The latest arc of Image Comics series "Morning Glories" may focus on a group of Academy students known as the Truants, but the team of six rebellious believers is actually pulling the book's many storylines closer and closer together.
With their most recent issues, writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma have started to turn mystery to revelation to a greater extent than before in the long-running sci-fi/spiritual/mystery/teen drama. From the machinations of Truants spiritual leader Abraham to the grisly details of the sacrifice demanded by the Morning Glory Academy's resident ghost monster David, the action is lining up as the book moves towards the conclusion of its first "Season" of stories this spring.
With all that happening, what better time to return to MORNING GLORY DAYS, CBR's ongoing look behind the scenes of the series. This month, Nick Spencer takes readers on a tour of issues #22 and 23 where the full plans of Truant leader Irina come to light as Hunter and Jun are thrown into a world of Babel and the hand of David claims new victims. Below, the writer describes his plan for unveiling many new answers as the first season draws toward its close, shares what was really behind the Truants name from day one and lays out the news of how fans can jump back into the series with new special issues coming in the wake of the monster #25.
CBR News: With issue #22, I'm not sure I knew it, but reading this made me realize I wanted more of the story of the truant kids after they were caught by the faculty way back in the series opener. Did you plan on telling this whole story at the end of Season 1 from the very start?
Nick Spencer: There was some moving around that occurred here. When the book first came out and I was doing my earliest plotting, I knew I'd left a door open in terms of exploring this previous set of kids. But obviously at the time, we didn't know how the book was going to do and whether we'd be running for 12 issues or 25 issues or 100 issues. It was impossible to say at that point. So those earliest scenes in the first issue just exist as if they'd been that first scene in "A New Hope." Like, there's that ship, and it's got its own story, but you don't see it. At the same time, these kids could have been a major arc down the road, and thankfully, when we realized the book had a lot of life in it, we knew this was a story we could do.
From there, I think for the longest time, I'd seen introducing these kids as the end of the first season. I think the end of #19 would have been the end of the first season. That's how I had it in my head for a long time, and then the second season would have launched with the cover to issue #21 where these kids come in.
But as we started planning out the third arc in "P.E." and I started asking myself what I really wanted to get to, I also realized that maybe that wasn't the most rewarding season ender. And so, I moved things around, and what was going to be the third arc is now going to come in the second season. But this story has always been part of the long term game plan for the book.
We discover a temple...somewhere as Hunter and Jun are taken along with the group of Truants. We've seen some ancient stuff here and there in the series – particularly in the cave Ike and Jade have been sitting in – but placing this temple in Sumeria and introducing it with more Bible stories seems a significant move. Are you trying to point a big arrow to certain Biblical mythology and saying, "This is true in this world"?
It's a good question. One of the most interesting things, I think, about the "Truants" arc is that I feel the Biblical imagery and mythology has become a really integral part of the series. Some of that comes from who the Truants are and their own stories. It made a lot of sense to tie those two things together. It's always been a part of the book. We've seen things that are a little Biblically inspired and in particular, Torah inspired. We've also seen some stuff from platonic ideals and some very futuristic-looking things. The use of all those has been very purposeful and who's involved in the scenes with those things has been somewhat purposeful. So for the Truants, this is very much "their ground." If they are representative of a certain school of thought, the Truants are very much steeped in this part of the world.
Overall, this issue's story is about the fact that the so-called "Truants" of the title are truants in the fullest sense. They've gone off the reservation even from their "father" Abraham.
Somebody caught that! [Laughter] Yeah, we chose that title and that name for them very specifically. I think people just thought of it in terms of the school – that Irina had been hiding out in the woods and she was leading the delinquents of the Academy. But we learn in this issue that that's equally true of their previous school – of their time with Abraham and of their allegiance to him.
But I get the feeling that while they may be deviating from his specific plan for their return to the school, they also believe in his goals in a general sense. They think he's right, but they think they have a better way to do things. We've talked so much about this series having two big factions at odds between Abraham's people and the faculty of the school, but should we be thinking of it more in terms of two big philosophies?
Well, maybe more than two. But certainly what you're seeing here is some internal disagreement over means and methods. Whether or not Irina still shares Abraham's vision and whether she still believes the same things, we haven't quite nailed that down. But after this issue, we can definitely say that she's decided to go her own way in terms of what she does next and what the kids under her lead do next. We haven't quite determined what her driving goal is and whether or not that's in line with Abraham, but even if it is, she's going about it in a different way.
