For the uninitiated, Savage Dragon is a comic book series published by Image Comics and created, owned, written, pencilled, inked, edited, and sometimes even lettered and colored by Mr. Erik J. Larsen (who is also one of the founders of Image and its current chief financial officer), and should be read by most everyone and anyone who enjoys a good superhero adventure. Larsen created the character of Dragon and a good deal of his supporting cast when he was but a boy, and even had a few Dragon-related yarns published pre-Image by both fan-driven and slightly more mainstream publishers, but none of those stories are part of the continuity of the Image-published Dragon series and its handful of spin-offs and related titles (We'll get to those in a minute).
At this blog, we'll cover and review any comic book that guest-starred Dragon and/or any of his supporting characters, such as Vanguard, SuperPatriot, and the team of Freak Force, as well as larger Image crossover events that involve Larsen's Highbrow Universe characters (named after Highbrow Entertainment, a short-lived sub-label of Image that Larsen used for his work during the mid-1990s).
And for the record, here's a quick list of all titles that star Dragon and co.:
- Savage Dragon (ongoing series), which has lasted for over 200 issues, plus an issue #0 which republished the Dragon origin story from the Image Comics hardcover that celebrated the company's first decade (this story is best read a ways into series, probably around #150 where it was included as one of many back-up stories), and #1/2 which was a Wizard Magazine giveaway thing. There was also two versions of #13, the first done by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi as part of Image X-Month, in which the Image founders swapped duties on their flagship titles, the second done later on by Erik Larsen so we would have an unbroken run. Do note that many of the issues have cool back-up stories not included in the trades, and the first few trades have bonus story pages not in the singles (more on that later).
- The initial Savage Dragon miniseries #1-3, which was then collected in a trade released in both TPB and hardcover editions with Dragon material from Image Zero and the unpublished Operation: Urban Storm added in plus some reordering of pages so flashbacks were in chronological order and other extra stuff. The adjective-less Dragon miniseries featured the extended version of the original miniseries, but added even more material than what was included in the original trade in order to fill out its five issues. The adjective-less Dragon miniseries was included in the Savage Dragon: Baptism of Fire TPB and the black-and-white Savage Dragon Archives vol. 1.
- The one-shots Savage Dragon vs. the Savage Megaton Man (which takes place in between the original miniseries and the ongoing), Savage Dragon/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which takes place between #2 and #3), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Savage Dragon (which takes place between #21 and #22), Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck (which has a quasi-official crossover with the Spider-Man/Howard the Duck story in Spider-Man Team-Up #5 which has to be seen to be believed), Superman & Savage Dragon: Metropolis, Superman & Savage Dragon: Chicago, and the gag strip collection Savage Dragonbert: Full Frontal Nerdity. Also of note is the Savage Dragon Companion, which is not a comic but serves as a guide to the first hundred issues of the series.
- The SuperPatriot, SuperPatriot: Liberty & Justice, SuperPatriot: America's Fighting Force, and SuperPatriot: War on Terror miniseries..es, each of which lasted four issues (Liberty & Justice and America's Fighting Force have both been collected into TPBs). Note that Robert Kirkman of the Walking Dead fame wrote America's Fighting Force and War on Terror, and he also wrote the four-issue Savage Dragon: God War miniseries which occurs concurrently with War on Terror.
- Freak Force had both an ongoing series that lasted for 18 issues, and then a three-issue miniseries.
- Vanguard starred in his own ongoing series which ran for six issues, a four-part miniseries subtitled Strange Visitors and a one-shot subtitled Ethereal Warriors.
- The Deadly Duo had two short-lived series, the first running for three issues, the second lasted four issues. Dragon appeared in Vol. 2 #2 and there was a hint to his origin in that issue, so it may be of extra interest to fans.
- Star had his own four-part miniseries.
- The Dragon: Blood & Guts three-issue miniseries, which while not terribly important to Dragon's greater story had some nice work by the somewhat underrated comics artist Jason Pearson, and it was collected in TPB form.
