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Happy Friday, old chum!
Brian here, drinking in airports (and giving away copies of the newest collection of Saga, in stores right now!) while I tackle some of your most burning questions, as selected by your fellow Exploding Giraffe readers in Monday’s comments.
There were too many excellent questions to cover in one week, so I’ll definitely do another one of these down the line where I tackle whichever popular questions I didn’t make it to (or cowardly skipped) this outing.
In lieu of starting another comment thread this for this post, I’ll keep Monday’s thread open over the weekend for everyone to “like” other readers’ questions you may have missed earlier this week and/or add some new ones of your own.
Okay, interrogation time! And everyone whose question was selected will be getting a signed copy of Saga Volume 10, so if your name shows up below, be on the lookout for an email from our intern Genesis the Exploded Giraffe asking for your mailing address.
And thanks for all of the very thoughtful inquiries!
Matt Keaton asks, “Which character death that you’ve written was the hardest for you to write?”
Thanks for this morbidly most popular question, Matt!
I know if/when a character is going to die during a story when I start writing them, so while it’s always tough to lose someone my collaborators and I have been bringing to life for a long time, I’ve also had an equally long time to contemplate/prepare for their demise, which definitely softens the blow.
So I suppose the “hardest” death to write was in the opening pages of Saga #12, a mouse-like Coalition Medic who I knew was going to die horribly just a few panels after she was introduced.
Difficult to write, but the character’s heartbreakingly adorable design by the unstoppable Fiona Staples made her death beyond gut-wrenching to read.
(And it’s still absolutely bizarre to me that it was the postage-stamped size image of gay sex on Prince Robot’s face-screen in this scene that created outrage…)
Matt Todd writes:
Hi Brian, first and foremost thank you for all the hard work, it has both inspired and entertained in all the best ways. The book that hits me hardest and that I regularly revisit is Ex Machina, if you visited my ComicArtFans page you would see a plethora of commissions by some very exciting artists and other original pages by Tony and Chris.
If you don’t mind I would love to take a second to ask the questions that linger still in my brain about a comic I consider a masterpiece. Pardon me while I take a moment to ask the questions that stick in my mind like a piece of inter-dimensional shrapnel (that doesn’t let me speak with machines).
What would Ex Machina be like if it were published today in a post-Trump presidency? Could it even be published today?
At his most idealistic Mitchell was bipartisan, where would he still be in our hyper-partisan world? Would he have succumbed to the political fever or would he have further embraced his “political realist”?
Since you indicated that a sequel follow-up is very unlikely, What do you think happens to him after he served in the [Spoiler Redacted] Administration?
Last but not least, do you know if the current adaptation, The Great Machine, with Oscar Isaac might still happen?
Thank you Tony, Tom, Jim, John Paul, Chris, and JD for letting me nerd out with this message.
Thanks so much for the very kind words, Matt!
Your questions are challenging, since Ex Machina is so rooted in where the world was at in the early aughts. I have no interest in trying to create work that’s “timeless,” I instead love writing stories that are actively engaged with the present (even when they take place in the past or future), stories that try to capture whatever emotions I’m experiencing at a very specific point in time.
So no, I don’t think I could personally write a character quite like Mitchell Hundred in today’s political landscape, and I doubt a superhero comic like Ex Machina would be able to come to life with anyone but the brave folks behind the scenes at the dearly departed Wildstorm.
Anyway, I thought co-creator Tony Harris absolutely nailed our tragic final issue, so I feel like the story we set out to tell is done. Sorry to dodge your question about Hundred’s future, but I’d rather keep alive all of those cool possibilities that readers like you have imagined than close them off with my own predictions.
Regardless, I’m happy to say that The Great Machine (what we retitled our adaptation after Oscar Isaac—who’s improbably already starred in one brilliant Ex Machina movie—came aboard) remains in what I’d call “very active development.”
These things take time, but I hope to have more to share with everyone soon.
William Henning asks, “What’s your favorite thing you’ve ‘hidden’ in a book that you think most people won’t get/recognize? Like an obscure reference or a detail in the background that could be easily overlooked.”
Great question, William!
So far, no one has caught the secret celebrity cameo in Spectators. But a signed Saga goes to the first person who figures it out…
Christopher M Heath writes:
A few questions really, surrounding endings, something I’m massively interested in as it’s strangely a rarity in comics due to their ongoing nature:
1.) Out of all your projects you’ve done, which ending are you most proud of - or think you hit the right beats on?
2.) Once getting to that ending - is there ever a part of you that wishes you could carry on?
3.) Getting to endings is hard, and I assume you know where you’re going from the beginning. Do you ever try to avert the inevitable end after getting to know the characters more?
4.) What are some of your favourite endings in all of comics not written by yourself?
Nice, everyone loves numbered questions, thanks!
