Fon-Ti is a character in Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon universe. He is the creator of Mighty Man and the nemesis of Abner Cadaver. If Mighty Man is Larsen’s take on Captain Marvel, Fon-Ti is his take on Shazam (the wizard who created Captain Marvel, not the current, hoodie-wearing superhero). He was involved a few of the big plot lines in the Savage Dragon comics in the pre-“Savage World” days.
I don’t have much to say about Fon-Ti specifically, but he reminds of something I like about Savage Dragon in general: Larson freely incorporates ideas from culture and puts his own spin on them. That’s a little vague—let me clarify. While Savage Dragon is, in general, an action-packed super hero comic, it is remarkably unrestrained beyond that. This is not a knock against comics that are more constrained. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics and its various spin-offs are great and quite lovable, but you’re probably not going to get to see Mike’s riff on Shazam comics, and you’re probably not going to see Hellboy take command of a spaceship. I appreciate that they’re changing things up by sending Hellboy to hell, but, to be fair, Dragon went there a long time ago!
I wrote a little about Kamandi (about 2 words) in a previous Wizard Wednesday post, and it’s a comic that greatly influenced Larsen. He writes about it in the introduction to the “This Savage World” collection, and then, with the story to follow, does his own spin on it, through his own unique lens. It reminds me of Ween’s country album. While some* consider that album parody, it’s not; it’s a legitimate country album, but frosted with Ween flavor. Indeed**, Savage Dragon reminds me of Ween, or maybe, more accurately, the Beatles or the Kinks. Paul McCartney and Ray Davies imposed no artificial barriers on their creative output, and they had no qualms about drawing inspiration from the cultural pool. It takes confidence and skill to pull off “Helter Skelter” and “Martha My Dear” on the same album. I think it’s that same confidence and skill that keeps Savage Dragon going, at almost 200 issues now, even as the comic takes wild, unexpected turns. It’s something I really appreciate in art, and I think it often goes unrewarded, because it’s hard to sell something that can’t easily be pinned down.
I don’t want all this talk of Larsen pulling from culture to imply that the comic isn’t full of original ideas—it is! I just think that his use of familiar concepts (a giant monster attacking a city, for example) from fresh angles (the giant monster is a reanimated Osama Bin Laden, for instance) with strong execution (after killing the Bin Laden monster, the main characters discuss whether or not it it’s wrong to celebrate such a killing, for instance) is a big part of what gives the comic its energy.
I could go on, and maybe I will later (there are more wizards than Fon-Ti in Savage Dragon), but for now I’ll stop here. You should go to your local comic book store and discover these comics for yourself! Or you can be boring and order the comics online from the usual places. I think they might be available digitally too? I don’t know. Who wants to read things on a computer? I am tired of looking at this screen after writing 5 paragraphs!
Oh, also, I wrote a song that is (kind of) about Savage Dragon. Well, it’s not really about the comic, but it uses the comic as a motif. It was an enjoyable songwriting exercise.
*boring people with no brains
**Indeed, I enjoy starting sentences with “indeed.”