The hottest artist in comics today talks to Garrick Webster about Saga, her drawing past and her future prospects…
The hottest artist in comics today talks about her comic, Saga, her drawing past and her future prospects…
My favourite character is Special Agent Gale because he’s a sarcastic jerk. Almost everything he says is pretty mean, and I relish drawing those expressions,” says Fiona Staples, probably the hottest artist in comics today.
She’s talking about a pale, bat-winged spy character in Saga. With over 30 issues of the runaway hit indie title under her belt, the comic she created with writer Brian K Vaughan has bagged her 17 trophies: Eisners, Harveys, Schusters and more.
Saga is the tale of star-crossed lovers Alana and Marko, and their baby daughter Hazel. The couple come from different sides in a galactic war and when their treachery is discovered, it seems just about everybody in the universe is out to get them. As the title suggests, it’s an epic tale of love and war across the stars.
Fiona doesn’t seem as interested in the main characters as some of the quirkier ones. Another of her favourites is the horned grandma, Klara. Stern, cranky and brutal… Klara’s happy to spill blood to protect her family. And Fiona also enjoys drawing bounty hunter The Brand.
“With The Brand, I mainly just wanted to draw a woman who’s sexy in an atypical way. Brian wrote this very cool, self-assured freelancer and I thought it would be great to have her look suave and masculine-presenting,” she says.
working as equals
Her working relationship with writer Brian is as good as it can get, and she has as much input as she wants. Fiona regards him as a bigger name in the industry – he does have about 10 years more experience than she does – but she feels she’s always treated as an equal. They both co-own the title, which is published by Image Comics.
With its big themes of family, revenge and redemption, and its extreme plot twists, Saga could so easily have been a dark and gritty affair. But Fiona draws it with a light touch, using bright and lively colours. It’s refreshingly unmasculine and that
Working alongside writer Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples is the artist behind Saga, one of the most eclectic and unusual comics you’re ever likely to read. It’s creator-owned, and perhaps that’s the reason why it ever saw the light of day.
“I never felt like a hired gun. All Saga decisions are made by both of us, from scheduling to foreign edition deals to T-shirt designs,” says Fiona.
“I don’t know exactly where the story is headed long-term, so I just take it month by month! Hazel is growing up fast, and the rest of the family is ageing a bit as well, less obviously. I try to have their appearance reflect their circumstances. The last story arc saw the family separated, and Marko and Alana looking pretty haggard. When we come back to them they’re going to be more in adventure mode.”
Like her other comics, Saga is drawn digitally using Photoshop and Manga Studio. “I love being able to work in colour, instead of having to scan in inks and colour afterwards. Digital is freeing to me, because I can get the image in my mind onto the screen with very little interference. For instance, I can pick a colour with a click instead of washing my paintbrush and mixing the colour on a palette every time. I can paint white-on-black as easily as black-on-white. There are no physical barriers to worry about,” she says. later seen in Saga, and came out through the DC imprint Wildstorm.
In 2010, Mystery Society came along and in it Fiona worked similarly to how she does now. “This book is significant because it’s when I moved back to doing creator-owned work. I’d spent a few years doing work-forhire for various companies and didn’t mind, but I wanted at least a percentage of what I came up with,” she says.
And perhaps that’s one of the most inspiring things about Fiona’s approach to comics. Not only has she been leading the way with unusual and thought-provoking artwork, she takes risks and wants to take ownership of what she creates – not sell it off to one of the big boys in the market.
“I know books like Saga are the exception, and most indie books can’t be sustained for long, much less counted on to be profitable. But I’m hoping this will change and creator-owned books become a viable option for more creators.
“The more the market grows, the more indie titles publishers like Image, Boom, and Dynamite will be able to sustain, so I think it’s crucial to make accessible comics for a wide range of tastes,” she concludes.
The Brand (wearing the tie) and her young ward Sophie (glasses) embark on a climb in issue 29 of Saga.
ARC HIE This title couldn’t be more different to Saga in so many ways. Will it be the right next step for Fiona Staples? Early signals are positive. An uncoloured centre-spread from the first issue of Archie.
ROC K STAR