Posts Tagged ‘Gwendolyn’

While the topic of R-ratings and comic books is currently circulating, I thought I’d throw in something that should actually be rated R and animated. And that comic book, my friends and frenemies, is Saga. From the wildly imaginative and filthy minds of writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples, Saga is about as cinematic as you can get and I for one think it would make an incredible limited-episode animated property suitable for the likes of Netflix, HBO, or any digital distribution platform.tliid_252__saga__animated_style_by_axelmedellin-d94j5f6

When I talked with Fiona recently, I mentioned the rumor that Brian K. Vaughan purposefully writes Saga in such a way that would make it impossible to adapt. There was definitely some debunking of the rumor, but what it really boils down to is Saga’s story with its sweeping alien landscapes, wide swath of fantastical and sci-fi characters, and its tendency to “go big or go home” doesn’t make it an ideal property for live-action adaptation. Animation, however, would definitely keep the visual elements necessary for crafting those essential pieces. Where the series could potentially run into trouble is its unapologetic approach to sex and “on screen” nudity. Given HBO’s love of full-frontal (at least where women are concerned), there would probably be less push-back, but a digital platform like Netflix might require some strategic planning and omissions.

And before you say, “But animation argle flargle bargle think of the children,” Netflix has a big hit already under its belt with BoJack Horseman about the tragic yet humorous life of the eponymous character voiced by Will Arnett. And though they have yet to announce a second season, Netflix took a chance on F is For Family based somewhat on comedian Bill Burr’s family and childhood experiences during the 1970s. I’m just saying, you see Frank Murphy’s (voice of Burr) balls swinging as he has sex with his wife. It’s from the perspective of their youngest son, but if they’re willing to lump that into a mature content animated series, then I’m pretty sure an animated version of Saga could get away with a naked troll-like monster. You know the one I’m talking about.

But we all know what makes or breaks and animated feature or series is the voice cast. The characters of Saga are fully realized people in the hearts and minds of its devoted fan base and they deserve some pretty stellar voices to bring them to life. I know voice director Andrea Romano would probably choose differently, but I’m gonna save her the trouble and cast the series for all of you lovely people. So, here’s my Saga voice cast.

 

Marko – Ian Anthony Dale

 

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Marko wants to maintain that he’s a lover, not a fighter, but push him too far or threaten his family and he will tear you apart. Dale has spent a lot of his career playing well-meaning yet flawed characters and his time spent playing cops and the occasional criminal would help him find the balance in a conflicted character like Marko.

Alana – Janina Gavankar

 

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Alana is an all-kinds-of-kickass person, but her hot-headed, shoot first attitude is tempered by her romantic side and a fierce love of her husband and daughter. She also swears like a sailor and has a fantastic wit. Janina Gavankar has played plenty of badasses in procedurals and genre television, so I’m confident she’d knock this one out of the park. She’s also a huge geek, so I’m certain she’d jump at the chance to play someone as complex as Alana.

 

Hazel – Melanie Chandra

 

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Acting as narrator for the Saga comic, I could see an animated adaptation using the same framing device with an older Hazel providing context and her own special brand of humor. Though we’re not sure how old the Hazel in the book is, my thought is to pick an actress somewhere in the middle who could provide the maturity of the narrator but also provide dialogue for Hazel as she grows in the story. Melanie Chandra has a very youthful quality to her acting and voice, which gives her a lot of range to play Hazel through the many stages of life.

 

Izabel – America Ferrera

 

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If you’re seen How to Train Your Dragon and its sequel, then you’re aware of how America Ferrera’s voice sounds coming out of an awesome character like Astrid. Playing Izabel would be no different. Izabel is a goof and as sarcastic as they come but she’s also the result of the ongoing war between Marko’s and Alana’s homeworlds of Wreath and Landfall respectively. She needs to be fun yet capable of gravitas, which Ferrera has already proven adept at handling.

