Hello and welcome back to MGA Study Hall, where all things Morning Glories are analyzed, dissected and poured over with the hope that we can figure out just what is going on!
Today’s issue is issue #48, in which Casey and Isabel finally have their debate.
Join me as I discuss the issue, its story and the possible hidden secrets that we may or may not be picking up on. I should note: this column contains massive spoilers for the issue. Enormous. Colossal, even. The issue is out today, so make sure to read it first before you read our thoughts. It helps to give the issue a few read-throughs before coming to us, but consider this your warning about impending spoilers.
As always, our very lovely/supremely awesome column header was designed by the graphic designer for the actual book, Tim Daniel! For more of Tim’s work, please visit his site Hidden Robot and be sure to check out Tim’s books “Burning Fields” and “Skinned“!
One more thing before we begin, as I’d like to continue to throw out this short plug:
For more details, click the image above. As for myself, I’ve got theorizing to do. Let’s kick it off.
MGA Study Hall LIVE! Returns Once More to NYCC!
Back by popular demand, Morning Glories Study Hall LIVE! will once again be gracing the hallowed halls of NYCC, on Sunday at 12:15 PM. I can’t say anything about what we’re going to do this year, other than there is not going to be a memorial video, and that yes, I will correctly record it — again, I might add. I think. I hope.
Other than that, you should just come. Nick keeps tweeting about some big announcement, and I’m not being funny when I say I have literally no idea what he’s talking about. Let’s find out together!
Oh, and Joe has prints and stickers you can get. I helped with one of them!
Title: Morning Glories Study Hall LIVE!
Time: 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Room 1B03
Description: From the hit annotation column on Multiversity Comics, MGA Study Hall Live returns once more to NYCC! As tradition from the last two shows, join creators Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma once again as they discuss their hit Eisner-nominated and New York Times Bestselling Image Comics series “Morning Glories” with MGA Study Hall host Matthew Meylikhov, including another in-depth Fan favorite live Q&A segment. Questions will be asked, answers will be avoided and all will be well – for a better future.
Speakers: Matthew Meylikhov, Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma
The First Day of School
The issue begins with giving us a look at Clarkson’s first day working at her old high school, as Tom Reed begins the wooing process by being the “charming one.” Some of the dialogue in this scene is interesting, as Tom tells her that she’s going to love teaching there and that they brainwash children and lock troublemakers in the basement; while one could possibly assume that he’s just trying to be cute, this is “Morning Glories” and nothing is ever cute!Continued below
Truth is, we don’t know a lot about Tom. We know he and Clarkson are together and that he’s David’s father, but we don’t know much about his secret origin. In a book like this where pretty much everyone can not be taken at face value, it doesn’t feel unreasonable to (continue to) assume that there’s something else going on with Tom Reed — to the extent that his remarks to Clarkson in this scene are perhaps slightly telling that he has some inkling of an idea of who she really is. At least, enough to be coy about it anyway. He is rather unseemly forward, isn’t he?
Also, perhaps the biggest mystery of all: where did Harold get the butter banana smoothie so fast?
Guess Casey Did Cheat After All
A consistent claim from Casey’s main rival Isabel is that at their high school science fair, Casey cheated to win — thus securing her entry into Morning Glory Academy. Casey adamantly denied this of course, but now we know that Casey’s future-self Clarkson was the one that gave her the award. It’s an interesting way to cheat assuredly, but as we do not know what either girl did for their science fair project, Clarkson’s aside insinuates that even she knew that the other project was better.
Of course, now we get to wonder more about Isabel’s side. Isabel was an agent of the Academy when she was in high school with Casey, but it’s definitely a question of who put her there in the first place. Smart money is on Hodge, as Hodge is the one that seems to be the most manipulative with agents in the outside world — and this theory is furthered during Isabel’s later monologue to Casey before their debate when she says that Hodge “sure does like to mix it up around here. Kinda mystifies me…”, which is as fair a statement as any. If Hodge sent Casey out into the world so that she could become Clarkson and send her younger self to the Academy, what role does Isabel play in that other than some kind of pawn? And with Isabel’s length of time at the Academy and pro-MGA stance, why would Isabel even want to go back into the outside world? What could the Academy offer their best student that she ostensibly doesn’t already have?
