by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples; Image Comics
Saga is visually tons of fun. There is just an endlessly imaginative and playful approach to the design of characters, technology, and location that just comes to life on the page. Sometimes it feels like Team Saga is just mashing together different things, seemingly at random, to create this constantly surprising parade of space oddities. Which is totally fine! The way Saga looks it's downright delightful.
The thing is though, the more Saga I read, the more I'm beginning to see a method to some of the madness in character design.
Specifically, I am really interested in the design of the Robots in Saga.
There will be *SPOILERS* For Saga Vol. 4
The Robot Royals have always been one of my favourite fixtures of Saga. There is something great about television headed robots wearing very old-fashioned looking military uniforms that is just iconic and fun. I think the crux of why I like these designs so much has to do with the amount of anachronism on display: the contrast between the retro-future monitor-heads and the 1800s-style jackets, trousers, and cavalry boots is just kind of delightful. Even without any other information, they are kind of the best.
Probably the main Robot character so far has been Prince Robot IV. In many ways he is prototypical to the Robot Royalty as he is usually depicted as a sleek-monitor-headed man wearing some variation on the old-fashion military uniform. He has the added elements of a black stipe on the sides of his head and a pair of rabbit-ear antennas that help make him stand out. Additionally he has a cracked screen, a visible mark of the physical and psychological scars he has suffered over the series. And, like the facial scar this crack is a fun play on, this disfigurement is another identifying feature that further differentiates the prince from other Noble Robots. Collectively he manages to look unique and somewhat removed from the mainstream of Robot society.
Princess Robot, the wife of Prince Robot IV has a subtly different and very clever design. She still has the grey humanoid body and monitor head, but hers is tweaked in ways that emphasize her role as an aristocratic woman. Specifically the two knob like projections on the side of her head create the illusion of ears while her sleeker, elongated monitor has a more traditionally feminine shape. Together these elements create a similar silhouette as hair piled into an elaborate bun, a style synonymous with aristocracy and pomp. This makes Princess Robot both recognizable as a character and cements her role in the story as a Noble Robot.
The son of Prince Robot IV is also an interesting bit of character design. Unlike the adult Robots, the infant and imagined child princeling has a round monitor head. This gives the character an instantly childlike look, his monitor approximating the rounder, chubby features of young human kids. It instantly sets him apart from his adult counterparts and cements his status as a wee one. Clever stuff.
Also, how great is it that the Royal Robots have literal Blue Blood?
Saga Vol. 4 introduces us to the first Robot commoner, Dengo. It seems that Robot society is wildly unequal and is split between a wealthy aristocracy and a wretched commoner class who live in squalor in the shadows of the royal wealth. This class distinction is reflected in the design of the character. Instead of having a sleek, modernist monitor-head, Dengo has a more old fashioned looking television that is boxy and has large analogue controls on the front of it. His face is also, in a choice that is really effective, a black-and-white screen, as opposed to the coloured screens of the Robot Royalty. As readers we can instantly tell the difference in class by their heads: Dengo has an old fashioned TV like someone in his economic situation might, while the Royals have nicer monitors like a richer person would. The allusions inherent in this character design choice are amazing.
But it's King Robot who has maybe the greatest character design in all of comics. The King of the Robots just has a giant, whopping, high definition widescreen TV for a head. A modern flatscreen so big that it is introduced on a double page spread even! Just let that sink in. The highest class, most important Robot has both the largest monitor head, but also the most modern and expensive one. It is obnoxiously clever character design that conveys how important, arrogant (big headed), and wealthy the character is all at a perfectly executed first glance! It's pretty much the best.
So shut it all down folks, comic character design is over. It's done. It can't get any better.
Long live King Robot!
Post by Michael Bround