In just a bit more than a year, Nick Spencer has gone from being a complete unknown on the outside of the comic book industry looking in, to a writer with three creator-owned Image Comics properties — Existence 2.0, Forgetless and Shuddertown — to his credit.
Oh, and he’s also working on two major projects over at DC Comics, the Jimmy Olsen back-ups starting this September in the pages of Action Comics, and the upcoming ongoing T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series, slated for November.
His fourth creator-owned series at Image is also his first monthly comic, and it comes out August 11: Morning Glories, about the prestigious — and highly mysterious — Morning Glory Academy prep school, and its newest crop of recruits.
Not bad for a rookie season, but with four high-concept creator-owned titles unleashed upon the publishing world in thirteen months, it’s not hard to wonder if Spencer might be at risk of running low on ideas.
“It’s hard to burn out of something that you enjoy doing this much,” Spencer said via a telephone interview with Newsarama. “I never wake up and dread writing that day. I never feel like sitting down to write these stories is a chore or any kind of work. It’s something that I like doing.”
Morning Glories features art by Spencer’s Existence 3.0 collaborator Joe Eisma, and the script of the 44-page first issue was written back in 2008 — about 90% of it was done in three hours, according to the writer.
“This story came to me really, really quickly. It hit me all in like a day,” Spencer said. “It’s a big story — this is a book we hope to be doing for a long time. But it all came to me pretty fully formed.”
Even after reading Morning Glories #1, it’s hard to really describe to someone what it’s about — which is sort of the point. Spencer has called the series “Runaways meets Lost,” and like the latter, it’s intended as a long-form mystery. Morning Glory Academy is recruiting extraordinary teens from across the country, but we’re not sure why — or what exactly is going on within the halls. (Though, based on the some of the scenes in the first issue, it doesn't appear to be anything too wholesome.)
“What you’re supposed to know at the end of that issue is where they are, but not why they’re there or what the academy wants with them,” Spencer said. “We’ll be posing questions, and then answering them, and posing new questions at the same time.”
Spencer does have a definite endpoint in mind, and is hopeful for the series to go 75 issues — though he’s certainly aware that’s dependent on how the title is received by readers and retailers.
“At the end of the first issue, I can’t imagine that a lot of people aren’t going to have questions,” Spencer said. “There’s a lot to find out. Hopefully we can make the ride and the mystery as entertaining as possible.”
Readers got their first glimpse of Morning Glories this spring, with teaser images of each one of the main characters released to news outlets. Casey was dubbed as “most likely to save the world;” Ike, “most likely to hook up with your mom;” Jade, “most likely to emo out all over the place;” Hunter, "most likely to quote Star Wars at inappropriate times;” Jun, “most likely to kick your ass;” and Zoe, “most likely to cheat on you.”
Spencer reports that he was “pretty involved” with this marketing campaign.
“It was one of the earliest ideas we had in terms of promoting the book, and Betsy Gomez at Image did an amazing job getting them out there,” Spencer said. “The goal was to get people excited about these characters first, because the story all really builds out from them.”
The ensemble of Morning Glories is key to the series, with those six characters together uncovering secrets of the academy along with the reader. Like the concept for the book itself, the cast came together pretty naturally for the writer.
“They came all pretty quickly, and they came really well-defined,” Spencer said. “What you see on the surface is not necessarily the entire story. As the book goes on, we’re going to be looking at their lives before they came to the academy. I think that will really cast a light on who they are and what their motivations are.”
Part of the fun for Spencer has been hearing people pick their favorites based on the teaser images or reading early copies of the first issue — Ike, a Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl-type seems like a solid pick for a breakout character. Though the writer refuses to play favorites with his creations, he’s enjoying the diversity of responses.
“I’ll get theories, like, ‘people are really going to like this character,” Spencer said. “It just depends on the person. That’s good. If everybody was coming up to me and going, ‘this is my favorite,’ I would feel like I was doing something wrong.”
Runaways and Lost aren’t the only points of inspiration for Morning Glories. Spencer also lists Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ‘90s horror comedies such as Scream and The Faculty, and, yes, “even a little bit of Gossip Girl,” as influences along the way.
“I tend to like young characters,” Spencer said. “To me, there’s a lot that’s interesting about those years of life, and the discovery aspect of that phase. The thing that’s great about young characters in fiction, when they’re done well, is that nothing ever affects you like it does quite in those years. Time goes on, and you gather more experiences, you take more things in stride. Young characters are not in the position to do that yet, so there tends to be more drama.”
One pitfall for many writers, though, is making younger characters sound authentic, even if the words are provided by someone far removed from that age group — everyone's read bad teen dialogue written by someone woefully out of touch. Spencer doesn’t see it as a problem.
“I get asked about that a lot — I don’t know. It’s just not a struggle for me,” the writer said. “I’m not that old myself, so I just don’t feel like I have to think about it too much. I think a lot of people over-think it in the approach.”
Morning Glories is another accomplishment in a short time for Spencer, who still balances a full-time day job along with his comics work. Though he's grateful, he doesn’t spend too much time sitting around and reflecting on his achievements.
“You just don’t really think about it,” Spencer said. “The way it always works, you’re so far ahead, in terms of the writing and also in terms of other stuff that’s coming up, that by the time everybody knows certain things your headspace is already up ahead somewhere.”
Do you have a favorite MORNING GLORIES classmate yet?