INTERVIEW: Brian K. Vaughan on the first SAGA collection

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201208140400 INTERVIEW: Brian K. Vaughan on the first SAGA collection
In the annals of “very safe predictions” the idea that the first collection of SAGA INTERVIEW: Brian K. Vaughan on the first SAGA collectionis going to sell very well is right up there. The book—collecting the first six issues of the science fiction drama by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples—isn’t out until October 23rd, but it’s certain to get a whole new audience for the book. Not that it’s been lacking an audience: the first issue already has already sold over 70,000 copies in various printings. And a low $9.99 price tag makes the barrier to entry pretty low.

And once people jump that barrier they get into a sweeping, addictive story—a galaxy-spanning tale of empires and mercenaries and ghosts all after a couple and their newborn infant—that has gotten readers hooked. SAGA is taking a little break when the collection comes out, and creator Vaughan was kind enough to share a few thoughts on the schedule and how the first six issues have gone:

THE BEAT: The SAGA collection is out in October—how did you arrive at the $9.99 price tag, which is really on the cheaper end of the spectrum for an Image book. Is this cutting into your revenue stream?

BKV: I don’t know, I guess $9.99 seemed like a pretty fair price for the introductory volume of a new series. Maybe it will cut into our revenue stream, but I’m more interested in getting our story into as many hands as possible than in wringing as much cash as we can out of folks.

Fiona and I would probably be making more money in the short term if we filled the monthly book with annoying ads, or cut the page count down to 20, or charged $3.99 instead of $2.99, but I like to think that giving people more for less buys us a lot of valuable reader loyalty in the long run.

THE BEAT: Will there be any bonus material? I know you WON’T be reprinting the long letters pages?

BKV: No bonus material, you greedy bastards!  Just 160+ pages of astounding Fiona Staples art for less than the cost of a single movie ticket.  That’s all six chapters, including our double-sized debut, unsullied by the presence of my dopey letter column, which is just for our fellow monthly travelers.  Please buy lots.

2012081404001 INTERVIEW: Brian K. Vaughan on the first SAGA collection

THE BEAT: How long will the gap for the monthly issues be? Do you think this is going to be the regular publishing schedule for SAGA—six issues and a trade and a break?

BKV: Just two months off!  September is a skip month, trade comes out in October, and we return monthly with Chapter Seven in November.  I understand that brief hiatuses are a momentum-killing bummer for readers (and for retailers, who’ve been so good to us), which is why we’ll try to only take them after we’ve given you a satisfying chunk of story delivered at a nice clip.  That cushion blesses me me with a little extra time to give each script 100%, and more importantly, it means we won’t have to use any fill-in artists.  At this stage, I can’t imagine collaborating with anyone but Fiona on this story.

THE BEAT: Considering that Fiona Staples does everything but the lettering herself, it sounds like she’s earned a break. I know this is more of a question for her, but is she back on schedule already?

BKV: And she even does some of the lettering, too!  Fiona is just a tornado of awesomeness.  And yeah, after the tiniest breather, she’s already hard at work designing/drawing/coloring our next arc, sending in pages that are, impossibly, even better than the ones from her first six issues.

THE BEAT: What’s been the biggest surprise in the first six months of being in the “creator-owned” fold?

BKV: Not to brag—maybe a little bit—but the biggest surprise is how much fucking money there is in truly owning your own work.  I know I tried to sound all altruistic when you were asking about the price of our trade, but I’m exactly as mercenary as every other freelancer out there.  Good story and art are two of the most valuable commodities on the planet, and I think comic creators deserve to make great livings, and still have a little time left over for friends, family and multiple rounds of Slayer pinball.

I loved working for my friends at Marvel and DC, and I was always compensated with a very generous upfront page rate, but by betting on myself (and Fiona!) and waiting for money on the back end with Saga, I’m already making way, way, WAY more than what I made on comparably selling books that I wrote for other companies.  And that’s after splitting everything 50/50 with my richly deserving co-creator.

Look, it’s definitely a gamble, and there are probably many more creator-owned books that don’t turn a profit than ones that do, but when the rewards are potentially so large, why not roll the dice on a project you’re passionate about?  There are a ton of readers out there who are desperate for something new, and thanks to advances like digital distribution, it’s easier than ever to get your work into their hands.  And I’m not just talking about established pros, I think the market is primed for hungry new creators to make a big splash if they’ve got a great original story in them.

