Love and marriage for Savage Dragon

Valentine’s Day is here, which makes this a good time for me to look at the three most recent issues of Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen from Image Comics, as Malcolm Dragon marries his high school sweetheart Maxine Jung Lai.

Savage Dragon 209 cover

As you can see from the cover to Savage Dragon #209, Maxine is very pregnant. Malcolm did use protection, but he soon discovered that his super-strength extended to his, um, reproductive processes.  Those condoms didn’t stand a chance!  And now I’m reminded of that old essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” by science fiction novelist Larry Niven.  Fortunately Malcolm and Maxine had already been thinking about getting hitched, but the pregnancy did result in those plans getting pushed forward ever so slightly!

Of course Maxine still has to worry about a super-powered fetus kicking its way out of her womb, something that occurred nearly two decades earlier with Malcolm’s own mother Rapture. Indeed, as we see in these three issues, this turns out to be a very real, fatal concern for Malcolm’s ex-girlfriend Tierra.  I remember commenting several months ago that the sexual shenanigans between Malcolm, Maxine, Tierra and Angel were like something out of a cheesy porno flick.  However, as we see here, Larsen is continuing to follow up on the very serious consequences of this act of reckless teenage sexuality.

Larsen scripts Maxine as an irreverent smart-ass. She’s very well suited to be with Malcolm, whose life is just plain crazy.  The banter between the two of them is wonderful.  Larsen gives them good chemistry.  Malcolm and Maxine make a great couple, and I look forward to seeing how Larsen continues to develop their relationship.

Savage Dragon 210 cover

In the next issue Malcolm and Maxine head off for their honeymoon, only to find themselves in yet another bizarre misadventure. They run into a very old foe of Malcolm’s father, as Larsen dusts off a baddie from the very first year of his run on Savage Dragon.

I love the cover for issue #210. There are so few comic book covers like this anymore.  That style of cover artwork unfortunately became unfashionable in the late 1990s, replaced by pin-up or poster types of images.  Yeah, those can be pretty to look at, but they very seldom tell you anything about the stories inside.  They don’t grab you attention and make you want to pick up the comic book to find out what the story is behind it.  Fortunately in a number of respects Larsen remains an unapologetic traditionalist, and Savage Dragon has often featured cover artwork that jumps out at you.

Issue #210 also has a humorous six page back-up written by Larsen featuring Flash Mercury, Powerhouse and Fever doing their professional monster hunters thing. The talented Frank Fosco, who most recently illustrated the Vanguard serial, provides some excellent artwork.

As I’ve observed before, Larsen has a huge cast of characters, and the back-ups are a great way to give some of them the spotlight.  I hope there will be more in the future. I’ve heard that series editor Gavin Higginbotham is eager to write some new ones.  And, hey, speaking for myself, I’d love to pitch one!  How about something looking at Horridus as a single mom / crime-fighter trying to make ends meet after the death of her husband Rex Dexter?  Ever since seeing Horridus in mourning at Rex’s grave in issue #208 I’ve been wondering what happens to her and her daughter.

Savage Dragon 211 cover

In issue #211, now that Malcolm is out of high school and married, it’s time for him to get a full-time job. He follows in his father’s footsteps, joining the Chicago police department.  Much of the material from #211 originally appeared in the Savage Dragon: Legacy special that came out as part of last year’s Free Comic Book Day.  Larsen adds several new pages and re-scripts some dialogue to reflect various events and developments that he either changed his mind about in the succeeding months or wanted to keep secret between then and now.

Issue #211 has a “1st Issue In A Bold New Direction” blurb, just as issue #193 did two years previously. It’s nice that Larsen devises jumping-on points from time to time.  Since Savage Dragon has been running for 23 years, it’s good to have periodic issues that bring newer readers up to speed, and that refresh the memories of long-time fans such as myself.

Larsen’s scripting in Savage Dragon often has something of an exposition-heavy quality to it. While at times this means his dialogue does not sound quite natural, it nevertheless ensures that important events are recapped for readers on a regular basis.  That’s certainly an asset in #211, as Malcolm explains his somewhat convoluted origins.

Notice something else? Despite these two “Bold New Direction” issues, both times Larsen resisted the urge to re-start the numbering on Savage Dragon with a brand new issue #1.  Honestly, I am sooooo sick of Marvel and DC doing that.  Perhaps that might result in a temporary bump in sales.  But at the same time, a new first issue can actually present a jumping-off point for readers whose interest in a series is wavering.  That’s certainly been true for me on a few occasions.