 

The Will – Brian Bloom

 

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I really enjoy Brian Bloom as a live-action actor, but he’s also one of the bigger names in the voice over industry where military-type games are concerned, which I think makes him perfect to play the jaded, heart-broken, yet well-intentioned freelancer The Will. Bloom could easily rely on the natural gravel of his voice or change it up and maintain a lighter tone to contrast with the morally ambiguous actions of a man thrown into the middle of a growing conspiracy. And is it just me or do Bloom and The Will share the same eyes?

 

Lying Cat/Sweet Boy – James Arnold Taylor

 

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If you’ve never seen the movie I Know That Voice, go watch it and marvel at the vocal gymnastics of one James Arnold Taylor. He and Frank Welker are two of the most reliable creature voices in the industry. I’m giving the role to Taylor, however, because I think his ability to do aliens creatures is needed more in this instance. Though Lying Cat and Sweet Boy are, for all intents and purposes, a cat and a dog, they’re still aliens and Taylor could definitely add layers to his vocals that would make these creatures shine.

The Stalk – Nika Futterman

 

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In her role as Asajj Ventress on The Clone Wars, Nika Futterman brought pathos to the servant of the Sith who could have easily been a one-note villain for the showrunners to throw at Ahsoka Tano on occasion. Thankfully, she made the character dark and lively, a trait she’s brought to many characters like Catwoman, Gamora, Lady Jaye, and Smellerbee. Who better to bring the wildly wicked The Stalk to life?

 

Prince Robot IV – Neal McDonough

 

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The thing about Prince Robot IV is the actual voice behind him could literally be anyone since some digital manipulation is required to make him sound suitably robotic. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to lose the actor in the process. Neal McDonough is a brilliant character actor who can just as easily play the hero as he can the villain. And though Prince Robot IV is ostensibly the villain for the first two volumes of Saga, there’s no arguing that his motivations are based on his desire to return to his wife and son. He’s as complex as Marko and Alana and he deserves nothing less than a great actor to provide his voice.

 

Klara – Tamlyn Tomita

 

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Marko’s warrior mother is one tough nut to crack. She’s been hardened by the ongoing war and she’s only ever tried to prepare her son for the cruelty of the world around them and the suffering of their people. Her softer side is buried deep, but if you stick around long enough it will still take you a while to see it peek through. Tamlyn Tomika has had a long career of playing authoritative women and it would be exciting to hear her tackle such a robust character like Klara.

 

Barr – Sab Shimono

 

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Sab Shimono is a well-respected character actor who is always a welcome sight no matter what he shows up in. He can be authoritative but there’s a gentle quality to him that’s perfect for Marko’s father, Barr. The counterbalance to Klara’s more militant style of parenting, Barr is a warrior but his strength lies in his ability to craft the armor necessary for battle. Or baby clothes. Ya know, whatever comes first.

 

Gwendolyn – Regina King

 

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A member of Wreath’s High Command and Marko’s ex-fiance, Gwendolyn made herself known with one of the best splash pages in the early issues of the comic. There’s a Pam Grier-ness about her that immediately brings to mind a strong, powerful woman only interested in one thing: getting what she wants. I’m confident in the fact that Regina King could not only bring the forceful, no-nonsense attitude but her superb skills as a dramatic actress would be instrumental in peeling back the many layers of Gwen’s personality. And have you seen Boondocks? Girl’s got chops!

 

Slave Girl/Sophie – Amandla Stenberg

 

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Like Hazel, Sophie grows up in the eyes of the reader, so having an actress who can still capture the innocence of a young girl and the haunted maturity of a child forced into an atrocious situation is a must have. Amandla Stenberg found her Hollywood footing as Rue in the first Hunger Games movie, so she’s definitely capable of channeling that type of wise-beyond-her-years tone that’s essential for Sophie. Similarly, her recurring role as Macey Irving on Sleepy Hollow gave her a character dealing with circumstances outside her control. So really, Amandla has been prepared for this role for a while.

