Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Cierra Willoughby: Saga and the Unending War (also example of Paragraph Diagram)

Paragraph Diagram

Thesis- Saga is an important read in today’s society of unending war. Its symbolic statements about the causes and effects of violence as well as its capability to make readers consider differing perspectives and question their preconceived ideas make Saga just as culturally significant as it is for the graphic novel industry.
                  A.) How Do You Open Your Essay?
                  Compare to other graphic novels in a humorous way, and then explain why the audience                   should read Saga.
                  B.) What is the Main Theme?
                  The audience should read Saga because the author makes prominent statements on issues                   relevant today.
                  C.) How Does it Transition?
                  Brings up Saga’s diversity to segway into the differences between the planets at war/the plot

Paragraph Two-
A.) How Does it Build on Previous Paragraph?
Furthers the idea that Saga is making important cultural statements by going into depth about the plot.
B.) What is the main theme?
The Plot of Saga, its significance, and how it promotes peace.
C.) How Does it Transition?
Finishes the plot summary so that the audience has enough information to follow along. Introduces the idea that Saga is anti-war.

Paragraph Three-
A.) How Does it Build on Previous Paragraph?
Follows the anti-war idea by giving examples in the government’s corruption within the story.
B.) What is the main theme?
The governments of Saga’s Universe have similar motives and strategies to our own.
C.) How Does it Transition?
Points out that Saga tells a familiar story so that the next paragraph can talk about similarities in the effects of war.

Paragraph Four-
A.) How Does it Build on Previous Paragraph?
Uses paragraph three’s introduction of similarities between our worlds to point out the struggles of the side characters affected by the war.
B.) What is the main theme?
The various characters and stories the audience will encounter in Saga reflect the stories of people all over Earth being oppressed and categorized as inferior.
C.) How does it transition?
Suggest that the several stories of the side characters were meant to challenge preconceived ideas of others, and then point out the argument that Saga is self-righteous or propaganda so that the next paragraph can dissuade.

Paragraph Five-
A.) How Does it Build on Previous Paragraph?
Dissuades readers from considering that Saga is self-righteous through the existence of A Nighttime Smoke.
B.) What is the Main Theme?
A Nighttime Smoke is to Saga’s Universe what Saga is to ours: Art meant to sway opinions about taking place in war.
C.) How Does it Transition?
Finishes argument that could discredit Saga as important and makes a smoother transition to the conclusion by having already tied-up the topic of cause and effects of war.

Last Paragraph- Conclusion
Conclude by reiterating the paragraphed reasons to read Saga as well as mention its awards. End on a significant quote that reflects the overall theme of Saga.

Cierra Willoughby
English 102
Professor Michael Benton

Saga and the Unending War
     In a world full of stories about men who become unrecognizable when they put on a mask and the perhaps overplayed battles between unwavering good and unmistakable evil, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan brings us a comic that is as powerful as it is unconventional. Upon first glance, one could dismiss Saga as another Romeo and Juliet inspired story of star-crossed lovers, but this science fiction space opera provides perspectives on political morality, xenophobia, the effects of war, and several other controversial topics important in today’s culture. Stated perfectly by interviewer Chauncey Devega, “Saga is an especially wonderful antidote to the cruelty and meanness of America and the world today” (Devega). Saga uses a cast of diverse characters from different races, species, sexual orientations, and even planets to inspire readers to consider the possibility that the only normal is diversity. The flawed characters arguably one of the most remarkable parts of the comic, Vaughan manages to make strange alien species in a fantastical universe beautifully human. With Fiona Staples as illustrator, Vaughan’s tales are set against talented backdrops that perfectly set the mood and every character is drawn with detail down to the most subtle of facial expressions. This allows readers to experience just as much of the story through the characters reactions and not just dialogue or narration, providing an almost more personal attachment to the characters.

