Episode #10: The Savage Dragon #1

Erik Larsen was one of that crop of founding members of Image Comics that you kind of have to talk about. His creation, Savage Dragon, had one of the longest runs of any Image character despite not being quite as ubiquitous as Spawn or Youngblood were at their peak. Host Nathaniel Wayne brings in guest Jon Van Luling to take a look at this kickoff to the character’s regular series and see how it holds up.

Listen to Episode 10: The Savage Dragon #1.


You can subscribe to the Council of Geeks Podcast, home of 90s Comics Retrial on iTunes or on Stitcher.

And now for some select scans of the interior pages, with story and art by Erik Larsen.


Did Dragon decide to borrow the Hulk’s arms for this fight? They don’t look like they fit.


Don’t look at that woman’s face for too long, for that way madness lies.


I wonder if he’ll try to diffuse the situation…


Ricochet manages to get through to the angry men through the power of her butt!

Finally, a reminder that the podcast theme song is by Erica Driesbach,and you can find more of her work at her website right here.


3 thoughts on “Episode #10: The Savage Dragon #1

  1. I’ll go to bat for Larsen here. While I could never read the Savage Dragon for long – it’s just too lightweight and juvenile for me – I do respect the artist and character a heck of a lot more than everything else the Image founders were doing. Everyone else was basically doing a visual riff on the book they’d been known for at Marvel – Spawn looks like Spider-Man, Pitt looks like the Hulk, Youngblood look like X-Force, and Lee and Silvestri each had their version of the X-Men. The Dragon, however, doesn’t have a Marvel (or ANY, really) analog. He’s unique, a superhero cop. And Larsen created him when he was a kid; man, who else gets to bring the superheroes he drew as a kid to life (and with such longevity too).

    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles connections are probably not coincidental, since Dragon would shortly share a team-up with them as part of an Image/Mirage crossover.

    I think you hit on the points that make Larsen’s work underwhelming, though I personally don’t dislike his work – like a more angular MacFarlane. The Dragon book had a real ADD quality, jumping from one fight to the next, awkwardly following subplots, and introducing tons of new characters that might spin off or not into their own projects… I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm, but he could have reigned it in better. As it was, it often hurt the comic structurally. Big dumb fun, and he would get better at it. Can’t say either of those things about every Image artist.


  2. Frank says:

    There were two primary style camps among the Image movement, and I strongly favored Homage Studios (a.k.a. “guys who looked like Jim Lee”) over Extreme Studios (“guys who drew more like Todd McFarlane.”) Erik Larsen was in the latter camp, and was the creator I least gravitated toward prior to the Image exodus (his having mostly stuck with Spider-Man after my personal sell-by date on the Amazing Arachnid.) However, I was happily surprised to find Larsen and McFarlane had the stronger storytelling chops featuring characters with better premises, so I ultimately hung with them longer than any of the X-Bros (especially given how many of the Image guys still divided their time contributing to the mostly poisonous post-Claremont X-books, shaking me off all their properties.) It didn’t hurt that Savage Dragon also bore a strong Marshal Law influence, to the point where they even did a crossover (putting Dragon in the rare company of Pinhead and The Mask.)

    Following my own personal Marvel exodus, I auditioned a lot of replacement universes for my fan attention, with DC winning out. The more DC books I bought, the more I cut away everything else. Savage Dragon seemed to muddle along for much of the first year of the ongoing series, and had a higher price point, so I finally dropped him. I’ve been amused and repulsed by Larsen’s antics in the years since, and even decided to buy the first Archive (Showcase/Essential affordable black & white brick of early issue reprints) but as impressed as I am by his audacity, Larsen just isn’t my jam (though #0 was one of the better origin stories of the modern era.)

    It’s worth noting that The Savage Dragon is Larsen’s life’s work. He started out as a Batmanesque character who wore an artificial “fin” functioning like Batman-ears in comics Larsen wrote and drew on typing paper as a child. The published series was a quasi-continuation of continuity from Larsen’s universe of characters previously and persistently known only to his friends and family. Like you guys, I found this aspect alienating, though the series was more “lived in” than anyone else’s at Image.

    Per my recollection, the flashpoint for period fixation on furry dudes was 1987’s Uncanny X-Men Annual #10, which debuted the X-Babies. There was a sequence featuring a completely nude Wolverine covered only by his prodigious body hair, rendered with a heretofore unseen concentration of energetic detailing of every strand by Arthur Adams and Terry Austin. I myself thought it was the masculine ideal, and was therefore mighty disappointed when puberty offered a paucity of said man-fuzz, not to mention my falling well short of fellow male role model Mark Hazzard’s 6’4″ (though towering over Logan’s oft-referenced but rarely rendered 5’3″.) Comics bucked the overall social trend of self-deforestation that continues to this day because Adams made 70s shag carpeting of the flesh look too cool.

    Freak Force was drawn by a respectable unknown John Byrne clone, and the later issues were written by Keith Giffen, who decided to do a Doomsday riff who ripped the team to pieces. Most of the Image creators who launched with solo books went ahead and used their studios to generate a team book, and even the founders with team books all managed to produce spares besides. Once you factor the inclination of everyone wanting their own Avengers &/or X-Men across multitudes of companies and imprints, there were far more teams than there were characters and talent to staff them, which began the ’90s trope of the team massacre with these lesser creations fed into meat grinders for pure spectacle. However, Freak Force were part of Larsen’s childhood lore, so he had more love for his character surplus than most, and reabsorbed most of them back into Savage Dragon. Dart (white chick with thong in white costume) ultimately became a crime lord, while Rapture (black chick with thong in purple costume) became Dragon’s babymama (hence the bi-racial/species Malcolm Dragon now starring in the book, which has progressed in real time for twenty-odd years now.) I have to counter that while Mighty Man is in fact mighty (as one would expect an unapologetic Captain Marvel copy to be) Mighty Man was not in fact a man (but an ER nurse present when not-Billy Batson was killed in battle, who gained his powers and gender flips in super-hero form.) I don’t know what became of Ricochet (aviator Kitty Pryde in thong,) but I think some version of Freak Force still exists.


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