MORNING GLORY DAYS: Back To School With Nick Spencer

Wed, August 28th, 2013 at 11:58am PDT

Comic Books
Kiel Phegley, Staff Writer

With Labor Day just around the corner, Schools across America are opening their doors once again, welcoming back students from their summer vacation. That means buying new backpacks, sharpening pencils and preparing for a gauntlet of death and time travel that will leave them forever shattered emotionally. Well, maybe that last one only applies to the students of Image Comics "Morning Glories."

With their most recent issues, writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma have launched Season 2 of their long-running sci-fi/spiritual/mystery/teen drama. The first arc of the season wrapped last month with issue #29 where a time-traveling Casey aged/had a baby/forgot it all, a rogue Irina got her just deserts and the kids of the Academy came out of the woods and into the light of day to face another run of classes at the deadly Morning Glory Academy.

And with issue #30 on sale today kicking off a new arc that will ship twice monthly, CBR's ongoing look behind the scenes of the series – AKA MORNING GLORY DAYS – is back in action. This week, Spencer takes a look at the macro action surrounding the last arc, explaining exactly how resetting the book back to its prep school roots will and won't change things moving forward. From the surprise revelation about Casey's baby to the way the characters will adjust to school now that they've fought back against the staff, things are the same as they've always been and different than anything in the series to date.

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CBR News: Nick, we recently wrapped the first arc of Season 2, and that seemed to reset the clock some for the Glories. Of course, it's more like you shattered a doll on the ground, glued it back together and went "It kinda looks the same." [Laughter] The going concern for issue #30 and beyond seems to be putting these kids back in place in the school after they've all been damaged a bit. Was that how you approached it?

Nick Spencer: Yeah. I think that's a really apt comparison with the smashed doll because we're in a situation now where certain things have reset. We're back in a school environment. The kids are back in class. Things appear on the surface to be back to normal. But as you said, it's obvious that things aren't normal or back where they were. Nobody has forgotten everything that's happened. A big part of the fun of the next arc is playing with that – seeing how things are the same or aren't the same and going back to certain elements of the story that we now know a lot more about and putting them in the concept of being trapped inside a sinister boarding school.

The whole next arc is an exploration of that, and it has a "You can't go home again" element to it – for the faculty in particular. They're going to have to try some new things. They had their authority significantly challenged. A lot of genies went out of the bottle. So they have to up their own game. That's why the scene in which we see where things back as we knew them are very much form Lara's perspective. It's very much an assessment and acknowledgement of the damage one. A big part of the fun of that page is showing the school back to where we saw it as early as #1, but I don't think anybody can look at that page and not feel that everything is completely different.

Let's talk about Lara Hodge. I'm not sure there's a character in the book who I got back and forth on what I feel about her – almost on an issue-to-issue basis. At the end of issue #29, we got the sense that she was trying to rebel against her (still mysterious) father The Headmaster but has since given up and accepted the path set out before her and the school. If she has accepted failure in her own plans for the kids, does that mean the version we'll see of her moving forward is going to be pretty different than what we've seen her doing so far?

So much of the fun of Lara as a character is that you can't entirely pin her down. She was introduced as an ally and friend of the Glories, and then with issue #20 we saw a very different side of her that caused us to reevaluate those ideas. And now that we've gone through the last couple of arcs, she's in a much different place where putting a "Hero" or "Villain" hat on her is very hard to do – I'd actually say it's impossible at this point in the story. That's what makes her so great to spend time with.

I think as we go forward and some more elements of this conflict get defined – and a big part of Season 2 and into Season 3 is about giving those things more definition and shining lights on them – we'll see that some of these positions are inside shades of grey. We're getting a hint of that for Lara. She's not a sinister, mustache-twirling villain the way Daramont or Gribbs seems to be, but we've still got a long way to go before we see exactly whose side she's on.

What feels like a "read between the lines" moment that may come back around appears at the end of #29. It's revealed that "David" – long the name associated with the purple, glowing killer of the campus – is the name given to Casey's baby as she lived her parallel adult life in the past. But also, the mystery David was on the cover of the issue, and as Hodge was calling her father to say "You're right about everything," we turn to a two-page spread where the purple David factors in a huge way. I may be reading too much into this, but it reminds me of that old controversial Avengers story where the interdimensional traveler Marcus impregnates Ms. Marvel in order to ensure his own birth.

[Laughs] Those are some sticky comic book politics you just waded into! I don't know that that many people look at that story and say it was entirely the right decision to make, but it's an interesting comparison. When we get to the point where some of these questions are fully answered, it's going to be interesting to gauge the reaction in terms of people's care for and investment in the characters. People have seen that we're not afraid to go pretty dark and we're not afraid to do horrible things to these kids. We've been pretty up front about that from the earliest stages. But as people get more and more attached to the characters, it can be interesting to see just how angry readers can get about what we put them through.

Here, we have something of an answer to David's identity. If it's true and that's the complete story, you have to place it within the context of a book that deals pretty heavily in time travel. In this case, you have to look at the character of Casey and say that she's 13 years older than we usually see her or when we spent most of our time with her. Those are all important things to keep in mind for when the full answer appears. Whether or not David is the person in the driver's seat here and controlling things or whether he's one of the victims, that's yet to be defined.

