There’s something truly special about Comic-Con special guest Brian K. Vaughan. He’s the Eisner Award-winning co-creator of such highly-acclaimed comic books series as Runaways, Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, and the ongoing Saga. He’s currently promoting his new comics initiative PanelSyndicate.com, where fans can pay what they want for digital comics.
He opened his self-moderated Q&A session by informing everyone that he would be giving away signed issues of Saga to anyone who asked a question. Hit the jump for more on Vaughan’s writing, his favorite gin cocktail, and why he has ultimately chosen comics over Hollywood.
The inspiration for Saga:
Vaughan often uses his writing to sort through things going on in his own life. “If you want to make stories that resonate, you have to look into what troubles and concerns you,” which often turns out to be the same things that trouble others as well. When asked what source material he had as inspiration for Saga, Vaughan was a quick with an amusingly blunt response: “I knocked up my wife.” He went on to explain that they “made babies and it was really terrifying. And whenever I’m frightened and confused by something, I try to write about it.” However, he acknowledged that “nothing is more boring than hearing people talk about their children. So I wanted to talk about the experience of fatherhood and childhood, but smuggle it inside of something interesting.”
The Creation Process with Saga Co-Creator and Artist Fiona Staples:
The process essentially boils down to Vaughan’s writing the script first, and then passing it off to Staples for the art. Staples has no interest in spoilers from Vaughan ahead of time, preferring to experience the script as a reader would, letting her visceral feelings and reactions drive what she creates.
However, Staples’s work in turn informs future scripts. Staples will tell Vaughan if there’s anything she hates drawing, what she’d like to draw more, and any themes she thinks they should be exploring (for example, the inclusion of flashbacks to show how Alana and Marko got together was Staples’s idea).
Vaughan is, by his own description, “extraordinarily lazy with no visual sense.” The kind of character descriptions he provides to Staples run along the lines of “Marko has horns and a sword and he’s handsome” and “Alana should have wings and be purty,” and based off of that alone, Staples “goes away and comes back with something better than I could have imagined [...] the less direction I give her the better it turns out.” Vaughan stays out of her way as much as possible, well aware that he is “working with the best artist of her generation and it’s a privilege.”
Y: The Last Man Movie Plans:
New Line Cinema obtained the film rights to Y: The Last Man in 2005, and since the film never went into production in this last decade, the rights have recently reverted back to Vaughan and series co-creator Pia Guerra. However, anyone who wants to move forward with a movie adaptation at this point would have to deal with a variety of complications, due in large part to money that New Line would be owed in that scenario. But seeing as Vaughan didn’t write the comic as a roadmap to a movie, in its current form Y is “exactly what I wanted it to be.” It might happen someday, but he would rather have no movie at all over one that does disservice to the original.
Writing Process and Planning:
Vaughan doesn’t have a specific order of elements when planning a story, unable to separate the characters from the locations from the plot. Instead, he tends to stick to a theme of what terrifies him. Characters grow out of that, and he proceeds by thinking about “what terrible things I can do to them.”
He doesn’t actually start a story until he knows where it is going to end. In a long series, he’ll have planned major signposts along the way toward which he writes each installment, including character introductions and exits. When he got to the end of Y: The Last Man, though, he was tempted to change the ending he had originally planned years before, but decided to keep it, saying that “I do feel loyalty to the dumb kid that came up with it in the first place.”
Hazel’s Narration in Saga:
This form of narration was a new approach for Vaughan. He was inspired for the design of the text being layered directly over the art by children’s books he began reading once he had children. He acknowledges that some people think it’s a mistake to use Hazel’s voice in this way, seeing as it shows the reader that Hazel lives. Vaughan doesn’t think this should be an actual concern, noting that “it might not work out for anyone else.”
Under the Dome and Escaping Hollywood:
Vaughan was until last month the executive producer of CBS’s Under the Dome, having been handpicked by Steven Spielberg to adapt the novel by Stephen King. He came to the realization that [working for] network TV just isn’t his thing. He was, of course, hugely honored to adapt King’s work, saying that “the things that were good came from Stephen King and his generosity.” However, he often felt out of his depth while working on the show, the juggling of so many moving parts making him feel “like a general who was fighting a losing war.”
At the end of the day, Vaughan wants to work on his own ideas. “There’s no better place to make new ideas than comics,” he says, prompting a spontaneous round of applause from the audience. “I’m happiest living life 22 pages at a time.”
His Favorite Gin and Gin Cocktail:
“I’m not picky, I just like well gin, that’s fine. My favorite cocktail is half well gin and half tap water with a straw, mix it all around and think about your problems.”