Whatever any case, I’ve barely read anything the Big Two have published in the last several years. And as I’ve stated a few times on this blog, Savage Dragon is my favorite ongoing comic book series.

Right before Savage Dragon #211 came out I recently took the opportunity to re-read issues #193 to 210 in one sitting. Larsen did very good work during this two year period, writing and drawing some entertaining, weird, humorous stories.  I’m looking forward to seeing how he now proceeds onward from #211.

Free Comic Book Day 2013

Yesterday I headed into Manhattan for Free Comic Book Day, which takes place on the first Saturday in May each year.  The past few years I’ve gone to Jim Hanley’s Universe, and while I always had a good time there, it seemed like I kept missing out on the really cool promo issues because the store ran out of them early in the day.  This year, I decided to change things up.  I went over to Manhattan Comics, a cool store on 23rd Street near the Flatiron Building.

Arriving at Manhattan Comics in the early afternoon, I was happy to see that they still had a huge selection of FCBD issues.  There was a limit of three free books per customer.  Here is what I got:

Atomic Robo – I am a pretty fan of Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener’s super-cool, fun, intelligent, witty series about a crime-fighting robot originally built by Nikola Tesla.  Atomic Robo teams up with the Action Scientists of Tesladyne Industries to combat all manner of bizarre foes.  Each year Clevinger & Wegener have put out a FCBD special issue, and I finally succeeded in picking up the latest one.

Molly Danger – This is a brand new series written & illustrated by the super-talented Jamal Igle published by Action Lab Entertainment.  I’ve followed Igle’s work on various titles for a number of years now, and I’m thrilled that he’s now working on a creator-owned series.  I’d read on Facebook that Molly Danger would be making its debut on FCBD, so I’m thrilled I was able to pick up a copy.

Uglydoll Comics – My girlfriend Michele loves the ultra-cute Uglydoll stuffed toys, so I got this one for her.  Yeah, okay, I think they’re adorable, as well.  VIZ Media will be releasing an Uglydoll graphic novel in August.  The FCBD issue also had a Hello Kitty back-up by Jacob Chabot.  Once again, Michele loves Hello Kitty, so that was a pleasant surprise.  Actually, our cat Nettie looked a lot like Hello Kitty when she was a little kitten.

Uglydoll FCBD

Manhattan Comics was having a huge storewide sale.  Everything was 40% off.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m actually trying to get rid of stuff to make more room in the apartment, I would have probably gone crazy snatching up comics and graphic novels.  As it is, I picked up several back issues.  I also bought the latest issue of Iron Man, which features the return of the classic team of David Michelinie & Bob Layton for a special story arc.  I expect I’ll be blogging about that once the whole storyline has been released.

There were several comic book creators doing signing at Manhattan Comics for FCBD.  Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder arrived at the store at three in the afternoon.  I’ve been a fan of Reeder’s exquisite artwork since she was drawing Madame Xanadu several years ago.  Reeder & Montclare created the Halloween Eve one-shot, which was published last October by Image Comics.  I was never able to find it when it first came out, so I was happy to see that they had copies for sale.  Reeder also did a really lovely sketch in my Beautiful Dreamer sketchbook.  I’m looking forward to their next collaboration, which is in the works.

Molly Danger FCBD

Afterwards, I headed down to the Greenwich Village.  A couple of employees from Manhattan Comics had decided to start up a comic book store of their own.  Carmine Street Comics is sharing space with a small independent book shop.  They’re located about a block off of Bleecker Street.  That made it a cinch to locate, which was a huge relief, since I usually get hopelessly lost in the West Village!

There were some good trade paperbacks for sale at Carmine Street Comics, as well as an interesting assortment of independent back issues from the last couple of decades.  There wasn’t anything that especially leaped out at me that day, but I’ll definitely be stopping back there again.  I certainly wish them the best of luck.  It seems like a nice little spot.

A number of small press & independent creators were signing at Carmine Street Comics for FCBD.  Enrique Carrion was there with copies of his series Vescell, which is published by Image Comics.  Vescell seems to be a risqué supernatural espionage series.  Flipping through a couple of the books, it seemed pretty interesting, and the artwork by John Upchurch was really nice.  So I decided to give it a try, and I bought a copy of issue #7.

