Savage Dragon Cartoon Made A Major Change To She-Dragon – Here’s Why

Welcome to the 138th installment of Adventure (s) Time, a look at the animated heroes of the past. This week, the animated debut of a cult favorite Savage Dragon character, one whose origin required some serious rethinking. And if you have any suggestions for the future, let me hear them. Just contact me at Twitter.

December 20, 1995 saw the debut of the Savage Dragon episode “She-Dragon,” which featured the most obvious character imaginable. The premise of the Dragon cartoon is true to the comic’s initial status quo: Dragon is a Chicago police officer, paired with a human cop named Alex Wilde to fight the city’s army of “superfreak” villains. Written by Henry Gilroy, this episode features She-Dragon as an overzealous vigilante who is modeled after Dragon. In the opening scene, she misses a police sting and earns Dragon’s wrath. Later, when Alex is kidnapped by the shark fanatic villain Mako, Dragon is forced to reluctantly team up with She-Dragon to rescue his partner.

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While working on the case, Dragon learns more about his admirer. In this continuity, She-Dragon’s father was Dr. Sherman Belcher, “the most famous freak scientist in the world.” He invented a powerful microchip coveted by Mako’s boss and Chicago’s crime ruler, Overlord. Some time ago, Dr. Belcher was killed and his microchip was stolen. Like any other self-respecting superser, She-Dragon became a crime fighter to avenge her father and stop Overlord’s operations.

In the end, Alex is rescued, Overlord’s plan is foiled, and She-Dragon is left as a support player. Her performance here is an early example of the “over-excited fangirl” trope: She adores the titular hero and has to remind you in every scene she’s in that she’s obsessed with how awesome she is.

During the show’s two seasons, She-Dragon appeared quite regularly. Not surprising, given that she was one of the few Continue characters immortalized in the concurrent toy line promoted by the show. (A dragon from the toy line had to share it with a revamped version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles … redesigned by Jim Lee!)

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The show doesn’t mock the possibility that She-Dragon is related to Dragon; apparently, simply saying that his father was an “abnormal scientist” is enough to explain his green skin and super strength. What the series deliberately avoided is its origin in the comics, which had virtually no chance of being adapted for Saturday morning television.

She-Dragon’s debut in the comics occurred in March 1993. Wild Dragon vs. Wild Man Megaton # 1. The one-shot premise had Erik Larsen portraying his Dragon characters, while cartoonist Don Simpson pencil-sketched his cast of Megaton, often on the same page.

It’s a truly bizarre comic, one that you might dismiss as a fancy crossover, and yet it’s one of the biggest Savage Dragon comics of the early years.

The opening of the story has Dragon taking on a gang of super-powered monsters who find themselves in the middle of an uproar. (A brutal one, actually. The bloody bodies of numerous homeless people are nearby. Some are even beheaded.) The monsters claim they are rebelling against their creator, Johnny Redbeard, who toyed with their powers and then threw them when they couldn’t. it amused him already. The gang identifies itself as Johnny Redbeard’s Nixed Men.

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Members conveniently declare their names and abilities. The Aquatic Subhuman has lost his powers of flight, his underwater kingdom, and his memories. Super-X’s amazing powers came with the ability to repel dirt … but also soap. His body odor now drives his friends away. And finally, we have the character now known as She-Dragon. In her debut, she’s called Sensation, a green-skinned beauty whose actions entertain people from another realm. However, they are increasingly bored and irritated by their adventures.

Savage Dragon fans will identify the two remaining members, the ones not speaking here, as Lightning Bug and Fade. And any comic book fan of the time will get the biggest joke. All of these characters are parodies of Marvel and DC heroes renewed by creator John Byrne. The writer / artist was producing a series owned by his creator for Dark Horse titled John Byrne’s Next Men at the time.

