The following is an interview with Al Ewing and Rob Williams, the writers behind the Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor comic book series, the first volume of which will be hitting shelves later this month. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Ewing and Williams about what piqued their interest in working on the series, whether Whovians and those new to the franchise will be easily able to jump into the series, and – most importantly – which Doctor is *their* Doctor!
Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Titan Comics will soon be releasing the hard back of your work on Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Volume One – After Life. What initially intrigued you about taking on this series in the comic book medium?
Al Ewing: Well, I’ve been a Doctor Who fan ever since I was a little kid, and Matt Smith is one of the best actors to have ever been in the role, so when I got the chance to write the comic, it was really a no-brainer. It’s proved to be a lot harder work than I thought – things you love always are – but I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for the world.
Rob Williams: Who wouldn’t want to write Doctor Who? You can tell any story in any era. I watched it as a boy, and now my son and I watch it together. It’s a British cultural icon that runs through generations. And, it’s fun. Smith’s verbal patter appealed to me; I figured I could write that.
BD: What can you tell us about the additional members of the creative team working on the series, and how would you describe your creative process in working together?
AE: We Skype a lot, have conversations about what the plot is likely to be, and then throw breakdowns of the plot back and forth until it’s ready for scripting. For issues we’re scripting solo, we’ve got a rough idea of what needs to be in them and where we need to start and end, so it all works out quite nicely. I’m fairly happy with what we’ve managed to build over the past year – Rob’s a great writing partner, and it’s been nice to have the excuse to chat with him more often that I usually do.
RW: Well, I’ve known Al and Si Fraser for years through 2000AD, and they’re both friends, so that made things more appealing immediately. Ditto for Boo Cook, who’s drawing some of our issues. Good people, talented creators. Warren Pleece I’d not met or worked with before, but again, he adds to the mix very nicely. Al’s and my co-writing is pretty much as he explains above. We Skype chat and work out the structure, then each have the freedom to do our individual thing within that structure. I’ve really enjoyed the co-writing process here. Two minds are better than one on Who, I suspect. You’re writing one of the smartest beings in the universe after all. One writer suggests an idea, the other runs with it, then the other bounces ideas off that. It’s very creative and positive. And, it helps that Al’s so good. Especially at hitting the direct emotional beats. That encourages you to raise your game with your scripts. A bit of friendly competitiveness has helped push this series in some lively creative directions, I think.
BD: Do you feel that the comic book series, and specifically the first volume, provides a solid jumping-on point for readers unfamiliar with the TV series, while also providing additional mysteries and adventures for seasoned viewers?
AE: I think it’s a pretty reasonable jumping on point, all told. The first volume introduces you to the Doctor and all his companions – and one of the advantages of having the first issue be about a new companion is that it gives readers who don’t know the Doctor that well the opportunity to meet him along with her. Readers who aren’t familiar with the Doctor or the TARDIS will get to experience that first time through the doors right along with Alice.
RW; Yeah, new readers get the explanation of how the TARDIS can be bigger on the inside, etc. through our new companions’ eyes. Alice in #1. Jones in #3. ARC in #4. And, us having entirely new companions gives the series some dramatic stakes. You might know what happens to Rory and Amy, but you don’t know the final fates of our team. And, hopefully, we’ll make you care about them along the way.
BD: Do you have a certain number of issues in mind for the series, and are there any upcoming storylines that you are able to share?
AE: I don’t think there’s a finite number of issues in mind for the series as a whole, but the first arc is going to run to fifteen. That’ll be the equivalent of a season of Who – a year’s worth – and we’ll be ending it with a slam-bang two-parter which we’re working on even as I write this. Aside from that, I can tell you that #10 – scripted by Rob – is one of the best issues I’ve seen, and #11 is my attempt to top it. And then, Rob’s back for a two-parter. Lots of thrills ahead!
