Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts

Friday, 10 February 2017

Interview - Nick Abadzis [Writer / Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor]

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to interview Nick Abadzis, the writer of the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor series for Titan Comics. I've really enjoyed Nick's run on the series over the past two years, and the way he introduced two brand-new companions into the mythology with Gabby and Cindy. As the series prepares to launch its third volume of adventures, I caught up with Nick to find out his experiences writing for the Tenth Doctor and creating brand-new companions for the series. 

PCB Blog: First things first, I have to ask the dreaded question – Which incarnation of the Doctor is your favourite? And, why?

Nick: I really do honestly have trouble answering that question, because “my” Doctor – the one who made a massive impression on me as a kid – is Tom Baker, although I do remember Jon Pertwee and began reading the Target novelisations when he was still the incumbent Time Lord. Obviously, I also have a great affinity for David Tennant’s tenth Doctor and am loving Capaldi as the twelfth in almost equal measure. 

Equally, I find Troughton utterly compelling. I wish more of his serials were extant in the BBC archives because I find watching him one of the most enjoyable things ever. McGann also holds a major importance for me, as he was the Doctor in my head for perhaps the longest time – off-air for about nine years during which I read of the eighth Doctor’s adventures in the BBC books and listened to all his Big Finish audios. 

I also have a bit of an aversion to making lists and rankings – I don’t like it because I feel as if it boxes my imagination in. I like to feel that my favourite Doctor is the one I happen to be watching in the current moment – sometimes I’ll feel like a bit of McCoy, a bit of Davison or even some Cushing, y’know…?

PCB Blog: Continuing with this theme of questioning – which of the Doctor Who monsters (classic or modern) do you have a fondness for? Feel free to go as obscure as you like!

Nick: I do love all the big obvious ones (points to line of red toy Daleks on bookshelf and Cybermen and Sontaran figure collection)… 

I love the Ood, although I tend to think of them as a put-upon but sympathetic alien species rather than a monster. I was very happy when Stephen Moffat brought back the Zygons… I like the weird creepy ones like Zygons, Axons, Autons and Rutans that have some kind of rapport with matter or flesh. Krynoids and Wirrn are good for that, too. I love the concept of things that can get inside your thinking, like the Weeping Angels or the Mara. 

But there is also the glory of crap or even just slightly lame monsters. I don’t think we’ve yet seen enough of the Krotons. Now, they have the potential to go really bad. Someone needs to bring the Garm back. Or those sanitation robots from "Paradise Towers". Good robots are hard to do though – you’ll always be measured against great ones like "The Robots of Death". 

Tractators – I have an idea for a solo companion story called Turlough and the Tractator Challenge in which the fifth Doctor’s loyalty-challenged former companion finds himself on a reality TV show not unlike Big Brother.  He’s trapped in a house with a whole load of crap monsters whose behaviours he has to be irritated by and complain about to Gabriel Woolf’s disembodied voice, which he can only access from the one single toiletry facility that everyone in the place uses. He must use his wits to get in there before the Tractators embark upon their improbably long bathroom ablutions every morning. 

PCB Blog: Is there a particular story, from either the classic series or the relaunch, which you really enjoy? And, why?

Nick: I think it might be fairly obvious at this point that I enjoy "Pyramids of Mars" a lot, which I think was Robert Holmes at his pressurised best. Some people think it falls apart in the fourth episode, but I don’t agree or care – it’s genius. I love that whole Hinchcliffe and Holmes-produced period of Doctor Who. But 70s and the first part of 80s Who as a whole was a huge part of my childhood.  

If I had to pick a modern Who episode, I’d probably say "Blink", which remains not just a masterpiece of Doctor Who, but of modern TV, even though the Doctor’s barely in it. I also have a soft spot for "Gridlock", which is one of the weirdest things anyone’s ever got on prime-time television. I often think it’s more telling to ask what a person’s second or third favourite story is. 

PCB Blog: What is it about Doctor Who as a series that appeals to you as a writer (and viewer)?

Nick: Everyone always goes on about the incredible flexibility of Doctor Who as a storytelling format, but it’s true. It’s all of time and space. It was always an ingenious idea as you can pretty much go anywhere and tackle almost any kind of genre ever within that remit. That’s probably why it works so well in so many different media – on TV, in comics, on audio, and certainly as long-form fiction. There have been some utterly brilliant SF novels and audio plays written which are probably not well enough known amongst a wider audience because they were written as tie-in fiction. 

Which is not to say that Doctor Who isn’t an incredibly difficult thing to write. As has also been well-documented, it just eats ideas at an incredible rate of knots. There’s no formula, not without being horribly obvious, no easy repeat moves, it just never allows you to be lazy. You have to be unfailingly original. But that’s the thing – it invites this, challenges you to always rise to that demand.  

PCB Blog: What is it about the Tenth Doctor that sets him apart from his other incarnations? As a writer, how does the character appeal to you?

Nick: First of all, David Tennant’s characterisation of the Doctor caught me the moment he first appeared – in our household, we all loved him instantly, which certainly helps if you’re writing him. At first, he seemed harder-edged, less forgiving, certainly of his enemies, and his mood could spin on a penny. But this also disguised a tendency to get more involved in the emotional lives of his companions, even when he pretended he wasn’t.

He’s often said to be one of the most “human” of all the Doctors, but I think that’s just his emotions being nearer the surface than some other incarnations, although he tried hard to disguise a deep guilt complex – after all, at this point, he still thought he’d destroyed his own home-world. He’s also often touted as the most vainglorious incarnation, which is perhaps one of the most human qualities any Doctor has ever displayed. 

But people forget that both he and the ninth before him were still traumatised after the Time War, so I tend to think it’s a manifestation of survivor’s guilt. He’s cocky rather than conceited, and it masks a deep loneliness. If he didn’t watch it and didn’t have that conscience in the shape of a companion, it could lead to a situation like "The Waters of Mars".  What was important though was that he still cared. He might’ve messed up, but he never gave up, never stopped caring about the universe, and the little guy’s lot in it. I’ve allowed him to get a little bit comfortable – you might have noticed that I’ve mellowed him very slightly – this is the influence of his current companions, to a degree.

