The 2013 fall season may be a full summer away, but fans looking to pick up on a recent serial cliffhanger need look no further than Image Comics "Morning Glories."
With their most recent issues, writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma have turned the page into Season 2 of their long-running sci-fi/spiritual/mystery/teen drama. With a time-traveling Casey, a rogue Irina bent on killing Ike and the kids of the Academy coming out of the woods and into the light of day, big changes are in store with the recent issues #26 and 27.
And with that, CBR's ongoing look behind the scenes of the series – AKA MORNING GLORY DAYS – is back in action. This week, Spencer catches readers up before this week's new issue #28 with a dissection of the prelude to Season 2 and its official start! Below, the writer explains why Casey's 13-year journey through the past all had to be shown at once, why readers can trust Lara Hodge for the time being, what power Irina really holds in her quest to kill Ike and what battle brews in the foreground while the deeper mysteries must be put aside. Read on!
CBR News: Nick, let's get things rolling this time out with some talk on issue #26, which I always want to call the "Zero Issue" of Season Two even though that's technically not right. This issue accomplished the rare feet of being called back from shops due to a printing error without much incident. What happened there?
Nick Spencer: Yeah, it's a bit of a mystery on our side what happened. I didn't find out about this until the book was out – actually the night of. It was during the fan chat, and somebody said something that wasn't adding up. I asked them, "Is everybody's page eight the wrong page?" Then I went and bought the book on comiXology and realized the issue has the right page number...but the page was from issue #25. So somewhere in the process, a file got mixed up in there. To Image's credit, they took care of it quickly and got a new version of the issue out there within a couple of weeks. But it's just comics, man. It happens sometimes.
The funny thing is that with this book, I didn't realize what had happened until so late because people are just used to pages in this book not making any sense. [Laughter] So people go, "I'll just go with it" which is really sweet of our audience. But if you happen to have a version with the page from #25, by all means swap it out because you're retailer has new copies. Sorry!
But on to the issue itself, one of the most important character moments that feels like it's really defining who Casey is comes in the flashback portion of this story where she's dealing with her high school rival Isabelle. There's a moment where the girl says, "It's okay that you won...because you cheated" and Casey won't stand for it. She seems to have a very clearly defined sense of fairness and right and wrong from early on, and whatever else happens to her during this time travel mission, that won't change.
Certainly. I think there's a few things we show here. One is what we've shown before, which is that Casey has a short fuse and a quick temper. She certainly channels it towards a kind of righteous indignation. She loves to see herself as a moral center, and when she sees someone straying from that, she can be harsh and direct.
That scene in particular is going to be an interesting one to look back on in terms of the way Casey's morality works. Here you have a girl saying, "You got what you wanted, but you didn't get it the fair way," and that raises the question about who's right here. We don't know. This girl seems on the difficult side and not the nicest person you'll ever meet, so it could be that that's entirely untrue. Or maybe Casey did cheat. Or maybe whatever Casey did, she doesn't see as cheating, but someone else might. I think it raises some questions in the broader sense about "Is what Casey's doing truly justifiable or justifiable to her? Is this an eye of the beholder thing?" So I agree that there's a lot to be drawn from this conversation.
The big sequence from this issue is the montage of actions she takes once she's "Georgina'd up" and is out in the world. Some of this is just general bad assery while some of it seems to be inviting questions like the scruffy scientist character we meet and whatever is going on between older Casey and younger Jade on that train. But overall, it feels like the arc of Season 2 will be different than Season 1 because before we were just following the kids who were thrown in the deep end, and here you've built a frame to tease out and signpost a bunch of information that will come later. What do you view as the major focus of the season in that respect?
I think crafting a start to Season 2 is miles apart from starting Season 1. Obviously, we've got a lot to build on now, and we can play a longer game. Back when I was doing issue #1, there was no way to know if we were going to last past issue #12. It's a whole different ball game to approach the start of a season because you know you can go a lot bigger with it.
I will say as a bit of a hint, for the longest time the place we showed this part of Casey's life fell later in the story. A lot of these scenes were going to be reveals for things that had already happened and stories that had already occurred. But I realized it was a lot more fun to do it this way. I think this will be a pretty distinctive storyline in terms of how it plays out because you're very much getting the pieces out of order. I'm excited to see how this plays out because it's very different than how I originally saw it. This story of Casey doing this has been a part of the plan for a really, really long time. This isn't a later idea. It came early on, and I've been looking forward to it for a while. But when we got to it, we jumbled everything around.
So why does she chose an identity that's so close to Ms. Daramount?
