Comics Anonymous

June 13, 2012, 7:55 am
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

Given the chance, there’s probably a short list of people with whom I’d like to swap brains for the day, including Grant Morrison (trippy) and Scott Snyder (BATMAN!), but right now there’s one person’s head I’d love to be able look deeply into so that I can have the answers to what’s happening in his comic – Nick Spencer. He’s currently writing a couple of books for Image and has previously worked with DC and Marvel. We managed to grab Nick at this year’s Kapow! to talk about his current and upcoming work.

If you’re not reading Morning Glories right now, you’re probably getting a peaceful night’s sleep and not sitting up at all hours thinking about what on earth is going to happen next. But then you’re seriously missing out on one of the greatest modern day comics. If ever there was a comic you could beat off your skeptical friends with and convince them that it’s not all tights and spandex, that truley incredible storytelling isn’t only found on a small or big screen, then this is it. I could go on trying to convince you to read this book all day, but I’m guessing you came here to read an interview with it’s creator instead (and hope that he might give away some details of what’s going on in Morning Glories).

To be fair, it’s probably the question he most gets asked about, but how can you not meet Nick Spencer and ask: ‘Do you know how it ends?’

Yeah the ending came with the idea so that’s been one of the luxuries of the book because I’ve not really had to struggle with the end point, it’s more about how we tell the story and how we get there. It’s funny because as the twists start to pile up and the surprise start to end up in the book and we take the various turns I think a lot of people think it’s spiraling out whereas it tends to be going in reverse for me, it tends to be narrowing in. It’s got a defined end point and that hasn’t really shifted since day one.

During the Kapow! weekend there was some discussion at the various Image panels about series’ endings, with Charlie Adlard commenting that The Walking Dead could implement its ending at any point – meaning if the book started to drag on then they didn’t have to wait until they’d told specific plot points to get there, but similarly they could go for as long as they liked. Spencer also commented that he sees Morning Glories reaching issue #100 (something that Walking Dead is about to do), so I was keen to find out if there was he had a similar strategy for the ending:

It’s probably a little more defined in our case because the nature of the book is a long form mystery. So really the entre book is about getting to the end point. Whereas a book like Walking Dead, in my experience as a reader, is more about a looser journey and a story about what those characters are going through. With Morning Glories we have to keep a degree of long-term structure. Things can move around and take more time than you originally planned, but at the end of the day you have to hit certain beats in order for that ending to work. It’s not something we can drop in at any point, we have to develop a certain amount of story before we can do it. We’re constantly mindful of that.

Although he’s clear about how the book ends and the important parts that need to play out before them, Spencer admitted that they do still have a lot of flexibility to take the story to places that feel right at the time:

I think right now we’re in the midst of this big ‘wood run’ story which actually spans a few arcs in a sense, with each arc having it’s own defined elements and feeding off what was set up in the last one. That was a story that was originally a six issue story and that’s where the invention and change comes into play because, when we got in, it was pretty obvious that this was a bigger story. So we have the luxury and ability to adjust to that.

If you’ve read the series, you’ll know that most issues have at least one major twist or turn, however when asked about his recent tweets concerning a “second season”, Nick pointed out that this was just a one of the various ways they’d keep a handle on the structure of the book and revealed that “When the wood run is done, we tend to view that as a big turning point for the book.”

Since it’s release, Morning Glories has had a lot of comparisons made between it and the TV show LOST – something that Spencer points out was a “very direct influence” but more for it’s “unique storytelling and structure”:

The science fiction and mystical elements are really not what we borrow, but people will see some similarities. That’s because they are pretty general science fiction traits. I think what we owe a lot to is LOST’s story structure. An individual issue of Morning Glories will often have two timelines, one in the present and one in the past, and the two will very much feed off each other. We obviously owe a lot of that to LOST.  Both Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (LOST executive producers) have said nice things about the book and have been very supportive, so we don’t feel like we’re ripping them off too much – they seem to be more flattered than insulted, so that’s pretty cool.

