This is a happy-fan-gush post.
I’m a recent arrival to comics. This tardiness doesn’t make sense; given my nerdish tendencies, I should have been at them my whole life. Yet here I am with (redacted) decades behind me and only just now hopping on the wagon.
Some time ago, wundersite io9 proclaimed “if you’re not reading Saga, you’re an a*#*$@* (I paraphrase). So I started reading. I do what the cool kids tell me.
They were right.
I’m won’t gush about Saga in general, though I could–for post after post. I will praise the minor character who captured a disproportionate amount of my attention.
Have you guessed why he’s popular yet?
Ghüs is a harp seal-man farmer who lives on the planet Quietus. He herds walrus-like cattle and shows them great affection.
He’s friendly, innocent, salt-of-the-earth—and most importantly, cute.
Ghüs wears yellow overalls, you guys.
The story of Saga—and Ghüs’s place in it—is too complex to describe here. If you’re already a fan, you know. If you’re not, just understand that he is a simple guy scooped up by fugitives fleeing a brutal interstellar war.
I have no powerful conclusions to make about Ghüs or how he fits in the pantheon of great comic characters. But I am always impressed when a secondary character in any story breaks out the way Ghüs has.
Consider how effective this character is: I worry about what will happen to Ghüs when he is not on the page. I even worry about details of his life on Quietus that will never make it into comic.
What happens to his farm while he is gone? Does he have farmhands? Siblings? A wife? Who is taking care of his other walruses? They must eat a ton of food each day. What about the bone-bugs?
Does he survive off the produce from his farm alone? Or does he sell at market? What are the margins for an operation like that? Small farms are a really tough business.
I’m not alone in Ghüs-love. People cosplay him. Ghüs plush toys exist, even though Saga is still not (I think) a top-tier comic (meaning in readership—in quality, there’s no better).
So why is Ghüs so perfect?
For one, he seems both helpless and totally unaware of his helplessness. Ghüs can’t be more than 50 lbs or more than 2 feet tall, but he is fearless among the hardened denizens of space.
His innocence amuses, but it also terrifies. The people/creatures around him are all expert killers (even the protagonists, minus Hazel). Every time I turn the page, I have to scan for any sign of a Ghüs-death before I can relax and read at a normal pace.
Ghüs handles all the danger with aplomb. He is often braver than the characters who live with violence on the daily. When the ship is about to overheat, he even tries to sacrifice himself to save it.
He also adds depth to the universe. This is important; most of the characters are part of the top-level conflict, as it should be. They are angry, funny, tortured, violent, complex.
But by hooking in a big-hearted backwater farmer, the storytellers both add emotional contrast and let us glimpse the humdrum of background life.
He named his walrus “Friendo.” Gah! Does this mean his walruses are his best friends? That is my takeaway. Is he lonely?
Ghüs wears red flannel footie pajamas at night. They even have that little butt-hatch for bathroom visits.
Fiona Staples (the artist) is killing it. She should illustrate/design all media.
Ok, that’s it! Ghüs is a fictional seal-man who lives in my brain now. Thanks to Fiona Staples and Brian Vaughn (writer) for gifting him.
Read Saga if you like stories.