These days, when a film or television series creates a world, people to populate it and a resulting mythology, it’s often dismissed as derivative or old. “I’ve seen that before.” “That looks just like ’Avatar.'” “EVERYTHING RIPPED OFF ’JOHN CARTER’! WHY WON’T ANYONE SEE ’JOHN CARTER’?”
For genres that worship the creations of visionaries like J.R.R. Tolkien and (shudder) George Lucas, modern fantasy and sci-fi films have seemed content with simply riffing on whatever’s come before them, without the risk of failure that comes with progress. Few seem willing to put something out there that doesn’t at the very least resemble something familiar or something that could be called “strange.”
Brian K. Vaughan’s “Saga,” however, is strange. It’s very strange.
The creator of “Y: The Last Man” and “Ex Machina” is now two issues into his next project, and he has already proven beyond a doubt that “Saga” is one worth paying attention to. The first issue literally opens with a winged woman giving birth to a child that was sired by a guy with ram horns. A few pages later, we see two humanoids with televisions for heads having sex.
But it all works. Never in all its weirdness does “Saga” once lose your interest. If fact, it’s partially the strangeness of it all that makes it such a great page turner. There’s something so fascinating about having literally no idea what kind of creature is going to show up on the next page.
Those qualities are the same that make one particular television series so popular. “Game of Thrones” is an unlikely success story. It’s based on a series of fantasy books that is filled with sex and violence, but not only is it a critical success; it became a pop culture phenomenon.
While the success of “Game of Thrones” may come from the audience’s familiarity with the Tolkien-inspired world, “Saga” could share the same crossover success if an adaptation were to happen. Vaughan has experience writing and producing for television with a stint on “Lost” and his current job developing Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” for Showtime.
We obviously still need to see how “Saga” shakes out in the long run, but when a series grabs hold of you as quickly as “Saga” does, you have to pay attention. If the books do continue on the trend that they do, once we have a good number of issues out in the world, a television series could, in theory, begin while the books continued, like “The Walking Dead.”
Of course, a proper “Saga” adaptation hinges on the concept of an extremely well-funded TV production, one that could foot the bill for scenes in space and ones involving fantasy creatures. Not a small order in today’s squeamish television landscape by any means. A “Saga” television series would be a monumental undertaking in all regards, and the scale of it is what ultimately could kill any adaptation possibilities in the future.
But we can dream, can’t we? Even if “Saga” isn’t destined for the big or small screen, it’s still a story worth checking out on the page, and it’s definitely a source that televisions executives should look to, just to see how a serial story can be done very, very right.
Leave the masks and tights at home, kids — this is a No Capes Allowed zone. In this column, we’re highlighting all of the non-superhero comic books out there that are ripe for the big and small screen treatment. Leave us your No Capes Allowed picks in the comments section or on Twitter!