I grew up with Doctor Who watching Tom Baker, his unbelievably long scarf and his bag of jelly babies saving the world from all manner of robots and monsters. And when the series came back with Christopher Eccleston I was tuned in. And like a lot of viewers around the world, I got hooked on David Tennant's portrayal of the Tenth Doctor with his flowing coat, Converse trainers and 3-D glasses. Though Tennant has moved on to solve murders and be the Purple Man, Titan Comics offers up a series of new stories about the Tenth Doctor written by Nick Abadzis. I got a chance to chat with Nick about the first collection of stories.
BLEEDING COOL: Good day, Nick. Prior to writing the Tenth Doctor for Titan Comics, you wrote the Doctor for Doctor Who Magazine back in 2006. What is your history with the Doctor as a fan? Did you grow up watching the show?
NICK ABADZIS: Hello. Yes, that was the tenth Doctor's debut in comics and when that was written, I hadn't even seen him on TV yet. I did grow up watching the show… Tom Baker was my childhood Doctor, but I feel I experienced all of them prior to his tenure via the Target paperback books that novelized older stories. We didn't have home video in those days, so it was books and comics instead. I used to draw my own.
BC: This Doctor is very different in speech, movement, motive… how would you describe what made the Tenth Doctor different from the other iterations? What things did you latch on to from David Tennant's portrayal that you think help define this particular Doctor?
NA: Every Doctor is different from the one who went before, and from all the other incarnations. The tenth is notably human in emotional terms, though – he seems especially to be touched by the quality of empathy for his companions (although he's totally blind to Martha's unrequited love for him). But I actually think that's true of all Doctors – they have empathy on a large scale, it's just their everyday emotions that are a bit out of whack. Ten's are more raw, nearer the surface than some of the other Doctors, maybe. David Tennant was particularly good at conveying this inner, wounded quality, which at the same time he disguised with a quickfire sense of humor and that deep curiosity common to all the Doctors.
BC: The Doctor's companion in this volume is Gabriella Gonzalez. Where did the idea of going with a Mexican-American companion come from and how did it relate to the decision to make the first story centered on the Day of the Dead?
NA: I wanted her to be Mexican-American. I was bouncing a lot of ideas at my editor, Andrew James and co-writer Robbie Morrison, and I pitched that idea at them and they liked it. I knew we were going to set some of our stories in the USA, so almost the first thing I thought was, she's got to be a New Yorker! I'm British but I live in New York, so that just seemed natural. And, because New York City is a huge melting pot, she could come from almost any ethnic background. I happen to live next door to a Mexican and Chinese neighborhood in Brooklyn, Sunset Park, and I was cycling around it while I was dreaming up this potential character and a lot of things came together at once in my mind – the TARDIS landing in the park itself, the Doctor exiting his ship to meet locals, who would probably be someone like Gabby, of Mexican heritage, and maybe working the Day of the Dead into the story somehow. Her best friend, Cindy Wu, is Chinese-American.
BC: You've chosen to place these stories in between the Doctor having to wipe Donna Noble's memories and leave her behind, and when the Tenth Doctor regenerates. In the series this is a time where he had companions only for a single adventure and never took them with him. How does Gabby become the exception?
NA: Um, well, I'm tempted to say that you should read the collection to find out! If you're asking what makes her unique – well, Gabby's not unique exactly, although she's as special as anyone, but what gets her past the Doctor's defenses is her ability to make herself not only useful but essential to him. I think that's true of any of his longterm companions. He doesn't realize he needs them, a lot of the time – in that sense, he is kind of estranged from his own emotions. Somehow Gabby, and the other individuals who have become his companions over the years, can reach past that and get to him. But he is very, very cautious about travelling with anyone again; he doesn't want anyone to get hurt because of him.
NA: Yeah, Elena's amazing. Certainly there was a fair bit of back and forth at the beginning, especially when she was designing Gabby's look. It's more 'second nature' now – we really know where each other is coming from, we rely on each other's talents. I always supply Elena with a layout for each episode so she knows how I'm thinking about pacing across any given page, and for the stuff with Gabby's sketchbook I'll give her something more detailed so she doesn't have to spend ages figuring out what I'm after. But you could just leave her t it and get something totally gorgeous. I enjoy working with both Elena and Arianna very much, because damn, the end result is just so good. You never know what you're going to get and it's a delight and a surprise when you see those pages come through.
BC: We find out at the end of the volume that Gabby is going to be sticking around for a while. How integral is she to the upcoming stories?
NA: She is as integral as any Doctor Who companion is. She is, to a certain extent, an audience identification figure – we see the Doctor through her eyes, but also, we experience the adventures via her too, her perceptions and the way she records them, in her sketchbook. I wanted to make Gabby an artist, so that she had a way of interpreting her journeys with the Doctor, a way of recording them that worked well in comics. Having her be able to draw and keep a sketchbook and notes seemed like the best way to do that.
BC: And it seems that since Russell T. Davies brought the character back the companions have been more part of the story arcs than they were for the first eight Doctors. Do you feel that is expected now in Doctor Who stories?
NA: I think the companions were always a huge part of Doctor Who, it's just that now their emotions and inner lives are foregrounded more. It's the way TV evolved as much as anything – it's an evolution that people like Russell and Joss Whedon were at the forefront of, certainly, but if you look at the final season of the classic show it was already beginning to go in that direction with the relationship between the seventh Doctor and Ace. It was the beginning of that sophistication, and that was certainly a cue picked up on in the intervening years in the books and other spin-off media by people like Paul Cornell, Lance Parkin, Lloyd Rose and all these other very talented storytellers who realised that Doctor Who could be deeper and wider than it had been up until that point. Russell knew that and brought it to TV and built upon it even more. I love that era of the show.
BC: So where do we go from here? What is in the immediate future… or past… for the Tenth Doctor and Gabby?
NA: They are going to experience a lot of ups and downs in the coming year. I am writing our big "season finale" right now and it's epic. In the tradition of many classic Doctor Who stories, they get separated and each is put into serious jeopardy. For him, it's been a learning curve as he realizes he cares about someone again, for her it's everything she hoped and a hell of a lot more – can she continue to cope with it? They'll soon be encountering a new "big bad," a recurring villain who will make life very uncomfortable for them both, and some other people they know too.
BC: If you could do a story arc on any of the other Doctors besides the Tenth, which one would you choose?
NA: Difficult to choose just one! The scope in Doctor Who is so wide. I love them all, I really do, but maybe one day I would like to write something for the eighth Doctor and possibly the fourth. I'm curious about the War Doctor, too, and the Curator who turned up at the end of The Day of the Doctor. But really, I'd be happy writing for any of them.
Doctor Who: Tenth Vol. 1 hits comic stores on March 25 and book stores on March 31. For more information visit Titan Comics
Cover art in the story by: Alice X Zhang and Elena Casagrande