     Saga focuses on a newly formed family on the run from a Universal war which holds stark resemblances to the ongoing wars America is currently and was previously involved in, and the families’ various strange pursuers. Landfall has been at war with its moon, Wreath, for as long as anyone can remember. Our protagonists are Alana, a Landfallian soldier deployed to act as a guard on the prison planet following acts of cowardice and Marko, a conscientious objector, surrendered-former Wreath soldier, and prisoner under Alana’s guard. Both Landfallians and people from Wreath are prominently humanoid aside from Landfall’s wings and Wreath’s ram-like horns and ears yet they are pitted against one another by their profiting governments. Alana and Marko bonded over their disloyalties to the war they are trapped in and make a spontaneous decision to desert it. Not much later, Alana is pregnant with a baby they thought impossible between their races and when their homelands catch wind of their daughter’s existence, Marko and Alana travel the universe to keep her safe and find how the acts of their armies are destroying the rest of the world along the way. Their long journey is narrated by their daughter Hazel, who provides an innocent and yet profound perspective on hatred and life under attack. Brian K. Vaughan was inspired by “Star Wars” and says he wanted to tell a story about family following the birth of his first child and yet at the core of Saga is a message of anti-war and promotion of unity among the world (Spencer, Alex).

     What Saga lacks in its somewhat cliché star-crossed lovers romance, it more than makes up for with character depth, its ability to blur lines between right and wrong, and more significantly, Vaughan’s exploration of every aspect of war and violence. This starts at the most basic level: their governments. In the first issue following a graphic birth scene, our protagonists escape after being nearly caught by Wreath officers as well as the coalition forces of Landfall and a dwarf planet called Robot Kingdom. The front lines of the war moved to proxy wars waged mostly by draftees or conscripts from other worlds until every planet in the Universe is either at war or destroyed and deserted because of it. Meanwhile, Landfall and Wreath are mostly back to normal lives aside from the extreme oppression of Wreath by the Coalition. Robot Kingdom, once stricken with poverty, saw its opportunity in the war and grew wealthy due to their contributions. The economies of Landfall and Robot Kingdom both now rely on the war and their alliance, so together they form a corrupt government keen on deceiving in order to further ignite patriotism and their citizens willingness to join the army. Landfall soldiers used to be picked by a lottery, but the army eventually became volunteer based. Most volunteers were poor and in issue twenty-five we see teenage Alana at a drive-in movie watching an advertisement declaring ‘Your Planet Needs You’ with wide and hopeful eyes as she plans what she thinks will be a lucrative escape from her life. In the second issue during a flashback scene of the couple still at the prison and discussing their probability of evading their pursuers, they find that they have even been lied to about the others’ battling abilities in order to frighten them of one another. Alana remembers that her drill instructor used to say that Wreath soldiers could go a month without sleep and Marko responds that theirs used to say the same about Landfall. They thought any offspring between their races would be born a mutated monster due to government lies, and people from Wreath are often called the derogatory word Moonies to dehumanize or de-normalize them and in turn make them easier to kill without sympathy. Throughout Saga, a political climate based around war and xenophobia tells us a story not too unfamiliar to our own.

