Comic Watch’s own Nicholas Osborn recently had the opportunity to chat with the remarkably talented writer of Valiant’s newest Doctor Mirage miniseries, Magdalene Visaggio! We dive into everything from her approach to taking on this new project to working with such a talented group of artists, and even discuss some interesting ideas she has for hopeful future projects at Valiant! See the full interview below!
Comic Watch: Doctor Mirage is a character that has been around for quite some time, but it’s been a few years since she’s had her own series, so was there anything in particular that you were hoping to achieve when taking on this project?
Magdalene Visaggio: So, when I came on board, one of the things they told me in advance is that they didn’t want a book with [Li] Hwen [Mirage] in it, which actually I thought was really exciting, because Jen Van Meter’s first two books really revolved around him. It’s her own missions for him, trying to do something for him, you know? I always thought it was very important to sort of get her in a different context than to get someone else in her life. So, this is really a book about Shan [Fong] needing to stand up on her own for the first time. We’ve never really seen her needing to be independent in quite that way, in her very first arc all she’s trying to do is rescue his ghost, in the second arc all she’s trying to do is bring him back to life.
CW: Definitely, her story was always much more tied to his.
MV: Yeah, and that’s not to knock those books, they’re both fantastic, but it’s been a few years and Valiant has told me first thing they don’t want Hwen in this book. And I was like cool because that immediately is going to force me to go to a different direction. We kind of tried to structure the book in such a way that it starts off around the same question, where’s Hwen? Where’s the mystery? That’s still what drives her, but it’s not going to lead her to the same place.
CW: You had mentioned in the past that this series will take Doctor Mirage to places she’s never gone before; will that be a theme that we continue to explore throughout this series?
MV: Do you mean just the five-issue mini?
CW: Yes, and maybe more later on?
MV: Well I mean yes, I do hope we get to do more. It is something that’s being talked about, but that’s all still very, very early. The whole thing is about running Shan through the ringer, I want to get her off balance, so yeah she spends the whole time unsure of where she is or what she is doing because she’s lost in this new context and way of understanding her existence. So, it’s absolutely going to be about pushing her into new parts of herself, and that’s going to be filtered through the sort of psychedelic horror that Jordie and Nick are putting together visually.
But it’s not going to look anything like the Deadside we’ve seen before in Valiant. The first issue is already out so you know it doesn’t look like Jen and Roberto’s book, which was very, what’s the word I’m trying to say, not grim. Like the colors, it was almost clinical, everything looked painted and worked in shades or tones of one color. And it’s very effective and it gives you an interesting sense of weightlessness and feeling adrift, which I thought was really interesting and a great effect for the book. But if this was going to be such a fresh new direction for her, I really wanted it to – in every sense – be a Shan we’ve never seen, in a place we’ve never seen, doing things we’ve never seen.
CW: From a fan’s perspective, this creative team honestly feels like a dream team. So, how is the collaboration process with such talented artists like Nick Robles, Jordie Bellaire and Dave Sharpe?
MV: It’s been really wonderful, straight up, I told Nick very early in the process that my reference point was Steve Ditko doing Doctor Strange, but I didn’t want him to do that. I wanted him to find that weird part of himself and deliver his own brand of that. I wanted this to look like a Nick book, not a Ditko book. And I’ve actually been really, really stunned by what Jordie is doing. We told her that we wanted her to do interesting things, we told her to get weird as she wanted to get and she’s stepping up. There are some extremely bold color choices. I love when color stands out and demands your attention and Jordie is doing that. It’s very, very interesting work.
It’s been, for me, just sitting back and watching the results roll in. Everyone is so much of an expert at what they do that there’s not a lot of art direction that needs to be given either by me, or by our editor Lisa [Hawkins]. They’re just turning around magic.
CW: From a writing perspective, can you give any insight into the research that went into this project?
