@’s by SAGA Writer Brian K. Vaughan!
Plus we talk about Kirkman’s furriness…
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): I like to imagine that when you abandoned us to write for that show about people living in the tropics, Gilligan's Island I think it was called, you were actually spending the whole time conceiving SAGA. Am I right?
BRIAN K VAUGHAN (BV): Ha, Damon and Carlton were always awesome about letting me hide in my office to work on comic scripts when we weren't busy in the writers' room, but no, I hadn't considered writing SAGA until my first child was born, which was after I'd already turned the frozen donkey wheel and abandoned my friends on the island.
OD: I hope your wee one didn't come out narrating your death, any other inspirations or motivations for restarting the long dead space opera?
BV: Oh, it's always been my favorite genre. Right after I left LOST, I wrote a pilot for Sam Raimi called SMOKERS, a blue-collar space opera that was kind of like THE DEADLIEST CATCH in space. It was a great experience, but the show ended up not getting picked up, which is when I realized comics was probably a better medium for space opera at the moment, anyway.
With an ongoing comic series, Fiona and I can do something that hopefully has the dramatic heft of a good serialized cable show for adults like BREAKING BAD, but also has the unlimited visual effects budget of a "four quadrant" summer blockbuster like AVATAR. Comics combine a lot of what I love about film and television, with almost none of the drawbacks.
OD: Why the name SAGA?
BV: Back in Viking days, I guess the word "saga" originally described an epic narrative that followed the adventures of one specific family, sometimes across generations. That definitely sums up our story in four letters.
OD: Your stories are always one part societal observation and one part indictment, what's the message behind the two warring factions of SAGA - one wielding magic, the other technology?
BV: Well, I hope there's no one "message." SAGA is a story, not propaganda. I became a father recently, and I wanted to write about the experience of bringing a child into a world that's constantly at war, so I suppose Wreath and Landfall represent the two sides of any deeply entrenched ongoing struggle, with each side obviously feeling like they're in the right.
But like in CASABLANCA, our story is more concerned with the intimate relationships going on in the foreground than it is with the sweeping war consuming the background.
OD: Even though SAGA takes place in a galaxy far far away, so much of it feels like it's happening down the street. Alana and Marko speak like we do and even gave birth to their forbidden love child in the back of a garage. Is this universal sameness by design and will we see a tie to humans and earth at some point?
BV: No, I can categorically say that we'll never see or even hear about Earth. Still, even though our story is set in a wacky, far-out sci-fi/fantasy universe, I hope that the characters will always feel relatable and real. I wanted our protagonists to talk like actual human beings, not with that faux Renaissance Fair speak you still get in a lot of stories in these genres.
OD: Landfall and Wreath have outsourced their battle to other planets; safe to say there's a message here about America's current propensity to throw our jobs and problems offshore?
BV: Again, there's no one message we're trying to cram down readers' throats, but this is definitely the most political story that I've ever written. That said, I'm more interested in readers' various interpretations than I am in explaining our intent. Mostly, I just hope they'll be sucked into our story and be as awed by Fiona Staples' art as I am.
By the way, if you're curious, you can check out our entire 48-page first issue for FREE over at Comixology right now.
OD: Fiona is indeed touched by an angel, and I mean the hot one, not Della Reese. Is the rumor true that Fiona was a wee bit miffed when you killed off the creepily alluring spider assassin The Stalk?
BV: Can you blame her? Fiona does such an amazing job of designing all of our characters/ships/worlds completely from scratch, only to watch them be cavalierly obliterated by her bald co-creator. But you can't have a war story without casualties...
OD: Will we ever learn what started the war? Currently it just is and has always been.
BV: Probably not. The war was going on long before our story began, and it will likely still be going on when our story ends. SAGA isn't about some plucky rebellion bringing down an evil empire, it's the tale of two conscientious objectors who checked out of a meaningless never-ending conflict in the hopes of raising their daughter in peace. So far, it's not going so great.
OD: Is there a caste system to the planet Landfall? Alana is clearly built different than the royalty.
