Having just exited the Year of the Dragon, we're now condemned to 12yrs of less-good animals before the Chinese zodiac brings us back around to the only one that matters. Since 2024 is a long way off, we decided to dig deep into history to find its most underrated flying lizards. We also dug shallowly into history. Get ready for a ride that'll take you from Hollywood, to flash animation, to "the opera".
10. Dragonslayer's Vermithrax Pejorative: Regardless of any other qualities, he demands inclusion on this list because his name is Vermithrax Pejorative. That's even better than RZA's Californication character, "Samurai Apocalypse". But as this excellent F This Movie! essay points out, VP has other arguments in his favor as well. First off, he's a puppet -- an awe-inspiring, 40ft puppet that had to be transported by 747 -- because in 1981, CGI stood for: "What The Hell Is CGI?" Also, like Jaws, he only appears in his full majesty at the end of the movie. Why? Because he's a dragon. He asks for virgins, he gets virgins. He doesn't need to prove anything by hogging screen time. Granted, he was ultimately killed by a young Peter MacNicol, but since Hobbits are basically dragon-kryptonite, there's no shame in that
9. John Saxon, a.k.a. "Roper" from Enter the Dragon: Dragons tend to be old, still deadly despite their oldness, and rich -- Forbes calculated that The Hobbit's Smaug would be worth $8.6 billion, a figure later upped to $54.3 billion after angry fantasy fans who'd probably never perused another issue of Forbes in their life demanded a reassessment. John Saxon was born in 1935, but he's clearly still just as deadly as he was when he defeated the perennially jacked Bolo Yeung -- 15 years before Van Damme defeated him in Bloodsport. As for riches, Saxon's got 194 acting titles on his IMDB filmography, not to mention the money he got for directing the 1987 Walking Dead forerunner Zombie Death House. He's not Bruce Lee, or Jim Kelly, or Jim Kelly's afro, but damn it, he is one badass dragon
8. "Dragonaut", by Sleep: Because you don't have to be a dragon to have smoke coming out of your mouth.
7. Uther Pendragon, Excalibur version: King Arthur's dad lusted after another man's wife so lustily that, to lay in lust with her, he had Merlin "summon the dragon" -- a dangerous spell which involved record quantities of dry ice and the near-certainty that the beneficiary would suffer a grisly death. As Uther was suffering his, he thrust the sword into the stone, because he was just that phallic. Meanwhile, King Arthur didn't lust after his own wife at all, then got himself phallically lanced through the gut by the kid he accidentally had with his sister, Topless 1980s Helen Mirren. Most dragon-like: Pendragon.
6. 1998's American Godzilla: A controversial selection! And yes, the A.V. Club isn't entirely wrong when they describe 1998's ill-fated franchise resurrection as "a Taco Bell commemorative cup first and a movie a distant second". But at the end of the day, this mutated French-Polynesian iguana's got the speed and agility advantages over 'Zilla Classic™, gets major adventurousness points for skipping out on its Tokyo hometown to set its sights on New York City, and above all is still endowed with considerably more atomic breath powers than the av-er-age French Polynesian marine reptile.
Bonus points? This scaly behemoth starred in the picture that -- along with The Cable Guy, the live-action Inspector Gadget, and Lion King 1 1/2 -- sent Less-Cute Matthew Broderick back to Broadway. That's gotta be good for a lifetime supply of FourthMeals
5. Fafner From Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen: When people hear the word “opera” their eyes tend to glaze over, but leave it to Wagner to take that glaze and turn it into the icing on a CAKE OF TERRIFYING BADASSNESS. Fafner is the villain of Siegfried, the third installation in his four-part epic. Not only can Fafner change shape, not only can he breathe poison, and not only did he lay ownership to a ring so powerful that it led to the destruction of the entire world, but in a 2012 Metropolitan Opera production, the set depicting Fafner was so heavy (45 tons) that the stage had to be reinforced with steel girders to keep it from literally bringing down the house. That is the very definition of “metal”
4. Trogdor: Creeping up from the annals of www.history, it’s Trogdor the Burninator, and he’s going to burninate all the peasants in the thatched-roof cottages. At one time, this bizarre, one-armed, Flash-based dragon-man graced many a shirt, bag, button, and, improbably, copy of Guitar Hero II. Ten years have passed since Trogdor lit a path of destructive net-popularity, and though his memory may not burn brightest, it still rocks the hardest.
3. The Kongamato: The Bigfoot of dragons, the Kongamato is a cryptozoological creature native to Angola, with reports often describing it as a 4 ½ foot long “flying snake”. But whereas the biggest threat Bigfoot has every posed to anyone is maybe rooting through their garbage, eyewitnesses of the Kongamato often corroborate their accounts with deep chest wounds. And if it is real, there is most likely more than one. The real mystery? Why there isn’t already a reality show about finding this thing
2. Double Dragon: Gene Siskel's "real throwaway piece of trash" is another man's treasure, especially if that man spent his middle school days at the arcade, and middle school nights having alarming dreams about certain characters on Who's the Boss? What Double Dragon may lack in awards and accolades, it more than makes up for in pure, unadulterated Bleached-Blonde Alyssa Milano, not to mention its commendable sense of sci-fi restraint: its setting is basically Los Angeles in the '90s, only it's supposed to be 2007 so everyone calls it "New Angeles"
Also making this dragon doubly awesome: the Iron Chef guy; Scott Wolf; horror legend Michael Berryman; T2's Robert Patrick (admit it: his Terminator was far more difficult to terminate); and Julia Nickson, whose famous line "Rambo, you not expendable!" is basically responsible for The Expendables, its sequel, its sequel's already-in-the-works sequel, and Stallone's ability to retire owning a third yacht
1. The Moorhead State Dragon Logo: Moorhead State's first team name was The Teachers, which made sense because it was a teaching college, but didn't make sense because it's a terrible name. Because a lot of teaching colleges shared that terrible name, Moorhead changed it to The Pedagogues, or Peds for short. Fortunately, in 1930 the whole school was engulfed in flames, giving them an opportunity to rename themselves The Dragons ("born of the devastating and purifying fire…”) before either of the NCAA-unfriendly connotations of "Peds" came into vogue. Their cartoonish dragon mascot went through a number of versions over the years, with the binding theme being that none of the dragons looked like they were good at sports.
For 15 years, a graphic design professor assigned the task of creating a more menacing lizard to his students, until finally one of them came up with something possessing the "charisma, feeling and severity" you want in a college mascot. They paid the student $500, but, according to the university's website, she now gets paid six figures for each college logo she creates, so even if you don't have scales, designing a "geometrical, fire-breathing serpent curled in a tight circle" can have you sitting on a fat pile of gold. And probably rubies.