PCB Blog: Which version of the Doctor would you say most resembles you, and why?

Nick: The tenth, without a doubt. An outer hide like a rhino that houses a heart(s) of slop and gold; a tendency to be unable to suffer fools gladly, a liking for Converse All-Stars (which I had before he did). Though my wife would say the fourth. I might lack a long scarf but she’s often telling me I’m from a completely different planet. And apparently, I’m at my most dangerous when I’m grinning. Grinning, not smiling.

PCB Blog: You’ve introduced two brand-new companions to accompany the Tenth Doctor in Gabby and Cindy. What inspired you to create these two characters and choose modern-day New York as their home?

Nick: Originally, the Titan range was aimed at the US market, and it was suggested to me that we have an American companion. Because I live and work in and around New York City, it seemed entirely natural to find a companion there. It also seemed the most obvious thing in the world that if you wanted to riff on Russell T Davies’ version of Doctor Who, then you had to at least nod at the family-at-home format he initiated  back in 2005 with "Rose". That episode was my basic template, but everything else in "Revolutions of Terror" is mine. I cycled around Brooklyn and ended up in Sunset Park, where there is a large Mexican and Chinese population. Gabby and Cindy were born there, literally and in my imagination. Elena Casagrande realised both characters visually, and did an incredible job. At that stage, no-one, least of all me, had any idea that Cindy would take on the role she since has, but she simply wouldn’t go away.  She refused to be parted from Gabby, partly because she has an enormous crush on her, partly because the character dynamic was so strong. Our editor Andrew James, in his wisdom, suggested that this was a relationship we hadn’t really seen on board the TARDIS before, that of pre-existing, very close friends who both become the Doctor’s companions, albeit at different times. So I gave in to it. (Am I talking like they’re real people? They’re all real to me.) 

PCB Blog: How would you describe Gabby and Cindy in five words each?

Nick: Well, they’re both full of contradictions, but let’s give it a go…

Gabby: imaginative, practical, warm, complex, cosmic, instinctive. (“Instinctual,” if you’re American, but I’m British.) Oh, that’s six, sorry… 

Cindy: loyal, gutsy, humorous, self-deprecating, shrewd, compassionate. 

PCB Blog: Despite being best friends, there is a bit of rivalry between the pair as they vie for the Doctor’s attentions in the TARDIS. How would you describe the relationship that each of them has with the Doctor?

Nick: Well, Gabby got there first and, in a sense, had a real need for the Doctor in her life. She also had the imagination and the courage to follow him and help him. Despite her protestations to the opposite – much of which is in support of Cindy, who can sometimes be a bit needy – she is incredibly brave, and very selfless. Yet she really did need a teacher, and she chose the Doctor, who, as Donna reminded him, needs someone fair-minded and levelheaded to help him see things from a slightly less lofty perspective than his. Despite her creativity, Gabby is quite grounded and can be a little sober, but she’s also deeply romantic and this gives her a sense of far-sightedness and emotional intelligence, a sort of artist’s self-belief and internal equilibrium. 

In a sense, she’s by far the most “adult” of this TARDIS crew, but she’s also the most empathic and sensitive. She’s able to communicate that warmth, which in turn sort of puts her in charge of what I call “TARDIS outreach” work. The Doctor knows he doesn’t have to work to charm people so much with her around. This is perhaps one of his less egalitarian traits, but it means he knows he absolutely needs her – even if he rarely shows it. He knows she’s as inquisitive as he is, but that her insight and emotional instincts will keep him on an even keel. (Like the Twelfth Doctor says about Clara – “She cares, so I don’t have to.” Even though he does, even though his interests are the bigger picture.) 

Cindy, by comparison, sort of invited herself to the party and more out of a need for acceptance than any desire to explore the universe and learn. Like the Doctor in this regeneration, she’s a little bit of a lost soul, not realising that the person she needs most is herself, the best version of her. She is super-smart but doesn’t trust herself much, which is why she feels she missed Gabby so much, as Gabby’s a very supportive sort of person. 

At first, the Doctor thought Cindy was just a pest, but he began to respect her persistence and refusal to be overcome by her own fears. In a sense, Cindy represents what we sometimes perceive as the worst of us, while Gabby is the best, but they absolutely need each other, as they do the Doctor, and they all balance each other as characters. Cindy really does love Gabby, and even though she’s slightly jealous of what she perceives as a bit of favouritism on the Doctor’s part, it’s actually just a mechanism of simple chemistry and Cindy, as usual, underestimating her own importance. She’s happy to play the fool, as it gives her a role, and she’s terrible at masking her true feelings. She also has few diplomatic skills, which to Gabby, come naturally. 

But the Doctor loves this about Cindy, he thinks she’s hilarious, and is surprised to find that she absolutely and unexpectedly is indeed companion material. She’s far braver than even she herself realised, sometimes recklessly so, which appeals to the Doctor. Her deficiency is that she simply won’t acknowledge either aspect of this courage, which is fuelled in huge part by her senses of compassion and loyalty. Either way, however she sees herself, she’s most certainly a very important part of the team. 

This balance is soon to be upset in a big way, however…!

PCB Blog: I know it’s like asking a father to pick his favourite child, but which out of the two do you prefer? I’m leaning towards Cindy Wu myself – she is more emotional and unpredictable compared to Gabby.

Nick: Nah, Gabby’s just better at controlling her emotions! Except when Cin really riles her, and she knows how to push her friend’s buttons. They have a very sisterly relationship. They play off each other and the Doctor extremely well, but I think Cindy has a more obvious advantage with readers in that she’s funnier – I admit, I tend to give her the one-liners. But if you look closely, while Gabby’s a more complex, self-sufficient character, she is very much the glue of the team. Cindy can only go it alone for a certain amount of time without her (or even Cleo), and the Doctor tends to overlook this. He’ll throw her in at the deep end – sometimes with his faith entirely justified – because he thinks of her as the balance to Gabby, which she is, sort of. 

