My love of Saga, the spectacular space opera epic that hops genres in a tree rocketship, ultimately boils down to three short quips involving this shirt:
1. I bought it at Chicago Comics after dragging my Rebellious editor around to different comic book shops, and that was the day that I got her hooked on graphic novels in general. (You’re welcome, Karen!)
2. Once at a nerd poetry slam I walked in wearing it and a homie yelled ‘Yooooo!’ and then we talked about how good Saga is and became best friends. (Just kidding, we were already best friends.)
3. A reader letter printed in Issue #45 transforms the shirt into a heartbreaking tribute. Here’s a reprinted portion:
Your treatment of the issue’s final pages was particularly moving. I suspect every reader will see something different in that black mirror. In my case I see my brother, who died last December alongside thirty-five others in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire of Oakland.
My brother was a video artist, and a great and voracious reader of comics. Many of his life choices were influenced by The Invisibles. I found a copy of no 1 of Saga while clearing out his storage unit. Its cover had fallen off, and I may cut up the inside pages to use in future collage.
My brother was a loud and vocal holder of anti-establishment opinions, and it was partly in his honor that I attended the Oakland Women’s march this January, as part of the largest protest crowd in that city’s history.
To wear to the march I selected a T-shirt printed with Fiona Staples’ remarkable farewell splash page of Yuma the tree-woman, paintbrush in hand, wreathed in flame with the words “High as Fuck” in squishy letters. I picked it because I wanted to wear an image of a woman-and because I wanted to wear an image of an out drug user. And also because the T-shirt’s burgundy background is the closest I’ve got in my closet to pink.
You’ll be pleased to hear, I hope, that your shirt garnered compliments from strangers and in this way played a part in the breaking down of walls between people. Late that evening upon reflection I realized that it was also an image of an artist who dies in a fire.
Keep up the good work. Times may be tough, but the comics keep getting better than ever.
I wear the shirt because it showcases a woman who proudly smokes, but I also think about this reader, about the Oakland Ghost Ship fire, about the community of Saga readers who feel seen and sheltered within its pages whenever I have it on. Artist communities often hold each other close because producing courageous work requires searing self-awareness, and I am glad that Saga could give even one person healing in the face of grief, tied together by a graphic novel with a radical love story at its core.
There’s so much good to Saga that the actual plot can be kinda hard to explain, so here’s five reasons you should have already started reading:
A Real Space Story About Family
Our star-crossing lovers Alana and Marko may seem like the focal point here, but really it’s their daughter Hazel, the witty, matter-of-fact narrator that guides us through a sprawling story and universe. Through her, we connect their struggles of parenthood, love and family to the historical, war-time implications of two supposedly sworn enemies putting down their weapons to have a baby.
The Relatable Casualties of War
If the world were a just place, Saga’s universe would be as widely heralded as that other unending war-in-space epic. Be clear – Saga is a fucking devastating fantasy space opera about society that handles a wide range of topics with nuance, depth, wit and emotional honesty. Alana and Marko aren’t the only ones just trying to live normal lives in the midst of death and greed. That empathy passes through every imaginative character. Speaking of which. . .
Robot Nobility with Television Heads, Freelance Assassins and Lying Cats
Give me anthropomorphized beings over humans any day. Saga has people with wings, horns, gills, and tails. There’s a Venus De Milo with the body of a spider and a cat that ain’t afraid to call bullshit on anyone (also, give the people a Lying Cat plush doll, you cowards!). The supporting characters of the Saga universe are as compelling as you’ll find in any series to date.
Fiona Staples Is A GOAT NO CAP
I can’t say enough about how Saga is illustrated by the phenomenal Fiona Staples. Expect to gasp at the first and last page of every issue, and I mean gasp loudly. Reading Saga aloud to your kids will get dicey if you haven’t had a conversation about sex, but seeing so many full-body portraits of differing bodies (and even the sex scenes tbh) from a woman’s gaze was so refreshing and freeing that each jumps off the page. Plus, did I say it’s GORGEOUS?!
50 Issues And Not A Miss In The Bunch
Creator Brian K. Vaughn made Saga especially for the graphic novel medium. Every issue moves the adventure along without dropping a minor plot line or character. You’ll be feening to get the next issue. And there’s no television adaptation coming, though once you start reading, you won’t really want one. There’d be no way to honor the source material without giving up the things that make Saga incredible. Or satisfy its rabid and broad fan base. Saga is that good.
Vaughn has confirmed that we are officially at the halfway point of Saga’s 100-or-so issue arc, so now’s the perfect time to hop in. The hardback volumes are packed with extras and look amazing on shelves. Just saying.