 

The Brand – Vanessa Marshall

 

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After listening to her voice strong, capable characters like Hera Syndulla on Star Wars: Rebels and Gamora on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vanessa Marshall is primed and ready to play freelancer The Brand. There’s a pragmatism and very Hellblazer-esque quality to The Brand, who also happens to be The Will’s sister, that makes her cool, calm, and collected no matter what the situation be it poisoning journalists or going after dragon splooge.

 

D. Oswald Heist – Keith David

 

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Guys, do I even have to justify this one? It’s the freakin’ voice of Goliath. Keith David could read the phone book and I’d find it compelling, so him reciting Brian K. Vaughan’s dialogue would be icing on the cake.

 

Yuma – Susan Eisenberg

 

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I may be biased, but that doesn’t change the fact that Susan Eisenberg has a wonderfully rich voice that would lend itself nicely to Yuma. One of Heist’s ex-wives, Yuma comes along a bit later in the book but she’s a visually striking creature and an artist to boot. And, yeah, she’s big on dealing drugs (metaphorically and in real life), but that doesn’t seem to stop her from being the hero when she’s needed most. I’ve always imagined Yuma with a very empathic voice and Susan, voice of the Justice League‘s Wonder Woman, just springs to mind where sympathy and empathy are concerned.

 

Ghüs – Yuri Lowenthal

 

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An adorable little seal who wields a giant ax, Ghüs was basically a drawing in Fiona Staples’s sketchbook who became an example of what makes Saga such a visual feast for the eyes. It’s the contrast that works so well and quickly pushed Ghüs up there with wonderfully memorable characters from the book. So, how does one capture the cuteness and the potential for sweet, sweet ax-swinging glory? Simple: get Yuri Lowenthal. And that’s all the context I’m going to give you.

 

Upsher – Carlos Alazraqui

 

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The writer of the dynamic duo of journalism, Upsher knows a story when he sees one and isn’t afraid to pursue it to the very end – even if that puts him and his partner (in career and life) in mortal danger. There’s definitely a desire to do good, but it’s countered by the love of being the one to break the story, which would make Upsher the fish-man version of Lois Lane. Carlos Alazraqui, I think, could bring out the sincerity and the ambition that drives the character.

 

Doff – Diedrich Bader

 

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Upsher’s better half – or is it the other way around? – Doff is more concerned with keeping out of trouble, but when given the choice to help himself or serve the greater good he’s a fairly selfless person. Diedrich Bader has such a deep, rich voice that sounds pleasantly kind even when he’s swearing up a storm. There’s something gentle about Doff that Bader could capture. Plus it would be kind of fun to hear him and Alazraqui riff like and old married couple.

 

So those Are my picks. Obviously not everyone is going to agree with my choices, so feel free to tell me who you’d cast if you got to play Voice Director for the day.

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As a global consumer culture one of the first things we’re introduced to is media. Television, books, movies, and music all contribute to how we perceive and relate to the world around us. The Modern Age of comics has seen the saga-bannerdeconstruction of superheroes, the rise, fall, and rise again of comic book movies and television, and the elevation of geek culture. This has all been in conjunction with the proliferation of the internet where vocality is king and the biggest hot button topics sure to come up when any new movie, television show, or comic book comes out are representation and visibility.

We want to see aspects of ourselves in the media we consume but it’s painfully clear that Hollywood and media in general skew towards the straight, white male demographic. Denying anyone who isn’t part of the preconceived audience doesn’t just eliminate them on a visual level, it eliminates their voices and stories that could be told from the perspective of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. This paints an inaccurate picture of our society, which many demand changed. Hollywood has taken some sluggish steps forward, but a Renaissance of representation has occurred in comic books, at least in the smaller publishers. Marvel and DC Comics have made some strides forward, but it’s really in publishers like Dark Horse, Image, IDW, and Boom! Studios that stories not predicated on decades worth of continuity are allowed to flourish under the writings and artistry of creators actively concerned with making their comics relevant to modern readers. One of those books is Saga.