Sub-Human is a parody of Sub-Mariner, which was renewed by Byrne in his 1990 series Namor, and left an amnesic late in Byrne’s career. Fade is a play about the invisible woman from the Fantastic Four. And a bit misleading, since Byrne’s run at that title was not a renewal. Larsen also mocks Byrne for leaving these titles quickly, but his Fantastic four the season lasted several years. Finally, Sensation is a reference to the humorous Sensational She-Hulk monthly, which had its star breaking through the fourth wall and occasionally addressing the reader directly.

Some of these jokes are pretty dark. Lightning Bug, as Larsen revealed years later, is a reference to Uncanny X-Mens Storm, but no obvious gag attached. And Super-X’s soap problems are a parody of a bit of Byrne. Superman renovation that irritated Larsen. Byrne posited that Superman’s powers were psionic in nature, allowing him to fly and generate a shield that protected his body. The idea that Superman’s psionic shield also repels soap seemed to amuse Larsen.

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What does all this have to do with Megaton Man? It is not particularly deep. As the Nixed Men flee from Dragon, Megaton Man arrives at the newly formed Image Universe. He had been sent by his compatriots in the Megahero universe, who saw images of Dragon and were falsely convinced that this world was invaded by aliens disguised as policemen. The heroes fight, then face the last Nixed Man, Slagg Heap. Rather than satirizing Byrne, Slagg Heap is Don Simpson’s parody of the overblown villains of the 90s. He literally falls on top of the other Nixed Men, ending their threat to Chicago.

As Larsen jokes in the comic book epilogue: “For me, this book defines what Image Comics is all about. Out-of-control cartoonists producing incoherent and hopeless drek that comes out months later than originally scheduled.”

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As the months passed, Larsen saw the potential of Sensation and Johnny Redbeard as more than just jokes. Sensation was revealed to be Amy Belcher, the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran who was exposed to foreign chemicals abroad. Born sick, she was eventually brought to Johnny Redbeard for treatment. She developed powers and became Redbeard’s girlfriend. However, her communication with strange voices caused Redbeard to view her as unstable and they ended their relationship.

While in prison, Sensation developed feelings for the Dragon. Upon her release, she renamed herself She-Dragon and tried to win his favor as a local hero. After a few appearances, Larsen hit on his classic look. After the Dragon Killer robot burned his hair (itself a parody of the Spider Killer robots found in the Spider-Man comics), She-Dragon grew his hair back into a Mohawk that mimics the Dragon fin.

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The character became a fan favorite, at one point replacing Dragon as the comic book star for a few numbers. And even Megaton Man would also make a Wild dragon come back, starring as a backup role for several years.


Johnny Redbeard does not make an actual appearance in The wild dragon against the wild man of Megaton, presumably because Larsen saw all of this as a unique joke. Redbeard later appeared on the panel at Monstrous force # 11, a Continue cleave. Eventually, Larsen divorced Redbeard from his roots as a parody of John Byrne by redesigning and renaming him The Creator.

Larsen also later decided to provide a source for the voices that She-Dragon hears. (Initially, the reader was led to believe that she was unstable.) The voices were eventually revealed as the Young Eternals, five super-powered youths imprisoned on an alternate Earth called the Darkworld, crying out for help.

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Aside from filing a lawsuit, it’s easy to guess why the origin of the She-Dragon comics didn’t work out for animation. It’s an inside joke that only a fraction of the audience would understand, and it references comics that were no longer published in 1995. And it’s not like this joke was a good-natured joke: Byrne was possibly the most vocal critic of the founders of Image in the early years. 90s, and the comic reads like an intentional effort by Larsen to get under Byrne’s skin. Read out of the context of its time, the one-shot is likely to be more bizarre than fun.

If Larsen knew how long some of these characters would be around, it is doubtful that they would have been presented this way. (It’s also doubtful that future reformed heroine She-Dragon would have been portrayed as an accessory to the actual murder, if not an assassin herself.) She-Dragon’s personable personality and eye-catching design won over many fans, but her initial appearance doesn’t hint at what’s to come. This may not be the most awkward comic book introduction ever, but it has to be up there.

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