Atomic Robo FCBD

It seems like a lot of people come out for Free Comic Book Day.  Maybe it is just the promise of free stuff drawing people, but hopefully some of them will actually become interested enough in what they see to try picking up some stuff.  Yeah, I do like to complain about Marvel and DC’s current output.  But the fact is, as I have said before, there really is so much great independent and small press material out there.  And with any luck, FCBD succeeds in putting the spotlight on some of it.

Oh, yeah, and be sure to buy Molly Danger when it comes out in July, okay?  Jamal Igle is amazing.

Free Comic Book Day 2012 at Jim Hanley’s Universe

As you may have noticed, I go back & forth in terms of topics.  Most of the time I write about comic books & sci-fi, but occasionally I will share my thoughts on political or societal issues.  I hope the shifting of gears isn’t too disconcerting!  In any case, today I’ll be going back to the lighter side of things, and talking about Free Comic Book Day 2012, which this year was on May 5th.

I went to the big event that was held at Jim Hanley’s Universe, a comic shop on 33rd Street in Manhattan by the Empire State Building.  The store was giving away the Free Comic Book Day special issues released by Marvel, DC, and a variety of independent publishers.  I decided to go with the “indies” this year, and got the spotlight books from Image, IDW, and Valiant, plus The Censored Howard Cruise published by Boom! Town.  The books were understandably of a promotional nature, with mostly excerpts from upcoming comics and interviews with creators.  I was disappointed that the IDW volume was nothing but a big catalog, but looking through it, they do publish a diverse range of titles and graphic novels.

In addition to the give-away books, Jim Hanley’s Universe had several comic book creators as guests: Robert Venditti, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dan Slott, and ChrisCross.

Venditti is the writer helming the re-launch of X-O Manowar from Valiant Comics.  I read a lot of the original Valiant titles back when I was in high school and college.  For a while, they had some good books.  Hopefully the company’s revival will bring about some quality titles.  Venditti was signing copies of the first issue of X-O Manowar.  I bought a copy, which I haven’t had a chance to read yet.  But skimming through it, the artwork by Cary Nord & Stefano Gaudiano looks amazing.

What can I say about Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez?  He is just an amazing artist who has worked at DC Comics for several decades.  The thing is, he is not what you would regard as a “household name,” because he’s never had a lengthy stint drawing any particular series.  But the odds are very, very good that you have seen his work without realizing it.  In the 1980s and 90s, he was the main licensing & style guide artist for DC, producing hundreds of pieces of artwork that were used on all manner of products: t-shirts, cups & mugs, posters, toy packaging, etc, etc.  Of the work he has done which is credited, Garcia-Lopez illustrated some amazing stories, working on characters such as Superman, Batman, Jonah Hex, and Deadman.  I am especially fond of his depictions of Wonder Woman.  He draws the Amazon princess as a stunningly beautiful yet strong and confident figure.  In addition to getting several books signed by him, I was fortunate enough to get a quick sketch of Wonder Woman from Garcia-Lopez.

It was cool meeting Dan Slott again.  He is probably one of the nicest guys in the comic book biz.  Slott’s been writing Amazing Spider-Man for the last few years.  I brought along my copy of Justice League Adventures #11, which was a very moving, emotional issue, to get autographed.  It turns out that was one of Slott’s favorite comics that he’s worked on, and he explained the background behind how he came to write that particular story.

Finally, I ended up waiting on line a while to get ChrisCross’s signature on a few books.  He was generously doing free, detailed sketches for everyone who wanted one, and there were a bunch of teenagers in front of me getting drawings by him.  Considering that the last time ChrisCross was at JHU he took the time to do a nice Batman sketch from him, I figured that I ought to be patient and let some other people have their turns.  Besides, ChrisCross is an amazing artist, so I definitely wanted to get a few things autographed.  I asked him if he was working on any new projects, and he said he is, but the details are top-secret.  I’ll just have to keep my eye out for his work in the future.

So that was Free Comic Book Day at JHU.  As you can imagine, it was really crowded & hectic, but a lot of fun.  It looked like the staff was ready to drop from exhaustion, though, and I don’t blame them!

I took a few photos at JHU which I posted on Flickr.  Here’s a link:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bh123/sets/72157629626265134/

Anyway, if you happen to be in the New York City area, Jim Hanley’s Universe is a cool comic shop that’s well worth checking out.