Let's look at each of the characters who played a big role in this arc and where they'll go in #30 and beyond. Casey has gone through much more than anyone else in these first four issues of Season 2 than anyone else has been through in the whole comic. But we get the implication that not only has she been aged back to teenage Casey somehow – she's also forgotten that past. Does that mean her arc for Season 2 will be one of solving the mystery for herself of where she was and what happened to her?

Yeah. That's a huge part of Season 2. It'll play out over the course of the rest of the series, but it gets an extra-special focus here in Season 2. We'll take a little time away from it, but we'll be coming back to it pretty regularly, and it will be a big part of the endgame for the season as well. Casey will get a lot of camera time this season, and a lot of it has to do with exactly that idea. She's not missing the memories she made in this life as Danielle Clarkson. She's missing 13 years. She has no knowledge or memory of it. But the impact of what she did during that time is felt all through the Academy. It set up loads of things that we've already seen in the first season, and it will continue to have a big impact in Season 2 and going forward. It's all a part of the game plan. I think I've mentioned before that this was always a part of the bigger story, but originally I thought we'd get to it very much at the end. A big part of what we're doing now is that I've flipped back and I'm dealing with it immediately. So we're kind of approaching this story in reverse order, which I think is a cool way to go about it.

On the other side of the coin, Hunter and Jade are each very different as they step into the rest of the season. At the end of #29, Jade flipped out and emoted in a way we've never seen from her. Meanwhile, Hunter – though he still doesn't have a lot of the answers – knows more about what's going on in a macro sense than anyone else, and that's brand new territory for him in life. And the two of them are going to have to have more of a connection moving forward, right?

Definitely. Especially in terms of their relationship now, Hunter has seen the adult future Jade who is a very different person from the Jade he knows. We saw a little bit of a reaction in him when they first came back together in #29, but a little bit down the road, we're going to really spend some time with them. It's obviously going to be very different for them, but how Hunter chooses to explain that to her, how he approaches her with that information, how she reacts to it and what she takes from it – that's all really important stuff to both characters.

One of my favorite things about this issue was getting to bring those four characters in particular of Casey, Hunter, Jade and Ike– Jun is in a bit of a different place because of his situation – back together. We're going to be doing something a little different in the next arc, which is called "Demerits," but after that we'll be spending more time with the core characters. I feel like it's pretty important fairly soon to spend time just with them. So that's coming in the not too distant future.

One of the big ideas that this just wrapped arc opened up is the concept of "powers." Irina gained some mental abilities, Casey time traveled and de-aged, Hunter has God knows what going on with him and so on. But Irina's final speech also revolved around the concept of power. It points out that a unifying element to the events in the book as a whole deals with who has power over whom. It's certainly the currency with which the faculty has kept the kids in line. How has the introduction of these science fictiony powers shifted those ideas some throughout the story.

I think one of the important things here is that in terms of the "powers" or the more science fiction elements, what we have shown so far is that as these characters expose themselves to those things more and more, their connection to tangible, structural reality seems to get more and more tenuous. As Hunter starts bouncing through time more, we see in his scene with future Jade and the Descartes dream that reality becomes very different to him. The same thing happened with Jade after she was given her injection in the nurses office. She had a pretty lasting and difficult to decipher dream. So I'd keep an eye out for that. As the people start peeling things back and making use of these abilities, the world around them seems to change as well. Certainly when they're back in the past, they seem to have near total control where they can get people to do things just by telling them to do so. So it seems though as that becomes a bigger part of their world, their world starts to look different all together. We've seen a lot of characters now suddenly making use of those "talents" or whatever you call them.

With next arc, "Demerits," we're literally going back to school.

And we're going twice monthly with this arc, so we're really killing ourselves.

So now that you've reset that board a bit, what was the first piece of story you wanted to get to with the kids back in the place we're most familiar with them?

There wasn't necessarily one particular story so much as I felt that between what we've done in "Truants" and "Tests" that there were only a few times over that ten-issue stretch that have been very focused on one character and getting in their head to know them better. We had an Ike issue with #24 and a Casey as Clarkson issue with #26, but for the most part, those issues were bouncing around the whole cast with a big event feel and a lot of things going on. I was very eager to get back to what a lot of people see as the standard "Morning Glories" format: something is happening in the school environment, and it gives us more insights into a particular character. So this arc is very much about that. We really wanted to spend some time with the characters on their own – particularly the truants. We've spent a lot of time with those kids, but we don't know them that well. So I felt it was very important to build that emotional connection with these characters as quickly as we could. That's about half of "Demerits," and we'll also spend some time with the Glories – particularly Hunter and Jun and where they are now.

This will feel a lot like the second arc of the book where we stopped and spent five issues on individual characters in the book. And because we're shipping twice monthly, it will happen pretty quickly. This will be stuff you can digest over a short period of time, and then we'll get right into moving the plot forward again.

"Morning Glories" #30 is on sale today from Image Comics.

TAGS:  image comics, morning glories, morning glory days, nick spencer, joe eisma

 
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