By David Nieves
On SDCC Friday, after a rousing Brian K Vaughan one man show, Saga co-creator Fiona Staples took the room stage for an hour of career and advice for young artists in her own spotlight. Fiona’s time was led by Jennifer de Guzman director of Image Comics Trade Book Sales.
Fiona’s introduction read like a hall of fame induction ceremony. It felt as though the entire hour could just be a reading of everything the artist has accomplished in her career. After the accolades, the ladies jumped into Staples discography of comics beginning with a 24hr comic challenge she did alongside other would be comic makers in a mall food court. Her first professional work was a horror story in 2006 called Done to Death. The book would later be republished through IDW. Her Wildstorm work was touched on and through her early journey it was clear to see how her style has evolved through the artist’s unique lens, particularly seeing a decline of lines contrasted with a rise in her painted style. She credited a time spent in the UK with friend Frazer Irving for teaching her how digital can be used to create “beautiful organic work that doesn’t necessarily look digital.” Of course no Fiona career retrospective would be complete without talking about Saga.
She told the story of being introduced to Brian K Vaughan. Instrumental in getting the two together was acclaimed comics writer Steve Niles. He pointed Vaughan in Staples direction and she received an e-mail from BKV that included the elevator pitch, ” a family wrapped in a space opera.” This would be her first book that would be longer than six issues. When she asked Brian how long he wanted to do the book his answer was, “I want to do it forever.” Fiona Staples would clear her schedule for the rest of her life and we’re all better for it.
One of the most interesting tidbits from behind the scenes of Saga is that Staples reads every script as a fan. She knows very little ahead of time and it shows in the pages she draws. Every reaction we get from a monthly issue is her reaction to BKV’s words. It really is almost like Vaughan writes the book just for Fiona and we’re all along for the ride.
On the screen was her process for doing a page of Saga beginning with very light penciled layouts using photo references that she takes on her laptop, then inking and digital painting. She looks through a tremendous amount of photos to select just the right colors for every scene she paints. With some of the off the wall character death and sex scenes you’d imagine there’s some pretty hilarious photo reference, and there is but it will never see the light of day according to Staples.
Fan questions ran the gamut from the simplicity of her favorite color to the complexity of education in the arts. For the traditionalist out there, Fiona still loves to draw with the hand tools of the trade, but in her view it isn’t the most efficient way to finish a monthly comic. On the topic of the controversies that come about seemingly every issue of Saga. The duo acknowledge what could cause controversy when planning a story arc but always seem to ignore it if the story would be altered in any way. Her view on traditional cape comics was quite unexpected. Fiona doesn’t have much of desire to do any of the most popular characters, but instead would do a character like Deadman.
The panel closed out with what we can expect from the next few issues of Saga. She teased the crowd by saying ” heartbreak and some jokes.”
When you looked at that large stage with just Fiona and Jennifer, you indeed see the greatest artist of her generation. If you take all her words, mannerisms, and bright smile you see the strength of her artistic desires but also a vulnerability that’s prevalent in Hazel’s story within the pages of Saga. When we look at Fiona Staples, we’re looking at the imagination and vision that will no doubt leave her branded an icon in the comic book industry, but to hear her speak so softly and humbly about her experiences endears the artist to you on an entirely new level.
You can pick up Saga every month and read the random thoughts of Fiona Staples on twitter.