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C2E2: Nick Spencer Awakens “Morning Glories”

by  in Comic News Comment
C2E2: Nick Spencer Awakens “Morning Glories”

Nick Spencer’s “Morning Glories” ongoing launches in August from Image

Kids, you think your school sucks? Believe Nick Spencer when he tells you that you haven’t seen anything yet.

At the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, Image Comics announced that the “Existence” and “Forgetless” writer will launch his first ongoing series “Morning Glories” in August. The book is described as “Runaways” meets “Lost,” and, true to the secretive nature of the latter program, Spencer is keeping the characters and story of “Morning Glories” close to the vest for now. In broad strokes, the series follows a group of students at a mysterious school where nothing is at it seems and danger lurks around every corner. Over the next several weeks, Spencer and Image will unveil a different core character from the title, with the first student already revealed as the overly flirtatious Zoe. Artists Joe Eisma and Rodin Esquejo will join Spencer on the title.

CBR News spoke exclusively with Spencer about the announcement of “Morning Glories,” working with Eisma and Esquejo, the comparisons to “Runaways” and “Lost,” and why he believes that “Morning Glories” has the potential to become the next big thing in comics.

CBR News: Nick, it looks like “Morning Glories” is the project you were hinting at in our last interview – a project that you called “positively huge.” Want to elaborate on that a bit? Why is this the big one for you?
Nick Spencer: Any comic creator with less than a year in the industry and working in a market that’s fighting its way through a pretty turbulent “transitional” phase would have to be nuts to call his next book a career-definer and pretty much bet the farm on it becoming an instant hit. Well, ladies and sort-of-gentlemen, allow me introduce myself: I am that nutjob. After this interview, I am gonna smack at cars with an umbrella and maybe dangle a baby out of my window.

What, too soon?

But really – this book is indeed a very, very big deal, and this week is just the beginning. By the time our first issue drops in August, you are going to know all about why. Once you enroll at Morning Glory Academy, getting to graduation is a matter of life or death. 

I know you’re not getting into plot or character specifics just yet, but in broad strokes, can you talk a bit about the school environment we’ll be seeing in “Morning Glories,” the kinds of characters we’ll meet, some of the types of mysteries we can expect to see – any of that good stuff?

Here’s what I can say at this point: Morning Glory Academy is a prestigious and highly respected institution of learning for only the most gifted young people. But behind its walls, something extraordinarily dangerous and deadly is happening, and some of the school’s students are going to find themselves trapped in a very, very bad place. And just what the academy is and what it wants with them is the central mystery that propels our story forward.

You’re describing this as “Runaways” meets “Lost.” Can you talk about what those two influences bring to the table on “Morning Glories,” and why fans of those properties should love this?

You know, those pitch lines or whatever you call them can get you in trouble sometimes, but in this case, I really do think it gives you a good idea of what you can expect here. If you loved the characterization and charm of “Runaways” and if you loved the big, epic genre-bending mystery of “Lost,” there is a very high probability that you will dig the hell out of “Morning Glories.”

And I tend to think, with “Lost” ending here soon – God, why?! – some folks might be dealing with a little withdrawal by the end of summer, and maybe we can help you out there. I have always been a huge fan of those high-concept mysteries like “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica” and “Y: The Last Man,” and this book is really my attempt to do something in that vein.

But at the same time, in taking copious notes on what makes those stories work and seeing various imitators fail in trying to replicate some secret formula, I will say this – I firmly believe putting the characters first is by far the most important part of making these types of stories resonate with the audience, and I love these characters in a fundamental way. Hopefully, you will too.
I know that you’ve had this project in development for quite a while. How far back does this go, both in terms of the initial conception and the actual moves to make this happen? Can you chronicle the journey for us a bit?

Yeah, I just checked on this. I wrote the first draft of this back on, and I can’t even believe this, December 10, 2008! That’s several months before “Existence 2.0” even got picked up by Shadowline/Image. What’s even crazier is that draft, which clocked in at 36 pages, I did the entire thing in one night. And it’s not even like I’d been plotting it for weeks or months - I literally woke up and had the idea for the book in the morning and by that evening, I think in the course of four or five hours of writing, I had the entire first issue done. Ninety percent of that draft probably survives to this day. It was like an insane fever dream. The entire story – and this is a big, big story – just hit me like a bolt of lightning. The characters were coming alive and the dialogue was pouring out faster than I could type it. And that was really the first sign that maybe there was something special here, that feeling of the light bulb clicking on and the big idea just sort of dropping into your lap.

From there, it was about putting the right team together. That’s one of the reasons it took so long to make the book happen. I didn’t want to rush this. I wanted a team that I could work with for years to come if we got the opportunity, and that’s really what I think we have here. Everyone involved is just so dedicated to making this book as great as humanly possible and as big a hit as it can be.

Let’s talk about that team. Joe Eisma is the interior artist on “Morning Glories,” and he also recently picked up the pencil on “Existence 3.0” after Ron Salas had to walk away. In your mind, what makes Joe such a great collaborator, but also, what makes him ideally suited for “Morning Glories” in particular?