MV: Now, I’m not giving a ton away. I will say this book touches on a number of areas that I’ve been really excited to tackle by writing. Things that I’ve been obsessed with for years and years and years. It deals with classical mythology, there’s elements of Roman and Near Eastern history. It deals with something that’s been a recurring theme in my work, which is altered states of perception. So, I’m trying to paint with a big brush because I don’t want to give a lot away because it is going to have a lot of interesting twists, but I will say having an editor who is very well versed in a particular culture’s mythology was just extraordinarily helpful.
And that’s kind of something I want to do with Shan going forward passed this arc if I get more time with her. I’m a big believer in capital “M” mystery to lower case “m” mysteries, not about trying a whodunit, but unapprehendable things. Things we just have to approach in their incomprehensibility. You’ll see it even in the logo, you’ve got the Enochian text, which comes out of European esotericism, which is all about things you can’t really understand, but can manipulate. I’ve got ideas for future stories that really dive into the idea of incomprehensibility and what it means when you come face to face with impossible things. Not just things that shouldn’t exist, but things that genuinely can’t. Things that are logical impossibilities, that contradict themselves. So, I guess in that sense, what we’re kind of seeing is an extension of the same kind of work I was doing in Eternity Girl, which is so focused on subjectivity and experience. So, I try to do research in as much as I need specifics to nail down, but otherwise, I try to keep things in a very free flowing way. I want this kind of story to field a stream a consciousness to the reader as it does to her.
CW: Would you say issue #1 is a good jumping on point for readers looking to get into Doctor Mirage comics for the first time?
MV: Yeah, we sort of designed it to be. That was something we worked very hard at, was creating a first issue that could be a jumping on point. That’s sort of why the whole first half of the issue is establishing past context and present context. So, it starts with her in this very isolated, lonely and grieving space, so readers needed to be brought up to speed as to why that was a change before we then kicked that off a cliff and pushed things into weird territory.
The whole first half just sort of lays out her deal. She can talk to the dead, she was married to a ghost, she had a TV show and now that’s all gone.
CW: Are there any other Valiant characters you hope to write one day, either on their own or possibly even appearing in Doctor Mirage?
MV: I had a pitch for a Rai spinoff, back when Warren Simons was still at the company, and obviously it never got off the ground. I’d still really love to do that, and what I wanted to do, was post-the fall of New Japan. To have the Father AI consciousness take up residence in one of those android people, and begin a process of networking and taking over and building a hive collective with the other android people who are living free lives.
CW: I am already on board for that.
MV: I was really pumped about it, it was called Mother. I would love to do that at some point, I don’t know if it’s in the cards but it’s a story I’m still really into and still really fascinated by. Elements of that have made it into another book I’m working on that’s completely unrelated to Valiant. An element of mind control of the distributed entity is something I’m really into.
Punk Mambo is obviously definitely the kind of thing that’s up my alley because she’s a punk lady with pink hair that does magic and that’s a lot of what I’m into! Let’s see, who else, I would love to do Quantum and Woody. That seems like a blast, because I love doing the straight man screw-up dynamic.
CW: Finally, without going TOO deep into spoilers, is there anything you can tell us about the journey ahead of Doctor Mirage that we as readers should be getting excited about?
MV: Well, that depends on what gets you excited. That’s the thing. I’m so invested in subjectivity, I’m so invested in “Death of the Author” [by Roland Barthes] and the idea that there is no text except the text that’s in your head. I’m definitely overthinking this question, because you want just like a popper and I don’t have one. This is a book about grieving and loss and moving on and letting go, and it’s also a book about epic fights with giant monsters. So depending on what you’re into, one of those!
And there it is! If you haven’t checked out the first issue of Doctor Mirage from Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles, Jordie Bellaire & Dave Sharpe, be sure to pick up your copy in stores now! And don’t forget to stay on the lookout for Doctor Mirage #2, on shelves September 25th!
As always, stay tuned to Comic Watch for all your comics news and reviews!
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