Over the past several weeks, Image Comics have released a series of teasers revealing the core characters from "Morning Glories," the new ongoing series from Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma and Rodin Esquejo about a mysterious and deadly private academy. Now, all six central characters stand revealed: Zoe the cheat, Jun the ass-kicker, Hunter the pop culture enthusiast, Jade the emo girl, Ike the bad boy and Casey the savior.
But these characters are much more than their yearbook descriptions would have you believe, of course. CBR News spoke exclusively with Nick Spencer about the cast of "Morning Glories," a group of students who will find themselves up against the dangerous obstacles of Morning Glory Academy.
"I've said all along that this was a character-first project, so this [teaser campaign] was the perfect way to get started," Spencer told CBR of "Morning Glories," a book he's described as "Runaways" meets "Lost." "It's just an absolute joy to already see people out there talking about the Glories and who's their favorite - and no, I'm not surprised that Zoe in all her hotness has been taking the early lead there, you pervs!"
In fairness, Zoe had an early advantage as the first "Morning Glories" cast member to make her public debut. Described as the "most likely to cheat on you," Spencer said of Zoe: "She's been living a pretty savory life. She's spoiled by her parents, she's hot and she knows it, basically everything is coming up roses. But like anyone who seems to have anything, something is wrong."
Of Zoe's flirtatious nature, Spencer said: "Zoe is definitely used to getting what she wants. She's not a bad person per se, but she's someone who's gotten used to living in the rarified air that is being beautiful and smart. She's very driven and tends to view the people around her within the context of how much they can help her reach her goals - especially guys. For her, she sees nothing wrong with that. It's just the system she works in. She's enormously self-aware and totally comfortable with herself."
For all of her self-awareness, Zoe has a major flaw. "There's the issue of her being drop-dead gorgeous, which, let's face it, colors the way people treat you," Spencer suggested. "At the same time, Zoe is like a lot of beautiful people in that it makes them somewhat difficult to approach or deal with, so she definitely has a bit of distance from the rest of the Glories. But she's only human, and over time, that harsh, unapproachable exterior might start to show some cracks."
"On a personal level, Zoe is just so much fun to write," he added. "She's someone who sees the world as it is rather than as she needs it to be, which I guess is easy to do when you have everything. Regardless, it gives her a wholly unique perspective on everything that happens at The Academy. Of all of them, I'd say Zoe handles their newfound challenges the best."
Contrasting with Zoe's outgoing nature is the introverted Jun, described in the teasers as the most likely "to kick your ass." "I wouldn't call Jun an aggressive guy, but he is not someone you want to mess around with," said the writer. "He's a very serious, very direct person who isn't playing around. And yes, when he needs to, he can definitely kick your ass, so it's probably best not to put him in that position."
A better label than ass-kicker might be mystery man, according to Spencer. "There's a lot Jun isn't telling us," he teased of the character. "He's coming from a very different place than the rest of the Glories. He seems to know more about The Academy than they do, certainly, but exactly what he knows and how he came to know it is something we'll reveal over time."
In "Morning Glories" #2, Jun has a big moment that offers readers some hints at the types of answers the young man is seeking from Morning Glory Academy. But he's not purely out for himself, as Spencer explained: "Jun definitely doesn't want to see anything happen to [the other Glories], but on the other hand, he's there for a different purpose. That comes before anything else."
Jun's secretive nature would likely appeal to a popular culture devotee like Hunter, a character described in the teasers as the "most likely to quote Star Wars at inappropriate times." But as the old "Transformers" saying goes, there's more to Hunter than meets the eye. "Hunter is like a lot of people who grew up in a broken home - he took to pop culture and his own imagination as a way of coping with the world around him," said Spencer. "He's eternally well-intentioned and optimistic in ways that often come back around to bite him in the ass. He's just sort of impressionable and hopeful. I know there are probably a lot of readers who will immediately find him someone they can relate to. He's someone you want to pull for."
While Hunter has "a lot of untapped potential," Spencer acknowledged that "he's a little - okay, a lot - geeky, sure, and he definitely ends up on the other side of punch lines once in a while, but beneath that, he's a very smart, very noble guy trying to do what's right. Most of the time."
Although he's on the socially awkward side, Hunter's good heart shines through early on in "Morning Glories," according to Spencer. "We'll see in the first couple issues that the other guys in the group take to him, albeit in completely different ways. Then with him and Casey, well, it's a whole different story," he teased. "Hunter sees the world through a very good guy/bad guy lens and makes a lot of his decisions based on that. The question is what he does when he has to confront all the gray areas in between."