THE BEAT: Have you learned anything else that you would pass along to creators looking to take the plunge?

BKV: Try to get Fonografiks to work on your book?  Along with being one of the best letterers/designers I’ve ever worked with, he’s also a very calming presence who will help nervous freelancers see that it’s possible for just a few people to put together a beautiful monthly comic book without the benefit of the relatively massive infrastructure of bigger companies.

THE BEAT: Also, will Alana and Marko ever smarten up? They seem like nice kids, but sort of loveably clueless.

BKV: Hey, that’s exactly what you said about Yorick when you were editing Y!  And you were right then, too…

Marko and Alana are unquestionably naive and inexperienced new parents, but they also had the wisdom to check out of a stupid war that the rest of the universe is obsessed with, so I’d argue that they’re already much smarter than young Mr. Brown ever was.

THE BEAT: Will there be a shocking, unexpected death of an intriguing character that we were just getting to fall in love with in EVERY issue or just every other issue?

BKV: Sorry!  C’est la guerre.  You get to have sweeping, Casablanca-style romances during a war, but that’s only because the stakes are so incredibly high.  People you love are going to die.  A lot.  But I think the fact that we open the book by at least strongly suggesting that baby Hazel will get to live a relatively long and happy life gives us permission to do unspeakable things to everyone else in the cast… right?
201208140402 INTERVIEW: Brian K. Vaughan on the first SAGA collection

Comments

  1. Roberto Briceno says:

    Cool interview. SAGA has been fun.

  2. Everything about this is perfect, from marketing attitude, to creative brilliance.

    I’m stunned by it all – the art, story, lack of ads, price, everything. It’s a bright spot of hope for the future of this medium, in a sea of tired, cape-and-mask re-boots & re-launches.

    And The Stalk was my favorite character! Here’s holding out hope that she’s not really dead! Somehow….

  3. I’ll buy anything he writes! The guy has fostered more loyalty than any other writer I can think of, just by always delivering. I’ve never regretted a BKV purchase.

  4. Saga is the best-selling series we’ve had in the 5+ years we’ve been open.

    I expect to sell the heck out of a $9.99 TP!

  5. Hmm, they split 50-50? Doesn’t the artist put a lot more time into a comic book than the writer? How is the usual split rate in the mainstream US comic market?

    Anyway, SAGA, of course, is absolutely awesome!

  6. Kater: backend/royalty deals are usually split equally between creators.

    Still earning 35k from issue #1 is no mean matter. Congrats! BKV and FIona!

  7. >> Kater: backend/royalty deals are usually split equally between creators.>>

    I think “often” might be a better word than “usually.”

    At Marvel and DC, for instance, the artists’ share of royalties is higher than the writer’s. How often that’s true at other publishers, I don’t know.

    But the important part is that the creators get to split the proceeds as they choose, making whatever agreement works best for them.

  8. Brian K. Vaughan says:

    Thanks for the kind words, all! And to be clear, Fiona and I split any earnings 50/50, but that’s only after we’ve paid ourselves a page rate, and Fiona’s is deservedly higher than mine, as she does indeed have to invest much more time and effort in each issue than my lazy ass.

    I know it’s kind of tasteless to discuss our incomes, but I just want other creators to know how great Image has been to work with, and that if we can launch a financially successful original series, you can, too.

  9. Jonathan D says:

    Great interview. Thanks BKV & Fiona for rolling the dice, taking the gamble. Saga is absolutely amazing.

  10. JamesT says:

    I love SAGA…art and story are amazing!

    That said..how much of a gamble is it? I know I’m speaking out of ignorance but I have a hard time thinking it’s such a gamble when you’re BKV and Fiona? Both of you have large, built in fan bases.

  11. Kater says:

    Brian K. Vaughan: “I know it’s kind of tasteless to discuss our incomes”

    No no, it’s actually very helpful. I’m starting out writing for comics myself and since we have to figure out our rates with the artists ourselves too it’s actually really good to have some hints from professionals since usually no-one’s really talking about it.

    So thanks a lot for the little insight and all the best to you and Fiona and little Hazel!

  12. Brilliant work on all fronts.

  13. Count Screwloose says:

    We’re gonna hear from this kid and I don’t mean on a post card!

  14. I just wanted to say that I had little interest in adding another new series to my monthly pull list when Saga first showed up…despite Brain K. Vaughn’s name being attached. However, I work in a comic book store, and feel obligated to at least check out everything that comes through the store…especially Image stuff. So I did. Now I’m here.

