Relating to the themes of this class, I decided to post about a new, recent favorite comic of mine: Saga. Written by Brian Vaughan, it’s a space opera. But to reduce it to mere space battles would be a disservice. Plot-wise, it’s pretty simplistic. The main protagonists, Alana and Marko, are inhabitants from two planets at war with one another. In rather stereotypical fashion, the two fall in love and decide to escape the war with their infant in tow. But what really differentiates Saga from its contemporaries is the racial and gender politics that come into play as a result of Alana and Marko’s union. You see, neither of them are white. In light of recent controversies over Iron Fist and Ghost in the Shell (neither of which truly bother me, to be honest), this was pretty interesting and refreshing to read. Of course, I’m behind the ball, because Saga came out a few years ago, but it was nice weekend reading (there’s 42 issues out as of right now). But back to race and gender.
The most noticeable thing about Saga is the depiction of the protagonists. The artist has gone on record to say that Alana’s father was inspired by an Indian man and a yet unidentified mother of another skin color. Marko was inspired by East Asian influences. But the most interesting thing is that other skin tone, other racial markers were not factored into the equation (Asian markers: the eyes, the nose, etc). In this comic, race is a defining feature in the sense that both sides see each other as the “Other”, an exotification of non-Western ideals in literature, as the enemy. But the characters themselves are not defined by their race if that makes sense. Race is merely one facet of their characterization.
The way Alana is shown in Saga is perhaps the most eye-opening for me. The story opens with this:
There’s a reoccurring problem with media in regards to sexuality. And I don’t mean the depiction of actual sex, but that’s where most of this stems from. Things related to bodily functions are considered taboo or inappropriate, and as such, their depictions need to be toned down or rendered completely irrational. Here, Alana is giving birth. There’s no sentimental music playing (logistics aside, because this is a comic book), or unrealistic words. Some might find the words she’s saying crude, but I think that if you were giving birth, the last thing on your mind is a lingual filter.
And that’s what’s compelling about her as a character. The most prominent thing is that she doesn’t fall victim to the “women in refrigerators trope.” She just feels like a real person. Someone I’d have a beer with. She curses, she has interests in cheesy novels, she likes having sex but is never depicted in a sexualized manner, and doesn’t have a filter.
In fact, that’s what’s appealing about this comic as a whole. People aren’t stereotyped in a certain manner just for plot device. Stereotypes are broken. Normal comedic devices are actually taken seriously. Serious moments end up being funny as fuck.
And plus, Fiona Staple’s art is on point.