Well, I can only repeat what I said the last time we talked. While I’ve had the honor and luck to work with some absolutely amazing artists this past year, Joe is first among equals. I love him in that special way only a creative partner can. There’s no one I can trust more. He just pulls off the page every single time. He is one of the best storytellers in comics, period. The pages just have so much energy, so much dynamism. I am not kidding when I say I want to work with him for the rest of my life.

My old Comics Experience teacher Andy Schmidt told us one time that there are three attributes everyone looks for in talent - talent, professionalism/reliability and being a nice guy - and that if you wanted work, you needed two of those three things to get in the door. Well, Joe has all three. He is the consummate pro. This guy is going to be a big, big name someday soon.
In addition to Joe, you have Rodin Esquejo on covers. What about Rodin makes him right for the job, and why not have Joe doing cover art – is there a particular reason you wanted a different artist on the covers?

Rodin is more than just the cover artist for the book. He’s played an integral role in the character design process and just the overall tone and style of the book. He’s such an amazing illustrator. I mean, his characters are just gorgeous and clothes look great on them. He really understands how to take a short character description and the script and really convey who that character is visually. I think he and Joe are the perfect 1-2 punch, a real all-star art team. 

Going back a bit, you previously told me that this could be your “Invincible” or “Chew” moment. Why do you feel that “Morning Glories,” of all the comics you’ve created thus far, is the one that might really latch onto the public consciousness in that big, epic way?

Yeah, that’s the big, glorious goal here, and I have no hesitation in admitting it – we want to reach that sort of broader consciousness in the comic-reading audience. You know, those people who really don’t pick up that many Image or indie books every week, but they’ll grab “Invincible” or “The Walking Dead” or “Chew” or whatever the Luna Brothers are doing. Those people who, if they’re pulling ten books that week, maybe one is outside the Marvel and DC stuff. I want to reach those people, and with “Morning Glories,” I think we have the concept, the characters and the creative team to pull it off.

This is almost undoubtedly the most “mainstream” work I’ve done in that it starts out in a very accessible place, and in many ways feels like a more traditional approach to storytelling than you see on “Forgetless” or “Shuddertown.” That aforementioned Marvel and DC only reader, they’re gonna feel like they’re in comfortable territory in terms of how the book is laid out and how the storytelling progresses, but the ideas behind that are pretty unique. The person who always does this best is Brian K. Vaughan, where he’d play out these really bold, dense concepts but in the context of a very readable comic. That’s what we were going for here.

It basically boils down to this; so much of what I’ve done in this past year was trying to do new things and turn certain methods on their ear. Now I really wanted to prove, if only to myself, that I can play it straight, too. I compare it to when your favorite indie band sits down and makes a pitch-perfect pop song – it’s really cool just to see that they can do that too when they want to. Now, I realize that maybe from the outside, talk like that might sound like a creator overindulging in hyperbole, or maybe even a still relatively new face getting a bit impatient. But it just feels like we caught the genie in the bottle here.

“Morning Glories” #1 is $3.99 for 44 pages of story – can you go into more detail on that?

Yeah, this is something I’m very excited about, and we really want to make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re getting here. This is a 44-page story for just fifty cents more than the standard cover price. That’s a true double-sized issue, basically twice the comic for essentially the same price. If that’s not an incentive to give this book a shot, I don’t know what is!

With the references to “Lost,” it’s hard not to look at the double-sized first issue and not immediately think of it, conceptually at least, as something of a pilot episode. Is that an accurate assessment? Like a good pilot episode, does this first issue tell you everything you need to know about whether or not you’ll want to strap in for the full series?

You know, almost everyone who has read that first script seems to describe it in very pilot-esque terms, and that makes me pretty happy. That’s exactly what I was going for. Again, “Morning Glories” is very influenced by those big, epic mystery shows like “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica,” or in comics, probably the best comparison is “Y: The Last Man,” and a lot of the pacing and twists share certain similarities with those stories. What I’m more proud of about this issue, though, is that it does more than just sets you up – it drops you right into the action. Things happen. We hit you with a lot, and yeah, if by that last page you’re not demanding that second issue, go ahead and walk away, because you just took our best shot.

If I can say one more thing about this “Lost” comparison. There are going to be a lot of twists and turns in this story, a lot of surprises and WTF moments. Some readers are going to wonder, just like with those other stories, if we’re just making it up as we go along. Let me just make this clear - there is a plan. The last issue of this story is set. I know exactly where it’s going and what every little thing means, and by the end of it, you’ll know too. There is stuff in this first issue that will prove it. I promise. After all, I know I will have to face you at conventions. The last thing I need is to have a bunch of villagers with torches and pitchforks storming the signing table demanding some answers!

“Morning Glories” #1, written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by Joe Eisma, launches in August courtesy of Image Comics. Stay tuned to CBR News in the coming months for more news on “Morning Glories.”

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