RW: Yes, #9-#10 is a fun two-parter, with Al delivering a big cliffhanger at the end and my having to resolve it in #10. There’s bit of emotional stakes and weight behind that for the Doctor. #11 is a very nicely done issue where Al gets playful with page structure – and I think it’s things like that that have elevated our series. This isn’t ‘just’ a licensed comic going through the motions. We’ve tried to be inventive here where we can. The time travel aspect of the book kind of insists upon that. Then, #12-#13 is a two-parter by me featuring the Berlin Wall, Roman Soldiers, and a mystery Who villain that we’re not revealing yet. Then, #14-#15 is me and Al co-writing our big season ‘finale.’
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you are able to share with our readers?
AE: Well, I’ve got some Marvel stuff coming up, but, unfortunately, I can’t talk about most of that. In April, though, I’m doing a series of Avengers Specials with Alan Davis under the umbrella title of “Ultron Forever” – it’s a group of Avengers from different time periods fighting Ultron in the far future, and Doctor Doom’s in the mix, as well. It’s suitable for all ages and a massive amount of fun to write, so, hopefully, people reading this will give it a go around by the time the movie comes out. Also, if you like iconic British characters, I have an ongoing Judge Dredd strip in the Judge Dredd Megazine which has had some very favorable reviews.
RW: I’m writing the new Martian Manhunter series for DC Comics, which is pretty exciting. I have another US market ongoing that I can’t talk about yet, and I’m currently also writing Dredd for 2000AD. A big mega epic with the brilliant Henry Flint called Enceladus which starts in #1924, I think.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about the comic books and/or graphic novels that you are currently following?
AE: I’m getting a lot out of The Wicked + The Divine, the pop-culture-as-religion, religion-as-pop-culture, young-Gods-on-Earth murder-mystery (is that the best way to describe it? Almost certainly not.) by Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson. Month by month, it’s a fantastic read, incredibly dense and chewy, and filled with beautiful bits of craft. The latest issue went very satisfyingly into formalist experimentation, and not for the first time either. Highly recommended.
RW: Still very much enjoying Saga every month. Southern Bastards is very good. Morrison’s Multiversity has been great. Ummm . . . I’ve gone blank.
BD: On behalf of our Whovian readers, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask: Who is *your* Doctor?
AE: Patrick Troughton is probably the hill I’d die on in that particular battle. But, I’m getting back into Sylvester McCoy, who I haven’t been keen on since I was quite small, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Matt Smith, the best of the ‘new’ Doctors (with Capaldi coming up fast from behind).
RW: I guess it’s Tom Baker who I watched as a boy. Love his insane glee. Pertwee, I have a soft spot for. I recall some of his episodes from when I was little. Of the modern ones, it’s Smith. I love his playfulness and how it could shift to the ‘angry god’ look. But, there was a lot of heart there. Capaldi’s plainly a very good actor.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about After Life and your body of work?
AE: I’d tell them thank you for the interest! Google is probably your friend when it comes to finding out more about what I’ve done – if you plug my name into the Marvel website, or 2000AD, or ComiXology, you’ll come out with a whole bunch of digital comics you could read. For people who’ve devoured After Life and want more, I’d probably suggest either my Judge Dredd work – the polar opposite of Doctor Who in many ways, but an iconic UK figure all the same – or Loki: Agent of Asgard, which I do with Lee Garbett for Marvel.
RW: Yeah, I’m at robwilliamscomics.co.uk and on Twitter rambling about nonsense at @Robwilliams71. As Al says, a load of my stuff is on ComiXology. I’d recommend my recent, creator-owned book with D’israeli, Ordinary, as I suspect it’s the best thing I’ve written. The Royals: Masters of War from Vertigo, too, with glorious art by Simon Coleby. But, After Life‘s a good example, too. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done with the Doctor.
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol. 1 – After Life hits comic book stores in the US/Canada on March 25 and then book stores in the US/Canada the week after on March 31.
For more information, visit Titan Comics here.