Jade is another character who is very in touch with her emotions. Initially described as the "most likely to emo out all over the place," Spencer explained: "Jade has lived her life like a fish out of water. She's from a very traditional small town where everyone seems to think and act differently from her. I think it's something a lot of people can relate to if you grew up in a place like that - that sense that you're out of place, that you're destined for something else."
As for her tendency to "emo out all over the place," Jade's emotions are understandably fragile given past events in her life. "She's been through a lot in her life so far, a lot of personal tragedy, and it's certainly done a great deal to shape the way she looks at the people around her," said the writer. "She has a very emo-gothy 'why does it always rain on me' approach to life that's high on the melodrama. The world is always ending for Jade."
Due to her closed-off nature, Jade's only true bond with her classmates is Casey. "Very early on, we'll see a sort of connection formed between Jade and Casey - Jade being in a very vulnerable place and Casey being the type that wants to take care of everyone," said Spencer. "Beyond that, though, some of the Glories, especially Ike and Zoe, are pretty annoyed by her. She definitely keeps her distance from the rest of the group outside of Casey."
But the others will want to pay attention to Jade, as Spencer teased: "Something very important happens to her about two-thirds of the way through the first issue that will hint at the way the rest of the world views the Glories now that they've arrived at the school."
Still, it's going to take a lot for Jade to attract the attention of a guy like Ike, described in the teasers as "the most likely to hook up with your mom." Spencer has no problem describing Ike as "a horrible person - and he's totally cool with it. He comes from a very privileged but strange upbringing and he's got a bad reputation. He's the ultimate opportunist and happily inhabits a very sinful, very troublesome life. He's a schemer."
All of those things, of course, make Ike a very fun character for Spencer to write. "There's just no conscience there," he said. "He's not really into that kind of thing. For a teenager, he's incredibly in touch with his own mortality - he has this existentialist 'tomorrow may never come so do anything today' attitude that influences every decision he makes. It doesn't really come from a place of malice necessarily; just a realization that life is a ticking clock. If you can accept that, how many decisions would you make differently? Ike saw something earlier in his life that convinced him what's directly in front of him is all that matters. Nietzsche would be proud."
Ike's attitude won't earn him any points with the other Glories, however. "He does not play well with others," said Spencer. "Hunter is the only one he can get along with in the slightest, mostly because Hunter is too impressionable and nice to tell him to fuck off. Ike also enjoys interacting with Casey, if only because her strong moral compass clashes with his complete lack of one. Bottom line: he isn't much of a team player."
In the end, Ike's "live every day like it's your last" outlook could serve him well. "Sometimes the amoral approach is the right one. Ike isn't as susceptible to emotional swings as the other Glories, and that might end up being his saving grace," teased Spencer.
But it's Casey who might be the literal saving grace, as her teaser describes her as the "most likely to save the world." In Spencer's words, Casey is "what most people hope their kids turn out like. Does the right thing, excels at everything she does, cares for others. She's got a sense of ambition and a maturity that very few people have at her age."
Casey takes a central role in the first arc, "in that she's the one that really pulls the Glories together as a group and gives them something to fight for," said Spencer. "What you'll see as the series progresses is that the Academy works very hard to break these kids down and assimilate them as a means of getting what they want. Casey's resolve makes that a very difficult task for them, not just in regards to her, but also the kids who have arrived with her."
Spencer calls Casey a "tortured leader" along the lines of Scott Summers from "X-Men" and Jack Shephard from "Lost." "It was really interesting to play with that character archetype and see how a sixteen year old girl fulfills the obligations of the role in a different way," he said. "There's a very maternal aspect to Casey's character, a kind of 'beyond her years' thing in terms of responsibility that makes her want to hold this group together and make sure they're safe. At the same time, I think she's like a lot of those kids you see getting straight A's and doing all the right things, in that she may be pushing herself a bit too hard and taking on too much. That's something we'll see start to wear on her as the story goes on."
Casey isn't just a central figure for her classmates, however, as the faculty at Morning Glory Academy takes quite an interest in her as well. "When the Glories first arrive on campus, the faculty seems to be especially interested in Casey and fix a great deal of their initial attention on her," said Spencer. "By the end of the first issue, we'll have a strong idea of exactly what that means for her going forward. It's a critically important moment for her character that will change her in some very fundamental ways."
If there's one thing that prospective "Morning Glories" fans should realize about these characters, it's this: Nick Spencer loves them all. "It's been great introducing these kids, even if only via teasers," he said. "The exciting thing is that pretty soon, we'll be releasing some pages from the book itself, so that we can finally - and hopefully - show everyone exactly what all of the hype is about."
"Morning Glories" #1, written by Nick Spencer with art from Joe Eisma and Rodin Esquejo, premieres in August courtesy of Image Comics and Shadowline. Stay tuned to CBR News in the coming months for more news on the project.