Strong Female Character: Alana of Saga
Written by AJ Dent, Copywriter
Foul-mouthed. Dirty-minded. Hot-tempered and hell-raising. These terms describe many of my closest friends — so it’s only fitting I liked Alana of the comic book series Saga from the very first panel.
Published by the prolific Image Comics, Saga is an ongoing series written by award-winning Brian K. Vaughan, and gloriously illustrated by Fiona Staples. It showcases the love story of Alana and Marko — a couple reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, but with literal stars crossing to foil their relationship. Alana is a winged creature from the planet Landfall, while Marko is from Landfall’s moon, Wreath, whose residents boast horns or antlers. The two celestial bodies are wrapped up in a ceaseless war so large, even citizens of surrounding galaxies get drawn in, though they have little to nothing to gain.
Realizing the fight’s absolute pointlessness after his first battle as a soldier, Marko surrenders to Landfall as a “conscientious objector.” While in prison, Alana is stationed as his guard, and the two bond over Alana’s favorite book — a romance novel rife with anti-war symbolism — and their disdain for the feuding between their homelands.
When Alana learns Marko is to be transferred to a confinement center for life, she spontaneously breaks his chains, and the two flee together, conceive a child, and quickly get married. Talk about love on the run!
As the unlikely trio is chased through space by family members, foes, and political forces, this epic story only gets wilder and more addicting — as does the intense personality of Alana. When it comes to protecting her child, Hazel, she is aggressive with a bone-chilling calm. In one scene, for example, a character attempts to kidnap Hazel for a financial reward, and Alana’s reaction is to put a gun to her own baby’s head, threatening to kill her to save her from a life of slavery. Almost every relationship Alana ends up enjoying — with her in-laws, Hazel’s babysitter, and Marko himself — begins with her being violent in order to protect herself or her loved ones. I admire these warrior-woman actions and attitudes because they occur out of necessity, not sick pleasure. (Most of the time, anyway!)
Another aspect of Alana I admire are her two favorite hobbies: reading books and having sex. Her passion for books is as voracious as her libido, and she’s not afraid to express either interest. You know that sick myth that women can’t be both sexually active and smart? Alana blows it out of the water without a second thought. In the same breath, she can express a cunning assessment of dangerous situations and her fierce desire to get it on with Marko. And she does it all with wit and unapologetic sarcasm — now that’s someone I want to hang out with.
Given her strong opinions and fiery feelings, Alana does have her faults, of course. She’s fitfully jealous over an ex-girlfriend of Marko’s, and is often detrimentally stubborn. My view, though, is that rather than making her emotionally unstable, these internal challenges actually help her become stronger, as she attempts to rein in her reactions for the sake of her family. Her jealousy isn’t petty, but born of justified concern, since Marko originally hid his past relationship, knowing the ex wasn’t exactly cool with the way things ended. Alana’s temperament isn’t tied to an affinity for drama, but is rather a result of the worlds she’s always inhabited. Her life has consisted of fight-or-flight situations over and over, and as a damn good combatant, she’s developed hair-trigger methods that help her stay alive.
On the flip side, Alana is a hopeless romantic at heart, and has so much compassion for the underdog it could fuel a solar system. She’s constantly scrutinizing individuals around her and frequently gives them the benefit of the doubt, so long as they’re not messing with her kin. Thanks to her volatile dedication, proud sexual prowess, love of books, and hilarious quips, Alana reads like a intriguing, intricate universe. The series is still being created and released, so who knows — she could totally end up disappointing us in the end — but for now, I’m rooting for this winged woman for sure.
If you’ve read any issues of Saga, what do you think of Alana’s disposition? Who is one of your favorite strong female characters in comics?