Welcome to another edition of MORNING GLORY DAYS, Comic Book Resources' exclusive column dedicated to all things "Morning Glories," the smash hit Image Comics series written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by Joe Eisma. Following every new issue of the series, CBR News will sit down with Spencer for insight and illumination on some of the most mysterious layers "Morning Glories" has to offer.
Last month's "Morning Glories" #11 completed a run of solo stories for the conflicted cast of the series with perhaps the hardest student at Morning Glory Academy to understand: Ike! Perpetually self-involved and seemingly unperturbed by the bizarre and murderous events around him, the billionaire boy caused a riff amongst the cast earlier in the series when he sold his fellow students out to the teachers.
With issue #12 arriving in comic shops today (See an exclusive preview here on CBR), Spencer dives in to last month's adventure describing Ike in depth including why it's pretty good to be at least a little bad, revealing when fans will learn the secrets of the mysterious Abraham and unpacking the fun behind the buzzed about "hot for teacher" scene in #11's finale. Read on!
CBR News: With issue #11, we focus on Ike, and that's a character who stands apart from the rest of the cast in that we've never had to see him in an empathetic light to follow his part of the story until now. Was drawing a picture of this kid that wasn't a screaming jerk the point of this issue, or at least of this first scene?
Nick Spencer: It was. But I think it's slightly more complicated than that, because I'm really committed to not having Ike lose that edge and that attitude that I think makes him a really special character. The problem in any sort of cast book is that the rogue element of the group or the contrarian always hits this point where somebody connects with him in some way and he becomes softened -- a nice, more sympathetic character. With Ike, I'm really striving to not have that happen. I want him to maintain that harsher edge, and I want him to be consistently morally dubious. It poses all these challenges, because that standard trope is to over time soften him up and beat him down. But as a spectator, I have always fallen in love with certain characters early in the story only to see them get to the end of it and be considerably less compelling in my view because he's acquiesced to the demands of the rest of the cast.
So the big balancing act in this issue, how do you make Ike someone you want to pull for and read about without necessarily making him likable or casting him in a light that makes him a good person through and through? He's a complicated kid, and that balancing act is in play for me.
In any series like this, you're going to identify with the characters you write in different ways at the same time the audience is connecting to them on their own. What's your "in" to Ike? Do you get to let a little bit of your own snarky, mean side out when writing his scenes?
Are you saying I'm a dick? [Laughs] Yes! But look, I really like writing snark, and I really like writing assholes. Ike certainly excels at being a dick, and that's all right. People like that make stories more interesting. My first book was "Existence 2.0," and that didn't feature a likable protagonist. Then I did "Forgetless" which didn't feature a likable protagonist. So it wasn't until I got to "Jimmy Olsen," really, before I ever wrote anything that had a traditional "good guy" lead. I remember thinking when I got the Jimmy Olsen assignment, "Oh God. What am I going to do? I've got to write a nice guy." [Laughter] And I ended up having a blast with it, but the simple reality is that I find the truehearted, likable leads a little masturbatory.
I find that the reality is we know people like that. We know Caseys or Jimmy Olsens or Peter Parkers or whatever. But we probably know a lot more Ikes. And I think that there's something to be said for reflecting the "nice guys finish last" idea in fiction. When you set up the connect point in a story to be this noble, true person, you're letting the reader off the hook pretty easily. You're establishing the connection only on the most favorable things they view about themselves. I want that to be more of a challenge and make people connect with their darker sides or their more sarcastic sides at the very least. When you have empathy for the quote/unquote "bad guy," there's more interesting things to discover there.
It's the decency fantasy.
Right. Especially in comics where we started with Superman, that's the expectation. You'll even see online, people going, "I like this story, but I just don't like these characters. Give me somebody to pull for." I just tend to think that there is a lot to pull for here. I'm just not going to serve it up in the easiest fashion.
Some of the issues in this arc have been very heavy. Lots of crazy dream sequences and gory murder. This has a lot of humor punctuating the proceedings, and a lot of that for Ike's amusement.
Absolutely. After just going on about what a bad guy Ike is, he's not really a villain. Ike's just a guy who read Nietzsche a little too young. He recognizes that the world around him is in most ways shit, and he's determined to enjoy himself and to survive. He's got a very logical approach to his life. "This world's a disaster. Most of the people around me are not good and won't do nice things for me, and it'll probably all end badly. So while I'm here, I'm looking out for #1 and living life to the fullest." That's one approach!
Ike has never done anything out of pure malice. He does things that are in his self interest, which is priority #1.
Does he ever feel guilt for this or the way he lives in general?