SkishIn Saga, Alana and Marko, lovers from warring worlds, flee the war, marry, and have a child, Hazel, whose future self narrates the story of her family as they’re pursued by her parents’ peoples as well as robotic royalty, bounty hunters, ex-fiancés, and journalists across the galaxy. That’s as simplistic as the explanation gets without going into the complexities of the story, but suffice it to say that writer Brian K. Vaughan (Runaways, Y: The Last Man, Pride of Baghdad) and artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, DV8: Gods and Monsters, Archie) purposely set out to make Saga a book without limitations and, by their own admission, difficult to adapt.

First released in March of 2012 by Image Comics, Saga has since received as much critical acclaim as it has controversy. It should surprise no one that the bulk of the controversy concerns the art, which is understandable since comic books are, first and foremost, a visual medium. For all of the critical analysis of Saga’s narrative through Vaughan’s writing, it’s Staples’ art that grabs our attention. The fully realized sci-fi/fantasy landscape of war, sex, magic, technology, and family is as much a product of Staples’ imagination as it is Vaughan’s scripting.

Vaughan’s writing on Saga has received high praise, especially from this author, for his criticisms of art, war, and media, much of which stems from what John Parker of ComicsAlliance refers to as Vaughan’s examination of the anxieties of post-9/11 America where the genre serves as “the delivery system to explore significant real-world issues.” Interestingly enough, Saga is one of the most diverse books regarding gender, race, and sexual oriFiona and Brianentation but never brings attention to it because, in the world of Saga, these aren’t issues.

Vaughan is certainly no stranger to casts of characters with a high female count. Saga continues this predilection, sporting an ensemble cast of at least seven female characters in play, as of the current run, compared to the roughly four or five male characters that appear. It’s the diversity of race and sexual orientation, however, where Saga earns major points with readers. While both Vaughan and Staples have pointed out that race and skin color have no correlation in Saga, Staples was instrumental in the multicultural design of the characters, creating a book where only one of the main characters, out of roughly twelve, who could even be considered white (hint: it’s The Will). According to Vaughan at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con:

“When I was pitching to Fiona, I said, ‘I don’t care how Alana looks, but no redheads. There’s a glut of redheads in comics.’ And Fiona was like, ‘Well, she doesn’t have to be white either.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, right.’” [Source: Hero Complex]

GwenThis revelation from Vaughan shows the importance of diversity amongst creative teams alongside their books. Would the story have changed if Alana was white? Probably not, but by not defaulting to white, Staples gave Saga its own default and a galaxy enriched by diversity. Said Staples:

“Representation and diversity in comics is something that’s important to me, and I also think it just makes a more realistic universe when you’re constructing a brand-new world and you want it to feel authentic. Most of the people on Earth are not white. Why would this galaxy be?” [Source: Hero Complex]

The same is true for the visibility of LGBTQ characters. Though Alana and Marko are the straight couple at the center of the story, the Saga universe is far more fluid when it comes to sexuality. Gwendolyn, Marko’s ex, is most likely bi-sexual since she lost her virginity to a woman named Velour. Upsher and Doff are journalists and a committed gay couple trying to put the truth out about Alana’s defection. And Hazel’s babysitter Izabel recently talked about her girlfriend Windy with whom she loved and lost after stepping on a landmine. Sexual orientation is incidental to upsher and doffthe characters of Saga. The more pressing concern is the struggle for love amidst the tragedy of war.

When asked why he wrote so many strong female characters, Joss Whedon infamously answered, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” The same is true for Saga. We still have to keep pointing out just how diverse it is because there’s a dearth of comic books like Saga for readers interested in anything other than what mainstream publishers think is “diverse”. Thankfully, more comic books are beginning to emerge in the same vein as Saga, giving readers a playground of characters where they can see themselves without having to rely on surrogates due to lack of options. I’d like to be able to say things will change as time goes by, and I’m confident it will, but for now we’ll have to rely on Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples to continue delivering in their gorgeous, poignant, and heart-wrenching space opera.

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This article was originally written for Comics and Human Rights week on Talking Comics and the London School of Economics.

