Savage Dragon is a comic book that’s been consistently bombastic and unapologetically blunt since its debut in 1992. Erik Larsen has used the comic as a vehicle for superhero violence and sex, humor, politics, and cosmic adventure. So I was very pleased to find this month’s Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies installment, by Jason Thibodeaux, to be a quiet but sharp contribution to the overall madness that is Savage Dragon.
I should say that I was pleased, but not surprised. I’ve known Thibodeaux for a long time and I can count on him to leave a mark of significant quality on everything he does. He’s so diverse it makes me sick, so let’s just stick to his drawings.
Here are a few of my favorites:
The fact that he had never done a comic story (or at least a finished one that was more than a few panels long) didn’t deter me from asking him to contribute to the TSDF project. Thibodeaux delivered a comic that reads well, looks beautiful, and flows naturally. Here’s a sampling:
Even in comparison to the other Funnies, which are goofily poised in direct contrast to the main feature’s slam-bang act, Thibodeaux’s unpretentious story delves deep into these characters’ anxieties. Not to suggest that his subtlety undermines the main book’s sensibility (although that in itself isn’t a bad thing), but his efficacy led his story down a path rarely explored in modern superhero comics.
Here’s more Thibodeaux art:
“Comics can be about anything!” is a generous coda applied to a medium that perhaps shouldn’t tackle any and all subjects. But when talking about the parameters of what we’re already dealing with (teen drama in a super hero comic), the stories can always be presented in a more nuanced manner. A comic about a green skinned teenager with a fin on his head and a sister from Dimension X can carry a great deal of subtlety under the right command.
Then there’s the question of defining subtlety, but I don’t want you to fall asleep while reading this, so I’ll let you fight it out amongst yourselves.
Here’s another page from the story:
Although the other-wordly nature of the characters (created by Larsen) is unavoidable, in just seven pages, Thibodeaux transcends the trappings of teen melodrama by playing it straight. Nothing is emoted to the point where we’re embarrassed as an audience. Aside from the genuine awkwardness of the characters, their emotional restraint is what sells them. Such suppression in comics can come across as one of two things: incredibly stiff or fairly accurate. Unlike the many precious darlings that are making huge bodies of work yielding the former, Thibodeaux’s expression reveals the genuine article.
It‘s a modest achievement, this 7 pager, but it stands tall against the work whose parameters are rarely challenged. Not to get too lofty about it.