This month saw the release of Volume 7 of Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s long-running sci-fi suspense series, collecting the “Honors” arc from issue #35 to #38. And even though the combined cast of original Glories and status quo-shaking Truants are now together at the school, the story continues to put the kids through their paces as new powers, more manipulative adults and a few long-running mysteries all conspired to bring the kids together as they were torn apart emotionally.
With next week’s issue #39, the series flips from the solo student focus of “Honors” and toward the biggest full-cast arc since the launch of Season 2. With that in mind, what better time to return to MORNING GLORY DAYS — CBR’s continued examination of the series with Nick Spencer! Below, the writer explains why the Glories and the Truants are now part of one cast, what the powers displayed by doppelganger Ian and time-traveling Akiko share with the rest of the gang, what the surprising resurrection at the end of the story means for the future of the series and how this week’s issue finally reveals the secret’s of Casey’s mission as Clarkson.
CBR News: Last time we spoke, you mentioned that this larger story arc we’re in now really broke into two parts — “Demerits” and “Honors.” And now that we’ve read most of those issues, you can see the ways in which “Honors” stands out as its own story. There’s a focus on the powers these kids have, Casey in her guise as Clarkson recruiting them into the fold and some other little elements that tied everything together. Why was now the time to focus on that particular piece of the puzzle?
Nick Spencer: I definitely thought of “Demerits” and “Honors” as one big arc, and while they didn’t vary in some ways, the big thing here was that we focus on that triangle of Fortunato, Ian and Akiko. I like that we told their stories together because throughout the book we’ve set up that their fates are intertwined. It was a good thing to set them all together, and then #38 is its own creature.
A big part of the fun is the idea of Clarkson dropping in and out of the pasts of the Glories and the Truants both. I think we’ve talked about this before, but originally when I conceptualized the Clarkson story, it was going to be revealed that she was really Casey around issue #80. That was going to come in really late in the game. You’d think it was Daramount or someone along those lines for 60 issues or so, and then we’d hit you with that curveball. I made a very last minute decision at the end of Season 1 that it’d be more fun to put that card on the table. The same is true of what we did at the end of the first arc of Season 2 with the David reveal. It felt like it’d be more interesting if we put out these markers to say “This is what this person is” and then went through to show you what that meant. It makes for one less big shocker down the road, but what makes it fun is that the reader is in on this particular twist. They see all the things Casey is doing in this other life. It’s starting to add up here, and it will do so even more as we finish this season and head into the next one.
With that trio of kids you mention, we get a little more exploration in this arc of what their powers are all about, but it’s not quite enough to identify why this is happening or how. Fortunato is probably the person we have the clearest view on as whatever he commands tends to become reality — somewhat like Casey has shown. But if you had to pick a thread that connected all the abilities they’re showing, what would it be?
A key thing to look at there are the similarities and the connections — not necessarily between these three characters but between these three and some other members of the cast. Like you mentioned, there’s something in common between Clarkson and Fortunato. With Akiko, it’s not that far off from some of the stuff we saw Jade do, particularly back in issue #10 in that stream of consciousness dreamscape she was a part of. But also, Jade seemed to link up with real world events, and Akiko’s in the same boat. For instance, we saw a moment in #37 that also showed up in #38, which is very similar to some of what Jade saw in issue #10 as well as #11, #12 and #13. What we’re starting to see is a little bit of history repeating. We’re getting a big outline for the various kinds of manifestations, if you will.
I’ve always shied away from saying “powers,” but now that we’re there, it fits a little better. [Laughs] Now it’s been established that there are things these kids can do that others can’t. I stayed away from that word at the beginning of the book because obviously since this is a comic, superpowers is something very familiar to the audience. I didn’t want them thinking this book was going to become “Gen 13” at some point. “And this girl shoots lasers out of her eyes!” The nature of this book is very different from that, but clearly at this point, each of these kids seem to have something about them that a normal person shouldn’t be able to do.