But there are also moments where he accidentally puts Cindy in serious, life-threatening danger because he’s not always great at judging these things from a more human standpoint and fails to realise Cindy simply isn’t as accomplished and natural a cosmopolitan creature as Gabby, despite how much she’s learning. 

I think I successfully avoided answering your question because, no, I can’t pick a favourite.

PCB Blog: With plot thread set up in the finale of Year One coming to fruition in the conclusion of Year Two – how far ahead do you typically plan your stories? Do you have an idea of how Year Three will take shape? Is there much wriggle-room or do you follow a strict plan?

Nick: I write year-long plans, so I know roughly where everything is heading and how certain character arcs will play out. When I finished Year 1, I knew I’d have to revisit Anubis and Dorothy at some point.  These plans are not so much plot-driven as character driven, with a lot of visual notes and concepts for enemies and just weird SF or historical ideas that I want to explore. 

As of writing this, I’ve written (almost) the first three scripts of Year 3 and yes, I am keeping roughly to plan, but I try not to be too strict about it. Sometimes you’ll get an idea that you want to follow, and in my experience, it’s best to follow those weird, stray happy accidents and see where they take you, because it’s usually a better route to the same eventual resolution you had in mind, better than the one you’d initially envisaged. Writing is a weird process of instinct versus plot sense, of coaxing coherence from creative chaos. But if you trust yourself to go off the map, you’ll almost always get better results than if you stick to the well-worn road.

PCB Blog: You’ve dabbled with historical stories briefly with a two-part excursion to the Jazz Age, but is there another time period that would you like to explore more of in future stories?

Nick: Does a visit to Neolithic times not count as a historical (when The Doctor and Gabby meet Munmeth, the Neanderthal Shaman)? I thought it did. That was a lot of fun to research – I’m fascinated by the idea of Neanderthals, of two human species inhabiting the Earth at the same time in the deep, deep past. Probably where the idea of “them and us” comes from – one of the most bogus ideas humankind has ever propagated. 

When you write a “historical,” there’s a the sense that it always has to contain an SF element, though it’d be nice one day to do something that didn’t, although I think you need a certain page count to do that properly, plus there’s always the pressure to have a monster of some kind. 

The TARDIS crew will be visiting ancient China in Year 3, by the way. I was also  toying with the idea of a visit to mid-20th century USSR, which readers of some of my other work know is a period and location that holds a great deal of interest to me. That may yet happen.

PCB Blog: Midway through Year Two, you had Captain Jack Harkness appear in a guest appearance – do you have any more plans to include the Torchwood Leader in future stories?

Nick: I’d like to – I’m very fond of Jack and suggested at the end of his appearance in "Arena of Fear" that he might be setting up a new US arm of Torchwood, perhaps with Cleo as his right-hand woman (can you imagine the sparks if she and Gwen met?) and Erik Ulfriksson providing resources. But he has his own comic now, so I don’t know if that’ll happen. It’s still out there, if other writers want to pick up on it.

PCB Blog: Out of the stories you’ve written for the Tenth Doctor so far, which has been your favourite to work on?

Nick: It’s always the latest, but I’ll plump for the end of Year 2, which I think will be collected under the title "Sins of the Father". I had to work really, really hard to provide dialogue for a certain villain that was created by one of my writing heroes, Robert Holmes, so it was a real challenge. I suppose everyone knows by now that it’s Sutekh. I hope I rose to the occasion – I certainly gave it my very best effort.

PCB Blog: Are there any Easter Eggs or hidden references you’ve slipped into your work that most people wouldn’t notice?

Nick: Probably loads. I’m not even sure I notice them all myself, but I’m told by a stalwart friend and fan that there are a lot of little touches like that. This is what happens, if you’ve been steeped in Doctor Who lore from year zero. I dunno if anyone noticed the tip of the hat to Terrance Dicks in "The Fountains of Forever"? There’s some dialogue there that’s a direct nod to the novelisation of "Pyramids of Mars".

PCB Blog: The overarching ‘big bad’ for both “season finales” have been the Osirians, Anubis and Sutekh, who first appeared in the iconic Fourth Doctor serial, “Pyramids of Mars” - what made you choose the Osirians for this role?

Nick: At the point I chose them, no-one had ever really used them much. There’s a Virgin Adventures book by Justin Richards, "The Sands of Time", and they’d been mentioned in passing or made cameos here and there in other stories and a Big Finish audio, but unless you count some of the unofficial audios, they’d never really been deeply explored as a race and culture. So, to me it seemed to be an instance of the proverbial “low-hanging fruit.” 

When our issues began to run, I discovered Big Finish were bringing out a Bernice Summerfield box set with Sutekh as the villain, which I can only applaud. But I did think there was the potential for a lot of rich, deftly-sketched in background detail – as usual when you create characters, you have no real idea of how deeply they will take on lives of their own, and Anubis certainly did. Clearly, his dad is one of my all-time favourite Doctor Who villains, so I wrote them both with Gabriel Woolf’s voice in mind.

PCB Blog: Are there any plot threads from Year Two that will be brought over into the third year, or will you be starting from a fresh slate? What can readers expect from the next year of Tenth Doctor stories?

Nick: Well, some locations will recur, the musical theme – the song of the Doctor – will almost certainly recur, but as much as anything can ever really be wrapped up on Doctor Who, there is the sense of an ending, for the time being. 

Certain character threads will continue and there will of course be an emotional aftermath – but this is Doctor Who, so that will have to happen as a new adventure begins. I can promise that in Year 3, you will see a return of the Time Sentinels who featured as villains in #2.14. There will come a reckoning.

PCB Blog: Are there any other licensed properties you’d love to write for in the future? 

Nick: Yeah, anything that begins with the word “Star” in the title. I’m also waiting for someone to invite me to write a continuing series of the original 1970s incarnation of The Tomorrow People with John M. Burns as artist. Plus, there’s my plan to crank up a new genre of AI Romance comics using Machine Man and Jocasta, if Marvel will let me. They’re not calling me back, though. 

