Monday, April 29, 2013

Geek Speaking Overworked Dragon Savages

Geek Speaking: The Overworked Edition

I've had days like this. I've seen other people have days like this, too. In general they go on a a long lunch break with an HR "specialist" and are never heard from again.

Look, ma! I'm drawing backgrounds! Try to ignore the fact that "Fred" seems to have the longest right arm in human history.

The idea for this came from a former coworker. We'd had a particularly difficult morning, and I think both of us were a little loopy from sleep deprivation. It must have been a Wednesday. Things always get a little Flerpy on Wednesday. Around this time I'd started drawing more of these cartoons and he would send me chat messages with possible dialogue for strips. This is one that's stood the test of time, and I'm finally (more or less) equal to the task of drawing it. BEHOLD!

Comic Book Review: The Savage Dragon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issue: 1
Price: $1.95 (original) $3.00 (value after 20 daughter will probably not be going to college on the proceeds from selling my comic books).
Recommendation: Get off your ass and go out right now and buy every trade paperback edition you can find starting with volume 1. Why are you still reading, I said GO BUY IT!

The Savage Dragon Issue 1
In 1992 a number of creators including Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld broke away from "the Big Two" who dominated the world of comic book publishing.  Their split allowed them to release their own titles without fear of censorship from the still-somewhat-relevant Comics Code Authority, or losing control of their intellectual property to the publishing giants who controlled (and still control) the majority of mainstream titles.

The Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen was one of the flagship titles released by these creators under the "Image Comics" label. Larsen's book was released around the same time as Youngblood, WildC.A.T.S., and arguably the most well-known book, Spawn. Of the four original titles the only ones still in publication today are Spawn and The Savage Dragon and Larsen is the only one of the creators who founded Image Comics to still be writing and drawing his own book. He gets mad props for that.

Larsen's distinction of having the longest run as artist and writer on any American comic book, ever notwithstanding, he deserves mad props for another reason. This book, in its entirety, is (and you'll pardon me, I don't do this very often) fucking awesome.

In this first issue it helps if you've read the three issue mini-series that preceded it, but the story provides enough exposition to get you caught up on what's going on and who the characters are that you can get up to speed fairly quickly. The story takes place in Chicago which is being overrun by super-powered criminal "freaks" when the titular character is discovered in a burning field. He has no memory of who is or where he came from, but has full knowledge of the world and current events. He's even able to answer questions about obscure sports trivia. He has an unknown type of amnesia.

The man who discovered him, Frank Darling, is a lieutenant with the Chicago P.D. and is desperate to get the Dragon's help. By making a shady deal with underworld forces he's able to make that happen (I'm not going to say exactly how), and this super-powered amnesiac joins the Chicago police force and becomes known as Officer Dragon. Using his powers of strength, advanced healing (think Wolverine in is prime), and near invulnerability (think Mr. Incredible; he can be hurt but it takes a shitload of punishment to do it) he takes the fight to the freaks.

The story is over the top violent with a campy, tongue-in-cheek cop show mentality. It's also important to keep in mind as you read it that it's something of a send-up of the entire world of superhero comic books. That was actually a problem I had with the book originally. At the tender age of fifteen I really, really didn't understand the humor. My palate for satire wasn't sophisticated enough to appreciate the really subtle (and not-so-subtle) jabs at the comic book industry. When I came to it again in my twenties with fresh eyes, a more developed sense of humor, and a little bit of cynicism it was like reading it for the first time. I got it, and it was great.

If nothing else, I recommend reading this as a landmark achievement in comics, but it is also consistently very, very well done.

Note: The cover image above is used without permission. If you would like to support the title or acquire a copy of the book please purchase it from the online comic store, Heavy Ink (linked from the image). Better yet, get out of the house and go to a local comic store and support them by picking up one of the trade editions.

Of Savages and Dragons, and a Version of Me that's 20 Years Younger
I think I've been waiting the last twenty years to write this review. Which is funny because twenty years ago anyone walking around talking about their blog would probably have been handed a paper cup full of Thorazine and told to lie down. Not so today. Now I get to write about a truly amazing comic book and have my comments read by tens of people! The glory of the Internet!

I've owned these comics for decades, and for the last several years they've been sitting in storage in my families home in Aurora, CO. Major thanks are due to my mom and brother who held onto them despite offers to take them off of their hands, and even made sure they were undamaged when the house's pipes leaked through the floor. Some of the boxes I'd used to organize and store my comics were destroyed, but the comics themselves remained intact inside their comic sleeves and backboards.

I actually got a small, personal, nostalgic thrill when this box arrived from Aurora and I opened it to find Issue number 1 of my all-time favorite comic safely in its bag and in the same condition as the day I first brought it home. 

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