Banned Book Spotlight: ‘Saga’

Eric Warner   Staff Writer

Sept. 22-28 is known as Banned Books Week, an annual event wherein people and organizations around the country celebrate their freedom to read books and highlight the books that shouldn’t be banned from the public. Books are powerful things. They inspire people to do great and terrible things. Within their pages is the possibility to conceive infinite worlds and infinite possibilities. The stories they host have the power to change the world so it’s unfortunate at times when institutions ban books from the public for arguably poor reasons.

Libraries can ban books for a variety of reasons, such as banning the “Harry Potter” series for supposedly promoting witchcraft/satanism to banning “The Kite Runner” for portraying sexual violence, terrorism, and promoting Islam. The American Library Association (ALA) often tries to free these books from censorship by informing the public why these books are banned and give reasons why the public should have free access to them.

“Saga” is a sci-fi fantasy comic book series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples and published by Image Comics. The story of “Saga” is often pitched as being a hybridization of the world building of Star Wars and the character depth of Game of Thrones. It focuses on the journey of two soldiers on opposite sides of a war, Alana and Marko, who fall in love after bonding over a seemingly cheesy romance novel. The galaxy of Saga is currently embroiled in a proxy war between two forces: the planet Landfall home to winged, highly technological beings, and Landfall’s moon, Wreath, home to horned, magic utilizing beings.

Together, Alana and Marko have a child named Hazel who has both wings and horns. The entire series is set up as a journal written by an older Hazel recounting the events of what happened to her family as they fled from two sides of an unjust war. On their journey the family encounters a variety of colorful characters such as Prince Robot IV who is a bisexual soldier for Landfall and is the story’s outlet to convey PTSD for soldiers by having flashes of striking images appearing sporadically on his tv head. “Saga” is actually one of the most progressive books on the market with various portrayals of LGBTQ characters all while highlighting real world problems in this fantastical world. The book explores PTSD, drug addiction, abortion, discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, and class, human trafficking, existential crises, suicide, and so much more.

Since its debut in 2012, the series has been critically acclaimed, winning over 11 Eisner awards, over 16 Harvey awards, and one Hugo award throughout its current seven-year run. This success has not been without its controversy, however. As soon as Saga began, people were concerned with the first issue of the series depicting Alana breastfeeding Hazel. Subsequently, many libraries began to ban Saga from their archive for, according to the ALA, being, “anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.”

“Saga” was listed as one of 2014’s top ten most challenged books for these reasons; the series contains a lot of mature content and that’s partially because Vaughan wanted to, “do something that was way too expensive to be TV and too dirty and grown-up to be a four-quadrant blockbuster” according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. In 2013, “Saga”’s twelfth issue was even banned temporarily from the Apple Store for portraying homosexual content even though the previous issues depicted scenes of heterosexual content numerous times.

Many claim that “Saga” is anti-family but these assertions may be unfounded. In fact, it’s probably one of the most accurate depictions of a family anybody has seen in a book, at least in a book taking place in a fantastical world. Thanks to Vaughan’s superb writing, the characters feel extremely realistic and constantly have the reader enthralled in the book to see what happens to this family. “Saga”’s theme is ultimately that family and love can come from anywhere, as long as it’s given a chance and that’s the most precious thing in life. “Saga” is without a doubt, the greatest comic of the 21st century and everybody should at least give it a try. Censorship can be a death sentence as much as a defensive act for anything. Books start out as ideas and they can turn into something so much more as long as they’re allowed the opportunity to do so.

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