SAGA Read Along: Inspiring Characters

FANgirl Note: If you haven’t caught the opening discussion on SAGA, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples from IMAGE Comics, I encourage you to check it out. Mary Sheridan was inspired by one character in particular. So I’ll let her have the floor. Feel free to share your thoughts on Izabel below. ~Tricia

IzabelREGARDING IZABEL…

When my  colleagues and I first discussed our impressions of Volume 1 of the IMAGE Comics graphic novel, SAGA, we made a few informal comments on Twitter. Linda and Kay enthusiastically wrote that the book is a real page-turner but I experienced the story differently: “[the book] didn’t really grab me except for one unique character: Izabel.”

Linda then asked a question that opened the floodgates of my imagination: what made that character stand out for me? For the first time I stopped to consider why I singled out Izabel above the story. Even I am surprised by the depth of my answer.

To me, Izabel represents an amalgamation of aspects of humanity, attributes from well-known fictional characters, at least half-a-dozen different genres, as well as principles of metaphysics and philosophy. I have no idea whether SAGA creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples consciously intended Izabel to affect readers as she did me, but from her first appearance I saw a variety of representations of human traits and fictional history. She is also a unique and strong young woman of a sort that many of us want to see. At times, it is easy to forget that she is the ghost of a young girl – a glowing red wraith that ignited a wildfire in my imagination. Based on Volume 1 alone, I am convinced that Izabel has the potential to be much more than she seems.

What do I see in Izabel that makes her special?

Izabel is more real, more multi-dimensional, than the entire casts of some books.

  • She reflects at least six genres: horror, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, supernatural, and contemporary fiction.
  • She presents contrasts that illustrate both sides of many coins, or in different terms, points out the duality and duplicity in life. Izabel is:
    • dead and yet living
    • both a human girl and a ghost
    • half of her body is visible, half is gone
    • a teenager with adult insights
    • able to manifest herself at night, but not during the day
    • sometimes unsettling yet also comforting
    • both teacher and student
    • a reminder of divisions between people as well as their potential to merge
  • Izabel is relatively tangible proof of the collateral damage war can cause.

Through her character, we see added detail in the characters of protagonists Marko and Alana. Izabel seems to be a conduit for their consciences. In “show not tell” fashion, Izabel is a catalyst, causing the couple to consider their motives, desires, and the risks they are taking.

In her first post about SAGA, Tricia notes that:

“At their San Diego Comic-Con panel Vaughan and Staples acknowledged their epic space opera story is partly inspired by Star Wars, but that they also sought to challenge some of its longstanding tropes.”

Izabel certainly demonstrates many Star Wars influences:

  • Her duality is somewhat similar to the Dark and Light Sides of the Force.
  • She has or is linked to Force-like abilities, similar to those of the Jedi or Sith –
    • She and her people have an ability to create very complex physical illusions.
    • She interacts with living beings after death.
    • Hers is often a voice of reason, guidance, or wisdom, reminiscent of Yoda.
    • More than once, Izabel restates Obi-Wan’s “a certain point of view” notion.
    • She has teenage attitude along with certain skills more often attributed to adults. In addition, Izabel’s youthfulness does not limit her success, all of which runs parallel to the life of young Luke Skywalker in A New Hope.

Izabel also evoked images of other well-known fictional characters from which it seems that she embraces specific qualities or features. Here are a few:

Annie and Oliver Twist

Izabel has the personality of a streetwise survivor with a tough exterior hiding a basic desire to be loved and accepted. She holds onto a positive outlook and also barters for what she wants.

Tinker Bell and Peter Pan

Izabel flies (or floats) and, having been killed so young, will never grow old.

Dorothy (Wizard of Oz)

Both girls are in an altered reality (Izabel, a ghost, and Dorothy in a dream state) and seek to understand their places in different worlds.

Casper, the Friendly Ghost

The most whimsical comparison, but Izabel is the only member of her “ghostly gang” who befriends the protagonist couple and their newborn in a reasonably non-threatening way.

Izabel is a unique and mysterious creature with secrets. She has her own brand of magic to rival that of Marko, and is a modern female who challenges the thinking of SAGA’s female lead, Alana. In the developing milieu of SAGA, Izabel’s potential to be an axis around which numerous other stories play out is extraordinary.

By now, you probably realize that SAGA truly came to life for me when this incredibly rich and complex character appeared. Although Izabel’s future follows her creators’ vision, when a character grabs hold and shakes my imagination as she did, I can still wish upon a galaxy far, far away to see much more of her. There is nothing like an unusual and unpredictable character to whet this reader’s appetite.


A long time ago, very close to home… Star Wars freed Mary’s imagination and planted her feet firmly on the fangirl path. Since then, her geek passions have expanded to include The Hunger Games, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Steampunk culture. A contributor to FANgirlblog from its inception, she encourages and supports its pro-female mandates and also hopes to raise the profile of “experienced” fans that are now clearly outnumbered by younglings.

You can contact Mary via email: mary@fangirlblog.com or find her on Twitter: @StellarArtisan

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4 thoughts on “SAGA Read Along: Inspiring Characters

  • February 7, 2015 at 8:31 pm
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    Fantastic insights, Mary!

    Reply
    • February 8, 2015 at 10:34 am
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      Thanks, Kay – although when I re-read this, there is a brief moment when I really wonder about my brain and its spontaneous detours! o_O

      Reply
  • February 11, 2015 at 9:03 pm
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    She is really unique as a character isn’t she? I was thinking back to various fantasy/sci fi sources and about the closest thing I can come to something similar is perhaps the fairy godmother that watches over our heroine only the twist is that Izabel is a ghost. She does not have pretty wings and pixie dust – she’s a red ghost with guts hanging out. I hadn’t realized how much of a twist on tropes she was until you brought it up though. Thanks!

    Reply
    • February 11, 2015 at 10:31 pm
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      I’m well into Volume 3 and Izabel continues to bring it. You can’t escape that she’s the guardian angel because of the real danger war presents to innocent children. At the same time she makes me laugh, and that’s the very powerful dynamic about the character that intrigues me.

      Reply

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