 

This review was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on October 30th.saga15-cover

If you’ll recall from Issue #12, the ending narration by Hazel indicated that she and her family had been residing at the home of author D. Oswald Heist for a whole week before Prince Robot IV arrived in his pursuit of Marko and Alana. The current arc is Hazel recounting those blissful few days before what I assume will be some kind of showdown or epic chase between her family and Prince Robot or the convergence of all stories with The Will, Gwendolyn, Lying Cat, and Sophie joining the fray as well. Though based on how this issue ended…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The benefits of Brian K. Vaughan’s slow burn of storytelling is that we get to spend a lot of time with these characters. In any other book, once Prince Robot shows up and we know the family is trying to escape, the narrative would pick up from there and run full steam ahead. Vaughan does the exact opposite. He takes his time, giving us more information not just in regards to our main characters, but others on the periphery as we see with the amphibious journalists, Upsher and Doff, who’re still unpacking the true story of Alana’s supposed “capture” by the enemy. After speaking with Alana’s step-mother, they’ve now moved on to Alana’s former commanding officer, Countess Robot X, who gets an amazingly badass splash page introduction. Fiona Staples continues to up the ante of impressive images with Countess Robot, her arm a sword, standing near the body of the dragon she’s just slain while ordering people to get the carcass off her runway. The women of Saga do not disappoint! Anyway, the Countess reveals to our journalists that Alana was sent to Wreath – where she would eventually meet Marko – as punishment for hesitating to drop bombs on civilians. She did bomb them with amazing precision, but it’s the hesitancy that got her sent away.

Vaughan’s focus on Alana’s past is interesting because, though a capable warrior, her priorities have now shifted to domesticity. In fact, she likes the idea of doing laundry and taking care of her child, which Klara points out shouldn’t be her focus at all. Apparently Marko’s mother adheres to the notion that women must immediately contribute to the workforce and the betterment of their society as a means of setting the right example for their children instead of coddling them. Alana is both impressed with her mother-in-law’s progressivism and offended by her assumption that she’s not doing right by Hazel. Heist gets in on the discussion when he points out that she and Marko will have to earn money at some point since their time with him can only be finite with patrols dropping in from time to time. Even Marko has his reservations about raising Hazel entirely on their spaceship tree, causing Alana to feel ganged up on as she storms out. I should also point out that this is happening during a round of the popular Wreath game Nun Tuj Nun with three rounds involving drawing, arm wrestling, and the psych-out. Guess which round this argument happens during?

Countess Robot XThe theme of domesticity as an illusion, however, is part and parcel to the dangers looming over Marko and Alana. Playing the role of doting mother and wife, despite being a fugitive, is important to Alana because it can’t last, at least not in the way she wants it to. Hazel’s narration drives the point home perfectly. Her parents never just let her win games as she was growing up because, in their own way, they needed her to understand loss. Here, we get to see where that lesson originated. Staying with Heist is out of the question, but there’s no way, as Klara confesses to Heist, that Marko and Alana can just fill out job applications while she plays nanny to her granddaughter. One way or another they’ll have to move on and find a way to survive. Both Heist and Marko allude to different plans for how they might improve their situation, but that’s for another issue. For now, Marko and Alana are content to enjoy their slight reprieve from being on the run. Which may or may not involve sexy times.

Vaughan extends the theme a bit further with the preparations made by The Will to continue pursing Marko, Alana, and Prince Robot. Though he seemed content to stay on the planet not so far away from his bounty’s location, he proves the appropriateness of his name when he resists the temptation to stay and play house with Gwendolyn and Sophie. The ship all patched up, our illusions of things working out for the anti-heroes of Saga are quickly dashed when we learn that the planet itself secretes a parasite through its food sources, creating hallucinations to lure hosts into its ecosystem. The turn comes swift as Will learns his visions were not his own and suffers what could be a killing blow from the last person he expected.

Final Thoughts: Nun Tuj Nun will be the next big thing, you guys. Invest now! Also, go read this book!