In January’s issue of Savage Dragon, Mako — a villain who first appeared in Graphic Fantasy in the 1980s and has been a presence in Erik Larsen‘s Savage Dragon titles since — returned from the dead — kind of. And according to Larsen, part of the reason was The Suicide Squad. Confused yet? Let’s break down one of the oddest recent developments in a book that’s full of odd developments. First: some context. Mako is a giant shark-man hybrid, and one of Dragon’s most powerful antagonists. During his lifetime, he bordered on unstoppable, fighting Dragon to a standstill during one of his last appearances before being sliced in half by Dart, who used her god sword (literally what it sounds like).
Following Mako’s death, Dart got some of his blood in her bloodstream, and had his shark powers — but only part time. Able to transform back and forth between her normal human form and shark form at will, Dart used whichever appearance and power set suited her at any given time. When she died, she wasn’t in “shark mode” and was caught by a bullet in a sudden crossfire, setting up a new version of Mako introduced earlier this year.
So what does all this have to do with The Suicide Squad? Well, Mako in his original form popped up in the proto-Savage Dragon stories in Graphic Fantasy, but then reappeared in the modern era of Image Comics beginning with the Savage Dragon miniseries. That means by the time King Shark — who looked nearly identical — was first created in Superboy #0 in 1994, Mako had a few years of Savage Dragon appearance under his belt.
So when King Shark started to attract attention for his appearance in the movie, Larsen felt the need to bring a version of Mako back into the book, presumably to avoid any later claims by DC that he was copying them if he decided to do so further down the line.
“I knew a proper Mako revival was not an option,” Larsen told ComicBook back in January. He’s run his course as a character and his story had a beginning, middle and end. But I did want to bring in a version of Mako, largely because of King Shark has started appearing in things. It frosted my flakes a bit to see that Mako knockoff showing up as if he was some original, groundbreaking creation, and so I decided that Mako had to return in some fashion.”
The way he did it? Mako’s blood — the same thing that had given Dart a version of Mako’s powers and grotesque look — did so for Benedict Milhous, a villain first known as The Executioner who had lost his powers along with dozens of other super-freaks when the government recently decided to essentially rain a metahuman “cure” from the sky in Chicago.
“I kicked around numerous ways of bringing him back without actually bringing him back and I considered quite a few ways to do that but this struck me as the cleanest way of doing that,” Larsen said. “Having some previously unmentioned son show up out of the blue seemed dishonest and nobody loves a clone. A blood injection was the best option, I thought, and that gave me the best of both worlds, because he could be both old and new. He looked like a younger, leaner version of the old Mako, and yet he could have a completely different personality and we’d be in on his first adventures and see those tentative first steps.”
Larsen had previously noted on Twitter that the unique design elements of the original King Shark are not actually present in the movie version, leaving it nearly identical to Mako. (Writer Gail Simone pointed out that Kign Shark had ditched most of his distinctive elements as far back as her first run in Secret Six, and that the movie closely resembled the version of the character from Adam Glass’s Suicide Squad in 2011.)
Either way, Savage Dragon fans are happy to get a version of Mako back — even if the reasoning behind it is mostly Larsen’s need to plant a flag in his creation.