In my view, it is complicated because Ike will have pangs of conscience. Or societal norms will force themselves upon him. He'll be forced to conform in a sense. To me, Ike looks at these things with a bit of a shrug and says, "What did you want me to do?" When he deals with the other Glories and his selling them out, his constant response is, "I don't understand why you're so upset about this. It's easy to see why I did it."
I think Ike will feel sympathy or pain. He's not a cold person in that he understands these things are unfortunate. He just also understands that that's how life goes. He had a bad moment with Jade where he said, "This must be comforting to you... this really is a place full of bad people out to get you." I think that's a big moment that sneaks past but says a lot about what he feels.
Ike's stake in his father's company has been placed in trust until he turns 18, which is a ways off when you're trapped in a place like the Academy. We know the folks at the school have their own mystery reasons for keeping the kids off the public radar, but are there also forces out there who want Ike gone for good that we might meet later?
Yeah, of course. This is going to be a big part of his story going forward. Some things happened between what we saw in the flashbacks and when Ike arrived at Morning Glory Academy. You see very early on, as Abraham says, that this is all part of the plan. Things have been set up in such a way that wealth is waiting for him, and they can't be dissolved or sold off or broken up. That has created a good deal of conflict with the company's board, and Ike is in one of those weird stasis moments. There's a great deal awaiting him, but he's obviously hit a pretty significant snag with where he is now.
We know there are at least two sides to the big conflict in the book -- those behind the Academy and those allied with Abraham. But just as we've seen ways in which the school can be more benevolent, here we see the other side do something straight up evil in killing the man trying to blackmail Ike. Are both these sides equally evil?
One of the things that has interested me about the internet discussion is that... well, we never get out of one of these calls without referencing "Lost" at least once, do we? [Laughter] But I'd see reviews of the book where people would go, "Abraham is the Jacob figure!" But there might be a little playing around with people's assumptions there. People seemed very eager to grab onto what they thought he was based on some early seeds that don't tell us anything about who or what he really is. That's something we've been having some fun with that's paid off somewhat in this issue.
But in terms of figuring out "who's the good guy" or who's the bad guy" in this story, it's never fun to put your cards on the table. I'd be very happy if, for a long time to come, there was debate over who's in "the right" here.
We can't let this issue go by without discussing the scene with... I don't know if I know her well enough to call her "Georgina."
By the way, that's my wife's name. [Laughter]
I wasn't going to say that at first, but that adds another layer of subtext I won't dare to broach. [Laughter] But here we have an homage to a trope we've seen everywhere from "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" on down, and I suppose this is just the most uniquely Ike method you could find of testing that "looking out for #1" promise we discussed earlier?
Of course. He has this sort of brief flirtation with humanity where he says, "Look, I'm not really a killer," but that to me was the pivotal moment in the issue. Like I said before, when you have a character like this everyone is waiting for the "face turn." They're all waiting to go, "He's not so bad after all." But the fun for me was literally only having him do that for a few seconds before Daramount unbuttons a few buttons, and then he's immediately willing to not just repudiate that bit of soul but to run away from it as fast as possible. How could you not love that kid?
It was a really fun moment. We've been waiting for this for a while, and Joe [Esima] has said a few times in the past -- like in the Jun issue and elsewhere -- "Maybe we need Daramount with her hair down!" And I have to say, "No! We're saving it! I've got something big planned!" [Laughter] And Joe... wow! He really did his job. I don't know how much that page is going for, but I expect a healthy bidding war.
The final panel again brings to mind the whole "Father Abraham has many sons" nugget again. Is this thread of the series something that's building to a head in the immediate future?
What I can say is that the endings of #11 and #12 really set the stage for the next year. It's not something you'll get immediate payoff on, but we're definitely coming back to it in year two. It's all going to play a huge role as we head towards issue #25, which we're viewing as a big landmark. #24 and #25 are big, big moments for the series. But this issue and the next end in ways that set the stage. For the next two arcs after this one, it's a pretty key moment.
What can fans expect from this week's "Morning Glories" #12? After all these months focusing on solo stories for the cast, we're not doing a Casey one?
No. We have not done a Casey issue, and my feeling is that Casey had a huge role in the first arc, and she has a pretty big role in the third arc. My feeling was that it wasn't the right time to do an individual spotlight for her. That could wait until later and hit much harder. My goal in this arc was to get to know the rest of the kids. That said, Casey has a very big moment in #12. Like I said, just like this issue's ending, #12's ending portends things to come. #12 is a curveball of an issue. It's a bit like #6 in that sense, but it's a little separate from what we've seen before. At the same time, it reconnects the kids' threads. A lot of what we've seen over the last five issues will come together so we can hit the ground running for the third arc. And a very, very important new character is introduced in #12.
"Morning Glories" #12 goes on sale today from Image Comics. Stay tuned to CBR in the coming weeks for more MORNING GLORY DAYS.