The latter half of this issue is chock full of different languages as the group gets zapped into a Tower of Babel-esque sacrifice scenario. Are all these balloons actually translatable, and has anyone done that yet?
Yes! The guys at Multiversity in their "Study Hall" column translated the whole thing...even the parts of it I didn't intend for them to be able to. [Laughs] Some other intrepid folks did some work on it, so the dialogue is out there on the interwebs if you want it. That said, it was an interesting scene. We even talked about it in our last CBR column. I referred to this issue as a place where some people would "lose their shit," and I knew that five pages of all the characters speaking in different languages was the kind of thing that would drive a few folks nuts. And it did. Thankfully, we're the kind of book where people are used to this kind of thing by now.
And we really tried to craft this thing where you can understand what's going on without the translation. In fact, having the actual dialogue defeats the purpose a bit because the intended effect is for you to not understand what's being said but only to understand that everyone is speaking different languages. But the chain of events is reasonably clear in terms of what ensues at the temple and how they're making these things happen...or at least the process.
Well, we are seeing everything through Hunter's eyes, and one of the many jokes here that is also a telling detail is when the others tell him "You're going to learn what you're good at." They seem to know more about his past than he does. Can we trust that this event is a catalyst to understanding what's going on with him and his time displacement?
I'll throw out a breadcrumb on this one: this is not the first time that Hunter has actually been in demand. We saw way back in issue #13 that Lara Hodge wanted Hunter for the cave. Ike was not intended to be there. She wanted Hunter. And now again, Hunter is in demand with the Truants. People who take a close look at that will pretty easily be able to see what the connection is, and that should tell you what Hunter might be good at. That's Hunter's story just beginning to come into focus more and exploring what he brings to the table. We've had fun with Hunter's general uselessness all throughout the series. And so it was fairly obvious that at some point he'd bring something to the table, and this was it.
And the issue wraps with him bumping into Future Jade, which I'm sure will make things totally simple by the end.
[Laughs] And I should point out that Future Jade is getting hotter. I had to say when I got the page from Joe, "Man, Future Jade is just very pretty at this point."
She's much more confident. That's what does it. [Laughter]
As we move into some of the major moments from #23, I had to say that after a lot of things being thrown at us over the past six issues or so, most of these two recent issues have been pretty straightforward in terms of storytelling. It's just all the threads of what's going on meeting up. The one exception is the flashback where Irina does...something to the Headmaster of the Academy. Is this an event that we've seen some direct reverberation of in the present?
Yeah, we have actually. I think one of the fun things about issue #23 is that you begin to see the cause and effect relationship between the Truants and the Glories. You're beginning to see how the actions of one group may have directly impacted the future of the other group. It very much shaped the way that the Academy was when the Glories arrived. That's another thing that goes back to the first issues, and I mentioned on Twitter recently that a lot of it calls back to things that happened in issue #4.
But this particular scene calls back to some of the power dynamics at the Academy as we know it. Certainly coming after things like the scene in issue #20 between Georgina and Lara, this scene will help you put everything into focus more. I really believe that #22 and 23, while they do have their mysteries, answer more questions than they raise. They might be the first issues of the book where I say that. A lot of these scenes are filling in blanks that already existed.
One of those areas where that really happens is with Fortunato and Akiko. You spoke before about how the different members of the Truants were like the Glories, and these two were the nice kids of the bunch. And here for once, the nice kids get together if only for a second.
I think with Akiko in particular, she's always been the conscience of the Truants group. That was her role in the six and an early conception of her character. There's an inherent goodness to her that shows through in the little we've seen of her. We've had a lot of fun in her relationship with Ian and her relationship with Fortunato.
In terms of the good kid/bad kid dynamics with the Truants, we've got a really interesting mix. I've said before that I think to some extent the Truants are a little bit like if Zoe had been more of a take charge personality with the Glories and Casey had been less so. That's somewhat the dynamic we've seen between Irina and Vanessa. Vanessa isn't quite as assertive and take charge as Casey was, and so that creates a vacuum that Irina can fill. I've always viewed that as an important part of the Truants story. The pecking order of the group may be fundamentally flawed or at least fundamentally different than what we see of the Glories. That comes across a lot in this arc.
So what can we make of the fact that the character I call "our Jun" seems to turn sides here and align himself fully with the Glories?