The Notable Thing about Tamara
This is more of a casual aside than anything else, but: something that features heavily in this book is cycles and repetitions. Samsara is our obvious reference point (#31), but the general idea is that everything that has happened before will happen again.
And here we have Isabel telling a story about how Casey had a girl friend similar to Jade in her previous school, to which she saw herself as the “protector” for someone who was less fortunate or whatever. Tamara and Jade are both socially awkward, and in both scenarios Casey becomes the one who wants to take care of them by whatever means necessary — including but not limited to getting aggressive. And with this issue showcasing aggression as a very heavy part of Casey’s character, the story about Tamara becomes important to help illustrate elements of Casey’s character.
We question a lot about Casey. What is she really doing this all for? Is she trying to save everyone, or is her altruism too heavily rooted in selfish endeavors? What can we extrapolate from a person who seems to want to come to the aid of those who may need her help, even if they’re not necessarily asking for it? Do Tamara and Jade not essentially represent the entire student body, who Casey claims to want to save but none of whom ever actually asked for help? After all, Isabel seems to think being at the school is alright; who is this Casey gal to come in here and say it all needs to be burned down?
This brings me to:
Anger Management (AKA The Debate)
There’s a running motif throughout the book that most of the people we see as villains are actually likely heroes (at least in a different story), and that our heroes are less shiny then we might like to believe. In fact, if this issue does nothing else, it continues to paint Casey as a dangerous entity; we’ve certainly remarked on the possibility that everything Casey is doing will have a negative effect, and Isabel makes that subtext a declarative statement with her speech. Isabel even goes so far as to justify the Academy’s cruel and sometimes unbelievable behavior, revealing that the things that happened to Casey don’t make her special — they make her one of the group. So then why should Casey spend all of her time rebelling against everything, if what has happened to her has happened to others to a more positive effect?Continued below
With Isabel being introduced into the equation, there’s a very strong element of Collectivism vs. Individualism making it’s way to the forefront of the story. Isabel paints Casey in a very negative light as a reckless firestarter, totally egocentric and with no idea of the bigger picture; there is a Better Future that the school is working towards, and Casey is too busy wrapped up in her own pain to accept that. But, generally speaking, when debating Collectivism vs. Individualism, Collectivism is the enemy — it’s better to have a singular identity than go specifically with the mob mentality, and most stories with similar threads will make this argument. What if the argument is wrong, or at least wrong in this scenario? We’ve been conditioned in a meme-like way to believe the Academy is the enemy, but when the leader of who we believe to be the “Good Guys” is prone throwing chairs across the room when she doesn’t get her way, are we putting our faith in the right leader?
Dead Parents. It’s Always Dead Parents.
This was touched on before, but lets talk about Isabel in more depth.
In this issue, Isabel lays it all out on the line. As Casey tries to gain sympathy for the death of her parents, Isabel not only throws it back in her face as an experience not unique to her (there’s that Collectivism again), but as something she saw as a benefit; yeah, dead parents aren’t great, but Isabel used it as an opportunity provided by the Academy and somehow manager to essentially benefit from it. Isabel is essentially saying yes, these horrible things have happened, but they’ve happened for a great reason that we can all benefit from because a higher power has stated so.*
Of course… she could be lying. I mean, that’s obvious, right? It depends whose side you’re on; if you’re a Casey fan, then it’s probably safe to assume that Isabel will say anything she has to discredit any claims that Casey makes — and if Casey is trying to gain sympathy by playing the dead parents card, then of course Isabel can retort with the whole, “Oh, they did that to me too!” bit. Besides, it’s not as if “Morning Glories” readers are the most trusting bunch; earlier I was pulling Tom Reed’s whole character apart based on two lines said in jest.
Then again, even if she’s misinformed about certain things, Isabel has technically always been a straight shooter. Yes, she lied when she was outside of the campus about who she was, but once she was back on campus she’s been 100% forthright; she’s never once said anything that isn’t true — or rather, that she doesn’t believe isn’t true. Isabel may be as shifty as they come in the grand scheme of things, but if there’s one thing we credit to her, it’s that she’s a believer.
Is Isabel’s story true? I’d assume so. She has no reason to lie — she wants to be at the Academy, she wants to be student body president, she wants to continue this life. She gains nothing by lying. How do we ultimately measure Isabel’s truth again’st Casey’s then? And whose, in the end, when no one is technically lying, is the “right” truth?
