Dragon. The issue features a comprehensive (as comprehensive as can fit into the issue) recap of what’s been going on since issue #1, as well as a story featuring the introduction of the Golden Age Daredevil to the series’ cast.
The issue also serves…not as a soft reset, but a clearing of the buildup in a manner of speaking, leaving Larsen with a series that’s a little more streamlined, and a lot easier for readers, both new and old to jump in to.
For more, we spoke with Larsen.
Newsarama: Erik - you're doing something rather...special with the upcoming Free Comic Book Day issue of Savage Dragon - you want to describe it?
Erik Larsen: Typically what publishers have done is reprint an old comic book or produce a one shot special. This time out we're giving away a new issue from an ongoing, monthly title, in this case Savage Dragon #148.
I should note here that there will also be a pay version of Savage Dragon #148 as well. Some stores can't participate in Free Comic Book Day for a variety of reasons, so we'll be publishing a standard pay version of Savage Dragon #148 so that regular Savage Dragon readers don't miss out. This version will include a letters page as well as chapter four of the Ethrian serial with has been running as a back up in Savage Dragon since #145.
NRAMA: Not to spoil things, while it's not a full-on "reset," what happens in the FCBD issue, and what has been building certainly clear the decks a little and make the Dragon a somewhat streamlined version of what he's been for the last few years. Why go this route with the character? Was the continuity getting too much for readers, both those trying to come in and established ones?
EL: It's always a delicate balancing act. Longtime readers like to have bits from earlier stories referenced. There's nothing that pleases an older fan more than getting a payoff to something set up years ago but I can understand why a new reader might find that off-putting. It would be like listening to a comedian who referenced movies you haven't seen or TV shows you don't watch or keeps making asides to friends in the audience. If you're not "in" on the in-jokes--it's not all that entertaining.
So every so often I like to take the book in a different direction and start fresh. It's not a rest button by any means but it gives readers a starting point. This issue brings the Golden-Age Daredevil into the book and establishes him as a cast member so it's a decent introductory issue plus I did a special four-page summary of the series so that readers could get caught up to speed.
NRAMA: You've always said that you wanted Dragon to take place in "real time" does that still apply, even now with the Dragon's son Malcom and his daughter by marriage, Angel? Do their ages match up with their debuts in the series?
EL: They do. And I keep track of that. There are a couple characters who don't age for whatever reason--but most do. The Dragon himself is in his mid-forties. His stepdaughter Angel will be 15 in August. His son Malcolm will be 13 in October. It's kind of fun to do things this way as well as pretty challenging.
I recently got back in contact with the guy who I had based the villain Dung on and it made me realize how little I'd aged with many of the villains. So I'll be addressing that more as well as introducing a lot of
younger new bad guys.
NRAMA: In regards to that, Dragon is aging along with you as well. Have you noticed a change in how you have to write him, or is it a matter than as you age, so does he, and you really don't notice the gradual changes in him? Obviously, he's what, 17 years older than he was when he started, and a lot of his decisions are being made on past experience. He's...dare we say it...approaching, if not in middle age. Does he feel different to you?
EL: He does. His wife recently passed away and he's facing the prospect of dating again and that's a far different thing for a guy in his forties than one in his twenties. What's strange, in a way, is that he's had a lot more experience and been at this a lot longer than most comic book superheroes. Spider-Man hasn't been fighting crime for 17-years in Marvel time--neither have the Fantastic Four or the X-Men. These guys are stuck in time, forever young, and that has its advantages and disadvantages. It's an idea many comic book readers have wanted to see executed--and I'm happy to be the Guinea Pig. It's an idea worth pursuing.
NRAMA: Back to the literal issue at hand - for you, what's the goal of the FCBD issue?
EL: As crass as it sounds-- to attract more readers to the book.
Unfortunately, I can't really do a typical Savage Dragon story due to the all-ages restrictions but hopefully readers will get enough of a feel for what I'm doing that they'll check out another issue or two and see what I'm up to.