For Jun, we have to keep in mind that while we haven't seen it on the page, he's got a much longer history with the Truants than he has with the Glories. We know from the timeline that we have that Jun spent a significant amount of time with these other kids under Abraham's watch. Meanwhile, the Glories really haven't been at this school that long. This is where we get into another "Lost" comparison where the first two seasons were two seasons of show, but it was only a few months in real time.
Right. And later, we got a storyline on that show where Sawyer was in love with Juliet, and we had to understand that they'd been together for five years in the past that we never saw.
Of course. You as a viewer needed to keep that in mind – that what you were shown of the timeline was disproportionate. It's a similar thing here. Jun immediately siding with the Truants and trusting Irina is obviously what he'd do in this situation. He's kept the Glories at an arm's length distance a lot. He's shown up when it's counted and has obviously formed a friendship with Hunter, but to a large extent he's been very guarded. If you knew that your friends were already at the school and wanted to protect them, that's what you'd do too.
But now that Jun has spent a little bit of time around them again, he's in a position where he can see how much has changed. It's like a lot of situations where you haven't had contact with people for a long amount of time. You reunite with them, and all these things feel different. So Jun's had a bit of a reversal.
The other thing to remember as a factor is his brother. That's a relationship that of course precedes the Truants, and it's a relationship that has driven him for years. He's wanted to reunite with and protect his brother. So to a certain extent, all his history with the Truants has been trumped.
I really want to ask a question about David, but so far he's still just a force of nature in this thing – the tool that is used to make the sacrifice in this ceremony we've only glimpsed through the series.
He's got a lot coming up. It's about time we gave you a little bit more there, and that's on my mind right now as I'm working on Season Two stuff. Originally, all that would have happened sooner. But like I said, when things with this finale got moved around, I had to put that off a bit. There are big things coming, but from this scene alone, what we can tell is that what David does with his "hand through the head" routine can vary greatly depending on who's involved. Now we've seen a few potential outcomes from when David decides to do this. It's important to remember that there's some degree of correlation between the ceremony and David and the temple and all that ensues from that – like the time jumps the Truants have been engineering.
As of this issue, you see how all those things are connected. That was fun for me to finally link all these things up. For 22 issues, some of these things had seemed pretty random and disconnected. One of the things I wanted to do as I sat down to wrap up this arc and get to the season finale was to go, "What questions can we answer from the third arc?" Things like "Why did it suddenly go dark?" and "What is the ceremony?" and "Who is the sacrifice?" – those things did get answered in this arc. Maybe you didn't get the full rationale behind all of them, but you can say, "Why did it get dark out? Because the Truants made this happen as part of their plan." You can look at the ceremony and see how Hisao was meant to be the sacrifice until Akiko interfered.
Overall, with these last few issues before the end of the season, I wanted to check off some boxes so we felt like those questions got answered.
Looking forward to #24 then, it seems like one of the most straightforward cliffhangers in the book's run. We've got to see how Ike and Jade's running into military types links up with Abraham's fate and how that ties to the Truants and how their story rolls into what happens with Jun and Hisao next.
Exactly. You can very much see all these threads falling into place, I think. #24 is its own beast, but what you now see is that all the different things we threw out to you from issue #12 and the third arc overall fit together. That's how you want a season to end! It's going to make for a pretty cool issue #25 too. Really issues #24 through 27 are going to be all season ending stuff and leading into Season Two. Once we're in the middle of that, people will see the collision points.
So where are you marking off the final issue of this season, and how will we move into Season Two?
People have been noticing that #24 was originally planned for early January, and obviously that hasn't happened. The reason for that is because this grew into a giant, double-sized issue. It's 44 pages, and it will be $3.99. That's basically part one of the two-part Season Finale. And I think #24 may be my new favorite issue of the series. It's certainly my favorite since #9, 10 and 11, which I'm a big sucker for. I felt that was our best stretch prior, but #24 is right there with those. As you can probably tell from the end of #23 and the final cover to #24, we're going to get back to the Ike and Abraham stuff. Jade's also involved. That issue comes out on February 6.
#25 will also be double-sized for $3.99. It's the big Season Finale, 25th issue event. And from there, we'll have the volume 4 trade hit in early April, and issue #26 will be a $1.00, full-sized prelude issue to the second season. It'll be a great jumping on point to the single issues for all the trade readers who may want to start following us monthly. The the Season Two premier will hit with #27, which will again be double-sized and $3.99. And that will have a whole host of pretty awesome variants by some of my favorite artists. We're moving into a big stretch of high profile issues to get people excited about the new season.
"Morning Glories" #22 and 23 are on sale now from Image Comics.