I can never tell if my own answers to questions like these are serious or not, but I suppose I should also mention ALIEN and The Thing. I have the greatest idea for a Continuing Adventures of The Thing comic. Also vampires and werewolves. I really have to try to get back to writing some horror at some point, as, Hugo Tate excepted, that’s pretty much where I started.

PCB Blog: Do you have any other work in the pipeline that you’d like to tease? 

Nick: Well, yes. Fortunately, I always have other irons in the fire. In July, with artist Jerel Dye, I am launching my own world in the form of a new graphic novel from First Second, who published LAIKA. It is a world that is populated, initially at least, by various forms of pig. It is a YA tale of anti-chauvinism, magic, industry, and warfare. It’s called Pigs Might Fly. It’s the first in a projected series… I’m gonna share a few pieces of advance art with you. We worked really incredibly hard on this book and are very, very happy and excited about what we achieved, and we hope you’ll want to read it. If you like my Doctor Who stuff, you’ll enjoy this. I think it’s very timely, because it’s certainly about what’s happening in the world right now.

Pigs Might Fly - Exclusive Preview Art - [Click to Enlarge]

PCB Blog: And, finally, which comics are you reading at the moment? Do you have anything you'd like to recommend?

Nick: There is a hell a of a lot I need to catch up on, including Rob Williams’ Unfollow, which is top of the pile, but recent reads include these…

Megahex by Simon Hanselmann, Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu, the all-new Love and Rockets magazine #1 by Los Bros Hernandez, Caliban and War Stories Vols 1 and 2 by Garth Ennis, nearly all the Marvel Star Wars titles, of which I’m disappointed Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader is ending ‘cause that was the best one. I’ll read anything by Dan Slott. I was also following Bendis’ Iron Man but I’m behind on that because I just couldn’t get the whole Mary Jane Watson thing. Although, I just read Invincible Iron Man/Ironheart #1 which, frankly, pissed me off and isn’t a comic I’d give to my daughter even though it’s sort of aimed at her. She’s into Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which is really an excuse for me buying and reading it. David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’ The Only Living Boy is another good one for readers of her age – she’s 11, nearly 12. 

Oh, and I’m waiting for someone to hurry up and translate Frederik Peeters’ RG into English, because I’m slow at reading French and my life is getting shorter by the day. If you don’t know his stuff, read AAMA, and read it now.

PCB Blog: Excellent. Thank you very much for your time, Nick, and I look forward to reading more of your work on the Tenth Doctor during Year Three.

Nick Abadzis is available on Twitter under the username @NickAbadzis. Please give him a follow and let him know if you enjoyed this interview.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 3) # 1 was released on 11th January and is available in all good comic book shops, as well as digitally via the Comixology website, where users can also subscribe and receive copies of the remaining issues each month.

Previous Tenth Doctor stories have been collected into trade paperbacks and are available in all good comic shops!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Interview - Cavan Scott [Writer / Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor]

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to interview Cavan Scott, the writer of the recent Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor miniseries for Titan Comics, which I reviewed here. He is also responsible for the Doctor Who: Who-ology, the official miscellany for the TV show. With this year being the tenth anniversary of the series' relaunch in 2005, it feels like the perfect time to look back over Christopher Eccleston's era on the show and Cavan's mini-series is the perfect tribute to the tone of that first season.

PCB Blog: Straight off of the bat, I have to ask the BIG question: Which Doctor is your favourite? And, why?

Cavan: Such a difficult question. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor, I guess, and he was the Doctor I watched first.

PCB Blog: On the same line of questioning, which of the Doctor's many enemies are your favourite? Feel free to go as obscure as you like!

Cavan: How long have I got? Daleks, obviously, but the Zygon's come a close second. From the 21st Century, the Weeping Angels give me chills, as does the Empty Child. So creepy! I'm a big fan of the Silurians too, both old and modern.

Oh, and the Master. Definitely, the Master. I was a child of the late 70's and 80's, so it was always Anthony Ainley for me, although you can't beat Roger Delgado, of course.

PCB Blog: Is there a particular story, from either the classic series or the relaunch, which you really enjoy? And, why?

Cavan: My favourite story is Terror of the Zygons, which you might have guessed from my answer above. Brilliant monster, creepy locale and my favourite TARDIS team.

PCB Blog: What is it about writing for Doctor Who that appeals to you? 

Cavan: The chance to add something to a world that I love so much. I still have to pinch myself. It's such a dream come true.

PCB Blog: You've written for the Ninth Doctor before in the audiobook, Night of the Whisper, available from Big Finish - is there an element from Christopher Eccleston's portrayal of the Doctor that appeals to you as a writer? Are there any challenges in writing his "voice" on the page?

Cavan: I think he's one of the most fascinating incarnations: so wounded, but trying to find joy in things. There's a lot of hope in the Ninth Doctor, a man wanting to make things better but not always getting it right.

The Ninth Doctor's voice is quite staccato. Lots of short, sharp sentences and he loves his bad jokes too!

PCB Blog: Having written for multiple incarnations of the Doctor in your career, do you find it hard to capture the subtleties of each regeneration in your scripts? Are there any particular Doctors that are easier to write for than others?

Cavan: I love writing for the Sixth Doctor, as played by Colin Baker. He loved language and is full of moral outrage, but can also have beautiful quieter moments.

But before writing, I watch and rewatch their episodes. Actually, I don't always watch them. I play the episodes, but turn the screen away, listening to the way that they say things. It helps nail their voices.

PCB Blog: Does your method of writing vary between writing for the audiobooks and writing for comics? Are there any major differences behind-the-scenes between the two mediums?

Cavan: It's wonderful, you can actually show things! It may sound obvious, but with audio you largely need characters to explain what they're doing. My pet hate is having characters talking to themselves on the radio. It can't be helped at points, and we all do it, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Of course, with comics that isn't a problem.

And I love the collaborative aspects of working with an artist, seeing how they interpret my descriptions. It's been fab working with Blair, to bring our creations to life.

