Last week saw the release of Chapter 37 of SAGA, one of the most critically adored comics currently running. Fans as we are, we spoke to some of our staff members to see just what makes SAGA so special to them. We asked each respondent the following questions:

  1. How did you first learn of SAGA, and what made you decide to read it?
  2. What’s your favorite thing about Saga and why?
  3. What was the most emotional moment in the series for you and why?
  4. Who is your favorite character and why?
  5. If you had to teach a course on SAGA, what would you focus on?

Our answers ran the gamut of possibilities. Here they are in full!

Matt Murphy:

1. I first heard of SAGA during my sophomore year of college. At the time, I was taking a break from reading comics after the New 52 tore my heart out and Midtown Comics announced they had a signing coming up with Brian K. Vaughan. To be honest, it was a bit of a shock for me that he was returning to comics after taking a hiatus from the medium. After a bit of research, I Googled the cover and decided I’d give it a try. I haven’t missed an issue since.

2. My favorite thing about SAGA is how opposite the two major themes are: war and sex. Sex is the answer to war in the series; in the case of Prince Robot, it’s how he finds peace living with PTSD. With war’s consistent presence in the series, I love how Vaughan and Staples are able to show how sex brings peace even in the oddest of places.

READ: See why Image is a top publisher in today’s landscape!

3. The most emotional scene for me in the entire series so far has to be when Marco threw the vegetables at Alana. It was the one moment where I didn’t know what would happen next. Alana, on drugs at the time, didn’t deserve this domestic violence in any way, but this angry side of Marco was something neither Alana nor the reader had seen prior. Both protagonists were no longer perfect in my eyes and while it was sad, it opened new opportunities for the creative team to tell stories about this family.

4. My favorite character is Ghus. He is my favorite character because he is cute and holds a giant axe. I did not choose Ghus because I am embarrassed to admit it’s The Stalk in all her naked, spider glory. Nope, not at all!

Little seal-man. Big axe.
Little seal-man. Big axe.

5. This is a super tough question because there are so many elements to this series that I think need to be talked about. I’m going to stick with my contrasting themes of sex and war though. I’ve never seen sex used as a narrative device in this way before and it’s pretty groundbreaking in the medium.

READ: Check out our review of one of Image’s new series, ECLIPSE!

Noam Radcliffe:

1. I was in high school when I first heard about SAGA. I’m not sure quite how I stumbled upon it, but I know that all the critical buzz it was receiving made me decide to get it, and it didn’t hurt that I had just finished the monumental Y: THE LAST MAN, also by Vaughan. I started reading SAGA as a virtual comic, like a .cbr file, which I had obtained in a less-than-legal way, but once I started to really love it I deleted the .cbr and started buying the trades. It was just too good.

2. I think my favorite thing about SAGA is just how brutally honest it is. Vaughan never pulls punches; not with violence, not with sex, and not with emotion. One scene I think really captures this ethos of honesty is the one in which The Will, after being offered a little girl as a sex slave, crushes the slaver’s head between his hands. The pacing, the gore, the horror, but also the visceral satisfaction at vindicated rage. It’s one of my favorite sequences in comics, and I think about it all the time.

The moment before.
The moment before.

3. The most gut-punch moment for me was when Marko’s father sacrificed himself to save the rest of the family. Specifically how Marko’s memory of learning to ride the equivalent of a bike (in this case a giant grasshopper) with his dad. Stuff about dads always gets me, and this is no exception. The juxtaposition of childhood triumph shared with a father and that father’s limp body lying on the floor is just… So much.

4. My favorite character is probably The Will because he’s such a badass and yet such a freakin’ sad sack. I sympathize so much with him, because everyone around him makes so many sacrifices for his sake, and he never feels worth it. In the end he’d rather have the people than what they were sacrificed for, but it’s not a choice he ever gets to make. And that’s just so tragic and beautiful to me.

5. I would probably include SAGA in a writing course about realistic depictions of relationships, like a course that focused just on that. The relationship between Marko and Alana is just so dynamic and fraught but somehow still so pure and beautiful. It is a strange and powerful alchemy Vaughan has infused within those characters, and absolutely worth studying.

READ: See what our writers have to say about the central relationship in SAGA!

Nadia Alamah:

1. I was getting more into comics as both art and storytelling and overcoming the ill-informed fear that I had to read everything since the 60s to catch up with certain characters, when my partner gifted me with a copy of the first trade. I took him up on it, fell in love with it, and have been keeping up ever since.

2. I love that it’s about a biracial couple caught in the midst of a war between opposing sides, and about how their love and family will run deeper than any war that has pitted both sides against each other. It’s something that the higher-ups realize could threaten their fight for conquest and power against their opposition, because if people see it, they’ll realize this war is petty and about political gain more than it ever could be about the other side being evil.

The aforementioned war
The aforementioned war.

That’s also something that some people in biracial relationship deal with today, in different ways. It could be a soldier bringing home a wife from Iraq because they fell in love and both families feel betrayed, or just dealing with a family that doesn’t approve because of sociocultural and racial divides due to misconceptions and lack of understanding.

However the struggle takes shape, I think that some biracial couples today still experience different kinds of pressure on their relationships, and SAGA can be something that people can identify with in some ways for it.

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3. So many emotional moments! I’d have to say that Marko missing his family just as the ship leaves is it for me. Both him and Alana already were caught up in huge relationship problems, and now just as he realized he’s screwed up and his family is more important to him than anything else, he’s unable to reconcile and fix things. He doesn’t know that a whole different level of conflict is happening on ship and that they didn’t deliberately leave him. And at this point, she won’t know what he wants her to know.

So all in one, we have a divide, we’re worried about their safety, we see things from a bird’s eye but we can’t help them fix it! And at this point, we don’t know if they’ll ever be together again and resolve their fight to be a better family for each other. Unresolved conflicts can eat at you for days.

4. Ghost babysitter with brains—wouldn’t you want that as a kid?—and that can also say all the clever and obvious things, and point out the truth, sometimes when it’s hard for everyone else to see or say. And she does it in her cool, Izabel way that makes her not annoying like that kind of character can be sometimes. It takes guts to do that—physical or ethereal guts, it’s still guts.

So hers are falling out. Big deal.
So hers are falling out. Big deal.

5. Keep it out of class. As a teacher, I wouldn’t want someone to experience SAGA in a classroom, either. I think literary analysis would kill it, as it’s occasionally killed the joy of some reading experiences I’ve had.

I want someone to find it in a comics shop, or from a podcast, or from hearing it mentioned in passing as they’re on their way to class hell. I hope they find it, and sneak it into a lecture for a required class that has nothing to do with their path of study, and learn more from it than they could the class.

I would want them to see the beauty in its art, in its storytelling, see what characters they love or don’t love and ask why, and wonder. I would hope they would wonder. Wonder why characters did this or that, how the story could be different, what happens next. I want it to be the thing that saves them from the fire and brimstone trap of writing whatever they think will please the authoritarian teacher, and in a small time frame, taking the enjoyment out of the experience of the story.

Keep it out of the classroom, and instead hope that people turn it over on its head and read it differently each time, always finding something new to discover.

LISTEN: Check out our podcast for more SAGA discussion!

So there you have it! Got an answer to any of our questions? Want to tell us why do you love SAGA? Leave a comment below, tweet at us, or hit us up on Facebook.

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