Rarely do new writers in the world of comics make such a splash as Nick Spencer. Professionally, he’s only been writing comics for about a year, but within that year, he has already been nominated for numerous Eisner Awards, been given an exclusive contract at Marvel Comics to write several new series, and has been overall greatly received by the comics community for every piece of his work. Below is a strip belonging to “The Gutters”, a webcomic that is used to lovingly poke fun at the industry, focusing on Nick Spencer.
To try to talk about all of his series would be an extremely difficult task, so instead I’m going to talk about the series that has brought him the most acclaim and all the award nominations that we discussed and why it, above all other series, was the major shot in the arm that not only the comics industry, but all the entertainment industry, needs.
“Morning Glories” is Nick Spencer’s golden child. As a series, it’s currently being published through Image Comics, a company where their entire focus is placed on completely creator owned comics. As such, Nick Spencer has complete creator control over everything that happens in the story, and as such, is not required to pull any punches when it comes to creating a gripping story that will not let you go. I should know. I read the first volume of the series, entitled “For a Better Future”, in less than an hour almost a week ago. It took me a little bit of time to hop on board the Nick Spencer/Morning Glories train, but I’m more than happy that I did. I can tell you why, and tell you exactly why if you are going to start reading one series this year, it should be this one first.
“Morning Glories” focuses on the Morning Glory preparatory academy, where the best and brightest of the country are taken to grow and be shaped to become the modern architects of the future. The story first focuses on two students trying to make their escape by lining their teacher’s chalkboard with an explosive chemical powder that erupts on connection with actual chalk. Soon, these two students attempt to make their escape from the academy, with guards hot on their trail. Eventually, though, both are murdered by an unknown assailant.
Those are the first five pages.
Afterwards, we are given a page by page introduction of the real players that are set on the stage. Casey is an enthused, intelligent blonde prodigy who cannot wait to get underway with her new future. Zoe, who I guess can be considered a brunette “man’s lady” (or a woman that has quite a few gentleman at her beck and whim), who feels the need to say goodbye to the five guys she was dating at the same time. Hunter, an innocent minded, red-haired older brother with a love for escapism in video games and comic books. Ike, an extremely brilliant minded, rich trouble maker who loves nothing more than to cause problems for his stuffy mother’s dinner parties. Jade, a girl from the corn fielded north-west America who believe the thoughts she keeps in her diary are the most important in the world. Finally, we are introduced to Jun, a straight-forward, direct Japanese boy who can outwit and kick your ass when needed.
Six bright minds. Six connected futures. Shortly after they all arrive at the academy, it’s revealed that all our new entries share the same birthday. Casey immediately comes to find out that everyone in the academy has the same birthday.
So the first of many mysteries begin. Spencer packs the story with so many clues and hints that just when you think you have it all figured out, the truth is snatched up from under you and you’re soon lead further down the rabbit hole. This is where Nick Spencer creates the most engaging, character moments and realistic drama that I have ever seen in comics.
Where is this academy? What has happened to the students parents? Who is that silver haired figure lurking the halls? Why are teachers allowed to kill their students?
Spencer has been credited with being a writer for a new generation, with stories that hold ground and are enthralling. What Spencer has created in these first few issues is a story that has all the allure and mystery of the first few seasons of famed television show “Lost”. So much so that many comic review sites did relate the two. Well, before it apparently lost its luster. “Morning Glories”, however, truly succeeds where “Lost” failed. Spencer has gone on record that the first page of the first issue will show that, even when the series reaches its end, that they never lost their way and that they had a plan for the Morning Glory academy all along.
Spencer’s writing has a modern flair to it, with characters that quip with each other in a intelligent way, with witty banter and smart conversational pieces all thrown in. The students are most guilty of sharing these traits, and Spencer showcases his real flair for writing teenagers. One of the downfalls of many writers is they write their teenagers to be almost clichés of what teenagers actually are. This is not the case, as each new student possesses their own traits and characteristics and you feel for them as they discover the mysteries and horrors of their new school. Make no mistake, Morning Glories is a drama wrapped in a mystery coated with a horror tale. Spencer nails the drama and tension within a story perfectly, allowing the audience to be taken in by the overall mysteries surrounding the school.
Accompanying Spencer’s fantastic scripts is art by Joe Eisma. The last few articles have always featured someone I considered to be a superstar artist, with lots of acclaim and good press coming from them. Eisma is not someone I consider to be one of those artists. However, nothing anywhere near bad comes from Eisma’s art as well. He’s completely capable of telling the story with a minimalistic, clean approach. He allows the writing to really be the one to tell the story. Eisma has his own skills, sure, creating a fresh look and beat for the book with his style, but there is nothing to overshadowing about it. Again, Spencer’s writing really structures the entire story and Eisma is there doing a great job telling the story Spencer has set his mind on telling.
And what exactly is that story? I’ve done my very best right now to describe what happens without giving away the major events within the story, since so many of them are shocking and revelatory. So why this story? What does “Morning Glories” have to show the rest of the world?
Nothing but being a fantastically written and drawn story.
It is not too much to say that when Nick Spencer started “Morning Glories”, everyone else in the industry immediately stood up and paid attention. Both of the Big Two comic publishers, DC and Marvel, grabbed him for individual projects before Marvel finally signed him to an exclusivity contract. This story broke down comic barriers of stagnant tales where the only exciting things that happened were included for the final page shock value. I, an enormous fan of superhero comics, enjoyed this more so than many hero series this year. This is a perfect entrance point for anyone wishing to work their way into comic books.
Spencer makes each page count towards the final product, whenever that will happen. Spencer has gone on record saying that he has a beginning, middle, and end planned out for the troubled Morning Glory Academy students. Whether all of them will walk away and survive to find out what sinister plot is working its way through the school, is up for debate. I do know that I want to see what is lurking through those halls.
I’m hooked, and I want to be there for the end.
- In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Rob Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains and explorer of the importance of comics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org