In the mountains, fields, forests and large, deep holes of fantasy fiction, you can be almost certain to find a dragon lurking somewhere. How they lurk so often is beyond me, being the massiveist things around. Sometimes wise, sometimes greedy, often complete wangs, dragons are wonderful tools for a writer. It doesn’t matter whether they are heroic or villainous, they are always EPIC and they always up the ante for our marauding heroes, no matter what comes next.
We’ve seen them in so many guises, from Tolkien’s arsehole creation Smaug to Robin Hobb’s emotionally charged living rock ones and JK Rowling’s slightly-more-vicious-than-I-thought-they-would-be-in-a-kid’s-book Norwegian Ridgebacks. But what about outside the world of fantasy literature? There are a host of different dragons worthy of note in movies, video games and comics that put some of our written word favourites to shame. I’ve put together a list of them, for no particular reason.
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A menagerie of the awesome, the evil and the downright idiotic.
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Okay, so I know he’s from a book but he’s also the main protagonist from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit; The Desolation Of Something Once Beloved. A large, classic European style dragon, Smaug fits all the stereotypes of evil dragon dickishness: lives in a mountain, breathes fire, sleeps on treasure, yadda yadda yadda. In fairness, Smaug almost saves the second film in the Hobbit crapology, mainly by having the brilliance of a Cumberbatch voice that can solve crimes, endanger the USS Enterprise and, er, war with horses. His end is coming though, as (in the book) Bard the Bowman’s Black Arrow expertly finds Smaug’s only weak point – his left boob. A bit like when Legolas shot Achilles in that film Troy, and its lesser-known novelisation, The Iliad. Best thing about Smaug? He is number two on the Forbes fictional rich list, ahead of Mr. Burns, Tony Stark and the Monopoly guy, and just behind Scrooge McDuck. Not bad for a lazy dragon who nicked a mountain off some dwarves.
The imaginatively named hero from 1996’s fantasy adventure, Dragonheart, Draco is a wonderful invention in a distinctly average movie. Well, he almost is. You see, he is a beautifully rendered, Academy Award nominated piece of visual design (lost the Oscar to Independence Day!) but he is inessshhcapably, intrinssshhically Ssshhean Connery. In theory I imagine Universal Pictures thinking a dragon with the voice of James Bond being a wonderful idea, but in reality it is impossible to divorce the voice from the creation, ruining his development as a character and losing what little believability a dragon has in the first place. Couple this with Dennis Quaid’s unbelievably terrible casting as a squinty, loud American knight, running around trying to get vengeance on said dragon for saving his master’s life earlier (?), it makes for a pretty crap casting experience all round. It is akin to casting Sean Connery as an immortal Spaniard, or Sean Connery as a Russian submarine commander or Alanis Morissette as God.
Kitty Pride’s lil alien dragon buddy in the X-Men, Lockheed has become a fan favourite since he rescued Kitty from the alien Brood sometime in the early 80s. Purple, and about the size of a cat or a nice sized log, Lockheed is surprisingly powerful and intelligent. He has sharp claws and teeth, the obligatory fire breath and his brain is immune to psychic attacks. He has always been able to understand what people are saying, but it wasn’t until Lockheed and Kitty joined the British team Excalibur that it came to light he could speak as well; in a Cockney accent, bizarrely, and only to ffffffff
Kitty’s boyfriend Peter Wisdom, whom he made sure knew that he hated him. He also had a spell as part of one of Marvel’s crappest team-ups, when Lockjaw – the Inhumans’ teleporting Bulldog – invited Lockheed to join The Pet Avengers. He accepted and joined up with Lockjaw, Zabu the sabretooth tiger, Falcon’s falcon and a frog version of Thor (called Frog Thor) on a quest for the infinity gems. Bloody got one too…
Let’s not pull punches; Godzooky is a complete idiot. Godzilla’s young cousin in the 1978 animated series Godzilla, Godzooky is the comedy element with the misfortune of being incoherently unfunny and an annoying tit. Ok, so I know Godzilla isn’t technically a dragon but for the purposes of the show his atomic breath was changed to fire breathing and he was made to look more dragoney than dinosaurey – good enough for me.
Godzookey also tried to breathe fire but only ever managed to cough up small clouds of smoke, like an Essex nine-year-old smoking their first fag. Episodes often ended up with the crew of the research ship Calico laughing about Godzookey’s inability to fly or his general buffoonery. If it hadn’t been for the risk of his cousin stamping on my ship, I’d have finished episode one by firing a cow bolt through Godzookey’s stupid head.
