Since its debut in 2012,"Saga" has been one of the most critically acclaimed -- and bestselling -- titles in the comic book industry. In an exclusive interview, writer and co-creator Brian K. Vaughan promised CBR.com that this week's "Saga" #37 is one of the best issues yet.
Not only does the latest chapter boast an incredible wraparound cover by artist and co-creator Fiona Staples, "Saga" #37 also launches an arc titled, "The War for Phang" -- a storyline Vaughan says he and Staples have been building towards since the very first issue. The arc is also the beginning of "Saga: Book Three," which Vaughn says will have a very different vibe from previous collected volumes of the multiple Eisner Award-winning series.
One of the best interviews in the business, Vaughan also shared his thoughts on the construction and deconstruction of the nuclear family -- as it exists in "Saga" -- and teased the return of some favorite characters that longtime readers may have believed had gone the way of Izabel.
CBR News: As a parent, nothing is as unimaginable as someone taking one of my children. How did the separation of Marko and Alana from Hazel drive the storytelling during the past arc? And now that they have all been reunited, how will the family dynamic be affected moving forward, especially with a new family member on the way?
Brian K. Vaughan: Yeah, this is the first time that Hazel, Alana and Marko have been under the same roof in years, which has been a lot of fun to write. Their separation was painful, but I think it allowed them each to grow in unexpected ways that we’ll explore here. And with a new baby on the way, there will be many joyous moments, but also the inevitable growing pains that come with a nuclear family suddenly mushroom-clouding into something bigger.
While Marko and Alana have always driven the action and the passion in "Saga," for me, it's always been Hazel that's the heart and soul of the series -- most often through her words. So many comic book characters -- Batman and Robin are two perfect examples -- never grow old. By giving readers a chance to watch Hazel grow up in the pages of "Saga," do you feel that allows for a heightened level of connectivity to the character?
Absolutely. "Saga" has been around for a few years now, and in that relatively short amount of time, some characters at other companies have already gone through multiple reboots, or even died and been resurrected more than once. And I completely understand the appeal of comics that always maintain a "Simpsons"-like status quo, but personally, I love getting to work on a book where characters are allowed to truly change and evolve over the years, and where death is as permanent as it is in our real lives. We're no longer the shiny new toy on the shelves, but I hope "Saga" will be able to tell much richer, emotionally impactful stories now that we've gotten to experience these characters getting older with us over the course of 37 issues.
I love this line from Hazel. It's actually one of my favorites from the series: "When anybody in these cruel worlds offers a helping hand… you shut your fucking mouth and grab it." Words to live by when you are a 'monster' on the lam, but certainly we could all take this advice from time to time, right?
Of course. Similarly, I was pretty much ready to quit comics before I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Fiona Staples, who was not just one of the few creators willing to help make a non-superhero, creator-owned book back when I pitched her my basic thoughts on "Saga," but also the only artist in the world who could have brought our story to life in a way that would be accessible to just about everyone. She saved my career as much as Hazel's new friends saved her life.
Thank you, Fiona!
We only got to see her in action in a few scenes, but I loved Noreen, too. She reminds me of one of the teachers at my kids' school, and my Grade 5 teacher. Noreen gives Hazel a lot of good advice, but one piece really sticks out for me: "Anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn't read enough books." I actually Googled this line, and I couldn't find any reference for it other than you and "Saga." What does that line mean to you? Because I think about it often and have my own ideas.
Sounds like that line means lots of different things to lots of different readers, but for Hazel, I think it was the first time she started to learn something that was contrary to the beliefs of her own parents, both of whom found just about everything they ever needed in one 'sacred text' disguised as a crappy romance novel. I don't know if anything is scarier or more exciting to a young person than realizing that your parents might be wrong about something.
There are so many great characters in "Saga," and they've all been, and no doubt will continue to be, explored on multiple layers and levels. Oddly, I love The Will and Prince Robot IV -- two men that despise one another and yet are very similar in both their humanity (for lack of a better term when referring to robots and freelancers) and lack of it. Will Petrichor be elevated to that status in "Saga" #37 and beyond?