    Congratulations to both Brain and Fiona for putting out a fantastic book, and for its success. At our store, we’ve had to up our orders every month, and restock back issues for increasingly curious customers. Those incredible covers month after month certainly help as well. This book is HOT!

    The 2 month break is well deserved. I’ll be pushing the heck out of that Saga Volume 1 when it hits the shelves in October, and look forward to the rest of the story.

    Amazing stuff!

  15. (apologies for spelling your name wrong Brian!)

  16. As much as I’ve loved Brian’s work that I’ve read, it was Fiona, who I hadn’t followed at all before, that really drew me into this book (so to speak).

    I mean, it’s a perfect match-up of the talents of both creators that make it so great, of course. But I just really want to credit her for selling me on a series I probably would’ve (mistakenly) passed up.

    And, Brian, thank you for being so open with the info on the financials of this. Yes, you COULD easily charge more for the title, and I’d happily buy it. But I think you’re right to take the tact to entire more readers with a lower cost to get more eyes. Those who start reading, I think, will be very unlikely to leave. I’ve been helping out at my LCS, and I know that this is a book I want to get into as many people’s hands as I can. That $9.99 TPB is going to make that a very easy goal.

  17. Saga is currently my absolute favorite comic out now I can’t wait for each issue to come out…can’t wait for November and I’m telling everyone one I know to catch up for cheap in October. Keep it up!

  18. “But the important part is that the creators get to split the proceeds as they choose, making whatever agreement works best for them.”
    True, Kurt!

  19. BKV: That’s an interesting arraignment!

  20. Snikt Snakt says:

    I got on the SAGA bandwagon late, just last week via digital.

    Hunting down the floppies is tough, its next to impossible to find any copies in stock, much less for cover price.

    So even before reading this article I knew I’d go the tpb route for SAGA. No need to run from LCS to LCS hunting down issues when I can just WAIT for them to be all collected sans ads and CHEAPER then buying the floppies (even for cover price) would’ve been.

    Win-win!!! :-D

  21. My absolute favorite monthly right now! I will purchase the tpb as well, because I don’t want people’s greasy mitts touching my bagged & boarded individual issues!!!

    BKV & FS are AWESOME!! Saga is a masterpiece each and every month! Image/Inde’s are taking over my Comic Book Budget….don’t know why I stuck with DC/Marvel for as long as I did.

  22. JohnRobietheCat says:

    This book is terrific! Recommended to me by one of the writers here btw. Though I’ve been peeking at it on Comixology previews for a while since it was intriguing with the modern layout, art and all. So got what was out today in the comic store, Alas I’m starting at issue 6 but I’ll catch up.. I collect digitally now but I’ll go back more to print if more books look this good in person.

    Really beautifully designed and laid out. I mean graphically, simpiicity, panel flow, all the good taste. (for example:photoshop is used as a perfect painting tool within the linework needed. Sometimes its color & shapes. Not a hundred light effects going on) And it has a story meter going to it and pacing. I would keep doing what your doing, its a great standard to how comics can be done on a high level for an adult reader in the year of AvsX (ugghh!) and its appreciated. Price is well thought out too as evidenced by this interview. $2.99 is pretty good mark to charge. No ads. Just every decision is just right, congrats ;-)

    p.s.
    As someone poking away at my own humble attempts at making a independent comic doing it all with art, coloring, lettering etc. I appreciate the extra level of care by the artists to do the coloring and all art herself & the unity that gives the work, even storywise. Not that there aren’t great colorists and inkers out there to help with the realities involved to put out issues, but she’s doing a splendid job, that extra work is giving the series some a magic so take your time. A lot of art can be overdone or color is overwrought, that can easily wrecks the pitch & mood of a book. Its a delicate balance, like the movies (though it there must be plenty of agony that goes with doing it all- from my experience, color ain’t easy) Kudos to Image for backing this. Hope you keep getting paid well. Its a great example to have out there. Independents will be on that long overdue roll if they take some notes from Saga.

  23. Vroom_Socko says:

    SAGA rocks-I’ve bought the comics-meet Fiona at a con-where she signed my 1st issue-she was lovely-and I’m going to get the trade too. I’m just waiting for the kick in the junk. I think longtime BKV fans know exactly what I mean.

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