Mairghread Scott Talks ‘Saber Rider And The Star Sheriffs’ [Interview]
With her work on Transformers: Windblade, Toil and Trouble, and a pretty great backup story in Power Rangers, Mairghread Scott has become a creator that I'll follow to any project that she decides to write --- and now, that means that I'm about to become very familiar with Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. Based on an anime series imported to America in the mid '80s, the series is returning in comics form courtesy of Lion Forge, with Scott writing and Sendol Arts providing art.
To find out more, ComicsAlliance spoke to Scott about her approach to recreating the series for new fans, how each character was rebuilt, how the Star Sheriffs stack up against the Power Rangers' Zords, and why communication is the key to surviving a firefight.
ComicsAlliance: Before the new comic was announced, I was completely unfamiliar with Saber Rider. If there are readers out there like me coming to it more as fans of yours than of the property, is there anything we need to know?
Mairghread Scott: We assume you don't know the brand, but Saber Rider is a fun, action-focused space Western that centers around a lone Star Sheriff who uncovers a dangerous plot lead by a mysterious terrorist organization called The Outriders. Since this is a world where robot horses fly (literally), I tried to blend some of the fun of a classic Western with the ball-to-the-wall awesome the original cartoon captured.
CA: Reading through that first issue, that's one of the things I really enjoyed. As much as it feels like an origin story for the team, you never get sidetracked into explaining things like why there are flying horses. There just are flying horses, and we all need to get on board with that.
MS: Yeah. SRSS is much more Abrams-verse Star Trek than TNG. If you know the show, we throw in a lot of little winks and nods, but more than anything we want this to be a heck of a ride for kids and grown-ups alike.
CA: Was that how it was for you as a writer, though? Did you feel compelled to justify rocket horses for yourself, even if it didn't make it to the page?
MS: I think you always want an internal logic, and I try not to have our tech do anything too magical. But for me it was much more important in this story to give you a sense of emotional reality. Who is Saber Rider, and why would anyone volunteer to single-handedly protect and serve several whole planets?
A lot of SRSS is about the formation of our team: Saber (our knight in shining armor, literally), Colt (the bounty hunter), April (the intelligence officer) and... well some people you'll meet down the line. They all have such contrasting personalities, I wanted to build a real relationship between them, so the audience could see them become a functioning unit instead of boxes that needed to be checked.
CA: How did you go about it? Saber in particular seems like he's got a pretty intriguing setup. He seems awfully proper for someone operating on the frontier, even if it's a frontier that includes lasers and intergalactic travel.
MS: Yeah, but doesn't every little kid who's told not to play in the dirt want to do it that much more? I think of Saber as a guy who had a lot of expectations placed on him at a young age, and he left to find a more authentic life. Funny thing is, he has even more expectations on him now, and is probably less prepared to deal with them. I think it's why it's so hard for Saber to ask for help. He gave up things to be a Star Sheriff and not living up to that ideal is that much harder because of it.
Of course, I think he's doing a great job, but in our first arc Saber's pitted against the most natural-born Star Sheriff to ever ride, Jessie Blue, and that's not helping his confidence.
CA: Since you brought him up, let's talk about Jessie a little bit. There's a bit of mystery to him, in that we know his background and we know what he's doing now, but we never really know why. There's just a mention of something that might've happened to him when he was undercover.
MS: Yes, Jessie is an ex-Star Sheriff who worked closely under April Eagle, but now appears to be helping the Outriders as they attempt to gain a very valuable (very dangerous) piece of tech. We're not sure what caused Jessie to forsake his friends, but it's clear they're not going to let him win without a fight. Of course, I know why he turned, but you don't.
CA: Having read the whole series already, I'm not sure how much I can spoil, but I can tell you that as someone who wasn't familiar with the source material at all, I was still pretty excited to see what that tech ended up being.
MS: Yeah, that was a nice reveal wasn't it? Let's just irk fans for a minute because we live in the future. Ahhh... Okay. Sorry, I'm a terrible person.
CA: It's one of those things that, when you see it, makes perfect sense as the ultimate expression of the Space Western, but yeah, I don't want to get too far into it before those issues are out. Really though, that seems like it's part of the equation of doing what I'm guessing is the origin story that you never saw on the show, the same kind of work to get those pieces in a way that's compelling even if you know where it ends.
MS: Yeah, the team is put together very quickly in the original cartoon, but our whole first arc is actually building to their full formation. It's not that you won't get a lot of cool action and stakes along the way, but I wanted to highlight all the cool things that can get a little more lost in the actual show. In the same way that the dinozords are really cool in Power Rangers, but get a bit pushed aside for the Megazord, I wanted every aspect of SRSS to feel as exciting as I think it is.
CA: Listen, us talking about how the Tyrannosaurus Zord rising out of the lava is the coolest thing that was ever on television is an entirely different interview.
MS: Probably, but that's the kind of stuff I really liked writing for my Power Rangers comic and in SRSS I really love things like... well that April Eagle is a weapons designer and deadly with a capital D lady who rides around on a sparkly pink robot horse.
CA: That's something that comes up with regards to putting those pieces together. You've got Saber, the proper young man who wants adventure, Colt, the bounty hunter, Jessie, the turncoat, and then there's April Eagle, who seems to be a really self-aware character when she shows up, and ends up being really compelling because of it.
MS: Yeah, she's my favorite in a lot of ways. I feel like there are a lot of "badass" female characters out there that are always grim and gritty and have everything about their lives together. April is smart, efficient and deadly, but she's also one of those work-a-holics who forgets to eat and she's made everything about her official uniform pink. She's more complicated than just "Tough Chick A."
It was really important to me that all our characters had contrasting elements. Colt is literally a mercenary obsessed with money, but he's the one most searching for family. Saber does everything by the book, but he also feels everything the most deeply. Having a shorter story length doesn't mean Sendol and I gave you a lesser story. In fact, SRSS is crammed with as much character as it is explosions.
CA: is there a particular moment in the series where you feel like you hit that balance especially well?
MS: I really enjoyed Saber and Colt trying to figure out how to work together in the middle of a firefight. In real life, danger doesn't stop because you aren't ready, and it was a blast having them in this sort of "do you go first?" kind of power dance while trying to stay alive.
CA: Can you talk a bit about the collaboration with Sendol Arts on Saber Rider? I know there are entirely new designs for the characters.
MS: Yeah. It was a bit of a risk for me, since the entire arc was written before the art started, but Sendol really ran with what I gave them. They've given SRSS a very clean, fresh look without being too cartoon-y. It's harder than you'd think, and I've very pleased with the results. I'm really happy with the art Sendol Arts is producing. Comics are a team effort and their work is much more fun to look at than the original scripts, I promise.
CA: Any final thoughts?
MS: The last issue of Toil and Trouble (my creator-owned at Boom) is out. My co-written steampunk series Lantern City is still going, and I'll be back on Transformers sometime this summer. Oh, and my first episode of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon is set to air February 21, so tune in!