1.) I love all of the endings my collaborators and I have created, but, I was particularly pleased with how Marcos Martín, Muntsa Vicente and I closed out Barrier, a five-issue miniseries you can read in its entirety RIGHT NOW for any price you think is fair over at Panel Syndicate.
2.) Only once: after the mighty Adrian Alphona and I originally ended Runaways with Issue #18. And against all odds, that book was “uncanceled,” and we were lucky enough to keep chasing after those characters for a few more years.
3.) Sure, I often have second thoughts, but I almost always end up deferring to the original idea I came up with for a story’s ending before I wrote Page One. I think you have to trust who you were as a creator at the start of story’s journey, even if you’ve grown and changed over the years since. I try to respect the fact that beginnings and endings are linked in a way that defies time, if that makes any earthly sense.
4.) After growing up reading exclusively monthly superhero comics where there was only ever the illusion of a third act, I think Watchmen was the first comic I read that actually HAD a true ending, and I loved (and continue to love) its conclusion unconditionally.
Katie Kazmierczak asks, “Which character have you written that most closely resembles yourself, mentally and emotionally speaking? And did you realize it at the time, or only in retrospect?”
If I may quote the cinematic masterpiece Darkman, “I’m everyone… and no one.”
Seriously, Katie, I put a lot of myself into all of the characters I help to create, but none of them feels particularly close to my boring self.
I realize that’s an unsatisfying answer though, so I asked my wife, who says, “Probably Gert from Runaways.”
Cam Thomas asks, “When writing characters who do not share the same background as you, what steps do you take to make sure you are ‘getting it right’?”
Ooh, a potentially cancellable question! Tread lightly, Vaughan!
I love doing research (read: procrastinating), and I’ve always surrounded myself with incredibly diverse friends and colleagues whose lives I steal from liberally… but at the end of the day, I mostly just make shit up.
Every real person I’ve ever met is uniquely fucked up (and could in no way represent any entire group), so I hope my make-believe characters feel similarly distinct.
It’s up to readers to decide if I ever “get it right,” but I think it’s interesting that people usually ask this question when it pertains to my handling of female/trans/characters of color/etcetera, most of whom I find much easier to identify with and write about than a fellow cis white dude like Bruce Wayne, who feels way more alien to me than, say, an asexual seal-creature like Ghüs.
Stephen asks, “Is there any book or character that you’ve never written that if an editor called and asked you to write it you wouldn’t be able to say no?”
Thanks for asking, Stephen, but it’s creator-owned or bust for me, at least for comics.
I deeply love the Shadow, for example, but I’d rather channel what elements I like about that character into something more personal and hopefully original (like Sam Raimi did with Darkman when he couldn’t get the rights to the Shadow!).
Reed Beebe writes:
WRITER THOUGHT EXERCISE: Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme Alan Moore gifts you with a magic amulet* that allows you to summon the ghost of any dead writer and the ghost of any dead artist and commission them with creating a comic book in the genre/genre mashup of your choice: Which ghosts would you summon, and what genre would you choose? (If any other writers on this forum want to answer this question, please do!)
*There is a wonderful adventure backstory about this amulet featuring Alan Moore, an Atlantean homunculus, a cyborg minotaur, and an evil vampire Salvador Dalí doppelganger from a parallel universe, but that is Alan’s story to tell.
A+ question as always, Reed!
I would use my Amulet of Moore to summon Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, and ask that he please write a war comic (inspired by his time with the 20th Armored Edition in Europe during World War II) for the legendary Alex Toth to draw.
This will be the greatest comic ever created.
Christopher Neville asks, “If you ever wrote a story for a video game, what kind of game would it be?”
Here’s a hot scoop for you, Mr. Neville!
A few years ago, I came up with an idea for a Saga video game (set in our story’s universe, but not involving Hazel or her family) that Fiona Staples and I eventually ended up discussing with Neil Druckmann, one of the geniuses behind The Last of Us.
Sadly, the contractual stars didn’t align for us to all collaborate on that one, but Fiona and I are both still very open to helping bring a Saga video game to life somewhere. She and I have been too focused on the comic to really pursue it, but maybe after we finish this next arc…?
Okay, there were lots of other bold questions from you daring readers (including a few about how much I get paid!), but I’ll save those for a future installment. For now, please feel free to add any follow-ups or additional questions to our original thread.
These Friday posts are usually just for our generous paid members in The Tower, but I’m sending this one out to everyone paywall-free as thanks for how supportive of both Spectators and Saga folks have been this week. But we’ll have a lot more contests and stuff coming up exclusively for your monthly/annual subscribers, so thanks for considering joining up:
Either way, Niko Henrichon and I will see you back here on Monday for some more free pages of Spectators, where the living world may or may not be coming to a close…
Rooting against nuclear armageddon,