PCB Blog: Talking about your Ninth Doctor miniseries in particular, the story "Weapons of Mass Destruction" slots directly into the continuity of the show between "The Doctor Dances" and "Boom Town" - now obviously, the Ninth Doctor's era doesn't really lend itself to 'untold stories' with very few gaps between the episodes, but was there a reason you chose to focus on the Captain Jack and Rose pairing over any of the other moments from Series One? Did you ever consider creating new companions, as seen with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor series', possibly set prior to "Rose"?

Cavan: No, Jack was part of it from day one. We felt as if we hadn't seen enough of the three of them, so right from the beginning decided to tell a story of the three of them. Rose and Jack are such a part of the Doctor's restitution, that it would have been wrong not to include them.

Saying that, I'd love to pair Nine up with a new companion at some point.

PCB Blog: What teases can you give us for the remaining four issues of the miniseries?

Cavan: Arms dealers, floating octopus, supernovas, voids, unmaskings, secrets revealed, separations, reunions, dinosaurs.

PCB Blog: With Titan Comics expanding its line-up to include the Ninth Doctor miniseries, there is the chance that there might be more classic Doctor utilised in this miniseries format in the future. Which Doctor / Companion combination would you love to write for?

Cavan: In comics? The Fifth and Sixth Doctors in a heartbeat. Five with Tegan and Turlough and Six with Peri and, why not, Frobisher.

PCB Blog: You've written for multiple Doctors across the length of your career, covering the Third, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh incarnations. When it comes to structuring the plots, how often does the story dictate which Doctor will be featured, or do you start with a Doctor and build the plot around their strengths/weaknesses. Do you find there are certain types of stories that work better with specific incarnations of the Doctor?

CavanUsually I start with the Doctor and spin the story out from there. Obviously, village under siege stories work incredibly well with the Third and Fourth Doctors, but I'd love to see Nine having to cope with cults and villagers!

PCB Blog: Writing for a licensed character, especially within the confines of a flashback must feel limiting at times, unable to introduce major changes to the status-quo. As a writer, how do you manage to keep things interesting for yourself, and for the reader? Have you ever had to rewrite sequences because they contradict continuity, or feel tonally incorrect to the era?

CavanI always try to make sure that my work fits in with the tone of the seasons. Issue one of the Ninth Doctor was said in one review to feel like a mission episode. I loved that. Exactly what I wanted, but you do try to keep things fresh.

Not so much having to rewrite something in fiction, but we did have an illustration of the Eighth Doctor regenerating into the Ninth in Who-ology before it went to press. That obviously needed to change!

PCB Blog: Do you have any more Doctor Who work in the pipeline that you are able to tease?

Cavan: I'm currently working up two Doctor Who stories, but I can't say what they are, although one's for a Doctor I have written for before and one is for a Doctor that I haven't written for yet. Plus, there's one more collaboration with Mark Wright that has yet to be announced.

PCB Blog: And, finally, which comics are you reading at the moment? Do you have anything you'd like to recommend?

CavanI'm really enjoying Wayward (Japanese monsters galore) and Goners (more monsters) from Image Comics, as well as Copperhead (a western in space, what's not to love?), The Fade Out (LA noir) and Velvet (super-cool spy thrills). From the Big Two, Dan Slott's Silver Surfer is just a joy, Captain Marvel and Ms Marvel go from strength to strength and Scott Snyder's vision of Batman has been near perfect. Oh, and Gotham Academy as well. Hogwarts meets Arkham Asylum.

Today I also picked up Hit: 1957 issue one from Boom! Studios. More noir grittiness.

PCB Blog: Excellent. Thank you very much for your time, Cavan, and I look forward to reading the remainder of the Ninth Doctor miniseries.

Cavan Scott is available on Twitter under the username @CavanScott. Please give him a follow and let him know if you enjoyed this interview.

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 1 launched on 1st April and is available in all good comic book shops, as well as digitally via the Comixology website, where users can also subscribe and receive copies of the remaining issues each month.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Interview - Ian Edginton [Writer / 2000AD]

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to interview Ian Edginton, one of 2000AD's most prolific creators in recent years, responsible for breakout series such as, Stickleback, The Red Seas, Ampney Crucis Investigates and Leviathan. He is also responsible for my favourite series in the anthology at the moment, the clock-punk fantasy epic, Brass Sun. Set in an imaginative universe that resembles a clockwork Orrery, the series tells the story of a heroic young girl named Wren, who is sent on a dangerous quest by her grand-father to restart the Brass Sun at the centre of their unique interplanetary solar system before all of the planets freeze over. It's a truly beautiful piece of work, featuring vivid worlds, expertly brought to life by the series artist, I.N.J Culbard, and has been featured in both the weekly 2000AD Progs and a special US-sized mini-series.

PCB Blog: What was the original inspiration behind Brass Sun? Was it always intended to run in 2000AD?

Ian: It was a happy accident really. An act of serendipity if you like. I was searching on-line for some visual reference for an Orrery for a story I was working on and found some amazing examples, when I had the thought, ‘What if these were real? What if there was a life-sized Orrery?’ After that I couldn't really concentrate on the outline I was supposed to be working on and kept coming back to the full-size Orrery idea. In the end I gave in and started working on what was to become Brass Sun. From that simple ‘What if’ a whole great sprawling series grew. I could do with a few more days like that!

When I started thinking of place to pitch it, 2000AD really was the only option. No matter how great the story was, there aren't that many places prepared to take on a long form science fiction story. It was clear from the outset that Brass Sun was going to be a big story, a long sprawling yarn and 2000AD seemed to be the perfect fit. What I also had in mind was the larger page size of 2000AD. I knew there were going to be some theatrical visuals along the way and the larger page size that 2000AD has is the perfect stage to set them on.

PCB Blog: Was there a conscious decision to choose a female protagonist for this story? Or did Wren come into your head fully formed?

Ian: I’d always had it mind that Wren was going to be female but it wasn't done in a self conscious, politically correct, positive discrimination kind of way. I was raised by two women, my mother and grandmother. I have a wife and two daughters. Women are everywhere! So the decision to make the lead female was simply – why not? I wanted something my daughters could pick up and see a girl as the hero but also feel that it isn't exceptional, it’s just the way it should be.