BV: No, there's no caste system on Landfall, just a lot of old-fashioned economic inequality. And the royalty are actually from the Robot Kingdom, another world entirely, as we'll soon see. Their relationship with Landfall is about as complicated as Saudi Arabia's relationship with us.
OD: Prince Robot IV, is there a head inside that cathode ray tube or is he really just a horny robot?
BV: No, though he looks humanoid from the neck down (as we've already seen in way-too-graphic detail), Prince Robot IV and his brethren are all 100% machine. In our universe, androids are a ruling class, not glorified slaves.
OD: Will we ever learn who built them?
BV: Weirdly enough, our robots reproduce sexually, so there are no "builders" to speak of.
OD: The Will, the assassin hunting our nomadic nuclear family, Han Solo inspired? He very much feels like a good man who is just exceptional at doing bad things.
BV: Because they both have stripes on their pants? No, Han Solo always struck me as a fundamentally heroic dude who smuggled for a living while the bad guys were in charge. The Will, on the other hand, is a freelance assassin who murders women and infants for fun and profit.
I suppose he disapproves of having sex with the children he executes, but that seems like an awfully low bar to qualify one as a "good man."
OD: Is there any foreshadowing we can infer from The Will's name?
OD: The Will has a lying cat; this is because cats are evil, right?
OD: Hazel's ghost Nanny Izabel was giving me some heavy vibes reminiscent of Molly of RUNAWAYS both in tone and appearance, intentional?
BV: Because they both wear hats? No, Molly Hayes is a sweet, prepubescent only child of privilege who loves Doop and YouTube videos of funny animals, while Izabel is the dismembered ghost of a foul-mouthed teenager from a huge family of impoverished alien freedom fighters.
OD: Part of the allure to your ideas is that books have a definitive end, since baby Hazel is narrating the story from some time in the future will we see her reach adulthood?
BV: If we're lucky?
OD: Have you set a definitive number of issues for the series?
BV: My hope is that this will be the longest, best series I've ever been a part of, so my new goal is to go exactly one issue longer than wherever THE WALKING DEAD ends. I know Kirkman already has a hundred-issue head start, but I'm confident I can outlive the bastard, especially with his hard-partying Hollywood lifestyle.
OD: SAGA is your first creator owned work, why the jump to Image?
BV: Well, Y: THE LAST MAN and EX MACHINA were at least nominally "creator owned," but yeah, SAGA is the first time that I've felt like the artist and I truly own and control every aspect of the work.
I loved working for Vertigo and Wildstorm, but I was looking for a little more creative freedom as well as 100% ownership of all non-publishing rights with my co-creator (including the right to NEVER have a movie/TV show/whatever made of our work if Fiona and I so choose). And because Image doesn’t have a corporate parent to answer to, they're one of the only publishers out there that can still offer all that. Plus, I really like and trust Eric Stephenson and Robert Kirkman, who've both been very supportive of every insane thing that Fiona and I have wanted to do since page one. My good friend and fellow comic’s writer Jay Faerber has been yelling at me for years to at least give Image a try, and I'm so fucking glad I finally did.
This is easily the happiest I've ever been in my career. Please buy our crazily inexpensive first collected edition so we can make lots more.
OD: So is SAGA your only book planned for the near future?
BV: Hell, no.
OD: All right, I'd be a shit...make that shittier reporter if I didn't have on last follow-up then; what are your other projects brewing and will we see you put on producer pants like the Great Kirk has with Skybound?
BV: I'm happy to say that I've been cooking up something special with my old friend Marcos Martin (who I worked with on DOCTOR STRANGE: THE OATH a while back), though we're not quite ready to announce what it is or even where we're doing it. Stay tuned.
And no, I'm crazy about Image, but no plans for me to start my own imprint there like that mogul Kirkman. I've always been happiest just being a lowly freelance writer.
Thanks again for the great questions, man!
OD: No Brian thank you sir. SAGA volume 1 drops on 10-10-12. Get caught up now so you can start buying one of the best monthlies on the shelf.
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Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G