17th Mar2013

Exclusive: Morning Glories’ Joe Eisma Interview

by Jack Kirby

Over the last year or so I’ve been slowly ingratiating myself into the wonderful and geek-tastic world of comics. Recently, I was lent the first volume of Morning Glories, a twisty, turny and thrilling series about a group of teens who have been inducted into the mysterious and sinister Morning Glory Academy and the strange goings-on that ensue. It’s one of the many wonderful titles published by Image Comics, is frequently described as ‘Runaways meets Lost’ and is written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by Joe Eisma. Eisma was kind enough to grant me an interview which I submit below for your reading pleasure…

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1) Morning Glories will have its 25th issue out this month – looking back to when the series first started, did you have any idea how popular it would be and to what do you attribute its success?

The reaction to the book took me completely by surprise.  I knew we had something special on our hands, to be sure, but I figured it would just turn a few heads, if anything.  It was fantastic what it turned out to be in the end, though.  I think the success really comes down to the characters.  We may tend to keep our readers in the dark on some aspects of the plot, but through and through, people seem to care about these characters.  I’ve never worked on anything like this where there’s that much passion regarding the book’s cast.  It’s gratifying!

2) How did you begin your creative partnership with Nick?

We joke about this a lot, but he and I both were posters on Brian Michael Bendis’ message board.  I initially found him kind of annoying!  He eventually won me over, though.  He sent me a message there around summer 2009 after he’d seen some of my art and asked me if I’d like to read his pitch, which he said was ‘Runaways meets Lost.’  Of course I said yes!

3) Your artwork for the series is really wonderful to take in; who or what inspires your illustrative style?

Thank you!  To kind of piggy back on your previous question–looking back I see my style has definitely changed–hopefully for the better!  I think my early influences were pretty apparent on the page–Adrian Alphona and to an extent Frank Cho.  As time has gone by, I’ve really been influenced by Naoki Urasawa, and I hope that translates into my art!

4) As a big Lost fan, I was delighted to see Hurley’s chicken shop turn up in the Hunter issue. Has Jorge Garcia acknowledged your depiction of him and can we expect any further Lost nods in the future?

He has not, as yet!  I know he’s a comics fan, so hopefully one day.  We obviously meant it with the greatest affection, since Nick and I are huge fans of Lost.  And yes, you can most definitely expect more Lost Easter eggs.  In fact, readers missed one (it was kind of small) in issue #24!

5) Morning Glories has been keeping people guessing where it’s heading for a while, without spoiling anything, would you be able to tease any future developments we can look forward to?

Hmm… Well, I can say #25 is our season ender, and you can expect an ending and a new beginning.  I know that’s so obtuse, but if I spill more, Nick might send a hit squad to my house.  I will also add that #26 will feature answers to subplots hinted at in the second arc!

6) Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I understand it, comic writers provide artists with a panel by panel script that they then illustrate. Is this how you and Nick work or do you have a different process? How much back and forth is there in the creative process – to what extent does your work feed into the narrative and vice versa?

It’s a pretty standard process.  Nick’s scripts are generally very detailed and at times quite specific.  I’ll get batches of pages–rarely an entire script all at once.  They are formatted almost screenplay style, with each ‘shot’ on a page broken down as panels.  With certain things, like fight scenes, he’s a bit looser and leaves the specifics up to me.  A lot of the time, the dialogue isn’t final when I start drawing, so I think Nick finalises that when he sees the finished page and gauge the acting of the characters.  

7) Looking at a typical page of Morning Glories, it’s far from heavy on text – do you feel like you have lots of space to play with to tell the story visually?

To be fair, there are some moments that are text heavy–our characters are prone to monologues at times!  To answer your question, though–yes, we have lots of text-free stretches and it’s always fun for an artist to be able to stretch their wings with that.  To not have to worry about leaving enough space for dialogue balloons is very liberating, and lets me get more cinematic with my framing choices.

8) Are you working on any other projects you can tell us about?

I’m doing a couple of covers for folks that I can’t talk about yet, as well as a short story in an upcoming anthology.  I’ve got a pitch called Art Monster that I did with a writer named Jeremy Holt that’s currently looking for a home.  It’s a mini-series, and there are other writers I’m talking to about doing mini-series with.  It’s about the only other kind of gig I can fit into my crazy schedule!

9) Finally, which character do you most enjoying drawing and why?

It changes so often!  Initially, Jade, because I loved drawing all her caked on eye makeup and extreme emotions.  Then, Ike, because he’s such a jerk and bad guys are always fun to draw.  My current fave would have to be Ian, of the recently introduced Truants.  He’s such a doof.  He’s not pretty and looks like a gangly, bitter teenage dork–quite unlike most of the rest of the cast!

Morning Glories #25 is on sale March 27th and is published by Image Comics. Follow Joe on Twitter @Supajoe.

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