High School Horror Nostalgia In Morning In America
Feb 01, 2019
Join creators Magdalene Visaggio (Eternity Girl) and Claudia Aguirre (Kim & Kim) for a new, creepy comic series based in 1983. Oni Press brings you Morning in America (JAN192008), the much-anticipated girl gang tale that will see the light of day beginning March 6th. PREVIEWSworld talked with writer Magdalene Visaggio to learn about the new miniseries!
PREVIEWSworld: The opening setting for Morning In America is Tucker, Ohio in 1983. Is there anything we should know about this time/place other than, like most parts in the country, Reagan was in office, leg warmers were hip, and “Sweet Dreams” was charting by the Eurythmics? How was the book drawn to give context to the time period?
Magdalene Visaggio: Tucker, Ohio is a failing rust-belt town at the very beginning of the decline of American manufacturing. They used to have an automobile plant, but they’ve hit stiff competition from Japanese manufacturers, and the plant has been closed down, sending half the town out of work. I’m really fascinated by all the contradictions of the era: the rise of investment banking, the moment wages stopped growing in step with the economy, and Reagan’s whole “Morning in America” shtick. The economy was in the process of leaving a lot of people behind; there’s a reason one of the enduring images of the age is the latchkey kid. In a whole hell of a lot of ways, the world was ending, and Reagan’s foreign policy saber-rattling suddenly had people worried about nuclear war in a whole huge new way. Morning in America is about all of that.
PREVIEWSworld: Mixing music by the Sex Pistols with visuals of Stranger Things gives one an idea about the gritty complex visuals that Morning In America can conjure (although the cover alone points to that same type of alchemy). What personal memories of that time do you bring into the story? Is anything written or drawn in this book autobiographical for the creative team?
Magdalene Visaggio: Neither Claudia or I were alive in 1983. I’m an ‘84 baby, so for me this is really exploring a strangely familiar and strangely foreign world that I only experienced the margins of. The autobiographical stuff, such as it’s there, is emotional; it’s about what it means to be powerless to change a world that grows shakier and shakier under your feet day by day. I grew up really poor—eating out of food pantries and having charity donation Christmases poor—and I had that same sense of powerlessness as a kid, as my family just seemed to get worse and worse off. I picked a time period that felt the way I felt, and sometimes still feel, with Trump and climate change and everything. So, this book is for me a little bit wish fulfillment. Powerless kids find a way to exert some influence over their lives—at least they think that’s what they’re doing.
PREVIEWSworld: A group of teenagers are the focus of the opening preview pages that we see in the January PREVIEWS catalog. What can you tell us about them, and how they fit into the
tapestry of Morning In America ?
Magdalene Visaggio: They’re the Sick Sisters, our heroines. They’re a plucky crew of small-time, small-town teenage delinquents who spend their time smoking weed and skipping class and hanging out behind the local Kwik-E-Mart. It’s the surrogate family of a bunch of girls who don’t have much of one at home. Our central character, Nancy Salazar, is the child of a rapidly-disintegrating marriage, as her dad never recovered from the depression that set in after his layoff and her mom is out of patience. So she’s just never at home. All the girls have a story like that in one way or another, a home life that doesn’t offer them anything, so they cling to each other and their weird little role as notable bad girls. You’ve got the leader Ellen Mackie, the muscle Veronica Hotchkiss, and the baby-face Ashley DiFiore. They’re all the most important people in the world to each other.
PREVIEWSworld: Of course we all know that splatter films were all the rage in the 1980s, due in part to the videotape revolution. Given that this is a monster book, do you allow yourself to dig into some of those gore classics for ideas? Or is the drama more important than tearing apart the living?
Magdalene Visaggio: This book isn’t about gore. It’s primary points of reference is stuff like The Goonies and IT , with a little bit of Cloverfield and other more modern monster fare. But the central focus is on these girls and their relationship to each other.
PREVIEWSworld: How does Morning In America stack up against the facts on the ground in 1983? How much is in line with the way things were, and how you thought the way things should be? Are there any social messages to be found in this story? Why or why not?
Magdalene Visaggio: I don’t really do message books? I try to let the themes come out as I work. Morning in America is about being and feeling powerless in a world that’s incalculably bigger than you, and all the ways we try to take control over it, from drugs, to conspiracy theories, to losing ourselves in media, to finding surrogate families, to putting up a front of hostile belligerence, to breaking the law, to running away. It’s not about the eighties. I just wanted an era that felt as a whole the way I felt when I was fourteen, which would have been in 1998. It’s about the fear of nuclear war under Reagan. It’s about the fear of nuclear war under Trump. It’s about the collapse of a sense of public order and trust. It’s about finding your real family and clinging to it. It’s about loss. It’s about death. It’s about everything bigger than us that we don’t have any say over that we mostly just try not to think about, and what that feels like.