MORNING GLORY DAYS with Nick Spencer

Doing homework is easy. Talking to girls, no problem. Acing exams, piece of cake. Viewing the mangled corpses of your beloved parents courtesy of the twisted faculty that runs the private boarding school you're currently enrolled in? That's when school really sucks.

Luckily, it doesn't suck to read about such schools, as the growing fan base behind the newly released hit series "Morning Glories" will surely tell you. Written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by Joe Eisma, - Casey, Hunter, Ike, Jade, Jun and Zoe - as they struggle through the deadly trials that come with the territory at Morning Glory Academy, a shadowy school with staffers willing to kill to preserve their secrets, if necessary.

Initially described as "Runaways" meets "Lost," the critically acclaimed Image Comics and Shadowline series is already an undeniable hit, seeing multiple sell-outs and reprintings since the release of its first issue in August. Now, "Morning Glories" can add another notch to its continually impressive belt: a monthly feature right here on Comic Book Resources!

Welcome to MORNING GLORY DAYS, a new column dedicated to all things "Morning Glories." Following every new issue of the series, CBR News will sit down for a rehash with Nick Spencer, offering insight and illumination on some of the more mysterious layers that "Morning Glories" has to offer. Best of all, readers are invited to write in to see their very own questions answered by Spencer!

For our very first column, Spencer spoke with CBR about his history as a comic book writer, the secret origin of "Morning Glories," why he thinks issue #3 might have unsettled readers' expectations and much more.

CBR News: Given the amount of announcements that came out of New York Comic Con with your name stamped all over them, I think it's fair to say that many of our readers are already at least quasi-familiar with who you are. But for the sake of laying it out all out there, tell us: who the hell is Nick Spencer, and what's he doing writing all of our comic books?

Nick Spencer: [Laughs] Well, who knows how these things happen. But yeah, it's been a crazy fifteen months or so. My first book, "Existence 2.0," came out in the summer of 2009 - ages ago - and we followed that up with "Forgetless" and "Shuddertown." From there, we kicked off "Morning Glories," which is my first ongoing, and then I've got fun stuff coming up from the Big Two, like "Iron Man 2.0" at Marvel in February and "Supergirl" and "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" in November, and the "Jimmy Olsen" co-feature in "Action Comics," out now, at DC. Then back over at Image, I have "The Infinite Vacation" coming up in January.

So, um, yeah... thanks for letting me write those. Having fun there!

As you said, "Morning Glories" is your very first ongoing series. In case someone has stumbled upon this article without ever having read a single panel of the title, how would you describe "Morning Glories" to a newcomer? When you boil it down to its essential parts, what is this story all about?

"Morning Glories" is about six brilliant but troubled teenagers who are accepted into Morning Glory Academy, one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. Once they get there, they learn that all is not what it seems to be and that the place is run by some very sinister and deadly forces. The book is about their attempts to escape from the academy and learn along the way what it wanted with them in the first place.

You and I have talked about the origins of "Morning Glories" before, that the entire thing came to you in a single night. Can you talk a bit about that experience? Did it really just hit you like a sack of bricks?

For the most part, yeah. I can still remember writing that first issue and actually not being able to type fast enough. I've never had a script come that easily to me before, though I certainly wish they all did! And not just the script, but the entire premise of the book, which is a very big, involved story that we're only beginning to scratch the surface of.

That said, there's still a lot that we're building out in terms of the high concept and long-term plotting, so I still get to have a lot fun mapping things out and building the mythology. We know where we're going, but there's still the question of how and when we get there.

When you're promoting a book as sharing qualities with "Runaways" and "Lost," and you're describing it as a long-form story that could take between 75 and 100 issues to tell in its entirety, expectations are going to be understandably high. But so far, it appears that the book has stuck the landing with multiple sell-outs, critical acclaim and strong feedback from NYCC attendees earlier this month. What's the experience been like for you as a creator, holding onto this series for nearly two years before releasing it to a readership that has seemingly devoured it? What are you hearing from fans, from retailers, from fellow creators, from family and friends? What's the response been like?

Pretty incredible! The readership on this thing is amazing - and I don't just mean the numbers, I mean the really enthusiastic base it has now, the people who just go all around the interwebs acting as evangelists for it. We're all pretty amazed by that, and we can see how powerful it really is. This book has grown from month to month sales-wise - which never happens, they tell you - on the strength of that word of mouth. And yeah, it's been very cool hearing from so many other creators who seem to be digging the book. That gives you a nice feeling. I think at the end of the day, when you have a creator-owned book at a publisher like Image and it breaks through to a wider audience like this one has, I don't know that there are many things in comics more rewarding than that.

Before we jump into some of the specifics of issue #3, let's go back a little bit. For the folks at home who haven't read the first two issues yet, give us a recap on the "Morning Glories" saga thus far.

Well, and I'll be leaving a lot out here, the Glories (as we call them) all arrived at the school, only to find out that the outside world seems to have forgotten who they were - and that's just before they lose the ability to make contact with anyone outside the school grounds, period. Then, Casey, who is sort of our de facto leader, finds her own parents brutally slain in the school basement. From there, all the kids were lumped into "detention" on their first day. Not the worst thing possible, at least until the faculty flood the room with water and push another Glory, Jade, towards a suicide attempt. After draining the water, they rush Jade to the nurse's office, and that's basically where #3 picks up.

