For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past couple of months, Morning Glories is a series published from Image Comic and written by relative newcomer Nick Spencer and drawn by Joe Eisma. Morning Glories became a near instant success story, the first issues going to multiple printings and the entire series getting huge amounts of critical acclaim. We were able to get Glories artist Joe Eisma to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. First off, tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started into making comics?
My pleasure! Well, I’m Joe, and I’ve been drawing my whole life. Never had any formal training, outside of some life drawing classes while I was in grad school. I studied film in college, and video game design in graduate school. I’d always been a fan of comics, and originally pursued it as a career when I was in high school. This was in the heyday of the ’90s, and I eventually got burnt out and gave up drawing. I picked it back up in 2005 and have been working ever since!
What made you want to pick it up again?
I was (and still am) working in freelance game design, and I was heading up a small art department. I was starting to feel creatively unfulfilled. Working as part of an art team in games, your contribution isn’t always noticeable; it might be some background or menu art, or it could be a main character. So I wanted to do something that was a little more of my own thing. I’d still been reading comics, and decided it was now or never to give it another shot.
I have indeed. My previous works include A Dummy’s Guide to Danger: Lost at Sea from Viper Comics and Serpo from Devil’s Due, both in 2008. And We The People from Outlaw Entertainment in 2009.
After Existence 3.0 wrapped up, how did the collaboration on Morning Glories begin?
The funny thing is, Morning Glories is actually our first collaboration. Nick and I met at Brian Michael Bendis’ message board, and he sent me an email with the initial pitch. We worked on it in the summer of 2009, and successfully pitched it to Image/Shadowline at that year’s San Diego Comic Con. The book was put on the shelf for awhile, and as the months went by, Nick asked me to help out on Existence 3.0, which was behind schedule. I originally stepped in to do layouts, but ended up taking over the art chores. So, I actually drew Existence after I’d already started issue 1 of Morning Glories!
What was the reason for the delay?
I believe it really came down to Shadowline wanting to build up Nick’s name and notoriety. In the end, they were right, and putting the book on the shelf was a wise move. Sure, I was chomping at the bit for awhile, but I kept busy doing lots of commissions.
I would imagine that gave you a bit of lead time on the series, even with commissions and the work you did on Existence.
Oh, absolutely. I started on the rest of issue one in March of 2010, and the book was on shelves by August. By the time the first issue had come out, I was drawing #4.
Now that it’s published it’s easy to see why this book has been such a huge hit, but what was it about the pitch that Nick sent you that made you say “This is a series I want to be a part of” ?
What hooked me about Nick’s pitch for the book was that it was unlike anything I was seeing on the shelves, and there was just so much depth to it. You could really get a feel for who these characters were, and that there was an incredibly rich storyline in store for them. As a fan of Lost, that aspect really intrigued me. Part of me knew that we’d get some attention for this–but I really had no idea of the magnitude.
What kind of changes has Morning Glories’ success meant for you and your work?
The biggest change is trying to maintain a schedule so that the book ships as close to schedule as possible! Before, I’d worked on miniseries or graphic novels–finite stories. With this, you wrap an issue and it’s straight on to the next one. It’s forced me to cut out bad habits from my work, and to goof off on the internet a lot less.
What types of bad habits? Even in just six issues there seems to be remarkable growth in your work, so it clearly has paid off.
Thanks! You know, before, I had the hardest time deciding something was done. I guess I still do, to a point, but I’ve gotten better about letting go and not overworking a panel or a line to death. Michael Lark looked over my portfolio last year and told me I needed to loosen up more. I try to do that a lot more in my work–not be so rigid. The publishing schedule has also taught me that I really need to trust my instincts more when I draw, rather than second guessing myself constantly as I have in the past.
One of the things that I think makes Morning Glories such a great read is the balance it strikes between being a supernatural mystery and a character drama. We’ve seen as much action and violence as we have emotional conflict and expressiveness. That kind of storytelling can present a lot challenges, and thus far you’ve met each one. Is that one of the fun parts of working on the book?
Thanks! Every issue is absolutely a challenge. Sometimes I’ll get the script from Nick and think to myself, ‘how am I going to draw that?’ You’re right–there are so many aspects to the book, with the supernatural, the drama and the action. They each necessitate a different kind of storytelling skill set, and some scenes are easier to draw than others. But, I definitely have fun with it–I’ve never been bored drawing this book!
Given that Nick has said that this is a story with a planned ending, are you signed on for the long haul? When you are done with the series are there any dream jobs, characters or stories that you’d like to tackle?
Definitely! I wouldn’t dream of leaving this book. I’m enjoying it way too much to let go of it. I do have dream gigs for when this wraps up, though! I grew up on X-men, so I’d love to play in that sandbox at some point, and I’d love to work with writers like Mike Carey, Scott Snyder and Joe Hill. I’ve also got creations of my own I’d like to pursue one day, and my ultimate pipe dream gig–Rom: Spaceknight.
Thanks for talking to us. Where can folks find you on-line?
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