PCB Blog: Do you have a favourite character in the series? Or a particular one you like to write dialogue for?

Ian: I'm very fond of Ariel, the sky pirate from the world of Hot Air, and Ramkin, the disgruntled servant from The Keep, they both have some wonderfully ribald turns of phrase. They’re also both blissfully amoral. I really like having characters who are ostensibly supposed to be heroes yet they’re saying and doing awful things but you’re still rooting for them because the ones they’re up against are even worse than they are. I want people to go, “Hang on, they’re a pair of absolute shits…but I love them!’

I also get a buzz out of writing for the Blind Watchmaker’s incarnation as Kurt Vonnegut. His was only meant to be a quick walk-on, walk-off appearance but I enjoyed writing him so much that he’s staying around for a while.

PCB Blog: Do you have any favourite lines of dialogue from the series, so far? Mine might have to be when Wren attacks Ramkin and calls him a “turd-tick” – it’s a wonderfully evocative insult, and one I might have to adopt in the future.

Ian: You know, I've not thought about it but there must be a few. It’s an unexpected bonus having to concoct new profanities. I have a little section on my bookshelf that’s just books on old slang, swearwords and street talk. I’ll dip into those to get a flavour of what I'm after. My favourite was ‘fart catcher’ which described a servant who walked behind his master.

PCB Blog: Aside from the strong script, the book is also wonderfully visual, often featuring some superb double-page landscapes and detailed vistas of the various planets. How does the collaboration with Ian Culbard work? Do you give him detailed descriptions of how you envisage the planets to look like, or some key touchstones you’d like him to hit?

Ian: Right at the outset we consciously decided to play to 2000AD’s strength of the larger page layout. We wanted to have great big spreads of planets and landscapes and so on. We purposefully set out to make Brass Sun a serial so we could take advantage of the format instead of trying to squeeze in a beginning, middle and end plus cliffhanger in each episode. Sometimes a lot of stuff will happen, sometime not so much but it’ll look spectacular. It all evens out in the end when you read it as a whole.

PCB Blog: Which of the beautiful worlds that Ian has depicted is your favourite? And, are they close to how they appear to you in the writing stage?

Ian: I love the massive library in the Keep. I based it on pictures of the old pubic library in Cincinnati that’s long since been demolished. It was an enormous structure of cast iron book alcoves and spiral stair cases that went several stories high. Next would be the vast conservatory also on the Keep. It’s wildly overgrown with monstrous great statues looming up out of the grassland.

When it comes to creating these and all the other worlds. I’ll describe what I'm after and Ian will come back with some additional suggestions and we’ll to-and-fro, world building as we go.

PCB Blog: How far ahead do you plan for this series – there were hints and foreshadowing in Cantor’s dying message to Wren and Septimus, some of which paid off in the third book. Do you have a rough guideline that you’re following, or is it meticulously planned out without much room for deviation?

Ian: I've got the story pretty well planned out ahead. The next couple of arcs are tightly plotted and the ones after are a little looser but I do know how it ends. I like to have a route map but I don’t stick to it religiously. For example the Kurt Vonnegut thing. I hadn't planned on him reappearing but I so enjoyed writing for him and he’s such a great character, that he took on a life of his own. It’s a cliché but it’s true.

PCB Blog: And following on with that question, the conclusion of “Floating Worlds” felt like the end of the opening act of the story, with Wren and Septimus heading off into the unknown to resume their quest after several distractions on the way – How do you envisage the rest of the series? Do you have an idea of the length and format it will take?

Ian: I don’t want to say how long the whole thing will be but the story is finite although it’s got quite a way to go yet. You wont get bored though, I promise. I know what’s coming up and once or twice even I've thought, ‘Is that too much?’ All I can say is that as in life, people change and not necessarily for the better. Make of that what you will!

PCB Blog: One of my favourite moments of the series is when our heroes first face the Agent of Modernity, only to be saved at the last minute by Ramkin. Which would you say is your favourite moment, either in the writing stage, or reading the completed version on the page?

Ian: I like it when the script pulls together and it feels kind of…balanced. That I've got the right mix of ingredients. When I see it as the finished, lettered artwork, I'm reading it anew because there’s a whole new layer been added. A degree of storytelling and texture that I can only imagine when I'm writing it. It feels as if its gone from 2D to 3D…if that makes sense?

PCB Blog: One of the things I enjoyed most about the series was the way that Wren and her companions travelled through the various planets of the Orrery, becoming entangled in other people’s stories, such as the civil war taking place on The Keep and the hunt for the Gaseous Clay in The Deep. With the core mission of restarting the Brass Sun taking more of a focus, do you have any plans to revisit the past worlds to see what has happened since they left?

Ian: Oh, sure. We’ll be going back to some of these worlds but not for a while, it may even be years later - in story time not real time - so they may as well be new worlds as they’ll have changed a lot since the first time we saw them. There are scores of new worlds and moons to explore though, so I want to concentrate on having the characters keep moving forwards.

PCB Blog: As I've said in my reviews, there is a real sense of old-school fantasy quests about this series and I felt echoes of classic movies like The Never-Ending Story and Labyrinth at times, as well as touches of the Studio Ghibli movies in both the design and tone. What would you say are your influences behind the tone of the storyline?

Ian: There are definitely Studio Ghibli influences, most notably Laputa, the Floating Island. I found it playing on TV one afternoon many years ago. I’d never seen anything like it and proceeded to hunt down whatever Miyazaki movies I could find. This was in the early days of home video so trying to find anything like that was a quest in itself.

There’s also a lot of Jim Henson in there, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal and then there’s the influence of Ray Harryhausen and George Pal with films like The First Men in the Moon and The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. Then there are things such as the extraordinary Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, a steam-punk silhouette animated film by Anthony Lucas. The works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ray Bradbury and Michael Moorcock also play a huge part. Then there are artists like Tom Kidd and Ian Miller, Jack Gaughan, John Schoenherr, Philippe Druillet, the list goes on...

