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Parental Guidance: Vaughan and Staples Give Birth to 'Saga'

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Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples give birth to a visceral new universe in Saga #1.

Have you ever noticed how the grandest, most addictive and bewildering ideas always seem to start with something small? Prevailing scientific theory suggests our own universe is a prime example of explosive, unmitigated expansion. In the infinitesimally brief moments before the Big Bang, the universe was a densely-packed ball of super-heated gas and particles a miniscule fraction of the size it is now.

All of the best stories follow a similar model, starting with the tiniest kernel of an idea – a simple observation, perhaps or even a brief line of dialogue – around which the creator wraps layer upon layer of depth and detail in a tightly-woven cocoon of sheer imaginative thought, until the finished product bursts forth in an entirely new form, hardly resembling the original seed.

With Saga #1, critically-acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y – The Last Man, Ex Machina) and fan-favorite illustrator Fiona Staples realize the first step in sowing their audience’s imaginations with the burgeoning sprouts of their thrilling post-modern space opera.

Evoking elements of classic sci-fi, cutting edge high fantasy in the mold of China Mieville, Michael Moorcock, and M. John Harrison, and the socially-conscious styling of modern comics masters such as Warren Ellis and Jonathan Hickman, Saga’s central conflict is much more personal and immediate for its protagonists and creators alike. Inspiration often springs from the unlikeliest of catalysts but in the case of Saga, Vaughan reveals the initial spark for his new universe came not from Star Wars or Lord of the Rings but from a dramatic new development in his personal life.

“I'm actually pretty poorly versed in fantasy, maybe a little better in science fiction,” admits Vaughan. “Saga is mostly inspired by my own recent experiences becoming a father, and the story is set in an imaginary universe I've been daydreaming in my head since I was a little kid, though my version never looked a tenth as amazing as Fiona's interpretation.”

Chronicling the harrowing journey of a pair of star-crossed lovers and set against the backdrop of an appalling, out-sourced inter-galactic war, Saga begins with the gritty, down-and-dirty, emotionally-charged back alley birth of its mysterious narrator. Already on the lam for participating in an unsanctioned relationship between opposing soldiers, Marko and Alana’s quest for survival quickly spirals out of control, the unexpected and brutally violent birth of their newborn daughter complicating their plans to quietly elope somewhere far away from the war. Left with little choice, the neophyte parents grasp at the only straw they have left – a childlike treasure map that promises salvation in the form of the Rocketship Forest, a strange, seemingly enchanted place, where the couple hopes to procure their means off-world and away from their pursuers.

From this humblest of beginnings, Saga explodes in the minds of its audience with startling yet stylish ferocity. Sleek and sexy, with an eclectic visual tone thanks to Staple’s impeccable design sense, Saga lures the reader in with lush, exquisite images that amplify the feeling of wonder the exploration of a new fictional world should always engender in its audience, even as Vaughan guides us on a breathtaking, bewildering tour of his daydream realm that remains just this side of overwhelming. Even still, despite a kaleidoscopic journey across the cosmos of Vaughan and Staples’ imaginations, Saga remains grounded in the relationship of its atypical protagonists.

“I wanted to write about very different kinds of protagonists than we often encounter in stories like these,” insists Vaughan. “They may not be fighters, but I hope that doesn't mean they can't still be fascinating characters.

Saga is about a lot of things, but ultimately, when readers get to the last page, I just hope they're dying to read the next chapter.  There's no better felling than falling in love with characters who might be a part of your life for years to come.  This is the most fun I've had writing leads since Yorick and Agent 355, and Fiona is a dream collaborator, so I really hope people will check out our big debut.”

And what of Alana and Marko’s little girl – that unique narrative voice that frames and informs the story of her own birth with such wit and subtle insight? Well, that largely depends on the audience, according to Vaughan.

“A lot of that depends on whether or not we're able to gather together enough of a readership to keep us afloat, but yeah, I can say that we definitely have much, MUCH more in store for Marko and Alana's little girl.”

Epic yet intimate, Saga #1 is a visual feast for the eyes, deserving of multiple readings. For even as our own ever-expanding universe provides us with an infinitely diverse, always-changing playground to explore, so too does Saga promise to delight, frighten, and challenge us to reassess what makes us human.

Saga #1, Brian K. Vaughan (W), Fiona Staples (A). Image Comics, ongoing series, $2.99. On sale March 14, 2012.

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