Set in the suburbs of New Jersey in 1979, Emmett Nahil and George Williams’ original graphic novel from Oni Press Let Me Out takes place during the early onset of the “satanic panic” and profiles a set of outsiders in a time when being different came with a high price.
Nahil and Williams craft an engaging horror story in Let Me Out, while also commenting on forces of oppression and zealotry both during the “satanic panic” and modern day.
We spoke to writer Emmett Nahil about his graphic novel debut and the influences and themes in Let Me Out in this exclusive interview.
Where did the idea for Let Me Out originate?
Emmett Nahil: Let Me Out originated when I reached out to George with the pitch idea for the comic. I’d been working food service, waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning to write before an opening shift, and was just in love with the idea of a possession story that actually addressed some social issues of the Satanic Panic era. I didn’t want to do just a fun 80’s genre manqué that popped queer, non-white characters into lead roles without addressing their differences or their struggles. I wanted to do both, and George got that immediately.
What is it like collaborating with artist George Williams?
Nahil: Collaborating with George was a dream. I really loved working with him, and working out the visual direction of the comic was relatively easy, because our taste in a lot of things is pretty similar! I brought in kernels of ideas, and then really let him run with them.
Why did you choose the late 70s and early 80s for the setting of your graphic novel?
Nahil: That time period was really interesting and, to me, really mirrors our own present era. It was a time of social transformation that was born from a clash of the monoculture with subculture, and I’ve always been really interested in movies and music from that time. It was such a golden era for both punk and horror, and it was really fertile ground to build a story with characters that were in ‘the scene’ at that time. Besides that, the politics and culture of the time were really divided, and really there were so many conflicts playing out in so many sectors of American society that I wanted to dig into.
Where did you draw some of your inspirations (films/comics) for Let Me Out from?
Nahil: As far as movies go, Carrie and Ginger Snaps were huge inspirations for me personally while coming up with the central emotional conflict in Let Me Out. Both movies are really about teens who are fundamentally at odds with their surroundings coming into their own power, and how that’s scary for both the society around them as well as their friends and family.
Comics-wise, I’m a massive fan of everything Cullen Bunn does, and the way he depicts an insular small town in Harrow County was really special to me, and was a big inspiration in how I wrote horror generally.
Why does the horror genre fit perfectly for a tale of marginalized people in the 21st century?
Nahil: Culturally and politically, the situation in America during the late 70’s and early 80’s was really shaky and people were disillusioned with all sorts of elements of society in a very post-Watergate way. With any of that uncertainty, people look for some scapegoats to blame for the fact that they’re feeling displaced, and Evangelical thought rises. We’re in another economic recession, with queer and trans folks specifically being blamed for a perceived social decay of some kind. Wanna be fascists are all the same, no matter what era they’re in, and horror fits the sort of terror that we’re facing where we’re at in a way that other genres don’t. Horror validates your fear and anxiety, and lets you come to terms with what you can do to fight back.
Nahil: George and I are currently working up a little something UFO flavored for our next project! But more immediately, my debut prose novel, From The Belly, is coming out in Summer 2024 from Tenebrous press, and I’m looking forward to that. You can find me most places @_emnays to keep up with what I’m doing next.
Let Me Out will be in stores on October 3.