PCB Blog: If Brass Sun were to be adapted for a movie, would you prefer it to be live-action or animated? And if it were live-action, who would you chose to cast as Wren?

Ian: Animation is tempting but I’d like to see a live-action version. I pick Sophie McShera to play Wren. She plays Daisy in Downton Abbey but she might be a little to old. There’s a young actress by the name of Hester Odgers who’d fit the bill though.

PCB Blog: As one of the more prolific creators for 2000AD, with original series’ such as Stickleback, Ampney Crucis Investigates, Leviathan and The Red Seas, to your name, you have plenty of experience of building brand-new worlds from the ground up – is there something about being the architect of entire universes that you enjoy? Do you find any challenges or constraints in writing for more established characters?

Ian: I'm a megalomaniac who can’t rule this world so I create others that I can lord it over!

The simple truth is that I like to make things up. I like to imagine other worlds and the things that live on them. It’s like…brain gardening. I like to grow things inside my head, which sounds considerably more gross than it actually it.

That said, I'm not averse to writing for established characters. I've written Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper for 2000AD as well as various series for Marvel and DC and a whole raft of licensed film, TV, and console game titles over the years. It’s just playing by a different set of rules that’s all, which is a small price to pay as you get you play with some awesome characters. I've written Batman, Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Terminator. I feel very fortunate to have been able to contribute the canon of those series, even if it’s in a small way.

PCB Blog: Do you have any cryptic clues for what awaits Wren and Septimus in Book Four, “Motorhead”?

Ian: Dark and nasty. Some enlightenment is only reached through suffering.

PCB Blog: And finally, are there any other projects in the pipeline that you would like to tease?

Ian: The latest series of Stickleback is about to finish in 2000AD ending on a humdinger of a reveal that will seriously change the course of the next series. Also I'm working on another new series with Matt Brooker (aka artist D’Israeli) called Helium, and then there’s the vampire noir story, Cell Count.

PCB Blog: Awesome. Thank you for your time, Ian.

Ian Edginton is available on Twitter. Please give him a follow and let him know if you enjoyed this interview.

Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds is now available to buy in all good comic book stores, including Forbidden Planet, the 2000AD webshop and Amazon. For those who wish to buy it digitally, it is also available via the 2000AD app.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Interview - Rob Williams [Writer / Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor]

I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Rob Williams, one of the writers of the new Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor series from Titan Comics. As a massive Doctor Who fan myself, it was really fun to get to speak to someone who is involved in creating stories for the character and finding out his thoughts on the show. Aside from his work on Doctor Who, Rob has also written a number of series for 2000AD, such as Judge Dredd, Low Life, The Ten-Seconders and The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael. He also recently released his creator-owned series, Ordinary, which added a unique twist to the well-worn genre of superheroics.

PCB Blog: The first question, and probably the one you get asked all the time since taking the job, is: Which of the incarnations of the Doctor is your favourite?

Rob: I have several. Loved Matt Smith for his quirky, angry joy and wonder. Tennant for the sense of a god having fun. Tom Baker was my Doctor as a child though, and I still think he may be the pinnacle. The sheer gleeful eccentricity amidst danger seems to grab exactly what The Doctor is.

PCB Blog: On that note, Which of the enemies that make up the Doctor's rogue gallery is your favourite?

Rob: Do you know, I'm not sure I have a favourite bad guy for The Doctor. It's more about the story. for me. Of modern times I rather liked The Dream Lord, but perhaps that's more about Toby Jones' performance. Still, with the Doctor being so old and powerful, dark aspects of the character are rather appealing. Where's The Valeyard, eh? But, I digress.

PCB Blog: Is there a particular episode, from either the classic series or the relaunch, that you really enjoy? And why?

Rob: It's so difficult to pick one. I did have a moment - a three-week moment - where Paul Cornell's two-parter 'Human Nature' and then Steven Moffat's 'Blink' ran and that felt something of a high-point to me. Who at its very best. Blink was the timey-wimey stuff done brilliantly and accessibly, with a brilliant, memorable new villain. Human Nature captured the feel that this character - while easily dismissed as an eccentric in a magic box, was really a hugely powerful god, and that there were major repercussions for those who encounter him.

PCB Blog: Last of the Time Lords, The Oncoming Storm, A Madman with a Box – there have been many ways to describe the Doctor, but how would you describe him? What is it about the series (and character) as a whole that appeals to you, both as a writer and a fan?

Rob: Moffat's recent mini-essay about the fact that he's called 'the Doctor' because he looks to heal, and carries a screwdriver because it fixes rather than the far easier 'gun' - that gets to the heart of the appeal of the character, I think. People want a hero that's good and sees the joy and wonder in the universe, when there's darkness everywhere we look. And he's fun. Great comic appeal alongside the adventure and the horror. In 'The Day Of The Doctor' there's a moment where the three Doctors say "Never cruel nor cowardly, never give up, never give in.” That's a character worth following.

PCB Blog: What elements of the Eleventh Doctor's personality (and Matt Smith's interpretation of the character) do you enjoy? Are there any challenges in writing his 'voice' on the page?

Rob: The main challenge I find writing Smith is not to over-write him. He lends himself to train of thought dialogue. Things occurring to him in an instant. Jokes, ideas. He is almost too easy to write dialogue for, which is a problem in itself. You look at a page of script and there's a tonne of dialogue there, and it might be very good dialogue, but comics are a visual medium. If you have a page filled with voice balloons, it's going to be a dull-looking book. So you have to trim back some potentially good work. That's all testament to how strong Smith's voice is on-screen, the performance and the writing.

PCB Blog: Doctor Who isn't the only 'British institution' you have written for. You have written for Judge Dredd over at 2000AD – Do you ever feel pressure on tackling characters with such a long history and fervent fan-base? Does it feel different to writing creator-owned content, such as your series 'Ordinary' which you released through Titan Comics earlier this year.

Rob: You do feel the weight with such fan favourite characters. Especially when they're synonymous with such good writing. But you can't stop you doing the job. The sense of joy that comes from writing these characters far outweighs the pressures. I grew up reading Dredd and watching Who, so it's a complete joy writing both these characters. Creator-owned does offer more freedom too. But that's part of the fun of freelance writing. You can tick several boxes.