Well, it's "Saga," so Petrichor will either be a vitally important part of Hazel's supporting cast for years to come, or she'll die tragically next issue. [Laughs] Either way, she's quickly becoming one of my favorite characters to write, for whatever that's worth.
And while we gain Petrichor, at least for another issue, we also said 'goodbye' to Klara in "Saga" #36. Or did we? Will we see her again? I feel like Marko -- and Alana and Hazel -- could still use a little bit of tiger mothering in his life.
Stay tuned, true believer.
In "Saga" #37, a new story arc begins, namely "The War for Phang." Since Phang is the home planet of Sophie, is she connected to this war? And if she is, can The Will be far behind?
This battle for Phang, a comet-world we'll learn is vitally important to all sides of our war, will definitely reintroduce some characters who have been missing from our pages for a very long time, including some you may never have expected to see again.
What else can you share about the upcoming arc beyond the awesomeness that is Fiona's wraparound cover for "Saga" #37?
I realize #37 is a seemingly arbitrary number to celebrate with a special anniversary cover, but this is technically the beginning of "Saga: Book Three," which will have a very different vibe from previous collected volumes of Hazel's journey. By the way, our second hardcover book, collecting Chapters #19-36, will finally be coming out early next year, with some very special bonus material that Fiona and I have been gathering for ages, so we hope it will be worth the wait.
Anyway, up until now, I think our story has had kind of a "Casablanca" feel, human drama unfolding in the foreground, as a brutal war raged on in the distant background. But "The War for Phang" is almost like having German tanks suddenly come smashing through the walls of Rick's Cafe. The endless war that our family has been trying to avoid finally catches up with Marko, Alana and Hazel, and there will be serious consequences for all of them.
I'm really proud of this self-contained 'event,' which we've been building to since our very first issue, and Fiona's artwork has never been more mind-bendingly awesome, so I can't wait for readers to experience it.
I want to ask you a housekeeping question. "Saga" is wildly successful as a trade paperback collection and the aforementioned hardcovers too but in the solicitations for "Saga" #37, there is a 'call to arms' for readers to join "our monthly adventures." Is this encouragement related to wanting readers to experience the War for Phang in real-time, or does this have anything to do with the series' commercial viability? I ask as someone who reads the series in trade paperbacks, because if I need to switch to reading "Saga" monthly to keep the series alive, I will switch.
Thanks so much, but I promise you don't ever need to worry about the commercial viability of "Saga." If we never sold another issue, Fiona and I would still be able to keep telling this story for years to come based on just the annual sales of our first volume, which is approaching a million copies sold around the world. Because Image Comics is generous and moral enough to let creators keep most of the profits from our series, instead of just a small percentage of royalties, we're very well-compensated no matter what format you prefer to read us in. So if the only way you can afford to enjoy "Saga" is by binge-reading collections at your local library, that's fantastic with us.
But yeah, creatively, reading individual issues each month is my favorite way to experience our story. I think people who watched Yorick age more or less in real time over the five years that Pia Guerra and I told those 60 issues of "Y: The Last Man" had a much deeper interaction with the characters than readers who maybe devoured the trades over a long weekend. I realize that those monthly cliffhangers can be torturous, but that's kind of the point. [Laughs]
Plus, we have the best letter-writers in all of comics, and those "To Be Continued" columns are never reprinted anywhere, so you filthy trade-waiters are missing out on some extra goodness! From first page to last, I think this week's "Saga" Chapter 37 is one of the best issues we've ever put together, with a wraparound cover and a whopping 23 pages of interior Staples art, all still for just $2.99. If that's not the best deal in comics, I’ll eat my toupée.
Final question, which I believe is the most important one. Have you ever grown a beard like Marko's? And if you have, was it well received?
I grew a giant beard during the WGA strike back in 2007. The wife was not a fan of my bristly union solidarity.
"Saga" #37, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, is available now.