Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan are taking their hit Image Comics series Saga to the Wild West of the universe for its next big story arc, and CBR connected with the Eisner Award-winning writer as as the story kicks off this week in Saga #43. Did we mention you can pick up the issue for 25 cents?
Vaughan shared an exclusive update on the New York Times-bestselling series, as well as a sneak peek at Staples’ cover art for Saga #47, and teased that the next story arc — despite it being titled “The Coffin” — will be brighter than the most recent arc that literally and figuratively ended in complete darkness.
With the latest arc of Paper Girls coming to an end next month and the final issue of Barrier expected soon, Vaughan also discussed his other popular comic book series.
A former writer and producer for genre hits Lost and Under the Dome, Vaughan revealed news about his involvement with Hulu’s upcoming adaptation of Marvel’s Runaways, which he co-created with Adrian Alphona, and his excitement for a pilot script for FX’s yet-to-be-greenlit TV series based on Y: The Last Man, the celebrated Vertigo comic book series he co-created with Pia Guerra.
CBR: When we first spoke about Saga, which incredibly was nearly six years ago, you shared that you revered Star Wars and that “every story in this genre lives in its shadow.” You said that before Lucasfilm sold the moisture farm to Disney in 2012. Has your love for the Force shifted more towards the light or the dark with the release of new films in the franchise like The Force Awakens and Rogue One?
Brian K. Vaughan: I love those movies. I am very excited for The Last Jedi and I’m grateful that I’m able to share a universe I loved as a kid with my own young children. At the same time, I think it’s also important that there are new fantasy/sci-fi stories out there, especially ones that are strictly for an adult audience. I’m thankful that Image Comics has been so supportive over the last six years letting Fiona [Staples] and me tell our unfiltered story of sex, drugs and sloppy proxy wars.
Watching those sci-fi/fantasy blockbusters unleashed on screen, would you like to see Saga as a movie? Or perhaps as a TV series?
Maybe when the story is finished? I think Fiona and I are both open to Saga possibly being translated into another medium someday, and we’ve gotten a lot of very flattering offers, but for the moment, we’re just concentrating on trying to make the greatest comic book we can.
It’s been four months since the release of Saga #42, which has given fans of the series a long time to think about the six heartbreaking blacked-out pages that closed the issue. Why did you and Fiona make the decision to end in such a complete level of darkness, and can we assume the fates have been sealed for Kurti and Hazel’s unborn brother?
They’re gone for good. No corporate-mandated resurrections in our universe. Sometimes, you lose people you care about, and we tried to translate that pain into a few comic-book page turns. All credit to Fiona for her pacing and handwritten narration of Hazel in those final moments.
Looking ahead, it does appear that the future does get brighter for the family, as Fiona’s cover for Saga #43 is showered in sunlight. What can you share about Marko, Alana and Hazel as they head to the wild west of the universe in the upcoming arc?
Yeah, this is a relatively upbeat arc, much more hopeful that our previous bleak storyline. Well, mostly hopeful.
Fiona thought we were overdue to visit an alien planet with more of a Spaghetti Western vibe, which helped inspire these next few issues, a fun-filled adventure called “The Coffin.” It’s about our heroes’ quest for affordable health care. [Laughs] Also in this arc, we’ll finally find out what the hell happened to The Will, which Fiona hints at in her breathtaking cover for Chapter 47.
Before we continue, let’s take a break for a sales pitch. Saga #43 has a 25-cent price point. That’s a good price even if you were going to use it to line your birdcage. We discussed sales for the series as it relates to single issues versus trade paperbacks before the last arc launched and you said that your favorite way to enjoy Saga and other ongoing comic book stories was issue-by-issue, month-to-month. If that’s the case, Saga #43 for 25 cents is a great way to change your reading patterns, right?
I love digital comics, and I’m thankful that so many bookstores now carry our collected editions, but my favorite place to buy comics will always be at a comic store. We wanted to arm our retailing partners with lots of affordable ‘first taste’ issues to hand to new shoppers who might be interested in our perverse universe, and we also wanted to reward their current customers with a full-sized new issue for just a quarter. I know that some retailers will take a short-term hit to their profits with this discounted issue, so I hope that regular Saga readers will channel the few bucks they save this week back into their local stores by sampling another cool-looking comic that also comes out on Wednesday, like Paklis #1, Kill or Be Killed #9, Monstress #12, or James Stokoe’s Aliens: Dead Orbit #2. Any issue of a great series is a perfect jumping-on point.