It's coming from instruction. She's directly consulting this notebook in the back, and we can see she's doing everything to the letter – which is a very Casey thing to do. So really the question to ask here is what value does Lara Hodge see in having Casey chose a guise that's so reminiscent of Daramount. this is something I struggled with in story terms because I knew as soon as we did it, we were risking confusion later on in the story in terms of "Is that Ms. Daramount, or is it 'Ms. Clarkson'?" Joe does a very good job of distinguishing them, but I know because I also write "Secret Avengers" that while I feel Daisy Johnson and Mariah Hill look like two completely different characters – they've got different heights and hair styles and skin tones – there's a problem where in comics to some extent the reader's eye is trained towards costumes. That's what very dramatically differentiates people, and sometimes playing with that can be tricky. So I knew this could be an issue, but the story value outweighed it for me.
But you're right. There are any number of hair colors or looks Casey could have applied here, but her instructions told her to do this, so she's doing it. She's obviously not thrilled about it. [Laughs] But there must be some call for it.
As to the true start of the new season, the story feels very much like a direction continuation of what was going on at the end of 1, but it also feels like a page has been turned. The kids are coming out of the woods. There are some new goals for the cast. What was it overall that made you say "This is where Season 2 must begin"?
It's a tricky balance. Obviously, we're not entirely resolved in terms of the story we were telling in #25. We've still got ground to cover in terms of this "P.E."/"Truants"/"Tests" mega arc we've been building. But by the same token, this issue did need to feel like a different phase where we were coming to a new point in the story. So the kids are out of the woods. Everybody's reunited with the faculty. Casey is out of the cave and back to the school. The way we move them over the course of this issue shows that all these threads have now converged. That's where I wanted us to be: in the kind of finale point of this mega arc. What happens over this new "Tests" arc will develop where the next couple of arcs will be dealing with how this plays out. Season 2 and Season 1 are very interconnected in that way. The first half of Season 2 is very much in the same ballpark as Season 1.
I'm going to ignore the question of Casey looking like a teen again after she's been gone for presumably years because I'm betting there's a weird explanation coming to this. But the interesting dynamic this whole event creates is that Casey is on Hodge's side now, and that's a character we've never understood in terms of who's side she's really on. What's the attraction to making your most ambiguous character so central?
Hodge has become one of my favorite characters to write because she's so slippery. You always have those characters where you never know whose side they're on or what game they're playing. After #20 came out and we learned so much about her, a bunch of people came out going, "She's obviously a bad guy now." So it's great to see how people have reacted to her over these last few issues and how that's softened. People are back now in an unsure place with her as a result of what's happened between her and Casey.
This is a book where a lot of characters have unknown agendas, and there are plenty of instances where we don't know all the details of why they're doing what they're doing. But I think Hodge is of the trickiest. At this point, the compass is spinning on her, and that's going to continue. We're not finding out more any time soon as this is a long term part of the story. But my favorite thing about Hodge is that from what we've seen – even when it's something we feel isn't the best thing to do or the right thing or something that's in the cast's best interest – there's always a sympathetic streak to her. She's very different from Daramount in that sensee One of the things I'm most proud of is that when you finally get to the story of who she is and what she's doing, it's going to be something very interesting that you want to hear.
One last Casey question for the time being: we've seen that she has a boyfriend in the past which is a seemingly normal detail I don't trust at all because it's this book. But between that and her fending off a kind of grabby Abraham in the past, we know she's gone through a lot of growing up of late. Even though she looks like a teen again, can we assume she's significantly more mature than she was when she left?
Sure. She's 13 years older at that point, so she's a completely different person in a lot of ways. Thing about yourself 13 years earlier. A lot changes. I think the trickiest thing about writing Clarkson is deciding how much of Casey is there and how much is new stuff. It's not just that she's older. She's been through a lot and done a lot of things. We don't know all the details, but it looks like a pretty crazy life. All of this is part of what goes into writing Clarkson in a scene.
I think what's interesting about this part of her life is that we gleaned from #26 that she'd been moving and doing a lot of dangerous things and visiting a lot of places. Now we're seeing her in a normal life. We can safely assume that this is the first time since she was a kid that she has any degree of normalcy. She's got a guy she's in love with, and she's a teacher. We know she's still sneaking away from time-to-time to take care of things, but this is her normal, everyday life. It seems very different from the years preceding, and that makes a big difference for her. She's back in her hometown where she grew up, and even though nobody knows her, there's a lot that's familiar here for her. That's weighing very heavily on her mind.
Speaking of which, unstated in the issue is the idea that she's pushing her young self in a direction that will ultimately lead to her parents' deaths.
