It's weird to say this now, but I first came to Brian K. Vaughan's work through Lost. During college, I had fallen off reading comics and a friend of mine pointed out that the guy who wrote "The Shape of Things to Come" (one of the show's best episodes) had a series called Y: The Last Man. Fast forward six years and I've devoured all of Vaughan's creator-owned work, from his story about a New York mayor who can communicate with machines (Ex Machina) to his pay-what-you-want dystopian detective story (The Private Eye).
Still, nothing quite compares to the phenomenon that is Saga.
Since its debut in 2012, Vaughan's ongoing collaboration with artist Fiona Staples has been a critical and commercial smash, regarded by virtually every comic book fan as an instant classic and quite possibly the best comic of 2010s. A space opera set amidst an interplanetary battle, the story focuses on Alana and Marko, who fall in love despite seemingly insurmountable differences ("star-crossed" has never been so literal).
Still, the true appeal of Vaughan's story is not its scope, or humor, or even Staples' gorgeously-rendered images (though it has all those things and more), but the deceptively deep relationship between its two heroes. "I could use this as a vehicle to talk about the fears and joys of parenthood," say Vaughan, who wanted to find a way of relaying his own experiences as a new father. "I think people think being a parent isn't dramatic—that there’s no conflict," he says. "But if you have kids of your own, everybody knows it’s the most dramatic time of your life and there’s unending conflict."
I caught up with Vaughan to talk the book's beginnings, his creative partnership with Staples, and whether or not he'll return to writing film or TV. Be advised: Some light spoilers are scattered throughout.
Much of your work—not just Saga—has dealt with upending gender stereotypes and conventional social dynamics. Why is representing different types of relationship dynamics important to you?
I’m never a huge fan of "escapist fiction." I don’t even really know what that means. I like fiction that is immersive, that you feel like you are completely inside of it. I like my life—I’m not looking to escape it. I guess I’m always looking for stories that make me a better person or help me to understand the world a little bit better. So even when I’m doing something set in a crazy, far out universe, I want it to look and feel in some ways recognizable to our own lives. I think it’s trying to be truthful and writing about the people in my life, instead of writing about archetypes or other’s people’s characters.
The political landscape you've built isn't the standard good vs. evil dynamic you see in a lot of sci-fi either.
Bringing new children into the world when we’re a world that’s constantly at war. I’m endlessly fascinated by Saudi Arabia and the United States relationship with this monarchy and in how in some ways they are staunchest allies and they are also our enemies. It was just incredibly complex and I like sort of taking that idea of kings and princes, which are always popping up in fantasy stories, but perhaps treating it with the complexity of a real monarchy and real-world complications.