PCB Blog: The first issue was a joint venture from both yourself and fellow writer, Al Ewing. How did you find the process of writing together? Is it different to the way that you, Al and Si Spurrier approached the interconnected 'Trifecta' story-arc which interwove three Judge Dredd universe stories into one cohesive tale? And, will there be more instances of co-writing in future issues, or will you take turns in writing adventures?

Rob: Trifecta came about primarily from myself, Si and Al talking stories in pubs, and was mostly plotted in pubs too. We were friends and thought it'd be a fun thing to do together. Writing's often such a solitary thing. And it worked. I think we've all been professionals for a while now, we all recognise process and structure, and that allows co-writing to work, I think. You put a structure in place and then each have individual freedom within that agreed structure. So, with Who # 1 Al & I worked out the plot via Skype calls, and then each had 11 pages of script for first draft purposes. Then we both got to do a dialogue pass on each other's pages, so we'd end up with a uniformity of voice. That seems to have worked well. #2 is entirely Al, #3 is entirely me. # 7 & # 8 is a two parter where I've written the first part and Al the second. But all this happens within an over-reaching plot for the series that we've worked out together. But there'll be a couple of co-written issues again towards the end of the 'series'. We've plotted out a year's worth of stories that are, effectively, acting as a series of the TV show.

PCB Blog: One of the things I loved about this first issue was how it captured the tone of a 'new companion' episode and it reminded me of Martha Jones' debut in 'Smith and Jones' at times, with the focus on Alice Obiefune rather than the Doctor. What was it like creating a brand-new companion for the 11th Doctor in Alice? Did you look at any preceding companions and cherry-pick elements, or were you purposefully trying to create a new type of companion not seen in the TV show?

Rob: We wanted to offer someone a bit different from previous companions. An older companion. In recent times Martha, Amy, Rose, Clara have all been younger female foils for The Doctor. Alice is in her 30's and going through some things in her life that you don't experience in your early 20's. Losing her mother, her job. Her life falling apart. And Alice isn't the only new companion. We have two more joining her in The TARDIS. Both of whom are, I think it's fair to say, companions you have never seen before in the TARDIS.

PCB Blog: I also really enjoyed the stand-alone feel to the story which worked perfectly as an introduction to the series, but there was also a hint of a mysterious sub-plot in the form of a familiarly-dressed character. What sort of format do you plan to have for the series? Will it follow the same tone as the TV show with individual stories tied together with a 'season-long' through line?

Rob: Yes, that's it. There's an over-reaching A plot for the series, which we'll tease and dip in and out of, building to the series climax. And then there's individual episodes with their own finite plots.

PCB Blog: With Titan Comics also publishing ongoing series for the Tenth and Twelfth Doctors, is there a possibility of a cross-over between the three series for a multi-Doctor adventure? Or possibly revisiting some of the older Doctors? Are there particular elements of the series you would like to bring into the comic?

Rob: I believe, following 'The Day Of The Doctor', that the Beeb is keen to avoid multi-Doctor stories for a while, which you can understand. Although there may be a cheaty way around that somewhere around issue #6. As for plans for stories with older Doctors, keep an eye on Titan's future announcements for that.

PCB Blog: Will see any of the classic monsters appear in future issues?

Rob: The Beeb were keen for us to come up with new monsters and adversaries, for the most part. We've got a few oldies in there too though. I don't want to give too much away...

PCB Blog: Speaking of new monsters, I loved the design of the Rainbow Dog in this issue, and the nod to the Wizard of Oz with the transition from a dreary black and white viewpoint into a world of colour. How does the collaborative process between you, Al and Simon [Frazer] play out in regards to character designs and visual choices? Do you give him freedom to run free with the designs, or do you have specific ideas on what you want the creatures or alien worlds to look like?

Rob: As always with comics, the writer offers a description and then the artist has the freedom to go where they will. It's a visual medium and really, after we offer the script, the artist is the director, the director of photography, the concept designer. We offer notes on the final design - it's a collaboration - but the artist is in charge of the visuals. As long as the narrative is adhered to, my attitude is always "if you have something better than my description, go for it."

PCB Blog: Within Doctor Who history, there has been the more scientific, future-based serials and the historical time-travelling ones – will you be doing a mix of both types of adventures? Do you prefer one type of story over another?

Rob: It's a bit of both. Variety is the spice of life, after all. We have historical adventures, future planets, self-enclosed high concept 'timey wimey' episodes. It's a fun balance.

PCB Blog: Do you have any teases for future issues of the series that you can share?

Rob: I won't speak for Al's episodes. I'll just say what I've read is huge fun with a great sense of insightful character definition. But for me, #3 delves into the mystery of who, exactly, bluesman Robert Johnson met at the crossroads at midnight, #6 sees an old foe turn up and something very odd happening to time itself. #7 is called 'The Eternal Dogfight'' and I'm saying no more.

PCB Blog: Wow, that all sounds great and I'm looking forward to reading those issues! Moving away from Doctor Who somewhat, I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved your recent Judge Dredd stories, 'Titan' and 'The Heart is a Lonely Klegg Hunter' – do you have any future stories for 2000AD in the pipeline?

Rob: Thank you. Yes, I'm currently writing the third and final series of The Grievous Journey Of Ichabod Azrael (And The Dead Left In His Wake) and a new multi-part Judge Dredd. Chris Weston and I have talked about more Sensitive Klegg too. We'll see.

PCB Blog: Thank you for your time Rob.

Rob Williams has his own blog where he frequently posts updates and he can be found on Twitter under the username @RobWilliams71. Please visit him and let him know how much you enjoyed his interview here!

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor # 1 launched on 23rd July and is available in all good comic book shops, as well as digitally via the Comixology website, where users can also subscribe and receive copies of the latest issue every month.

Here are the Pop Culture Bandit reviews for both The Tenth Doctor # 1 and The Eleventh Doctor # 1 comics, which marked the starting point for Titan Comics tenure over the Doctor Who comics licence.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...