The long war that takes center stage in Saga reflects more than just a similar governmental thirst for profit and power. Through experiencing pieces of the lives of various characters throughout the Universe, readers of the graphic novel also get the chance to further grasp and sympathize with people in situations they may have previously not fully understood. This aspect of wartime that Saga portrays involves the struggles of those affected by war that we as well as the protagonists often do not consider or give thought to. In Issue three Marko and Alana run into ‘horrors.’ Seen as terrifying monsters to all, horrors are the ghosts of people on the prison planet, Cleave, that were killed in the war. Izabel is a ghost child missing her lower half and drawn with her intestines dangling out of her open torso. The daughter of freedom fighters, part of Cleave’s resistance to the armies taking their planet, Izabel died outside her front door in a minefield and often refers to Alana’s insults of ‘terrorist’ and ‘monster’ as racist towards an indigenous people. In issue four a freelancing hitman known as The Will visits a planet that profits off of providing all forms of sexual vices. While on the look for a prostitute he is introduced to a child war refugee sold to the planet under the guise of maid-work but trapped on the planet as a sex-slave. The Universe so ravaged by war that innocent children fall through the cracks; a statement on child refugees treated without dignity or humanity. Then there’s Prince Robot IV, coalition soldier and prince of Robot Kingdom, a pursuer of Hazel and a significant character, tortured by signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and war flashbacks. Prince Robot is both one of the most ruthless villains as well as arguably one of the more sympathetic characters, as he had no choice but to join the coalition under his father King’s orders and has become brilliant at what he does while it is simultaneously destroying him. A gay couple who work as journalists show us how dangerous journalism and truth-telling can be in times of war as they are hunted down and shot on multiple occasions while trying to get the scoop on the illegal family. The journalists also get their own story of coming from a planet where homosexuality is a crime. In issue thirty- one Hazel is separated from her family and sent to live in a coalition detainee center where she meets a transgender woman named Petrichor. By now Hazel is a child, old enough to understand her peculiarities, and she has to hide her wings from everyone to prevent her identity as a half-breed being revealed. Hazel bonds to Petrichor with admiration for someone with a body abnormality who seems to embrace her own differences while surrounded by people who cannot accept them. The effects of war are reflected throughout the vast Universe to perhaps cause readers to rethink their misconceptions of those they do not know and grow sympathy and awareness for individuals in similar oppressive circumstances. With such bold and political stances on things like ‘othering’ of enemies and changing general misconceptions, it would be easy for someone to shrug Saga off as left-wing propaganda, and yet the series has an answer for those less-enthused readers as well in its ironic statements about itself.

     The charming and ironic aspect of Saga is in its self-awareness. Alana is obsessed with a book first mentioned in the seventh issue named ‘A Nighttime Smoke’. The book is about a rock monster and the daughter of a rich quarry owner who fall in love despite their differences and the entirety of the book is said to be anti-climactic and revolve wholly around the main characters’ everyday lives. Alana defends it against its critics that say it is boring by claiming that the lack of action is the point of the story. When she reads it to Marko in issue ten, he is in awe. “It’s not a love story at all is it? It’s about us, it’s about the war.” A Nighttime Smoke inspires the couple to desert the war, and they quickly decide to visit the books author in hopes he can teach them more about peace. Later, in issue thirty-four Hazel shows the book to her teacher in the detainee center and tells her that her mother thinks it’s the secret to everything to which the teacher replies: “Anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.” The epiphany that A Nighttime Smoke invokes in Alana and Marko is similar to what I believe Vaughan wants Saga’s message to ultimately portray. A Nighttime Smoke, like Saga, inspires readers to think for themselves during a time when they are often heavily influenced by higher powers, and both stories promote the idea of pacifism.

      Now the winner of twelve Eisner Awards, Saga is a graphic novel capable of entertaining while also promoting a message for peace and equality (Amin,Shaan). From the eclectic range of characters to the symbolism and stances on topics important in this time of never-ending war and racism, Vaughan provides a compassionate perspective on matters that should be difficult to talk about through illustrations and word bubbles. The depth of the flawed characters around the Universe and the rawness of their struggles are told in a tone that can only be experienced and not explained. If there is anything I take from Saga in the years to come I hope it is a quote from Hazel in issue thirty-four: “We’re all aliens to someone.”         

Works Cited
Amin, Shaan. “The Sprawling, Empathetic Adventure of Saga.” The Atlantic, March 28, 2018,                 
Devega, Chauncey, “Comics author Brian K. Vaughan on his global hit Saga and making art in troubled times.” Salon,                 January 21, 2019,        and-making-art-in-troubled-times/

Spencer, Alex, “Saga #50: How an Improbable Comic Has Shaped the Industry.” Polygon, March 28, 2018,           

Vaughan, Brian. Saga Compendium One. Portland, Image Comics, August 27, 2019.

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