On the other side of the story of those kids in particular, the other big focus on this latest run of issues is the final integration of the kids back into the school setting of Morning Glory Academy. We’ve got the AV Club kids starting their secret newspaper “The Answer” and a few other stories that fit that setting. What is the real effect of all the kids being in the school together for the first time?
We’d spent so long away from the school doing the Woodrun/P.E./Truants stuff that we’d spent longer away than we had within. One of my big goals for Season 2 was to get them back in the classroom and the environment of the Academy, and the other goal was to combine these two casts into one. We saw some of that when they all got together at the end of #34 to say goodbye to Hisao. And certainly going forward, we’re going to see more. We have a really big cast now, and so moving the camera from one player to the next takes us a while. That’s the characters’ way of saying, “Go ahead and kill a few of us!” [Laughter]
So it’s a lot of folks to spend time with, and with the AV Club kids, that’s even more true. But what you’ll see from #39 forward is us reestablishing the book for this year on high school stories. You’ll see twists on those kinds of tropes — rights of passage with a “Morning Glories” spin. We’ll get back to that stuff like you saw in the second arc of the book where cheerleader tryouts and bullying issues seeded ideas about the cast. I’m excited to get back to that now that we’ve gone through these spotlight stories.
Ian’s story ended with the AV kids observing the people from his backstory arriving on campus. What does that hold in store? Ian seems unique even amongst this very unique group of kids, and Simon — his “father figure” I guess we’ll call him — seems to be an important player in the mysteries of the adults. Who will this arrival have the most impact on?
Oliver Simon — and I do like the term “father figure” for him — is a character we’ve been building to for a long time. The first mention of him was actually back in issue #10 with Jade. So he’s been someone that I’ve been eager to get into the mix, and that’s equally true of Ms. Richmond — Vanessa’s mother. These are characters that are going to have a pretty immediate impact on the book starting with issue #40 or #41. We’re going to make them a critical part of the next few arcs in the book. They obviously have a connection in the same way that Abraham or some of the faculty members have to that pre-Academy setting and the origins of this place. So they’ll be our “ins” for a lot of that stuff. They bring their own baggage with them, and some of that will have a pretty big impact on the members of the younger cast.
Another thread of the Akiko issue was, like you said with Jade’s previous stories, a focus on seeing future events. But here we had a scene with Abraham that paid off immediately in the very next issue. I’m not sure if all of those teases will pay off so quickly, but the one that was most intriguing for me was this sort of sideways jump into a futuristic lab that was quite reminiscent of the lab Hunter and Zoe found during Woodrun. That seems like a significant location in general, and it seems doubly significant because Akiko kept her own mind when she arrived there. What’s the unique thing about that?
The scientist and his lab is a set piece we’ve seen a few times before. He was, again, in issue #10, and we also saw him when Casey was moving through her past and having visions of a variety of eras. He’s somebody who keeps popping up on the periphery for sure. And noticing that his lab is not so different from the one that we saw during the Woodrun story with Hunter and Zoe certainly seems important. If they’re not the same place, they’re closely related. So that’s a place that always pops up whenever the Glories or the Truants dig at the surface of things, though our interactions with the scientist so far have been a little disorienting. Some of that might be the nature of how the contact’s made or the condition Jade and Akiko were in when they did so. For right now, it should be pretty hard to pin down what the scientist is all about, what he’s after and the general conversations — but certainly he seems happier when he was with Jade than he is when he’s with Akiko here. He’s a little less smiley and a little less enthusiastic.
Well, you’re right that it’s obvious that Akiko and Jade have a connection in how their powers or experiences have gone, but I also got a different connection to them in this story. Akiko’s journey ends with her giving a performance, and that’s something you could never expect from young Jade.
So if we assume their powers are the same, how do their differences in personality impact the flashes of the future we see?
