Perhaps you’ve seen the cover to Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ new Image book, Saga, which features a breastfeeding alien lady. I’d seen the image, noted its progressive stance on galactic, alien child-rearing, and thought, “Oh, that’s Vaughan’s thing,” and moved on.
This was not what noted Star Wars artist Dave Dorman said. Dorman was offended that this Image was on the cover of a comic book purported to be an all-ages book. He says:
I was drinking my orange juice this morning when I came across a USA Today article on the new Image Comic called “Saga.” I ‘ve been reading about this new comic in the fan press for a while, and I was eager to give my 7-year-old son a new series to follow. I have always loved Brian K. Vaughan’s writing, both in the comics field, and for one of my favorite TV series of all times, LOST.
Here’s what caught my eye this morning: Juxtapozed against this image was Brian’s specific quote, highlighted beneath the headline: “I just miss the days when I was a kid where you could pick up a No. 1 comic and it’s not a reboot or a relaunch or something.” Further along in the article, Vaughan shares how he was a “big-time Star Wars nerd” and how as a kid, he wanted to write this galactic family heroic saga, ala Star Wars. And that’s exactly what I was hoping he would do. Then my eye drifted over to the promotional illustration by Fiona Staples, a gifted artist. My brow furled as I tried to process what I was actually seeing.
I find this image offensive, not only for promotion of a comic book, but specifically for a comic that Brian clearly states that he would like to see today’s younger generation pick up and read as he did when he was kid. Rather than a family-friendly heroic saga, this promo art is telegraphing to the world that it’s a series I cannot share with my 7-year-old son.
While Dorman, an industry vet, is clearly entitled to his own opinion, I think he missed something. No one has marketed this series as an all-ages series. Brian Vaughan has never done an all ages series. The first issue of Y: The Last Man featured the deaths of all men, save one. The first issue of Ex Machina featured the destruction of the World Trade Center. Both series went on to explore sex, gender, the N-word, and a whole lot of graphic violence, and lots and lots of rape. Vaughan has, time and again, grabbed on to some taboo subject, and made it the centerpiece of a story he’s telling.
This time he did it on the cover, and while I thought we’d settled the “breastfeeding is icky” issue, Vaughan and Staples have chosen wisely again, finding something to make readers feel something.
As to whether an image of breastfeeding is appropriate for all ages, well, it’s legal in public for one thing, and I see it at the mall and the park and anywhere else women choose to take advantage of that right. It’s certainly not the most controversial thing I’ve seen on a comic book cover recently.
But the other thing is, this isn’t an all-ages series. No one said it was. What Vaughan said was that he missed the “the days when he was a kid” and, if I may paraphrase, the feeling of a whole new universe. That’s not the same thing as what Dorman is saying he’s saying. Vaughan does adult fiction. Nothing he’s ever written is even close to appropriate for kids. Saga isn’t for kids. It’s for parents, according to that same USA Today article.
It’s also a universe that he has been imagining since he was a kid. But it wasn’t until he had his own children that the story of Saga came to life.
“There are a lot of stories about having children, but they’re always comedies,” says Vaughan, 35, father to 1-year-old Alec and 8-month-old Wilhelmina. “It’s like the birth of a child is the end of drama. But I don’t think that’s true.”
And as a new parent, and a giant fan of the comic book work of Brian K. Vaughan, I’m all for it. It’s out in March, and I’m incredibly there.