“Indie Comics Month” on Crushing Krisis continues! Today, my focus is back on the original Image Comics flagship titles that began launching in 1992. Last week I debuted a Guide to Youngblood and made a massive update to my Guide to Spawn. Today, I’m back with a guide for all Patrons of CK for the third of Image’s original ongoing titles – and one of the longest-running indie comics! That’s right, it’s Erik Larsen’s green-skinned, head-finned cop with amnesia in my brand new Guide to Savage Dragon!
Guide to Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen
Savage Dragon was my least favorite of all the Image Comics launch titles back in 1992, which has less to do with the character of Savage Dragon and more to do with the fact that I wasn’t familiar with Eric Larsen from my brief time of hoovering up X-Men comics the way I was with Lee, Liefeld, and Silvestri – nor did he have cool, mysterious powers like Spawn or Shadowhawk.
With 30 years of hindsight, I can see that Erik Larsen launched the most unique and sustainable character out of all of the Image flagships – and that Larsen proved himself to be one of the most-consistent Image founders alongside Todd McFarlane.
What made Savage Dragon so unique? He was the one Image launch character who didn’t resemble any other comics character in his powers, origins, or story.
Sure, he was green and strong, but his resemblance to Hulk stopped there. Yes, he seemed to arrive on Earth from another planet, but he wasn’t a baby like Superman – he was an adult with amnesia. And, unlike Captain America or Batman, he didn’t just work with law enforcement – he was an actual cop in the Chicago Police Department.
Those differences meant Larsen’s character wasn’t as easy as a sell as “X-Men by Cyber,” “X-Men but aliens,” “Avengers but X-Treme,” “Black Suit Spidey but a demon,” and “Batman with Wolverine claws.”
What he had in his favor is that he was visually distinct and with a simple continuity. There were no convoluted origins for Larsen to develop, and he stayed silent on Dragon’s pre-amnesia life for nearly 15 years. This was a story of a beat cop who wasn’t quite human and how he tread the line between regular guy and superhero.
At least, that’s who he was for the first 50 issues. Because Larsen began with such a contained, “real life” concept, he had plenty of room to explode it with super-villains and other dimensions, as well as with personal drama. Before he reached issue #100, Larsen had Dragon adopt one child and father another, but also tossed him into a Jack Kirby-inspired saga on an alien planet.
Much like Batman, Dragon translated easily to every story because he’s a simple character at his core. Batman is an orphan who wants to make good so no one else has to become him. Dragon is a man with no memory who wants to prove he has a place on Earth.
Eventually, Larsen revealed Dragon’s pre-amnesia secrets in a 2005 Image anniversary hardcover (that would later be reprinted, appropriately, as issue #0). That set into motion a string of events that would see Dragon connected with his extra-dimensional origins, but also would allow his son Malcolm to become a key player in the title – and, eventually, the lead.
This is another trick Larsen managed to pull: his characters grew and changed in close to real time. Liefeld attempted it with Youngblood but could never stick with it, and McFarlane always returns to the status quo of Al Simmons as Spawn. Larsen didn’t have those problems. He was happy to age characters, make them into parents, turn them evil, or kill them off all in the service of always keeping his title moving forward.
If that all sounds incredibly strategic, highbrow, and interesting, know that Larsen also engages in his fair share of lowbrow, low-quality content as well. Savage Dragon was always the Image launch book that was the most frank about sex and violence. As the title pressed into its third decade of publication (and with a second generation of characters as leads), Larsen often relied on shocking, graphic violence and a non-stop barrage of sexual activity as main plot points of the book. For every cool concept, there’s a amount of guts or sex that might make you cringe.
Some readers might be put off by how Larsen has sexualized these characters who were once kids, but that’s part of the thesis statement of how he writes Savage Dragon. It’s a soap opera where characters should grow and change, and that means growing up and aging into different kinds of stories. Larsen isn’t interested in writing the same Dragon for another 30 years, nor does he want to turn Malcolm into the same character. I’m sure if the title runs long enough he’ll eventually usher Malcolm out of the spotlight and focus on a third generation of Dragon!
This Guide to Savage Dragon covers every issue of Erik Larsen’s long-running indie creation, including explaining how it is collected in Archives and Ultimate collections, how he has remastered the earliest issues for a slightly revised canon, and how he skipped several volumes of its trade paperbacks entirely – including their volume numbers! It also includes every Savage Dragon mini-series and appearance from his 1980s pre-debut origins to the present day.
Stay tuned for more indie guide announcements – and if you want access to them as they launch, consider becoming a Patron of CK. For as little as $1 a month or $10.20 a year, Patrons currently have access to…
Exclusives for Crushing Cadets ($1/month): 34 Guides!
DC Guides (6): Batman – Index of Ongoing Titles, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Hal Jordan, Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner, Omega Men
Marvel Guides (25): Adam Warlock, Alpha Flight, Angela, Beta Ray Bill, Black Cat, Blade, Captain Britain, Dazzler, Domino, Dracula, Elsa Bloodstone, Emma Frost – White Queen, Heroes For Hire, Legion, Marvel Era: Marvel Legacy, Mister Sinister, Sabretooth, Spider-Ham, Star-Lord, Thunderstrike, Valkyrie, Vision, Weapon X, Werewolf by Night, X-Man – Nate Grey
Indie & Licensed Comics (2): Lumberjanes, Princeless & Raven The Pirate Princess, Savage Dragon
Exclusives For Pledgeonauts ($1.99+/month): 64 Guides!
All of the 34 guides above, plus 30 more…
DC Guides (17): Animal Man, Aquaman, Books of Magic, Catwoman, Doctor Fate, Flash, Harley Quinn, Houses & Horrors, Infinity Inc., Justice League, Justice Society of America, Mister Miracle, Nightwing, Outsiders, Shazam – Captain Marvel, Suicide Squad, Swamp Thing
Marvel Guides (13): Darkhawk, Falcon, Gwenpool, Hellcat – Patsy Walker, Kang the Conqueror, Loki, Power Pack, Red She-Hulk, Sentry, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Venom
Leave a Reply