The hottest artist in comics to­day talks to Gar­rick Web­ster about Saga, her draw­ing past and her fu­ture prospects…

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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.


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