School's out for Morning Glories after March 23's fiftieth issue finale, but that doesn't mean artist Joe Eisma is done working -- in fact, he's working more than ever.
Eisma is currently balancing a full-time job teaching art and film at a private school in Dallas while illustrating comic books, and with Morning Glories taking a break he's branching out to other projects, including at the Big Two. The five-year comics veteran recently completed a 10-page story for DC's The Flash #50 coming out in March, and while he couldn't commit on what future plans he might have with DC given its impending Rebirth, he also completed sample pages for Wonder Woman.
Newsarama talked with this enterprising and busy artist about the upcoming season finale of Morning Glories, that The Flash experience, as well as his other pursuits.
Newsarama: Joe, let's start with an easy one -- what are you working on today? What is on your drawing board, and how's it going?
Joe Eisma: Today, many things are on my drawing board! A double page spread from a new pitch I'm working on with Matt Sturges and Dave Justus, a commission, and a page from Morning Glories #50. They're going good--I'm in the zone on these.
Nrama: Let’s get right to it then, Morning Glories #50 – the series finale. How does that feel?
Eisma: It's frightening and liberating all at once. I'm proud we've come this far, and excited about the potential for more, but any time there's an ending, there's an undercurrent of sadness.
Nrama: Are you going to be doing anything special when you draw the final page of Morning Glories #50?
Eisma: I'm going to Disneyland! Not really--I'll probably just go plant myself in front of my PlayStation 4 and play video games for like a straight week.
Nrama: How do you feel doing 50 issues of Morning Glories has changed you? You did comic book work before that, but five years and 50 issues can change a person.
Eisma: Agreed! The biggest things Morning Glories taught me were gratitude and efficiency. No one had ever read my books before Morning Glories, and our fan base exploded, and I'd never experienced anything like that. I learned that almost by chance, you can create something that resonates with people, and they will dedicate themselves to it. I sincerely love our readers, and try to make them feel awesome online or when they come for autographs at conventions. They made my career possible! With regards to efficiency--I learned how to speed up during our run, and not dwell on or overdraw things. I learned what kinds of scenes were easy to draw (talking heads) and which were difficult (crowds), and to pace myself accordingly.
Nrama: Morning Glories #50 dubbed as a “finale,” but I know you and Nick Spencer are deeply invested in these characters. There was talk of a new series awhile back. Is that a possibility now, and if so, what will it take?
Eisma: Sure, it's still a possibility. I mean, we sincerely hope to be able to launch Season 3 this year, but like pretty much everything in comics, it's all contingent on sales. The big thing I've started is my own Patreon, where folks can pledge and when I hit a certain milestone, I'm offering an exclusive comic set in the Morning Glories universe. It's called MGA Gossip Girls, and it focuses on some ancillary characters I've had in the book since the early days. It's like the Morning Glories equivalent of Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It's a companion piece to the main story--with events from the series seen through the eyes of these very odd girls. It won't be as dark or full of intricate mystery like the main narrative, instead focusing on the rest of the student body at the school and be more humorous
Nrama: You've somewhat quietly carved out quite a prodigious volume of work, doing Morning Glories since 2010 while also doing runs on other books like Big Trouble In Little China, and an issue of Evil Empire and Higher Earth -- not to mention your cover work. What's your work schedule like, and what is your ideal pace?
Eisma: I also teach art, so I'm busier than ever these days! Basically, I don't sleep much. I work late and get up early. Part of that is that I have kids and need to get up early to get them ready every day, but comics is my passion, so I make the time for it.
Pace-wise, it kind of depends of what needs to get done any given day. I prefer to be able to lay out an entire script all at once, so if I'm in layout mode, I'll focus on getting as many of those done in a day as I can, with the aim to get the issue laid out in a week. That really speeds things up. Beyond that--I can get a page drawn a day, unless it's a crowd scene or heavy action scene, and that takes about two days.
Nrama: So you teach. What do you teach, and where?
Eisma: I teach art and film at a private school here in the Dallas area, to kids junior high through high school. When I took the job, the irony of working in a private school after creating a comic about an evil private school wasn't lost on me. Thankfully, this school's a lot tamer than Morning Glory Academy.
Nrama: And no substitutes for you on Morning Glories. You took some breaks for both you and Nick, but no fill-ins -- is that something you were adamant about?
Eisma: Yeah, this book is my baby, and I don't want to share it with anyone else! Seriously, though, as a reader, I always enjoyed the books that had extended runs by artists and minimal to no fill-ins. So I'm not completely opposed to the notion of fill-ins, I just want to be able to do as much as I can.
Nrama: But you have been helping out others, including doing some work for DC’s The Flash #50 in April. The book was solicited back in December with a different artist. How did you get involved with this?
Eisma: To be clear, I'm only doing a 10-page story in that issue. It really all started with an out of the blue message I got from Van Jensen, the writer. We met at a Heroes Con many years ago, and had a mutual appreciation for one another's work. I've always wanted to work with him on something. Anyway, he said he'd pitched his editor, Brian Cunningham, on me drawing a short story for the issue, and asked if I'd be game. It took about two seconds to say yes.
Nrama: How quick of a turnaround did you need to do them for DC?
Eisma: It was a pretty brisk deadline--two weeks for 10 pages with lots of characters on them. It all went pretty smoothly, outside of one patch of getting a sinus infection and a convention weekend!
Nrama: Is this just a one-off assignment for DC, or might fans be seeing more of you at DC coming up?
Eisma: There is possibly more--I can't really elaborate at the moment. I will say that I was extremely happy working with the editors and with Van, and I think they liked what I was doing as well!
Nrama: I know in the past you did some sample pages of Wonder Woman for DC. Where do your interests lie in the DC pantheon of superheroes?
Eisma: I love the Teen Titans characters, Harley Quinn, and you can never go wrong with the trinity of Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman. The Bat office is just killing it with Batgirl and Gotham Academy--those would be fun to take a crack at. DC has so many awesome iconic heroes--I'd love a chance to draw any of them!
Nrama: So that The Flash #50 short is done, and Morning Glories #50 is on your drawing board right now. But once that’s done, what are you looking to do – something different?
Eisma: Yeah, definitely. I love sci-fi -- Alien is my favorite film. I'm always on the lookout for something cosmic. Superheroes is always a goal of mine--I've done a few things with Jay Faerber in that field, and had a blast with it. The big thing I always stress to writers that approach me is I don't want to do the long form epic story anymore. I've done that for six years, and while I enjoy it, no one ever wants to be pigeon-holed.
Nrama: Where do you want to be in comic books in five years? Do you want to be doing it full-time, or do you like splitting your time between drawing and teaching?
Eisma: The teaching is great and one of the most rewarding experiences I've had, but comics is my passion. My ideal place would be to do comics full-time, and teach a few classes on the side.