NRAMA: Let's talk Dragon's guest star in the issue - Daredevil, the Golden Age version. Can you give readers the quick lowdown on where he came from and why he's so sprightly for being so old?
EL: In the context of the book, the Golden-Age Daredevil was kept in suspended animation since his last comic book appearance. I did a story previously where it was revealed that Solar Man had abducted or induced a lot of Golden Age heroes to go into a contraption of his where they were reduced to pure energy and were used by him to augment his own power. The heroes were released from their prison and he's in the same shape he was in more than 60 years ago.
NRAMA: You've calling him Daredevil, which lines up with Marvel's character, not to mention he's virtually the same character as Dynamite's Death Defying 'Devil. How are you able to put the character in the issue while seemingly stepping on so many toes?
EL: The character is in public domain. Imagine if Marvel were publishing a Santa Claus comic featuring an entirely different character who was shared that name and Dynamite was publishing Death Defying Claus who looked like Santa but had numerous differences. There's no reason anybody couldn't still tell stories using the original Santa Claus.
Now, Marvel does have a registered trademark on the name so I can't call the book Daredevil or use his name on the cover but much like what DC is doing with Captain Marvel in their books, calling him Captain Marvel inside the comic book but Shazam on the covers, it's all perfectly legal.
Because the word "daredevil" is a word found in a dictionary, it's more difficult for Marvel to restrict its use as they can a compound name like "Captain Marvel," so while I shouldn't say, "This book features Daredevil" I can say, "This book features the Golden-Age Daredevil" or the "Dynamic Daredevil." As long as the word "daredevil" is part of his name and not the entirety of his name, I can mention it in interviews and solicitation copy and whatnot. The important thing is that there's no "confusion in the marketplace" and since the name is not on the cover and the characters have a different look--there will be no confusing the two.
Readers may confuse my "Golden-Age Daredevil" with Dynamite's "Death Defying 'Devil" but that's what we all get for using a character that's in the public domain. If we were both using Santa Claus people might think that he was the same guy as well.
NRAMA: As we’ve discussed, the FCBD issue of Savage Dragon clears the decks and starts essentially a new chapter in Dragon’s life. Given all of that, are you looking to restart things with a new #1 issue?
EL: Not at all. Not ever.
I think the notion that readers need a #1 is a false one. Most readers started reading with a later issue of every comic book they read. Most readers are smart enough to get their bearings and catch on to what's going on. The notion that readers need to be coddled or spoon fed with a #1 on a cover is ridiculous. As a kid, I started reading the Incredible Hulk with #156. I remember jumping on Daredevil with Frank Miller and Swamp Thing with Alan Moore and Thor with Walt Simonson. I wasn't old enough to start reading the X-Men with Lee and Kirby or Amazing Spider-Man with Lee and Ditko-- I had to take what was available. The important thing is to have there be good jumping on points where a reader can start without feeling lost.
NRAMA: But still, this is #148 of a book with 17 years of continuity. Why not start with a new #1 at least for the bump and the publicity?
EL: It's often suggested that I relaunch the book with a new #1. But I think we've all seen how things have changed over the years and how much we've all learned from the experience. Marvel has restored the original numbering to a lot of books over the years, which had been restarted with a new #1 and I think first issues often hurt a book more than they help it because it makes it appear that a title doesn't have staying power. In many cases that's the truth, too-- a whole lot of books have started and died but few make it to #148 or beyond.
If I were a casual reader, looking for a title to follow, I'd trust a book which is on #148 to be there two or three years down the road a hell of a lot more than I would a book which is on #1 or 2.
The big reason to start over with a #1 is to get that initial boost. Sales do get a bump. Unfortunately, most of that bump comes from speculators investing in first issues--not from readers who will be there for the long haul.
NRAMA: Fair enough. Finally Erik - at WonderCon you briefly mentioned that you'd recently read a treatment for a Savage Dragon movie. Who's working on it, and how was it?
EL: I'm not at liberty to tell you who wrote it--but what I've read so far is very, very good.
Check back later today for an exclusive 5 page preview of the Savage Dragon FCBD edition