Another from both book and film, Falkor the Luckdragon made such an impact on children around the world in the 1984 film, The Neverending Story that he deserves a place here. He was changed from a Chinese style dragon in the novel to a distinctly canine one in the film, presumably to create a comforting, happy-go-lucky ally for our hero Atreyu to counter-balance the seriousness and sometime scariness of all the other characters. It was, however, the ingenious and essential timing of his arrival in the story that compounded my love for him instantly. After wiping up the tears, snot and unhealthy amount of wee caused by the most traumatic (movie) moment in my young life so far – the torturously slow drowning of Atreyu’s beloved horse, Artax – Falkor’s tongue-lolling arrival instantly lifts the tone and brightens the hearts of Atreyu, Bastian and my mum, whom I was watching it with. I’m not sure there is a moment in life that can’t be made better by the inclusion of a fluffy dog, and The Neverending Story is no exception. This equates to Falkor being fantasy’s equivalent of a big hug.
One of the protagonists in Jeff Smith’s incredible epic fantasy comic series, Bone, The Great Red Dragon is a mysterious and mischievous character, presumably named for the dragon from the Book of Revelation and thus the series of paintings by William Blake. He first appears when he rescues titular hero Fone Bone from the clutches of a pair of rat creatures and builds a protective relationship with him from then on in. Pom-pom eared and always smoking a spitty little rolly, he has a habit of lazily appearing at the last possible moment to save the day and wander off back to the forest. There really isn’t anymore to say here; if you haven’t read Bone, do yourself a favour and pick it up.
In the roleplaying world of Dungeons & Dragons, Tiamat is a hugely powerful, draconic god, named after the Mesopotamian god of the same name. But it’s from the 1983 animated series that I remember Tiamat as a strangely nonaligned antagonist for our unlucky band of adventurers and their twatty little unicorn. Not being the main enemy in the show (that honour belonging to Venger, who was obsessed with the children’s magical weapons), Tiamat was aggressively impartial in his violence and hatred and I think this is what made him so iconic and memorable. He had five heads, all of which breathed different things – fire, ice, electricity, Reggae Reggae Sauce and so on – and spent a lot of time trying to kill everyone else, everywhere. He never managed a single fatality though, which I suppose must affect his legacy somewhat. The writers could’ve let him eat one of them. Presto the useless magician maybe? Would have alleviated the leftover feelings of impotence a scary dragon should never be remembered for.
Another of Marvel Comic’s alien dragons, Fin Fang Foom has appeared in various titles since 1961. Probably best known for his run-ins with Chinese communists and Iron Man (here's hoping he makes it into Iron Man 4!), Fin Fang Foom is a super powerful, really quite angry fellow who seems to just want to be left alone to sleep. Yet he is continuously, idiotically awakened, goes on a bit of a rampage and then curls up and goes back to sleep again. Pretty sweet life really. At one point he even becomes a Buddhist, enters a monster rehabilitation program and decides to follow his dream of becoming head chef at the Chinese restaurant in The Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building. Obviously.
He possesses a terrifying arsenal of skills and weapons including acid breath, super strength, supersonic flight, rapid regeneration and advanced technology, including a spoon that can hypnotise whales and some massive rollerblades (probably). To top it all off, he is a master of martial arts. I for one would like to see Fin Fang Foom have a tear up with any of the other dragons in the list. I bet he’d win.
If you’ve ever played Bethesda’s sexily titled Skyrim, you’ll know all about the array of dragons, the development of shouting (a type of magic) and the endless fucking dungeons. But it really is big bad baddy Alduin who really stands out. Possibly because the fight is so bloody difficult, possibly because you’ve played the game for 78 hours to get to him and probably because you’ve just realised how ill- prepared you are when you get there. He can breathe fire and frost, shout up a fireball and has a 50% resistance to all kinds of stuff, making him quite hard and a bit cool.
After leading your irritatingly stereotypical buddies across the dragon-spine bridge, you precede to shouting at the sky to clear the fog (honest). Once the fog is clear, down comes Alduin. You prepare your shield xxxxxxxx
shield and sword, shout “FRUL!” (a spell called Dragonrend that should ground him) and charge in to attack. Your mates die and Alduin takes a bit of time mashing you up and burning you before you’re dead. You hit ‘continue from last save’ and get mash up again before shouting, “FUCK!” and putting the game back in its box, listing it on Ebay and waiting patiently for Bethesda to make the next Fallout game.