Since the first announcement of Titan Comics’ new ongoing Doctor Who series, the anticipation for the July 23 release of the series’ first issue has been heavy among Whovians and comic fans alike, especially since the comic will introduce a brand new companion for the Tenth Doctor.
Eisner Award-winning Nick Abadzis penned the first 5-issue story arc for the Tenth Doctor’s adventures, with art by fan-favorite Elena Casagrande. Abadzis’ accomplishments include the celebrated comic Laika, a fictionalized account of the dog who would be the first living creature in space. As a lifelong Doctor Who fan, he jumped at the chance when Titan Comics Senior Editor Steve White offered him the book.
“I’d written the Tenth Doctor once before, a long time ago for Doctor Who Magazine, before I’d even seen David Tennant in the role on TV (it was his debut comic strip),” Abadzis said. “But now I know the character much better, so this is an opportunity to really add to the mythology, expand on what we know about him.”
Abadzis said his favorite aspect of The Doctor was when he found himself in unfamiliar territory. He recalled watching the show as a kid and how he loved it when The Doctor went places and figured out how things work, be it an alien planet or ancient Rome.
“Sometimes he’d land somewhere and just ‘know’ things, and could be a bit insufferable for it, and sometimes that’s necessary to get a story started quickly. But I liked it when he got caught out or was shown something he didn’t know, and he was delighted by that,” he said. “That’s the core of the character for me, a traveler who is curious about the universe and wants to see amazing things.”
He said The Doctor does battle evil when he finds it, but he is also on a mission of discovery, sometimes taking his friends along for the ride.
“He’d bring the best out in people that way. I like The Doctor as a character when he’s an empowering force, someone who helps a local population deal with an invasion maybe, but someone who gives them confidence in themselves, too, which is something he also does for many of his companions,” he said.
Abadzis is already several issues in the current series, and is planning further adventures. He said writing Doctor Who is a natural fit. He said he never thought too hard about how he would take on the Tenth Doctor, and feels to a certain extent he is “recreating” a character that Tennant, writer Russell T. Davies, and other Doctor Who writers evolved over the course of the show. He hopes to remain true to that character, as well as add his own something special. That includes the new companion.
“I really liked the Tenth Doctor on TV, so you have a head start with the mannerisms and cadences of speech and so on, but you want to add to that, expand it further, cast some new light on his behavioral tics and traits,” he said.
“The Doctor is the ultimate cosmopolitan, a traveler and cultural observer as well as a hero who fights evil and injustice, so I knew I wanted to have him traveling with someone who would enable me and other writers of this series to show new aspects of his character; things we haven’t witnessed before, and that’s how we came to create a new companion for him, Gabriella Gonzalez,” Abadzis said.
Abadzis is breaking new ground with Gonzalez, a Mexican-American, as the first Latina companion of The Doctor’s. Abadzis said his editor, Andrew James and series co-writer, Robbie Morrison, were very receptive to the idea.
“She is an individual who, although she’s proud of her background and loves her culture and traditions, refuses to be completely defined by it, either by her own family or the country she’s grown up in,” he explained. “She’s American, she’s of Mexican origin, she’s modern, but she’s very much her own person and is ready to explore that and is chafing a little against family expectations.”
Gonzalez resides in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn, which has the largest Mexican population in New York City. In the story, Sunset Park is about to celebrate la Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) when an alien invader uses the celebration as cover for its own nefarious ends.
“When he lands in Sunset Park and meets Gabby, The Doctor thinks at first he’s rescuing her—and he is—but he’s not quite prepared for how useful she makes herself, by being brave and smart and thinking of possibilities he overlooks.”
At this point in the Tenth Doctor’s timeline, he has already lost companion Donna Noble, and didn’t think he’d find a companion to match her stature.
Admittedly, it takes a period of adjustment for both Gonzalez and The Doctor.
“Gabby responds to the best in The Doctor, and, uncomfortably at first, he does likewise. He’s the best character in the world to write, and hopefully Gabby is a great foil,” Abadzis said.
“She’s smart, a little bit tough in a self-protective way but she’s emotionally intelligent, she’s got good empathy. She draws, too–I don’t think there’s been an artist on board the TARDIS since (Fifth Doctor companion) Vislor Turlough.”
Abadzis said Gonzales should be the Tenth Doctor series’ companion for at least a year, but with The Doctor there is always a possibility to explore new, interesting companions in the future.
“There’s nothing to say that there might not be other companions who come along later, who might indeed be from other regions on Earth, or maybe they’ll hail from an alien world,” he said. “It’s Doctor Who–anything can happen.”
For those worried about the comic stories interfering with the television or other continuities or wishing to see some more familiar faces, Abadzis said he is aware of the pitfalls of writing in the gaps.
“I think little continuity references can be fun most of the time–they needn’t affect a story but it’s easy to drop them in and it’s a laugh for longtime fans,” he said.
“On a larger scale, you have to come to it with the right sensibility–it’s when you do it for gratuitous reasons that it can become something you can trip up over. Bringing back a companion for the sake of it rather than because you’ve come up with a great story and they’re the ideal character to help some aspect of it smacks of gimmickry.”
He also feels filling in continuity gaps is “a great pastime, but doesn’t necessarily make for original storytelling,” and creating a new and original story is something writers should always be pushing themselves to do.
“That said, I’m as big a fan as the next person, and if I come up with a brilliant idea for a story featuring Nyssa or Ian or Sarah-Jane, I’m gonna have a go at making it work,” he said.
He promised there would be plenty of surprises, including one returning foe in the first year as part of a story written by Robbie Morrison. There will also be many all-new threats.
“While we’re trying to recreate the general feel of the Tenth Doctor’s era, we want to make the comics must-reads, their own thing, a book you’ll really want to pick up and enjoy every month,” Abadzis said, “You can certainly expect some crazy happenings, some fun character dynamics, some unexpected twists and turns of events. I like to keep myself amused, so you can be sure I will be surprising myself whenever I have the opportunity–and hopefully the reader too.”
As for other incarnations of The Doctor, the first Eleventh Doctor Adventures issue by writers Al Ewing and Rob Williams, with art by Simon Fraser, will be released alongside the Tenth Doctor’s series, and the Twelfth Doctor’s series will follow later this year.
Titan Comics’ Doctor Who Issues #1 for both the Tenth Doctor and Eleventh Doctor Adventures come out Wednesday, July 23.
Abadzis doesn’t know what his editors at Titan Comics have planned for the other Doctors but he said is petitioning to write stories for the other incarnations. Hopefully, he said, this will be only a matter of time.