Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ sci-fi/fantasy comic-book series “Saga” is exactly where Vaughan expected their space drama to be at this point in the story.
The intergalactic tale, which centers on a planet of winged aliens (Landfall) who are constantly at war with the horned inhabitants of its moon (Wreath), and the two people from each side who fall in love and inexplicably conceive a winged and horned daughter (Hazel) that neither world wants the universe to find out about, has hit every birth, death and betrayal Vaughan initially planned.
Many of the plot points surrounding the forbidden love affair of “Saga” protagonists Alana (wings) and Marko (horns) — from freelance assassins to panther-sized cats who always know when you’re lying — were given a creative boost by the collaborative contributions of “Saga” artist Staples, according to Vaughan.
“Writing ‘Saga’ is how I try to make sense of the war-torn planet I’ve brought my children into,” Vaughan told The Post’s Comic Riffs of the hit Eisner Award-winning series that resumes publication next month. “Fiona’s imaginative vision somehow turns my ill-informed neuroses into a gorgeous universe that readers want to escape to.”
Both Vaughan and Staples credit Image Comics allowing them to produce “Saga” at their own speed as a major reason for their success on the series, as opposed to the standard 12 or more issues-a-year pace seen at mainstream comic-book publishers.
Staples recently tweeted that Image giving their artists the occasional break in production has allowed her to be “Saga’s” only illustrator of the first 42 issues since the series debuted in 2012, and has been career-altering and a key to her rise as a big artistic name in the industry.
Image makes it possible for their artists to be successful. The most important thing they did for Saga was allow us to set our own schedule.
— Fiona Staples (@fionastaples) April 1, 2017
It means I get to be "Saga artist Fiona Staples," not "one of the artists on BKV's Saga." It's made a massive difference to my career.
— Fiona Staples (@fionastaples) April 1, 2017
“‘Saga’ is all about the importance of collaboration in any kind of creation, and there’s no way I could do the comic without [Fiona],” Vaughan said. “So I’m very grateful that Image gives the two of us the freedom to tell the story at our own pace, instead of forcing us to put out a set amount of product with a revolving door of creators.”
Vaughan and Staples aim to produce nine issues of the series each year.
“We always put out a complete story in six chapters over six months, then take a three-month hiatus to give us a little lead time, especially for Fiona, who draws, colors, creates covers and partially letters every issue entirely on her own, which is fairly unheard of in comics,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan admits that he and Staples are protective over their “Saga” storyline because they’re the only creators to have worked on the series. But he looks forward to fans getting a look at the guest artists who contributed illustrations to the hardcover edition, “Saga, Book Two” (which collects issues 19 through 36), available Wednesday. The gallery of original “Saga” artwork will include works from Image Comics co-founder and “Spawn” creator Todd McFarlane, and Pia Guerra, who illustrated Vaughan’s acclaimed Vertigo Comics tale “Y: The Last Man.”
Image published the seventh and most recent volume of “Saga” in March, “The War of Phang,” which collects issues 37 through 42. In it, Alana and Marko, after only briefly being reunited with their daughter Hazel after years of separation, are dealing with the loss of their second child due to a miscarriage. It’s an issue not often talked about in comic-book adventures, but something Vaughan wanted to write.
“Like many of us who have ever attempted to conceive, our heroes Alana and Marko recently experienced the loss of a pregnancy, and I wanted to explore the often unspoken way families deal with that kind of tragedy, which can be with humor and hopefulness,” Vaughan said. “At first, I didn’t know how to handle this arc, but Fiona suggested that we were overdue to visit a planet with a spaghetti western feel, and this story instantly came together.”
Vaughan says the new storyline, “The Coffin,” (arriving May 31 with issue No. 43) will be a good and “cheap” jumping-on point for those who have yet to give “Saga” a read. The issue will only cost 25 cents in honor of the 25th anniversary of Image Comics.
“Saga” will continue to keep Vaughan a busy man as he both writes the series and practices the age-old art of reading letters. Vaughan enjoys hearing from fans of the series, including the many biracial and bipartisan couples who have written to him and Staples.
“Our old-fashioned letters page doesn’t accept email, but we get physical letters from all over the world sent by romantic couples of different races, different faiths, different political parties, all of whom say they identify with our star-crossed deserters,” Vaughan said. “Mostly, I’m just amazed how many people still use stamps.”
“Y: The Last Man” is Vaughan’s longest running series at 60 issues, but Vaughan could easily see himself surpassing that with “Saga.” Despite already having an ending in mind, he and Staples are “not even halfway there yet.”
“That said, I’ll only write the comic as long as Fiona wants to keep making it with me,” Vaughan said.
As for a return to mainstream superhero comic-books, where Vaughan has written everything from “Batman” to “Doctor Strange”? Don’t count on it. Vaughan feels he’s hit his creative stride with Image.
“I love all of those 50-plus-year-old characters, and it was a blast to get to write them,” Vaughan said. “But helping create new characters has been too creatively and financially rewarding to ever think about going back.”