Erik Larsen has been a long time comics creator and is considered one of the most prolific writers in the industry. His series Savage Dragon, which debuted in 1993, follows a prehistoric man who falls through a portal back to present day. The comic covers controversial topics like violence, sex work and drugs with an impressive degree of realism even by modern standards. In this interview Erik discusses what it was like creating mainstream comics during its heyday as well as his thoughts on digital currencies such as Bitcoin from his point of view now that he’s become so immersed in them.
Erik Larsen, who is the writer for Savage Dragon, was a guest on Comic Book Club. The episode had him discussing Gang Wars and Killer Sharks.
This week’s issue of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon was a game-changer, with the new Mako becoming more active and deadly, and several members of the Vicious Circle jockeying for control in the wake of Dart’s death. It’s all leading up to a fight next month, but in the meanwhile, we got to see some progress on a few subplots, including Angel Dragon returning to Chicago to marry, Malcolm and Paul Dragon finally finding common ground, and, of course, Maxine’s overindulgent lifestyle taking center stage once again (err…table).
All of this happened when Horridus, one of the series’ longest-running supporting characters, was hospitalized with a life-threatening case of covid-19. What is her solution? To take some of Malcolm’s blood and attempt to cure herself with it, while hoping she doesn’t go “sput.”
Larsen joined the show to dissect the issue and tease a little of what’s to come next. Because this is a commentary track-style interview, you should pick up a copy or download a digital edition right now and read along, because there will be spoilers.
We’ve spoken about the Mako/King Shark problem previously, but did you feel compelled to respond in-story due of the comic’s real-time nature?
When I sketched it, it felt extremely significant, but it became less so with each passing day. Even though the comic book Mako predates comic book King Shark by a few years, my fear at the time was that movie King Shark would make the prospect of a movie Mako difficult, but that may not be the case. The Suicide Squad film didn’t exactly light up the globe. I’d gotten it out of my system as soon as the scene paper was committed. Coming out today, it seems strange, and I regret giving it any airtime. Perhaps this narrative takes place in August of 2021, or during that little period when it seemed to be a hit. However, it does make Mako seem like a laughingstock, and having a chip on his shoulder in addition to an axe to grind with the Vicious Circle isn’t a terrible thing.
When it comes to Maxine’s attempts to go down on Malcolm during the game, Malcolm is usually on board with her sexual obsession. Is it reasonable to anticipate that this resounding “no” will be part of a wider story?
No, I don’t believe so. Maybe if it develops a pattern of rejection, but for now, he’s merely establishing limits. He has no desire to be a part of Maxine’s next popular video. He doesn’t want the rest of the world to see his trash. And because she isn’t stupid, but impulsive, this makes sense to her.
This is the first time we’ve seen Malcolm and Paul converse in a somewhat pleasant manner, with no tension. Do you believe they’re on their way to reaching a happy medium between family and strangers?
Malcolm and Paul will, I believe, eventually find something in the center. This is their only Grandpa, according to their children. So, whether they like it or not, Paul will be a part of their life. He’s also one of the few sitters who, if necessary, could keep the kids in order.
The immunization of the tongue makes sense. Was the sequence only to bring the notion of their being vaccinated into canon, or was there anything more to it?
It was, in a sense, a public service. I was going to go for an arm shot at first, but given their abilities, it didn’t seem like a good idea, and I’d already established the tongue shot in earlier issues, so it seemed like a better option. It’s also a humorous sight.
It’s tiring simply reading that scenario with Marsha. Did you believe it was time to become a bit more involved in politics now that Trump is out of power and the epidemic is still raging?
It’s amazing how this subject has become so political. We’d still be dealing with Smallpox and the Spanish Flu if Facebook and Twitter existed in the early 1900s. Vaccines should not be used for political purposes. It’s a matter of fundamental public health. Are we attempting to lay the epidemic to rest or not? Why is this even a point of contention? In any event, I believed it was critical that someone in the novel track down Covid, and Horridus seemed like a natural candidate.
People are also becoming more comfortable with the use of Dragon blood and Freak-Out as a cure-all combination. What are the chances that this will come back to harm us?
It isn’t always going to work. After injecting Malcolm’s blood and letting the time run out, the original Savage Dragon perished. It’s a game of cat and mouse here. However, desperate times need extreme methods. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Did Samurai really believe that announcing herself as the boss would be that simple? Or is she only attempting to build up the next fight in order to obtain the part?
She foolishly assumed that as Dart’s second-in-command, she would be in charge. After all, there is a hierarchy, and she assumed she could just take over without any violence. We’ll see how it works out.
Could this truly be the end of something that has been a part of the novel from the beginning, seeing the Vicious Circle reduced to what it is now? Is it something you’ve been thinking about, without giving anything away about future stories?
It’s not out of the question. I think about all of the alternatives all of the time and assess the story potential. Having a prepared collection of foes is convenient from a narrative standpoint, but there’s also a benefit to upsetting the current order. There’s a lot to think about.
However, given how much of the novel is about family, how essential are supervillains to Savage Dragon these days? Malcolm almost feels like he could take on the position of fireman now that he isn’t a policeman and tackle issues that don’t entail hurling brick walls at people.
That method may become tediously repeated, both visually and narratively, but there is some truth to it. I suppose I could go a long time without having a major villain, but I’m not sure how supportive the audience would be. That section is a lot of fun artistically, but writing it isn’t usually so much fun.
How busy are you keeping Gavin coming up with names of Vicious Circle members who are alive and identifiable enough to make the scenes exciting, with a large clash coming up involving two Dragons and, I presume, Mako?
We’ve made a list, and I’m constantly going over it and cutting things off. Overall, there are a few topics that I’ve touched on far too many times. There are far too many demon-like figures or characters with little heads protruding from their skulls. And, having just seen Torment, I didn’t want to see a couple more with comparable aesthetic aspects surface in the following issue. When there are a lot of people in a room, it’s difficult to tell who is there and who isn’t. It might look as though characters arrive out of nowhere or vanish. It becomes more complex.
When there’s a notable kingpin at the top, whether it’s OverLord or Dart, the Circle is at its most powerful. Is it foolish to think that’s Mako’s job?
Mako isn’t a natural leader, in my opinion. At least for the time being, he’s more likely to set fire to the Vicious Circle.