While so much of this series rotates around the reunited family unit of Alana, Marko and Hazel, we also learned much more about Prince Robot IV during “The War for Phang.” Arguably the most iconic character in the series, thanks in large part to Fiona’s incredible design, and also the biggest jerk, am I right in feeling a little bit sorry for IV after the latest revelations? And is he still riding shotgun — hopefully, he’s no longer tied to a chair — with Alana and Marko when the next chapter of Saga begins?
I’m a big fan of the recently rechristened “Sir Robot,” but you never know how long any supporting character will be part of our story.
The latest arc of Saga also placed larger importance on the character, Petrichor, who you and Fiona introduced in Saga #31. Assuming, Petrichor is still with Hazel and the family too when the new arc begins, what can we expect from the former war criminal as we look ahead?
All I can say is that Petrichor will be an extremely important person in Hazel’s development.
When I was googling Petrichor, I found out that the name is also the term for the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. Rainfall… Landfall, is there a connection here?
Not a conscious one, but I like it!
Before I let you go, I have to ask you about Paper Girls, your other acclaimed ongoing series that is nearing the end of another exciting arc next month. While it is nothing like Saga, it is very much driven by a pure love of science fiction and a deep appreciation for the 1980s — a decade of extreme importance for both of us. For fans of Saga that have been sleeping under a rock, what is your 30-second pitch to get them to check out your other Image darling?
No words necessary, just look at that extraordinary Cliff Chiang artwork. And the unparalleled colors by Matt Wilson. And the genius secret-decoder fonts of Jared K. Fletcher. These are some of the greatest creators in each of their fields absolutely killing it on a time-bending mystery starring four badass newspaper delivery girls from 1988. It’s an action-packed story about nostalgia, fear of the future, and how it feels to be 12.
And what about Barrier, which is also coming to a close soon with the release of its fifth and final issue? Do you still believe in Panel Syndicate as a workable distribution for digital comics and what’s next for you and Marcos — maybe a second volume of Barrier, or do you have another original series planned?
Marcos Martin deserves all the credit for that site, but I’m so proud to be a part of it. The very first Panel Syndicate comic by someone other than Marcos and me, the brilliant sci-fi series Universe! by Albert Monteys, just got nominated for an Eisner, which made my week.
David López just graced our site with the excellent superhero drama Blackhand Ironhead, and we’ve got some more Olympic-level creators coming over to Panel Syndicate soon. Each series is unique, but all of our comics are DRM-free and available to download for any price readers think is fair, including nothing. Writers and artists always maintain 100 percent of all rights to their creations, and Marcos and I take zero per cent of their profits. We’re terrible businesspeople.
There’s no guarantee of success, and the digital comics market seems to have softened since we debuted five years ago, but for being a bilingual comic about illegal immigration, our new miniseries Barrier has done way better than I ever could have hoped. I think this double-sized finale that Marcos is working on now is the best thing he and I have ever done together, so I hope readers will binge the entire story when we release this last issue soon.
As for the future, I’ll have to see if Marcos ever wants to work with me again after what he’s being forced to draw in this one.
Finally, Runaways! Yes! The long-anticipated TV series is coming to Hulu next year. How much are you involved in the project, and what are your early thoughts on the casting and its production?
I just did a little consulting early in the process, but I think the Runaways found the ideal ‘foster parents’ in Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. They took a weird comic set in the Marvel Universe of 2002, and lovingly adapted it into a stylish drama that feels like contemporary Los Angeles. Love the cast, crew and especially the writers they assembled. And the pilot looks like an Adrian Alphona comic! I can’t wait to watch this first season unfold.
Do you have anything else cooking in Hollywood?
I recently read a phenomenal draft of the Y: The Last Man pilot by Michael Green for FX. Should have some very cool news about another adaptation soon.
Awesome. And I am also desperate to see your movie about the Global Seed Vault and I did a dreamcast for your story about the Knights of the Round Table. Any news on those projects?
Thanks! I love those screenplays, but I don’t think there are any plans for my old comedy Roundtable or The Vault, a post-apocalyptic heist movie about breaking into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. But seems like nothing ever really dies In Hollywood, so we’ll see. For now, I’m just concentrating on comics and thinking about new stuff.
Saga #43 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is on sale this week.