That’s a good question. One of the things that future/older Jade points out here in her opinion of Akiko is that she’s special. She says, “You were always the best of us” and gives her high marks as a person. I think that’s a key part of Akiko’s character. A lot of the kids we put a spotlight on are damaged in some ways. They have big issues they’re working through, and sometimes their personality flaws are pretty pronounced. With Akiko, on the other hand, she’s someone who most objective readers would identify as a very good person with a good heart. How that impacts what she does and what she’s able to do is something to look at. She’s certainly less fractured than Jade is at that same age. She’s got herself more together. And I think she’s in a place to take the initiative more in any environment — like we saw when she sacrificed herself. Those are things that Jade might not be up for entirely, though she may show some signs of that. Akiko is a more formed place.
Look at issue #38 not in terms of world building or mysteries or any of that, we come back to Ike and Jade because we love seeing them play off one another.
Definitely. That’s a relationship that I like and that the readers seem to like. It’s fun to put them together because you generally know that Jade is the only one who will speak to Ike at this point. [Laughs] Jade’s the only one who is sort of letting him finish his sentences. So it’s an important relationship for the book, and it was fun to give them a few pages here.
One standout from this issue is Abraham’s story because up to this point he’s always been a character that we saw on the outside of the kids’ story and as a character who had a lot of powers and answers in his hands. But here it’s both his story seen through his eyes and he’s totally out of his depth. What new possibilities does that open up as we start to see more of the refugees from his school come in?
You’re right. Abraham is a little off balance here and disoriented. One of the things we’ve established is that he’s not like the kids. He’s cut from a different cloth. With that being the case, what’s just happened to him — waking up as he did — is something that would throw him a lot. He’s lost right now, and so he’s overwhelmed. That’s a different role from what we’re used to as we’ve seen him pulling the strings before.
But then again, we’ve seen him with an understanding that he’s not one of “them.” He’s a person who stands outside the system of what’s going on at the Academy, so it was possible and really actually fun to put him in a position for this issue. It’s always fun to watch a character who seems to have all the answers be in the dark.
What can we make of the fact that Ike while under major duress can offer up the location of his father? Is this something you’re looking to explore right away in a “Hunt For Abraham”-style story?
It does set that story off, but not in the next few issues. Because of course when we end an issue like I ended this one, I’m going to make you wait a while for resolution. [Laughter] But long term, this is a very important story that will allow us to see some things we can’t see at the Academy. It’ll allow us to explore a different side of this world. This stuff is long term stuff for the book that was very much in mind during the first year of the book. It’ll lead to one of the biggest stories we tell.
Let’s talk about that ending we won’t get immediate payoff on. Zoe is back — so does dead mean dead in this world, or are you a dirty liar or what?
[Laughs] I mean, I’m willing to say that I lied. But I could be lying about that too, I guess. For all intents and purposes, it looks like that claim is no longer valid. Zoe certainly looks alive. I’ll say this: nothing has changed for us. This has always been the plan for Zoe’s story. There was a little bit of internal debate about when to do it, and there was a point I thought it might be a good issue #50 moment. But ultimately, this is an important issue for us. This will be the end of the first big Compendium volume, and it’s the halfway point of the second season, so I wanted to make sure that we hit a beat here that felt like a real turning point. And this very much is one. This resets a few rules, and it kicks off a very big story that starts here in Morocco.
Where immediately do we go next if not to the Zoe/Abraham thread? The one major piece that we haven’t seen yet is the emotional status of Casey who has been de-aged to her younger self but still remembers her life as Clarkson.
That’s exactly it. This next issue does in fact focus on Casey, and the next arc has a lot to do with Casey and Clarkson. We’re diving into that next, but at the same time, the next arc isn’t quite as spotlight-based. Once we’re through #39, the kids start breaking off into smaller groups, and we’ll see more than one get a focus in each issue. The story we’re telling in this next arc — which is called “Assembly” — really sets in motion everything we’ll see for the rest of Season 2 and also what we’ll see at the start of Season 3. We’re getting back into a big rolling story, but it’s a different one structurally than what we saw with the Woodrun stuff, and it’s very much within the parameters of the Academy and the fact that this book is about kids trapped in a boarding school. And we start with Casey because, like you saw in the Woodrun story, she’s the place where things get rolling and is the one putting matters into motion.
“Morning Glories” Volume 7 is on sale now from Image Comics; Issue #39 arrives July 7.