Image's 'Saga', The Best Comic Book On the Market, Returns
"What have you sex criminals ruined this time?"
Image Comics released Issue 37 of Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s Saga on August 31. The previous issue was published in April, so rabid fans of the series have been waiting a long time for an update.
In honor of Saga’s return to comic book stands, we pored over the new issue and got two of our geekiest staff members to sound off on the series’s continuation. Issue 37, according to Image, begins a new story arc for the series, putting the characters on a new planet and introducing new antagonists. There’s a lot to unpack.
EMILY: My favorite thing about Saga is that it’s an insanely popular comic that’s not tied at all to other media. Its just Brian K Vaughan’s writing, and Fiona Staples’s art, that make it this mandatory experience for science fiction fans. Saga is proof that popular comics can still be standalone masterpieces, without tie-in media that’s more friendly to the average person. No celebrities, no cross-media marketing, just a really great comic book.
Considering this issue is bringing us to yet another planet, and the fact that it has another Lying Cat scene and a close-up panel of Sir Robot’s grey penis, I think we’re getting even further away from this story being adaptable to TV or film. What do you think, Matt? What’s it like reading something this good, knowing you’re probably not going to see it in any other form?
MATT: I feel like at this point, Vaughan and Staples are purposefully making their comic “unadaptable”, so to speak. You’re right when you say the new issue is doubling down on the things that will probably make it unsuitable for TV. At the same time though, I feel as if television producers are becoming bolder in the properties they try to bring to screen. Though, even in the best-case scenario, I doubt the comic will be given the proper treatment it deserves. There’s just too much! Wouldn’t you agree?
EMILY: If popular culture were ideal, we’d be able to see a Saga interpretation that honored the book. I mean, it would easily be the most expensively produced TV series in history. This new issue has a conversation between Petrichor, an alien who identifies as trans, and Izabel, a dead kid who was ripped in half by a landmine. And they’re just, you know, chatting.
On two levels, a Saga show would impossible: the first being the astronomical cost of creating these characters and different planets, and the second being the lengths Vaughan and Staples go to in order to make this comic, well, just chock full of sex and violence.
Remember that panel early on, with the novelist Oswald says, “the opposite of war is fucking”? I cannot imagine a world where a line like that not only appears in a show, but is the thematic center of the whole project. Not a page goes by in this comic that doesn’t feature someone graphically lusting after or fucking someone, and yet somehow it’s more a space opera than an outright erotic comic, like maybe Sex Criminals is. Speaking of shocking, did anything in this new issue surprise you?
MATT: I think what keeps surprising me with this new issue is how the story isn’t afraid to continually evolve, even as it keeps the focus squarely on the same core group of characters.
Prince Robot might be developing a crush on Alana, Sophie wants to become a freelancer, things keep moving at a pace that I think is refreshing for a comic of this scope. I feel like any other story might be tempted to keep their main cast of characters static because of how quickly the events around them are changing.
Ironically, this brisk pace might help it become adaptable since the story moves along at such an even click. If everything else is done correctly, a possible series could be free to advance the story at a much without creating some kind of whiplash.
However, I honestly can’t imagine something like Lying Cat or Prince Robot in live-action, even if they’re CGI. The visuals of the book is a defining feature, and something that might only work in illustration.
EMILY: Yeah, that’s funny, I just realized that innovations in animation and CGI are still happening, for the most part, in children’s programming. Can you imagine if PIXAR spread into R-rated films and did a Saga short? I’d liken it to something like Sausage Party, obviously, but a Saga film would have all these intricate textures that I think Pixar is now known for — Lying Cat’s fur would have to look like Sully from Monsters Incorporated, you know? The closest thing we have to IRL Saga adaptations is the cosplay, which Vaughan and Staples encourage and showcase in the actual book.
This whole discussion reminds me of that pitch-perfect Black Hole fan film that came out years ago. I was so psyched to see it on the internet…and then nothing came of it. Saga, like Black Hole, isn’t an easily adaptable text because the content is just so intense. I like to imagine someone pitching Saga to a television network, saying, “Okay, so it’s an intergalactic space drama, but it’s also pornographic, but most of the sex is really celebratory while still being extremely graphic, and there’s hallucinatory drugs, and no two characters look the same. You basically root for two criminals, their child, and an assassin who kidnaps a child prostitute.”
I don’t think Saga is impossible to adapt. I just think mainstream television and film isn’t anywhere near as progressive and experimental as comics can be. The average American TV fan couldnt handle the gravity of emotion in Saga, it’s just so dense and the scope is so huge. I almost feel like we don’t deserve it.
MATT: That’s a great point, especially since standards and practices are so weird. Honestly? The sex probably wouldn’t do a potential show in, just all the bodily fluids. Vomit, blood, semen, and the fact that Saga mines all of it for humor probably wouldn’t fly at all. Like how one too many f-words did in The Kings Speech.
I really want to see how Marko and Alana will go through another child, especially after the emotional stress of their first. And as long as Saga keeps running out towards new planets, plots, and characters the whole story will just end up too sprawling for even the most steadfast creatives to adapt into a show that can capture all the amazing and different elements that makes Saga unique.