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Erik Larsen

Savage Dragon: Baptism Of Fire

A few weeks back, I dipped my toe in 1990’s nostalgia and reviewed Wild C.A.T.S. an early Image comic line written by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi. Walt, a blogging friend for the aptly named blog Comic Reviews by Walt, encouraged me to read Savage Dragon. Since I like to take advice from my like-minded blogging friends (and don’t take a year to read and review a series that I recommended like Michael did on Locke & Key!) I picked up Baptism Of Fire, as Walt said it would be the best to start off with. Before I get started though, I encourage you to read Walt’s posts The 90’s Revisited: The Savage Dragon #1 and A Lengthy Stay in the 90’s: Savage Dragon, for his love of this comic will give you a better understanding on the series than my quick review on one volume.

Erik Larsen, the creator and author/illustrator deserves major kudos for developing a character that he designed in childhood, and making it the longest running American full-color comic book to feature a single author/illustrator. Larsen had drawn the Dragon into a few other issues for other comic companies before he became one of the founding members of Image Comics, and it was at that time in 1992 that he truly was able to give the Savage Dragon his own title. At the 20 year mark, Larsen took the time to pull together some of the first issues from the early 90’s and rearrange them chronologically and add a few more pages in, to make this compiled volume have a smoother narrative flow.

We first meet Dragon in a ball of fire, landing in the city of Chicago. He is found by  Lt. Frank Darling and brought to the hospital. Darling questions him about his origins, but the Dragon has amnesia about his prior life. His green skin, huge size, and finned head don’t raise that many extra questions, as Chicago is over run with super mutants that the current superheros are struggling to keep in check. Darling is able to convince Dragon to join the Chicago Police Department, and the Dragon proves to be a boon for the department, especially after the most powerful hero Super Patriot is seemingly out of action due to grievous injuries. Dragon is able to take down villain after villain, with epics names such as Bedrock, Overlord, Mako, Hellrazor and Inferno. And no storyline like this would be complete without the trope of the woman he cares for being in danger. We never do find out his origins in this volume, and the Dragon’s angst of always having to kill or be killed, sets up further story lines for the future.

These first issues of Savage Dragon were drawn with the usual 1990’s excesses. The Dragon is muscled beyond belief, the women are sex kittens and Image throws in the obligatory Youngbloods reference. There are quite a few self depreciating jokes throughout, as Larsen plays around with the hero vs villain genre. I adore the fonts used throughout in the sound effects such as  brakathroom, choom and skrakaboosh.  They were similar to one’s later used in Invincible, with fun interlocking oo’s.

This ‘director’s cut’ volume is a great debut to the Savage Dragon tale. While I don’t know if I’ll pick up future volumes, this was a wonderful introduction to one of Image’s best ongoing heroes, and I’m glad I took the time to read it. Thanks Walt!

-Nancy

Larsen, Erik. Savage Dragon: Baptism Of Fire. 2002.
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The Image Revolution

This movie just fell into my lap, literally. I happened to be walking by the circulation desk when a patron was dropping off this movie and it fell off the desk, so I caught it, took a look, and knew what my next blog post was going to be about!

I am familiar with Image Comics, as I’m a fan of The Walking Dead and Revival, and most recently Alex + Ada. But I was not aware of how Image Comics got their start in the early 1990’s. During that time I was a huge devotee of ElfQuest, and my trips to Graham Crackers consisted of me heading straight for EQ, and also browsing in the Star Trek area. I was rather oblivious to the superhero genre, so the Image line of comics was a non-issue in my world at that time.

The movie The Image Revolution is a documentary that details how seven artists who were working for Marvel decided to break away and start up their own comic book publishing house, as to have more creative control and to retain rights to what ever characters they designed. The seven men were: Todd McFarlane (Spider Man & Spawn), Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy), Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), Whilce Portacio (X-Factor), Rob Liefeld (Deadpool & The New Mutants), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine) and Jim Lee (X-Men).

All seven of the founders of Image Comics were interviewed, in addition to other professionals in the comic book industry, to share how these artists became dissatisfied at Marvel and decided to strike out on their own. All seven were extremely talented, with their art being progressive and fresh, and had become well known in comic book circles. Them leaving was covered in the national news, and Rob Liefeld was even on the Dennis Miller show (I vaguely remember this). They experienced huge success with their first issues, with the Youngblood comic flying off the shelves.

But just because you are creative and gutsy, doesn’t mean you have the business acumen to run a publishing company. There were growing pains within the company, and infighting began. Some of the artists started to move away from the drawing board and spent more time on marketing and business issues. Jealousy arose among the factions, and eventually some of the original seven left for various reasons. It took several years to balance out, after their initial success, with The Walking Dead being a boon to the struggling but now stable company.

The documentary was extremely interesting, but uneven. Some of the founders had too much interview time (Liefeld!) and there were inconsistencies in the narrative and time line, notably regarding Whilce Portacio. WP left relatively soon after founding Image, but there is no mention of that at all. I understand in a documentary only so much can be covered, but adding a few minutes to explain why he went missing would have added to the flow of the story. It would also have fit with the narrative of growing pains, and that they left out his bio at the end, to me was disrespectful and a glaring omission. The movie only clocked in at 83 minutes, so there was definitely time to flesh out more of the founder’s stories. Another add in, would have been to explain why the 1990’s was the right time to break away from the big houses of Marvel and DC.

While I DO recommend this documentary,  it would be only to the niche of comic book/graphic novel book lovers. But if you are reading this blog, then I’m guessing this movie would be right up your alley…

-Nancy

I just can’t resist posting this site mocking some of Liefeld’s artwork–  although he’s really quite talented, despite the snark of this post!

Picture found on Why so Blu? review website

 

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