While on the topic of LOST, I had to ask if it was him or Joe Eisma (Morning Glories artist) that dropped in the reference to the character Hurley:

That was me – Joe will work in a lot of cool references of his own. He sneaks plenty in there, but that one was pretty specifically mine.

Spencer had many nice things to say about his Eisma, his creative partner on the book – and no wonder, the guy produces stunning work issue after issue. Never has an artist been so stretched yet delivered every time, drawing the same character but at different ages. His style is definitely one of the book’s major charms.

I think he’s one of the best storytellers in comics. He has a fundamental understanding of how to convey emotion on a page that very few artists have, so I love working with the guy. We’ve been working together for 3 years and have become good friends. He’s an integral part of the book; he’s the heart and soul of it. We were just so lucky that this creative team found each other. He’s awesome.

Morning Glories isn’t the only book Spencer is writing for Image at the moment. He’s also working with Robert Kirkman on new series Thief of Thieves – a kinda Oceans Eleven for comics, where the main character is much more than the one dimensional George Clooney. It’s an interesting set up with Kirkman having written the idea and outline for the story, but Spencer writing the actual issues:

Robert contacted me just after Morning Glories had come out and expressed that he was a big fan of the book and some of my other Image work too. He said that he’d had this idea for Thief of Thieves, but he didn’t think that he wanted to do the day to day scripting on the book. I think he was looking for a different voice to do the page by page story telling. He sent me over a detailed outline of where he saw the book going and more importantly who the characters were– and I was immediately blown away by the vision that he had for Conrad and the people around him. It was a story I instantly connected to, so I was very enthusiastic about doing it. We worked on it for a long time, we worked behind the scenes for well over a year. It’s by far the longest pre-production I’ve ever spent on a book and so to finally have the issues come out is a really cool feeling.

Spencer confirmed that he wouldn’t be doing the issue writing all the time, adopting a kind of ‘writers room’ approach that will see him do the first seven issues and then allow other writers to come in. He would then return again further down the road. It’s an experience he’s quite enjoyed too:

You’re getting a variety of ideas from everybody and you get this truly collaborative story, which is pretty rare in comics. We have lots of sort of shared events at Marvel and DC, but you don’t really have very often the same group of writers working on the same story beat by beat. It’s certainly very rare in creator owned comics. It’s a really cool experiment which I’m very proud to be a part of.

As well as the book receiving good reviews for its first few issues, there’s also been talk of AMC picking it up as a TV show, similar to what happened with The Walking Dead. I asked Nick if that was something he was involved in:

It’s certainly something I’m open to and something we have talked about. Robert’s been very kind in the way that my deal on the book is structured, it’s really generous and allows me to participate in the book’s success. It’s an interest idea to be a part of a TV show at the same time. It’s cool to see what elements they might take and use and to some extent I wonder if it might be more fun to be part of the audience: sit down in front of my TV one night and see maybe a line of dialogue or a plot beat that I came up with on the screen. So I don’t know, I haven’t decided, we haven’t talked about it too much. It’s still fairly early on that process. I’m very excited about the show and what I think AMC is gong to do. It’s got Chic Eglee, who did Dexter, and a lot of other great TV shows. I think they’re gonna do good job.

Finally, since Nick had just finished wrapping up his writing stint on the Ultimate Comics X-Men book for Marvel, I was keen to know if he felt that his writing there differed to his work with Image:

At the end of the day, a story is a story. It’s not like you really think about the characters all that differently when you’re working with them. I’ve had a blast working at Marvel, I’ve got to work with some great artists and some great editors and just to live that dream to work on those characters that have been a part of your reading experience, it’s really cool. I’ve got something I’m very excited about coming up there that I’m working hard on, so I’m really enthusiastic for word to get out about it.

I’ll certainly be keen to see what Spencer has planned for future comics, but most of all keeping up to date with Morning Glories and Thief of Thieves.

Craig – @hastiecraig

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