Ahead of New York Comic Con, Oni Press released information about several upcoming titles slated for 2019, including the horror mini-series Morning In America. From writer Magdalene Visaggio (Quantum Teens Are Go!, Eternity Girl, Oh S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM) and artist Claudia Aguirre (Kim & Kim, We Are the Danger), Morning In America is about a failing Ohio factory town that experiences a wave of child disappearances in the early ’80s. Logically, a gang of delinquent teenage girls decide to do something about it and face off against an incoming siege of monsters in order to save everyone’s lives.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had teenagers save the world,” Visaggio says in an e-mail exchange with The Beat. “World-saving isn’t where I tend to go in my writing. My teen characters are always saving themselves.”
For Visaggio, exploring these themes is a means of contextualizing her experiences as an adolescent. “I mean, I was an unhappy kid in an unhappy house,” she says. “My parents split when I was 14 and my family fractured…. We were flat broke and moved constantly. When my sister finally moved back in with me and my mom when we got our own place again, she basically never came home and I basically never left it. We were both trying to escape. I just hung out and listened to music and played video games and drew comics and wrote poetry and retreated deeper and deeper into own hermitage. That was my escape.”
She adds, “I think all my teen stuff is me trying more and more to make sense of that experience, especially as I’m a lot healthier emotionally than I was, and post-transition, I kind of feel like a teenager again. So it’s me reflecting on being that age, and all the weird stresses that go along with it. But nobody is ever trying to save the world. They’re all just trying to figure out how to have a tomorrow.”
In stories like Quantum Teens Are Go!, published by Black Mask Studios in 2017, Visaggio focuses explicitly on that idea of escape. Quantum follows teenage sweethearts Nat and Sumesh, who break into abandoned science labs to steal the parts they need to build a time machine. Once they finally get the most important piece, mysterious figures keep trying to prevent them from actually using the machine. Visaggio identified the book as her favorite thing that she has ever written during a conversation at Flame Con, but she says the elements at play in her relationship to the story aren’t easily translatable to her other work, even if the themes are similar.
“I just really clicked with those characters. I usually describe my relationship to them as like mentoring troubled teens; it took a while for them to open up to me, but once they did, I really understood and felt for them. They were driven by so much hurt and confusion, and only found themselves really seen by the other person. They were all they had, and that was a beautiful thing to get to witness, how they clung to and inspired each other,” she says.
Before Quantum Teens Are Go! was released as a trade, Visaggio reveals that she and the creative team added four extra pages to give Nat and Sumesh ad happy ending. “My relationship to that book and to the characters in it is really particular, and emerged from the whole process of conceiving and writing the book,” she explains. “I just really fell in love with Nat and Sumesh in a way I don’t know will ever happen again.”
That being said, she does have a favorite character in Morning In America: “Ashley. She’s adorable and a paranoid conspiracy nerd and a teen delinquent all at the same time. I loved writing her so much. She’s basically everyone’s favorite.”
Visaggio teamed up with Aguirre and letterer Zakk Saam for Morning, both of whom she’s worked with for years. Saam did the lettering on Visaggio’s self-published book Stronghold and she and Aguirre have worked together since the beginnings of Kim & Kim at Black Mask Studios. Together, these three are able to craft a monster story in Morning In America that will appeal to a wide audience.
“Claudia in particular is really stepping up and taking on full art duties, and I’ve always been a fan of her work; I’ve been wanting to do this kind of book with her for ages,” Visaggio says. “So it’s been really positive all around. Claudia is really an extraordinary collaborator; she’s always game, always excited, always eager to make the work the best we can, and since we both feel this like…maternal care for our girls here, we’re quick to get on the same page.”
In addition to Morning, Visaggio also has several other projects in the works — but she can’t talk about any of them just yet. As for final comments to wrap up our interview, she says, “Donald Trump is a fascist. In virtually every meaningful sense.” For more of her opinions on politics and comics, as well as info on her upcoming projects, be sure to follow Visaggio on Twitter.
Samantha Puc is an essayist and culture critic whose work has been featured on Bustle, The Mary Sue, SheKnows, The Tempest, Rogues Portal, and elsewhere. She mostly writes intersectional pop culture analysis with a particular focus on representation of LGBTQ and fat characters in fiction. Samantha is also the co-creator of Fatventure Mag, an outdoors zine for fat women and non-binary creators who are into being active, but not into toxic weight-loss culture. She lives in Rhode Island with her partner and cats.