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Savage Dragon

Legendary Heroes
by Poe Ghostal

Back in 1992, when the comicbook boom was at its peak, a group of some of the most popular and successful artists in the industry left Marvel Comics and formed their own company, Image Comics. The story of Image has been chronicled in detail elsewhere, so I'll spare you that lecture and skip right to today's subject, the Savage Dragon.

Dragon was found by Lieutenant Fred Darling in a burning lot in Chicago, with no memory of his past. Darling was taken by Dragon and offered his friendship. He knew Dragon's superhuman strength, bullet-proof skin and ability to regenerate would help combat Chicago's criminal gang, Vicious Circle. He attempted to recruit the Dragon into the police force, but he declined. When the Vicious Circle attempted to extort money from Lt. Darling, Dragon leapt into action and easily defeated the gang's thugs. When Fred lost his life in an explosion at the scene, Dragon decided to reconsider the offer to join the police force. He stepped into the role of the city's premiere hero, pitting himself against the Vicious Circle and all other criminal threats, while he searches for details of his past.

The Savage Dragon was one of the first comics to emerge from Image, the brainchild of Erik Larsen, who had made his name on Amazing Spider-Man following Todd McFarlane's departure to create the adjective-less Spider-Man title. The Dragon, along with many of the characters who appeared in his eponymous comic, had been developed by Larsen years earlier - in some cases, when he was in elementary school. That shows in the simplicity and Silver Age feel of The Savage Dragon.

As for the Dragon himself - he was a green-skinned amnesiac who awoke in the middle of a burning lot. Other than his incredible strength, invulnerability, and a big green fin on his head, there wasn't much to distinguish Dragon visually from, say, Smart Hulk. What the comic offered fans was a tougher attitude, a bit more swearing, and more general violence than Marvel comics at the time. It took a while for Larsen to find his groove, but now The Savage Dragon can boast the longest run by a single writer and artist on an American comic (Dave Sim is Canadian). Larsen says the comic's target audience is "older Marvel readers who are about ready to throw in the towel on comics altogether. It's the missing link between Marvel and Vertigo. More mature than Marvel - less pretentious than Vertigo. The kind of comics I want to read. This book is really self-indulgent."

After the reigns of the successful Marvel Legends line were handed over to Hasbro, fans wondered exactly what ToyBiz would do next. Years earlier they had claimed they were moving away from action figures and were branching out to other product lines; then they did the toys for The Lord of the Rings. And now it seems Jesse Falcon and company are not quite finished with the superhero arena; witness the wonder that is Legendary Heroes.

Many of the characters in the first two waves of LH - including Savage Dragon - have had previous toylines. The Dragon had one by Playmates in conjunction with an animated series in the mid-1990s, while he and his buddy SuperPatriot have also been made by McFarlane Toys. Ripclaw (Cyberforce), Witchblade & Darkness, Conan, Judge Dredd, Marv (Sin City), and Madman have all seen figural incarnations in the last decade. However, they all came in a variety of styles and sizes. With LH, ToyBiz has brought all these characters in line with the 6" scale and super-articulation of their signature Marvel Legends line (now owned by Hasbro, in case you hadn't heard). The result is a plethora of new superheroes who can hang out with your Marvel Legends as well as the in-scale superheroes of DC by Mattel. Yes, it truly is a golden age for the 6", well-articulated superhero action figure.

In the LCBH I've bought so far, there are three stand-outs: Judge Death, Wraarl (of the Conan/Wraarl two-pack), and the Savage Dragon here.

The packaging is big and colorful, and can be easily opened by slitting the tape on the back. The card can be slid out of the bubble, Legendary packaging the figure can be removed, and if you ever feel like re-sealing your pal in his plastic prison, all you've got to do is pop him in and slide the card back. My verdict: cool packaging, but as usual I toss it in the trash immediately.

Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen says he's "not thrilled" with ToyBiz's sculpt. It's nearly spot-on, except for a slight softness on the facial features. But he does have the distinctively huge chest, narrow waist and slim legs of Larsen's Dragon. That's one interesting thing about ToyBiz/Marvel Toys; they always seem to walk a fine line between specific artistic interpretations of characters and a unifying "realistic" look for the whole toyline. So what we've got here is a realistic sculpture of a guy with a huge chest and arms and slim legs.

At this point, it's a war between ToyBiz and Mattel's Four Horsemen as to who can sculpt the better-looking 6" superhero. I'll give the Horsemen a slight edge in sculpting because their stuff is consistently good, whereas TB's stuff, while often incredible, is sometimes a bit off (usually due to mold re-use). But when it comes to paint applications, ToyBiz has it all over Mattel.

happy trail The Dragon's torso, head and arms are molded in green plastic. It looks and feels a little "toy-ish," for lack of a better term, but it looks pretty good. Like many of their Wolverine figures, the Dragon also has lots of little black lines to represent his body hair (they're not sculpted in this case). But what really impressed me was the work on his jeans. It has an acid-wash look that works quite well and has a cool texture. His sneakers are also well-painted.

Dragon is one of the two figures in this series that have a variant. I chose to pick up the tanktop-wearing Dragon, and this is the only place the figure disappoints - the shirt is just painted on, which is a little obvious near the shoulders. The white is clean, without the blue shadows ToyBiz used to put on everything. If your store got a variant case, there's one plain Dragon and one variant. If they didn't, there are two bare-chested versions.

Of course, the articulation is stellar. He's got all the usual ToyBiz suspects: balljointed head; balljointed shoulders; swivel biceps, waist, and wrists; balljointed/swivel thighs; an abdominal joint; double-pin elbows and knees, and fully articulated ankles.

While early issues of Savage Dragon featured him as a gun-toting Chicago cop, the Dragon is really a bruiser in the tradition of Thing or the Hulk. So rather than give him a fixed hand pose, almost every joint on his fingers is poseable, allowing him to make a fist or prep a pimp-slap. In order to add the articulation, the fingers are a bit large, so most of the usual Marvel Legends weapons won't fit in his hands; I had to give him the guns from an old ReSaurus Duke Nukem figure.

Some of the joints, such as the shoulders and elbows, are actually ratchet joints, which means they click as move them and will hold their position easily. It's not a new idea, but it's a welcome one, given the general looseness of the joints of many super-articulated figures these days. Not all of the Legendary Heroes have the ratchet joints, but the Dragon does, and he's a better figure for it.

ToyBiz is keeping their Build-A-Figure tradition alive with the Legendary Heroes, and if you buy all six figures in the first series, you can assemble the massive monster Pitt. The Dragon comes with Pitt's left leg and a separate piece representing the chains wrapped around his ankle. The chains are molded from soft rubber, and slide over the heel fairly easily to fit into place. The leg is articulated at the knee, ankle and toes, and the sculpt is a combo of torn jeans and the skin beneath, and the painted shadows are nice.

In the end, the Dragon is probably my favorite figure from the first series of Legendary Heroes. He's colorful, well-sculpted, well-articulated, and what's more, he's a good, solid toy.

-- 10/02/07

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