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DC’s Eternity Girl Uses Superheroics to Explore Depression and Trauma

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comic News Comment
DC’s Eternity Girl Uses Superheroics to Explore Depression and Trauma

We’re seeing more and more superhero (and superhero adjacent) comics explicitly tackle mental health, but I think Eternity Girl manages a nice balance of matter-of-fact and weird. The comic doesn’t play coy with Caroline Sharp’s struggles or her past, and her reluctant immortality adds an interesting new dimension: a character who wants to die but can’t. Why did you decide to tackle Caroline’s story, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

Visaggio: Depression is my life story, and I can pretty reasonably say I’ve suffered from it in one form or another since I was 10 or 11, with varying degrees of suicidality along the way. And I was pitching this book during one of my bleakest periods, as both my marriage and my job were falling apart, and both would be over three months after I sent it in. So depression and suicide were on my mind in a big way.

My first Young Animal work was doing a backup in Shade the Changing Girl starring Element Girl, who you may remember very famously commits suicide during Gaiman’s Sandman. Suicidality is sort of built into my own personal Young Animal shocking secret origin. So, based on how positively Shade editor Jamie Rich received that story, I decided to really work out my hustle and asked if I could pitch a book based on it. He was open to it, and I hashed out the basic outline of the story during a four-hour bus ride to visit my sister for Thanksgiving.

I love “Façade,” Gaiman’s Element Girl story, but I wanted to tackle suicide from an angle that didn’t focus on despair, but on recovery, because I’ve dealt with suicidal ideation for most of my life, and have had several near-misses. So that was my approach going in: be honest about what depression has felt like for me.

So I guess in a lot of ways this is depression from a super-specific angle: I’m trans and I’m autistic, so this is a depression fueled by body dysphoria and manifesting as depersonalization, de-realization and dissociation alongside the normal listless drifting, all of which fueled my suicidality. I had a constant feeling of not being real, like the world was sort of at a distance from me. That’s something that’s only receded since I transitioned.

Eternity Girl #1 interior art by Sonny Liew and Chris Chuckry

The Eternity Girl interiors are an interesting mix of low-fi mundanity and bombastic, Silver Age sci-fi/fantasy. What were your inspirations for the book? Particularly, the extreme contrast between the everyday world and Caroline, her maybe-dissociations, her power and her self.

Liew: When I first read the story idea, more alternative comics creators like Charles Burns, Chester Brown and Daniel Clowes came to mind, particularly the latter. I guess in books like Ghost World and Ice Haven, in stories like Caricature, he captures a kind of ennui and anxiety that I thought might be incorporated into Eternity Girl. The general flatness of the compositions would also allow us to heighten the contrast with the sci-fi/fantasy scenes that are influenced by everyone from Jack Kirby to Wally Wood and Steve Ditko.

I suppose that’s the old dictum of allowing yourself the room to move through different gears in a story; introduce different kinds of visual intensities as the narrative requires. Plus, I think Mags saw my interest in paying homage to older comic styles in The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, so she’s been asking for experimentations with different art styles in the book, as well as the early stingers that appeared as two-pagers in the Milk Wars titles. Hopefully we’ve not been too far off the mark in those!

Eternity Girl #1 interior art by Sonny Liew and Chris Chuckry

Even when the comic is at its wildest (crashing trucks, explosions of power, weird dreams) the color palette is restrained. To me, it softens the blunt edges of the story while also evoking faded newsprint comics — but maybe I’m completely wrong! What were you aiming for?

Liew: Well… my own preference has always been towards less saturated palettes, maybe more old school as well, back when comics were constrained by technology to a limited number of colors — a constraint they turned into an advantage in many ways, developing a language of color that helped establish a certain look for comics that still resonate today. Sometimes more can be less, as they say.

A lot of the credit has to go to Chris Chuckry of course — someone I remembered from his work on some of Seth Fisher’s books, as well as The Flintstones series more recently. We had some discussions about the look of the book, and he’s been able to bring the art to a whole different level, and I’m so very glad he agreed to come on board for this project.

Chris Chuckry: I developed this approach after getting input from Sonny. He had some specific ideas on how he would like the color to be handled, and I was happy to oblige. Specifically, he requested a restrained palette with simple rendering for the present day scenes, and an older, Golden and Silver-Age approach for the flashbacks — complete with larger half-tone dots and added paper texture. Older comic books were colored with a more limited color palette than is available today, so I tried to keep true to that color style. That might account for the restrained color palette you’re seeing — or maybe it’s a little of my restrained personality showing through.

RELATED: JLA/Young Animal: Milk Wars Details & Covers Revealed

While I know you can’t spoil the whole thing for me (sigh), what can tell me about where Caroline’s story is going after this first, pretty brutal issue?

Visaggio: Space. But not the space you’re thinking of. We’re really leaning into the Jack Kirby aesthetic going forward.

Liew: Visually the issues get wilder as the story progresses — Mags is always throwing in things that I have no idea how to pull off, and it’s always a dive into the unknown with every issue. I hope readers will stay tuned and come along for the ride, mixed metaphors and all.

Eternity Girl #1 is available March 14 from DC Comics.

Eternity Girl #1 variant cover by Paulina Ganucheau

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