When issue #3 begins, we're treated to a "Count of Monte Cristo" inspired scene: in 1490, a young Spanish woman is imprisoned in a fortress of some type, and she stumbles upon a message scrawled repeatedly on the wall: "The Hour of our Release Draws Near." I know you mentioned at NYCC that issue #3 would be the one where people really think you're making the story up as you go along. Is this the moment that you were talking about?

Pretty much, yeah. I think this is the issue where we first start to broaden the scope of things and take it outside of the academy's walls. I knew that opening the issue in Spain in 1490 would be one of those things that would throw a lot of people off-balance. And obviously the connection between what happens then and what happens now, I'm sure that must seem a bit incomprehensible, which I'm obviously enjoying seeing the reactions to.

Looking at Casey, from her parents' death in issue #1 to her near drowning in issue #2, she hasn't had an easy time since arriving at Morning Glory Academy. What's going through her head right now at this point in the story?

I think at this point, Casey is focused on rescuing Jade, and you could probably argue she's doing that for a variety of reasons. One, it keeps her mind off of what happened to her parents. Two, she wants to make sure no one else gets hurt, and three, she wants to confront these people that have destroyed her life and prove she can beat them.

One thing I've seen a bit of online is this question of, "Are the kids handling this stuff too well?" I don't think they are, really - they all just have different coping mechanisms. I mean, Jade tried to kill herself, so I don't think she's handling it well at all. Zoe's very much in denial. And Casey, she's really fighting just to keep this off her mind. All of this is happening very quickly, all in two days' time, so she hasn't had to stop and really process any of it yet.

For a kid who tends to look out for numero uno and numero uno alone, Ike has a surprising amount of advice for Casey. How do you view the dynamic between these two characters? How do you think Ike's words are affecting her?

I think she detects a ring of truth to them. Basically, Ike is telling her that simply yelling what she wants at her captors is a pretty poor strategy, that she needs to gain some ground, some leverage, and give them a reason to listen to her.

As for their relationship, obviously everyone in this group has just met, and they're very much feeling each other out. Casey is certainly appalled by Ike's often insulting and insensitive remarks, but I think she also recognizes that he does bring something to the table. She doesn't need to protect him or comfort him like she might some of the others. When it comes to scheming, the guy knows what he's doing, unlike a straight arrow like herself.

And for his part, Ike really just wants to get her in bed. Obviously!

If there's anyone in this story giving Casey a run for her money in the tragedy department, it's Jade. After a failed suicide attempt, here she is in an unknown quarter of the academy overhearing the medical staff discussing cracking her skull open to see what's inside. Are things ever going to look up for this poor girl, or is it only going to get worse for her?

Much, much worse. Things are just getting started for Jade. And even when things do look up for her, well, a first glance can be deceiving, obviously. Bottom line is, Jade has a very tough road in front of her.

Jade gets a little ray of sunshine in the form of this bald woman, who may or may not be the same woman from the beginning of the issue, or at the very least, has a strong connection to her...though her eyes are definitely a different color. I'm not sure I have a question for you here, Nick, other than, well, come on, you are making this up as you go along, aren't you?

[Laughs] Pretty much, yeah. I will say you'll learn just a bit more about that mysterious - and deadly - girl next month, and it's certainly not the last we'll see of her.

The final scenes of the issue play out with both Jade and Casey being tortured, albeit in very different ways; Jade is physically going through the wringer, while Casey is grinning and bearing it as she bides her time waiting for the next move. Can you talk a bit about this mirrored sequence and what these two are both going through?

Well, I think that's exactly right. We wanted to connect these two struggles, one of the girl who's captive, and the other of the girl that wants to save her. Casey and Jade have already established some kind of connection, I think that's pretty clear by now, with Casey very much feeling the need to protect Jade, and Jade feeling Casey is the one she can confide in and trust. Here you have this contrast of what's going on in these two linked characters: one is locked in a very external struggle, fighting to get away from the Nurse before God knows what happens to her, and one is dealing with a more internal crisis, where all she wants to do is scream and hit back, but instead she needs to hold back, bide her time, and assimilate while she figures out a plan.

The last moment of the issue is a real kicker as Casey scribbles out, "The Hour of our Release Draws Near." Is this a message that she already knows? Something she's heard before? Something instinctual?

A small hint about Casey's connection to that message comes on the first page of "Morning Glories" #4.

Looking ahead, what can fans look forward to when "Morning Glories" #4 hits the stands?

Issue #4 is all about Casey formulating a plan, then recruiting the rest of the Glories to help her rescue Jade. It's something of a step back from the high concept stuff we've been hit with since the last page of #2, and involves the entire cast - we even get a little Pamela!

As we close out our first official "Morning Glories" column, I wanted to give you the opportunity to address the readers one last time. Got anything to say to the folks at home about the series, what they can look forward to as the column continues, or anything else that's on your mind at the moment?

Just, as always, a huge thank you to the always-enthusiastic supporters of this book - you never cease to amaze us. Hopefully we can make this column a little additional feature of the story for you, shedding some light on all these mysteries. Also, a very special shout-out to the rest of the creative team on this book: Joe Eisma, Rodin Esquejo, Alex Sollazzo, Johnny Lowe and Tim Daniel! You guys are the best!

"Morning Glories" #3, written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by Joe Eisma, is currently on sale. The fourth issue hits stands on November 17, 2010.

Check back next month for another edition of MORNING GLORY DAYS, and make sure to send us your questions!

ComiXology Originals Debuting New Titles Every Week in September

More in Comics