Well, but if you believe Hodge here, the original deal was "You do this, and you'll save your parents. You'll save your friends. You'll get the things you want." She seems to have chosen to trust Hodge. Whether that's the whole story or not, we don't know. But in terms of why she would do that, I'd say that if this happened to you, you'd probably put a lot of faith in the person who could send you back in time 13 years. If someone came to you and said, "I can fix the worst thing in your life" and then they did it by transporting you into the past to do things that went beyond belief, you might put some stock into what they said. That seems to be the case now. Again, Casey is following Hodge's instructions very closely, but it must be very difficult in that she's putting the wheels in motion for her going to the Academy and her parents' death. As of right now, all she's really doing is setting up a loop to cause all that. But there may be more to see there.
The scene between Hunter and Future Jade seems to be one of the most "starting a new season" ones as Jade explains how the board has changed in a totally crazy way. But the character takeaway for me here was that while Casey seems to trust Hodge out of necessity, Jade is trusting Casey to do things right because they have a real human bond. Whatever happens to the teen versions in the time ahead, they've earned that trust.
Yeah. There are certain relationships in the book where, say, if Jade suddenly stabs Casey in the heart, it'll feel like a massive Jump The Shark moment. That's a card I'll turn over now. At this point in the story, some of these relationships are truly what they seem to be. Though I should caution that that doesn't mean some of them can't change. There are things down the road that could pull some of these characters apart. But in the moment right now, these relationships are sincere. Hunter and Casey or Casey and Jade, these are genuine friendships. Hunter and Jun. These are people who are trying to look out for each other, and I don't think we've ever done anything to make you question those. So extrapolating those relationships out in a time travel context can be helpful. Certainly, the bonds between these characters are very strong.
So in terms of what we know is coming, we've got Hodge's promise to Casey that disaster can be avoided, and we've got Future Jade showing Hunter the ruinous future they're trying to avoid. Is the story of Season 2 the story of the battle over that future?
They have an immediate problem, and they have a bigger long term problem. A lot of what you're seeing right now is people putting the longer term problem aside and focusing on the shorter term one: Irina. She's made an intrusion into this story and is threatening to mess everyone's day up. Right now, everybody is trying to do the same thing: stop Irina from killing Ike. Everyone seems bent on preventing her from doing that. Why everyone's doing it differs. In some cases, we have no idea why. But they do seem very focused on that. What Casey's done aides in that, and what Future Jade does aides in that, and what Daramount and Hodge are doing aides in that. Irina is the immediate problem, and they're all ignoring the other aspects of conflict to center on that right now. But again, they're motivations are going to be miles apart.
One telling detail this issue is Irina seemingly taking over the minds of the soldiers here, which seems a follow up on her floating yogi act from earlier. Are we going to be getting an answer soon on what makes her different?
I think what we'll explore – and this bleeds into the next arc a bit – is the question of whether Irina is right or if she's confused. Is she ahead of everyone else, or is she off on a tangent? Her abilities are more a manifestation of that question than anything else. She's saying, "The thing we have to do is kill Ike. That's the fix for everything." She's so convinced of that, and everyone wants to stop her. But the question is whether they're right in wanting to stop her or if she's onto something here.
Or is this a red herring? One thing we've established about the Headmaster – who's barely been seen at all – is that he's very good at deception. Irina has been wrong before. We saw back in the "Truants" arc that she confided to Fortunado that things were not as they seemed. As a result of her attempt to kill the Headmaster, she decided she had to kill Ike. That's the path she's been put on, but finding out what happened to her to make her feel this way and the validity of that is the key question to ask right now.
Next issue is another double-sized one. Some day you'll do a regular-sized issue, and it'll be an event.
[Laughs] Well, #29 is a regular-sized issue. We've still got a load of covers for it, which is awesome/
So what's the most important detail to keep an eye for this week in #28?
#28 is one of our craziest, trippiest issues. It's in that category with #10 and 23 here weird things happen to one character in particular – an audience favorite. So it's going to be fun to see the response to this. A big bulk of the issue is really about that, and I think the thing to keep an eye out for is the Clarkson stuff. That's the through line of this arc, and seeing how it plays out to the end of #29 will make for one of our best last pages ever. Everything is building to that moment, so keep your eye on the ball there.
And I should mention that coming up, we'll have one issue in July, one in August, but after that we'll have two issues in September and two in October. We're coming fast and furious. We're excited about it because the arc is getting back to character spotlight issues, and we'll talk about that more when we're closer, but the trick with those kinds of arcs is that if you take too long with them, people start wondering whether you'll ever get to another "P.E." style story. So as Joe and I talked about it, we realized what would be cool would be to tell these stories over a couple of months without slowing down. So it's going to be cool to get into the individual character's heads again after all this craziness.
"Morning Glories" #28 goes on sale tomorrow from Image Comics.