Interview with SAGA artist Fiona Staples
Looking back at 2012 it’s clear who claimed victory in the ‘Marvel vs. DC’ battle to determine the best comic book company of the year: Image Comics.
What? Huh? Don’t look so surprised, fanboy. If the standout zombie series THE WALKING DEAD wasn’t enough to put them over the top (which also spawned the record-breaking AMC television series of the same name) Image also has CHEW, FATALE, PROPHET, MORNING GLORIES, INVINCIBLE, HAPPY, THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, and several other standout titles under their banner.
But for many readers, the comic that raised the most eyebrows last year was SAGA: a daring and sexy sci-fi/fantasy about an interspecies romance between two soldiers from opposing sides of a multi-generational war. Brian K. Vaughan (the Eisner Award-winning writer of Y: THE LAST MAN) crafted a brilliant story filled with action, suspense, and packs more humanity into each issue than any Hollywood film managed to capture all year.
Bringing Vaughn’s fantastic world to life is the beautiful and talented Fiona Staples: a Calgary, Alberta native whose unique illustration style captured the imagination of comic book fans around the world. Her name is often mentioned in the same conversations with the most popular artists in the business; one look at her work and it’s not difficult to understand why. Even more impressive: on SAGA she’s a one-person art department – she lays out the pages, digitally inks them, and colors everything herself…she even does some of the lettering.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Fiona over the holidays for a quick chat about her start on the book, her future aspirations, and her fondness for JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS.
Blake Northcott: Hey there! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Fiona Staples: Thanks for the invitation, it’s my pleasure!
Blake: So you’ve been a comic book artist for a while, but you really exploded onto the scene with SAGA in 2012. Can you tell me quickly how that came about?
Fiona: I’ve been drawing comics full-time since 2007- some indie books, a lot of work at DC/WildStorm, and bits and pieces for pretty much every major company. Nothing wildly high-profile though, until I got a surprise email in the summer of 2011 from Brian K. Vaughan, asking if I wanted to do an original, ongoing fantasy series!
We’d never spoken, but he got my name from Steve Niles, who wrote my last series, MYSTERY SOCIETY.
Blake: Wow, that must have been quite a shock!
Fiona: Definitely, from my point of view it was just totally out of nowhere.
Blake: Did he send you the script?
Fiona: Brian hadn’t written a script at that point, but he sent me a rundown of the characters and the universe so that I could get started immediately on designs.
Blake: That is fantastic. Did you feel right away that it was something special? Or that it would be as popular as it became?
Fiona: I fell in love with the story right away, but I don’t think I knew the book would take off so successfully. I knew Brian was a really popular writer, but “popular” and “successful” were kind of abstract terms to me!
Blake: Well you’re certainly popular now! I noticed that you were a nominee for IGN.com’s Best Comic Artist of 2012, alongside guys like Greg Capullo. What did you think about the nomination?
Fiona: Until recently I didn’t know it was something that existed, but it’s very flattering to be placed among guys like Greg Capullo and especially Chris Samnee, whose work I just love.
Blake: What do you see in 2013 for SAGA? There are already people buzzing about a possible movie or TV show at some point, and clamoring for more.
Fiona: Well, we aren’t that eager to adapt Saga into film or TV so early in the story’s life, but it might happen at some point in the distant future. For the upcoming year though, I guess we’ll just try to keep doing what we’re doing! I’m insanely excited to read every new script that Brian sends me – each one reveals a little more of his brilliant, demented master plan, and it’s a joy and a challenge to draw. I’m looking forward to another year of doing exactly this.
Blake: Nice! I think everyone else is looking forward to it as well. Us comic book nerds have a reputation for being argumentative, but I’ve literally never spoken to anyone who didn’t love SAGA. Which artists inspire you, and which comics do you read?
Fiona: Oh man! I’m inspired and influenced by so many artists, even though it might not really show in my work. Lately I’ve been looking at a lot of Eric Canete, Paul Pope, an incredible video game artist named Calum Alexander Watt, and Dreamworks artist Nathan Fowkes.
I’m reading a bunch of Image books like NOWHERE MEN, HAPPY, and BEDLAM, as well as HELLBOY, HAWKEYE, and CONAN.
Blake: Alright, so are you ready for the lightning round?
Fiona: You bet!
Blake: If you weren’t working in comics, what would you be doing right now?
Fiona: Working in video games or the book world would be the next best thing!
Blake: WATCHMEN: great graphic novel, or the greatest graphic novel?
Fiona: Great, but I’d give the title to LOVE & ROCKETS or BLACK & WHITE.
Blake: The best movie you saw in 2012?
Fiona: DREDD 3D!
Blake: What is the most underrated comic book movie of all time?
Fiona : DREDD 3D? (laughs) I also have a fondness for BARB WIRE and JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS.
Blake: Aside from SAGA, what comic should everyone be reading that they might not know about?
Fiona: On the chance that there are people reading who don’t know about it, Brian Wood and Ming Doyle’s MARA just came out and it’s an amazing new sci-fi series.
Blake: If a movie was made about the history of comics, who would play you?
Fiona : It would probably just be a walk-on role, but I think Emma Thompson would lend it some dignity.
Blake: If you could have any super power, what would it be? And you’re not allowed to have the Infinity Gauntlet because that’s cheating.
Fiona: I’ve always liked Longshot’s good luck power.
Blake: Who wins in a fight: Iron Man or Batman?
Fiona: Iron Man all the way. Provided it’s a contest of “who do I like better?”
Blake: What flavor should more things come in?
Fiona: That’s a good question. Ginger.
Blake: And finally, here is my final question that I stole directly from Inside the Actor’s Studio: if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Fiona: I don’t know, just a hearty “congratulations” I guess?
Blake: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me Fiona. I can’t wait for more SAGA in 2013, and I hope we can chat again soon!
Fiona: It’s been fun, thanks for having me Blake!
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at Amazon.com.
Blake figured out The 10 Most Underrated Comic Book Movies (part 1) and Part 2, and documented The 5 Hottest Trends of 2012’s Summer Fan Conventions.