(*Also, do you think that Donald Trump similarly tries to ruffle his Republican opponents before debates by telling them their friends are definitely fucking dead? Because that’s such a Trump thing to do. She’d also be a really great Fox News anchor. Just saying.)
Oh, and It’s Still All Casey’s Fault
Here’s the kicker of this whole speech Isabel gives (and boy, do people in this book love their speeches. At the end of it, she lays the blame on Casey, saying that it’s Casey’s “fault” they’re there at all; she’s ostensibly doing it in the fashion that her actions have brought us to this point in the story, but we can certainly extrapolate further meaning out of it. After all, it’s not the first time a character with more in-depth knowledge of the school has looked at one of the Glories and said, “Hey, all of this? It’s your doing.” See: #25, Hunter and Future Jade.Continued below
Casey being the one responsible for everyone being at the school certainly could make sense. Her actions that so ruthlessly seem opposed to the existence of the school could essentially give the school its reason for existing. To keep this in comics, think about it like Batman and the Joker; without Batman there’s no need for the Joker (sorry, Gotham). The two exist as polar opposites of a spectrum, fated to constantly be entwined in battle. If Casey is one of those characters, then the school can fit in as her opposite — and since we know that everything in this book occurs in repetitive cycles, it certainly stands to reason that by the end of the book we could see that Casey learns she needed the school all along and inevitably is forced to allow it to continue running, or even help it recruit future students (just as some past incarnation of herself did before her, and before her, and before her, and so on).
It all depends on how you look at the bigger elements of the book. If you’re like me and believe that the larger machinations pushing all of the characters around are more interesting to focus on than the smaller microcosm moments, then characters throwing out big picture sentiments and declarations resonate as things we can ruminate on. This is certainly one of them: Casey has spent this entire issue talking about how the school needs to be destroyed, but ultimately her argument for why it needs to be teared down ignores any of the reasons why the school could actually exist — and while the school may seem at odds, it’s likely that she needs the school more than she realizes.
To the point that she, you know, has to make the school run.
I’m going to take a side detour for a moment, if you don’t mind. This is something I actually wanted to write about for the print edition of the book, but couldn’t figure out how to work in organically.
I finally got around to reading the sequel comic to The Prisoner, and it got me thinking about that show again. I rewatched a bit of it; it still holds, and quite well. What’s more, though, is that the ideas the show expresses is still poignant — and it’s particularly relevant to fans of “Morning Glories,” now of all times.
For those unaware, The Prisoner finds an unnamed man who is dubbed Number Six being transported to a mysterious island. His identity is stripped away, and the show follows him being tortured and taunted by Number Two, the defacto leader of the island who only answers to one person or entity above him, whose identity remains a mystery. Number Six constantly maintains his singular identity, shouting “I am not a number! I am a free man!” and seeking escape from the island, while Number Two tries to show him that island life isn’t so bad, that he should get along with his neighbors and resign to his fate. And if this isn’t sounding “Morning Glories”-esque, then you must not have been paying attention (it’s referenced in literally the first issue).
Looking at where we’re at in the series, it’s easy to compare. Casey clearly fills in the roll of Number Six, standing in front of everyone and making grand speeches and declarations that the reality they’ve been given is not the reality they deserve or should abide by. Casey sees herself as a prisoner of the system, someone who is not here by choice and trying to escape but unable to do so; no matter how hard she tries, even when she thinks she’s gotten out she ultimately gets pulled back in. Isabel, conversely, is literally Number Two; she’s the only student with direct access to the Headmaster, and she spends all of her time seemingly just running at odds with Casey. Hell, the whole Collectivism vs Individualism thing I just mentioned is one of the central tenants of the show (are we numbers, or are we free men and women?).
My point being: this issue is ultimately the most Markstein-ian that this book has been in quite some time, and that’s worth randomly discussing The Prisoner again. Clearly this means Patrick McGoohan is the Headmaster.Continued below
EXT. A BEACH – DAY
Before we wrap, lets address this randomly weird scene. I use the word random somewhat in jest, but in the overall context of the issue its placement does feel odd.
Essentially: we see that Vanessa finally gets her radio, and that her older self is somehow hanging out on a relaxing beach (despite, y’know, the whole underground prison scenario). This scene is not completely out of left field, but it’s one that’s interesting to think about as we head towards the finale. The Vanessa storyline, while inherently important as it’s part of the overall Dethrone The Headmaster plot, has taken a general backseat towards bigger plotlines; her older self is in the wayback. But now we find out that, similar to how Irina can travel from an airport to Abraham’s compound, Vanessa is not limited to the constraints of her cell.
