Being a Doctor Who fan, I've been following the announcements regarding the two lines of Doctor Who comics arriving today from Titan, and managed to actually get my Wednesday comics on time while in San Diego–something of a miracle and no, I didn't use my TARDIS.
Cracking them open, however pressed for time I am getting into the swing of SDCC, was a treat and I was more than curious to see what kind of impression they made on me. The Tenth Doctor and Eleventh Doctor lines are going to be present, of course, at Titan's booth this con (#5537), and also supported by signings, a panel, and an offsite signing in a comic shop as well, all leading up to Titan-initiated Doctor Who Comics Day all over the world on the 26th this Saturday.
So, these were my impressions, that all come under the heading of "The Doctors are here to help".
We expect a grounded human interest element in most Doctor Who stories, though the stories that feature the Doctor's psychology or that of his companions are also gripping. The fabric of Who mythology is supported by the rich undertones of the lives that are changed by encountering the Doctor and how humans will choose to react, adapt, and embrace the knowledge they gain of the wild and fantastic bigger universe the encounter necessarily brings. Both the 10th and 11th Doctor #1 issues out this week are definitely steeped in that ethos.
For the 10th Doctor storyline, it is quite clear that Titan made every kind of right decision in bringing Nick Abadzis onboard as the writer on the book. British born and with a wealth of experience in comics and graphic novel writing and art, Abadzis' own varied life history means he brings so much to telling a Who story that he seems a natural to the job. Another right decision was allowing him to pursue a story set in Brooklyn and Manhattan, where he resides, delving into his personal observation and knowledge that gives a depth to his narrative that immediately draws you in. He brings the intense realism necessary to engage meaningfully with the fantastic elements of the interruption of "normal" life by alien intrusion, the Doctor's arrival included.
Another right decision was taking this book well into the multi-cultural realm with two college-aged female friends of Mexican descent in New York coming to grips with the expectations and ambitions of their business-minded families who place alarming pressure on them to represent economic success for the whole kin group. Lastly, another excellent decision was to render this something of a horror story, with things verging on the occult breaking through and terrorizing these families. In short, within a couple of pages, we care about these characters, believe in their life struggles, and also feel that they definitely need some "help" from the Doctor, both to sort out their young lives and futures and also to deal with the nasty creatures invading their lives. Elena Casagrande's artwork has a great deal to do with that established realism through attention to detail and mood, and that established horror-accent, as well as the lightness and amusing qualities of the 10th Doctor, too, of course.
The 11th Doctor series starts off as quite a different book than the 10th series #1. It is Britain-set, and probes even more deeply into human psychology. In a virtuous move, artist Simon Fraser (also a British born– let's clarify Scottish– artist who lives in Brooklyn), renders the comic "grey" for several pages to represent the increasingly depressed mood of our female librarian central figure who has lost a family member. Fraser and colorist Gary Caldwell work closely together to achieve detailed, compelling art through greytone until a sudden thematic and visual shift into a full-color book. The Doctor is most definitely here to "help" in this book, which writers Al Ewing and Rob Williams push much further than is typical in comics to engage with the realities of depression and loss.
Our central character suffers one downturn after another until her "gray" world is not something she can really cope with any longer, but she must. Her challenge and opportunity of encountering the Doctor is not a cure-all, but she is given the chance to change her state of being if she's brave enough to pursue it. Most touching is the Doctor's careful handling of her state, simply making her a cup of tea at one point, and the best scene, in my opinion, is when they sit, in the TARDIS, with their feet in the pool, talking. And that's in a book that has plenty of beautiful creatures and surprising events. Simon Fraser is a strong artistic voice on the comic, also bringing us a multi-cultural direction in our character of African descent. He chooses his lines to convey the simplicity of outward things and appearances that leaves a great deal of room for psychological exploration.
Aren't we usually happiest with Doctor Who stories when they manage not only to fascinate us with possibility but to pull at our heartstrings? Both comics seem to convince us again that humanity needs a lot of help just to get through the complications of life but, thankfully, the Doctor is here to help with that.
Titan recently released this trailer about the two lines also:
More information on Titan Doctor Who Events at SDCC and beyond:
-You can go to the Doctor Who Comics Panel at San Diego Comic Con with Nick Abadzis, artist Elena Casagrande and cover artist Alice X. Zhang. Every person who attends the panel will receive a special Doctor Who Comics Day pack and the chance to win Doctor Who merchandise, including exclusive SDCC items : Location: San Diego Comic Convention, Room 23ABC, Day/Time: Saturday July 26, 3:00PM – 4:00PM.
-You can attend the signings happening in New York, Bristol UK, Texas, and San Diego. For full details, click here.
-You can also look out for San Diego Comic Con Variant Covers by checking out the Titan Comics (booth #5537), the BBC Shop (booth #4129) and Diamond (booth #2401).
Hannah Means-Shannon is EIC at Bleeding Cool and @hannahmenzies on Twitter