IMAGE EXPO: Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' "Saga" Panel

Saturday afternoon at an Image Expo panel devoted to the series, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples unveiled more details about their epic science fiction and fantasy series "Saga" from Image Comics along with some artwork, and talked about their creative process in bringing it about.

Vaughan arrived at the panel sporting an eye that looked blackened, and very red. When asked about it before the panel began, he jokingly claimed that he got into a fight with Robert Kirkman (the true reason was revealed later during the panel).

Vaughan and Staples were introduced to applause, as publisher Eric Stephenson described their new ongoing comic book series as a futuristic science-fiction and fantasy series involving a war between two planets.

Stephenson started off the panel by asking Staples about her earlier career work and she talked about doing art for horror comics for independent publishers and Wildstorm. Her first Image job was "Proof."When the question was turned over to Vaughan, he cheerfully said to laughter, "I was drinking!"

Then Vaughan talked about how his friend and fellow comic book writer Jay Faeber told him she should work for Image because of the creative freedom. He credits this as a major reason for why he ended up doing "Saga" for Image.

As it turns out, though they have been working on "Saga" for a while, the two creators had never met before the project was announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego last year.

"We've met for like thirty seconds before the panel so it was very surreal," Vaughan said. He then talked about wanting to get her to work on the book with him. "I wasn't sure if she would do it. Her artwork is incredible."

He elaborated further saying, "[Her artwork] doesn't look like anyone else. She is very unique."

Vaughn described the first time he had seen artwork for the series they were going to be working on. "When I opened up this file I was like, 'This is going to work!'"

The first image shown from the book is a young couple, a man with ram horns and a woman with wings who is breastfeeding a baby. The creators began to joke a little about the image with Staples saying, "It's a comic for your mom."

Vaughan laughed at the remark and alluded to that being the selling point for the series. "That's it! It's a comic for your mom!"

More images were then shown. The next was of a baby hand reaching for a large monstrous hand that is somewhat grotesque, yet the image itself suggests a tenderness to it. Vaughan said that he really liked that cover because it is so different from everything else on the market.

Another cover image appears of a teen girl, who has a cross between a punkish and mischievous expression on her face, and who appears to have her intestines spilling out of her. This is replaced by an image of a bald man wearing a cape sitting next to a large catlike creature.

One last image appeared, the first page of the comic book itself, showing a woman yelling. Vaughan jokes that it "looks like she is taking a shit!"

The panelists then spoke about how much work on the ongoing series is being done by a small group of people, including the fact that Staples is both drawing and lettering the series.

"I asked Fiona if she would do the lettering herself. Most artists hate to letter but Fiona jumped at the opportunity, " Vaughn said. "Basically it's just the four of us (including the colorist and inker). It's really nice, it's a tight team."

Vaughan talked about the influences on him for this series that included children's books, "Star Wars," and "Flash Gordon."

"'Star Wars' is definitely an influence even though it's a very different kind of story," Vaughan said.

The panelists talked about how different many earlier science fiction concepts were at the time, and Vaughan related a story about the first time he saw the Silver Surfer, and how the character seemed so incredible and different to him.

"I remember the first time I saw the Silver Surfer. I was like, 'What the fuck is this?'"

With that, panel was then opened to the audience for questions.

The first question asked whether there will be any tie-ins to Vaughan's earlier work. "No crossover in the books," Vaughan said, and then he began to talk about how "It's nice to have an opportunity to write about a loving couple."

The creators were asked about how they collaborate.

"Me and Fiona split everything 50/50. We share ownership," Vaughan said. He then talked about how when they were still ironing out the details of the series, she asked him if the characters have to be "automatically white" like it seems to be in many science fiction series, and he said this helped lead to diversity in the cast. Staples added in a remark about how there was also a trend of redheads being in so many of these types of stories.

The next question asked was if "Saga" is a "Romeo and Juliet sort of story." Vaughan answered, "Yes. It would be unthinkable for these two people to be together." He goes on to describe them as non-combatants who just want out and don't want a part of the bitter war that is happening around them.

The next question referenced "Ex Machina" as Vaughan was asked if the first issue of this series would be similar to the first issue of that one, in which he hinted at the series' ending. Vaughan answered in the affirmative, and said that the first issue is forty pages long and he wanted to put as much into it as possible.

Another audience member asked them if they knew when to end the series.

Staples said she does not know, as she is only one issue ahead of what she is actually drawing. Vaughan laughed and said, "I would like this to go on until the day I die, but I don't want to say that because it will scare Fiona."

Next question was about the role of technology in this world. According to Vaughan, one side in the war is more technology based and the other is more magical based. He then went into more detail about how the rules of magic work in this series. "Magic requires ingredients. There is no coming back from the dead. There are rules, but there is no science to it."

Vaughan was asked if he knows how this story is going to end. "I always know how my stories are going to end," Vaughan replied. In terms of story arcs, Vaughan said that he knows what he is doing five issues ahead.

The next question was about whether or not it was intentional for the characters to be humanoid, to which Vaughan answered, "Yes." Then, he went on a tangent and said, "This is kind of a romance comic. And of course I'm thinking who wants to buy that?"

He then further elaborated. "Don't worry, it's not just going to be hugging and kissing. [The characters] have an agenda and they will be involved in shenanigans." He tells the audience there will be many things going on, including "evil robots."

Another audience member asked if the wings on the woman in the first image are functional. Vaughan described one planet as having horns and the other as having wings, but said that not all of the horns or wings will be the same types. "As for functionality," Vaughan said, "You will just have to wait and see."

Some of Vaughan's work is known for being political, and he was asked if this series would be influenced by current events. Vaughan said that he is not Bill Maher, and that it is not his intention to be overtly political. "['Saga'] is not preachy," Vaughan said, explaining that he does not want to preach his political views to his audience. Often, he says that he himself is not sure about his own beliefs. "I don't know how I feel about things so this is why I write about this stuff. "

Again Vaughan was asked if he knew how "Saga" was going to end. "I know what the ending of the story is, but there are many ways to get there," he said.

The creators were asked about how much input the artist has in this series. "It's a treat to read the scripts. The scripts themselves are very entertaining," Staples said, saying that she enjoys interpreting what Vaughan writes.

Vaughan then said that she has influenced the story just through her artistic style. "Her design work has changed the direction of the stories," he said, looking at her, "I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit."

The writer then asked Staples if she would ever tell him if she hated a scene that he had scripted. When Staples made a sound that was neither a yes or no, the audience and the writer erupted into laughter.

Then came the burning question that was on many fans who were in attendance at the panel. Just what happened to Vaughan's eye? "I caught the plague from 'Y the Last Man,'" he said, before explaining that he had no real idea of how it actually happened. The writer said he was at home coughing and that he blew out a blood vessel in his eye, also blaming it partially on him being a nerd.

With the question about the condition of his eye resolved, Vaughan then gave a more detailed description of why he is publishing "Saga" through image. "My big thing when I came to Image is that I wanted to own and control it," the writer said before adding, "But, I am so dumb." He then gave credit to the editors at Image for helping in the creative process, making sure his plots are cohesive and free of grammatical errors.

The panel ended shortly thereafter, and both the writer and artist stuck around to talk to the fans and take pictures with them for a little while before the next panel started.

"Saga" #1 is on sale March 14.

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