The Art of Fiona Staples
Comics aren’t storyboards for movies. An artist alone with her/his imagination can create impossible-to-build cityscapes and monsters. They can cast their characters in whatever way they like, not limited to which people will act them in the film, who L.A. thinks is cool or, even, what humans look like. Fiona Staples is one of the artists that shows what’s possible in comics. Her work on books like Saga, and Archie is truly remarkable.
Sameness dogs the comic arts. The body types, the colors, and the heroes crouched on roofs or next to gargoyles repeat unendingly. Even within a single book, there are often multiple characters with indistinguishable faces. Nostalgia in comics, which, when harnessed can lead to great things, can also result in laziness and repetition.
Staples’s art is deeply different. The color pallet alone in her issues of Archie and all of Saga, make her distinct. The creatures and characters that she and Brian K. Vaughn created in Saga run the gamut from seductive to grotesque and, in the case of a few characters, some unsettling combination of the two. Beyond being distinct, the characters have personalities that are communicated visually. In life, much of what we know about a person is communicated visually through the way they carry themselves, their gestures and expressions. Good comics communicate character the same way.
Comics are a collaborative medium and they function best when the artist (or artists) and writer can complement each other’s work. Staple’s art looks fantastic, but it also serves the story. The emotional beats (and Saga is full of gut-punch beats) hit hard because the characters communicate emotion. When you know what the characters are feeling and understand who they are, you care what happens to them. That’s what Staples’s art does, it makes you care.