This could explain a lot about how she survived all those years. What better way to keep from going insane than to move yourself to a beach to hang out in between torture sessions? And Vanessa can travel through time; we’ve seen it multiple times now. Travel through time is one thing, and travel through space is usually associated with that — I would presume that Vanessa either has some kind of hidden tesseract that we’re unaware of, or that she’s built herself a shrine in the basement somehow. So I guess I’m not surprised she can escape, it’s more about the how — and, really, the why of why she just hasn’t left completely. But, as all things go in this book, I’m sure the reasons for that will play out soon enough.
Spinning on a Dangerous Axis
As Ian and Ike ready their machine to activate the Cylinder, Ian makes a few interesting remarks about the Cylinder’s purpose. First, he describes it as using a “very old language” or a “very new one,” which calls into question when the story takes place; we’ve had jaunts into Ancient Sumeria and flashed forward in time to a school in ruins, but we’ve never really been able to pin down when “Now” is.. Second, Ian remarks that “when you speak to it, everyone and everything has to listen” — and this seems to be direct confirmation that the Cylinder has access to manipulate the laws of reality. The “Everyone” aspect has a clear purpose in that they’ll use the Cylinder on the election, but the “Everything” would imply that if Ian tells the Cylinder that something (or someone) should exist in an ulterior state, the Cylinder will comply.
So with this in mind we can ask, why does the Cylinder exist? The short answer would ostensibly be power; control the laws of reality and you control everything around you. But it can’t honestly be that simple, because why leave a device this powerful laying around with such easy access? After all, it didn’t take much for Ian to find the Scantron device and gain direct access to the Cylinder. So if a guy like Ian can simply walk down a set of stairs and come to an unguarded reality-controlling device, a device that has already been used once this semester to manipulate reality during an insurrection, what is its purpose? Why build a school on top of it, and why leave so much to chance?
It’s clear that there is an understanding of the Cylinder in existence somewhere. Ian even goes so far as to admit that what he’s doing is based on an operational shortcut for use of the Cylinder that circumvents the normal types of sacrifice and ritual that surround operating the Cylinder. However, with that amount of power laying around, it seems odd that such a resource is so readily available; perhaps the Cylinder is the school’s greatest test, then, and navigating the basement mazes and successfully manipulating it is a way in which the students prove something to the Academy. But if Ian’s test run works successfully here, all things considered, I guess we have to ask: who could possibly stop him?
As I’ve mentioned before, the Morning Glories Wikipedia is now live, featuring copious notes and annotations. While I’ve not written anything particular for it, I’ve contributed a few inklings here and there, and some notes are sourced for this very column in a cleaner database friendly fashion — so I guess think of it like this column, but with less “me” and more straight-up presentation of materials. Should be good for every time we get a name and are wondering if it has been mentioned before. (I particularly like this entry, myself.)Continued below
In further things you should be following, the Morning Glory Academy Study Hall podcast is live and updated with tons of episodes for you to listen to, including commentary for the fourth arc ‘Truants.’ You can find them streaming here on Multiversity Comics (see below for links) or on Podomatic and on iTunes. For those unaware of its purpose, this is a podcast that I do with Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma in which we discuss each individual issue at length, offering up commentary tracks to go alongside your reads. It’s pretty much the best.
And, oh, I suppose while linking to rival website isn’t good for Multiversity business, I will note that all-around good guy Kiel Phegley does a column called Morning Glory Days about “Morning Glories” where he interviews Nick that is a pretty interesting read for fans of the series. I won’t actively say you should visit other websites besides Multiversity, but I do like Kiel. It’s worth a read.
If you’d like to contact myself directly with thoughts or comments, shoot me an e-mail at the very specific firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a real e-mail that you can find at the bottom as well, should you prefer that.
I’ll see you in the backmatter!!
Previous Issues: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19,#20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37, #38, #39, #40, #41, #42, #43, #44, #45, #46, #47
Previous audio podcasts: second arc interviews, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, second arc wrap-up, NSRFQR, third arc interviews, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, third arc wrap-up, all of the fourth arc, Live at NYCC 2014