Introducing: The Savage Dragon.
(AfroGamers.com) The Savage Dragon is an Image Comics series that has been around for a long time. Actually, it’s been well over 20 years at this point. The series, created by Erik Larsen, was one of the flagship titles of the fledgling Image Comics in 1992 along with Spawn, WildC.A.T.S and Youngblood.
Like the rest of Image Comics’ founding fathers, Larsen had previous, recognized work in the industry but co-founded Image as a means to control and create original content. This isn’t about Image Comics—that’s another article—but about Larsen’s creation the Dragon.
Understanding The Savage Dragon
For fans familiar with the sprawling universes of Marvel and DC, The Savage Dragon might prove to be something new while still being very Xtreme 90s content-wise. However, if you’ve indulged in manga here and there or that’s your jam, then Dragon will prove an easy read to get into.
See, the series takes place in a confined universe. While there are plenty of other heroes and no shortage of villains, most of the events and side stories are all concentrated in this one series. In a way, it’s similar to the linear approach h of manga with storytelling with one main arc and individual stories taking place within it.
This is something I love about The Savage Dragon and Spawn. It makes it easy to keep up and catch up without worrying that you missed something important because you didn’t cop issue #72 of this series and #68 of that one.
That isn’t to say there aren’t crossovers. The Dragon has featured stories with Spawn and the Maxx as well as cross-publisher stories with Hellboy and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It also had a short cartoon series in 1995 as part of the USA Cartoon Express on USA.
Honestly, if it gone in a direction similar to what HBO and McFarlane worked out for Spawn, The Savage Dragon could’ve easily been on HBO or USA’s edgier block later in the night. This isn’t a series for all ages, it’s very much a series for teens, adults, and those of us still trapped in the ‘90s but don’t care.
One constant about the series is that Larsen has served as the sole writer, a distinction many Western series and writers can’t boast.
Our Hero: The Dragon
So, I’ve mentioned the Dragon several times without going into him. Without spoiling important bits of story, when the Image series starts off, he is a considered a mutant—or superfreak as everyone calls them—who was found by a Chicago police officer, Lt. Frank Darling. His origin is somewhat like Superman’s, he is simply found in a burning field and no one is certain where he came from. As a matter of fact, Dragon doesn’t even remember his past.
What is known about the green-skinned, fin-headed powerhouse is that “he ain’t from around here.” Although, considering Dragon arrived just as mutant crimes were kicking off in Chicago, he could’ve been a local. Now, this is without going into the mini-series that came before the ongoing series and reveals that he is a space tyrant from race of green-skinned—not exactly humanoids but definitely mammals.
Possessing an accelerated healing factor, ridiculous superhuman strength, and an innocence that fades within the first 40 issues, Dragon seems like the perfect weapon against the rising superfreak crimes in Chicago. Unfortunately, he decides not to go into law enforcement and takes up a warehouse job with a relative of Frank’s.
He eventually joins the force after the warehouse is destroyed by a superfreaks working with the Overlord’s cartel, the Vicious Circle. Now the Dragon has a sense of justice and gives his all to clean up the underworld of Chicago. Due to destruction caused and the death and injury of fellow officers, he is pretty much reassigned to other work but still has his eyes on the cartel.
And that’s just in first couple of issues.
Shortly after its launch, Dragon did have a spin-off series in Freak Force. It was short-lived but featured the other freak heroes that The Dragon ran into early in the series’ run. The thing about The Savage Dragon is that it introduced a number of minor characters who were heroes and proved to be more interesting than Dragon sometimes.
This could’ve easily led to a nice, hardboiled universe with Dragon as the center but it wasn’t to be. Take into account that Image was pretty odd with the initial four titles and crossovers being canon and it’s really “Ok, cool, whatever” on that front.
In future installments, we’ll get into specific story arcs in the series. For those still confused about The Savage Dragon, here’s how creator Erik Larsen described it when it came to what readers the series was for: “older Marvel readers who are about ready to throw in the towel on comics altogether. It’s the missing link between Marvel and Vertigo. More mature than Marvel; less pretentious than Vertigo. The kind of comics (he wants) to read. (The) book is really self-indulgent.”
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.