- There was a Mighty Man one-shot collecting a series of back-ups stories from the main ongoing Savage Dragon book. There is also another Mighty Man one-shot initially released at AthensCon 2016.
- The She-Dragon one-shot takes place between issues #126 and #127.
- The two-part Savage Dragon: Sex & Violence miniseries takes place roughly between issues 21 and 22 of the ongoing series, and its worth noting that a recreation of its opening was included in both Savage Dragon #132 and the Savage Dragon Archives Vol. 2.
- The Herculian story, a 24-Hour Comic by Erik Larsen that was first published in Image Two-In-One, wasn't originally part of Dragon's universe, but an appearance by Herculian in Savage Dragon #165 has linked the two characters together. The story was later released in the Herculian one-shot published in a huge Golden Age-size format (with a hardcover version available at cons and Erik's website) which also includes some non-Dragon related short stories by Erik.
- The Savage Dragon Archives miniseries (not to be confused with the black-and-white reprint series of the same name) lasted for four issues that collected Larsen's pre-Image Dragon stories. Not canon to the current version of the character, but still worth seeing to check out how Dragon evolved.
- The two-part Savage Dragon/Marshal Law miniseries paired Dragon with the darkly satirical creation of Pat Mills (2000 A.D.) and Kevin O'Neill (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Again, it's of dubious continuity with the rest of the Dragon story, but you may get a kick out of it.
- As mentioned before, some of the earlier Savage Dragon trades added in some new story pages not found in the original singles. These include A Force To Be Reckoned With (collecting #1-6), The Fallen (collecting #7-11), Possessed (collecting #12-16 and WildC.A.T.s #14), and Gang War (collecting #22-26). Revenge (collecting #17-21) doesn't feature any new material per se, but it does include both pairs of alternate pages from the two different versions of #17 (one version had two pages with more risque imagery than the other FYI). It's worth noting that some copies of A Force To Be Reckoned With include a bonus floppy called Back-Up Stories, which include all the back-up stories from those early issues of the series, except for the Vanguard #0 flipbook from Savage Dragon #2. All of the bonus story pages from these trades can be found in the black-and-white Savage Dragon Archives vol's 1-2 TPBs along with a recreation of the opening to Savage Dragon: Sex & Violence (see above).
- Other trades of note include Savage Dragon: The Greatest Team-Ups (includes Vanguard #3-4, the second issue of Kurt Busiek's Velocity miniseries, Freak Force #10, the Jim Lee version of Savage Dragon #13, the back-up story from Savage Dragon #25 by Keith Giffen, Jeff Matsuda and Terry Austin, and Savage Dragon #30, guest-starring Spawn) and Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies (collecting all of the non-canonical back-up stories from Savage Dragon #160-171, plus some new stories).
- And then we come to Dragon-related material that is generally not considered very good (and in some cases, non-canon), but will be listed here for the sake of completeness: the four-part Mars Attacks Savage Dragon miniseries, the three-part Savage Dragon: Red Horizon miniseries (which Mike S. Miller used to introduce characters from his own creator-owned series, Immortal Two), a Playmates Toys pack-in mini-comic featuring Dragon and the Ninja Turtles (both series' names on variant covers), and the three-part Dart miniseries (which Erik Larsen has flat out declared non-canon due to a few inconsistencies with the backstory of Dart's father, and IIRC her stabbing someone with a dart instead of throwing it).
For more information on Savage Dragon, please check out these fine sites:
- The Savage Dragon Wiki (extensive character profiles and issue summaries)
- Erik Larsen's Subforum at the Image Comics Message Boards
- DragonFan.net (Erik Larsen and Savage Dragon news)
- Savage Fincast (Savage Dragon and Erik Larsen-centric podcast)
And if you want a quick answer as to what Dragon crossovers and guest appearances are worth it, click here.