Nick Abdazis has a long career in the comics industry, including his latest series, Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor. On the eve of the release of the first collection of this series, we chatted with Nick.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: You’ve taken the Doctor to New York and partnered him with a New Yorker as a companion. What made you decide to choose a companion who was not British?
Nick Abadzis: It was suggested to me at the beginning that, as the books were initially aimed at a US readership, giving the Doctor an American companion was an idea we could consider. I’m British but I live in New York – I planned to set some stories here so it made sense to make her a local. And because New York City is the proverbial melting pot, she could come from almost any ethnic background too. I happen to live next door to a Mexican and Chinese neighborhood and see a lot of kids like Gabby and her best friend Cindy around where I live, so those options immediately seemed like possibilities. I was sounding out ideas with our editor, Andrew James and fellow writer Robbie Morrison, and they liked these ideas, so we just went from there. Gabby was one of those rare instances where she almost arrived “whole,” Cindy too, and as a storyteller, you don’t ignore those kinds of instincts; you have to follow them.
The thing about Doctor Who is that, theoretically, you can have a companion from anywhere, that is anything – male, female, a non-gendered alien or artificial lifeform, or even as Tom Baker once put it, a talking cabbage. But you have to make that character appealing and accessible, so we stuck with the dynamic of a female companion.
CB: Gabriella is both different and similar to classic companions. What do you find most compelling about her?
Abadzis: As far as I know, she’s the first artist on board the TARDIS. Well… Turlough, who traveled with the fifth Doctor drew a bit, but it wasn’t a major trait of the character’s. I wanted to give Gabby a way of recording and interpreting all her experiences with the Doctor that worked well in comics and that seemed like the best way. She’s a good soul, strong in many ways, yet sweet-natured and even sometimes a little bit naïve, but very smart. And she has fire, too. She’s learning that the Doctor is far from perfect, and she’s figuring out how to call him on some of his dodgier decisions. She has some of the cosmopolitanism of New York City but some of the caution and awareness of pressure that a child of an immigrant family sometimes has, too. She is very definitely a New Yorker.
CB: With Gabriella’s strong family, her debut reminded me of the debut of Rose. Will we see her family and friends again? Will the Laundromat or restaurant be haunted again?
Abadzis: That’s a great compliment as I’m a huge admirer of Rose Tyler and that whole dynamic from series 1 and 2, thank you. Yes, you’ll be meeting Gabriella’s family and friends again and you’ll be seeing a lot more of her friend Cindy. Cindy plays a more prominent role in the story I’m writing right now, and there’s lot of other new characters I’ll soon be introducing too and maybe even some old favorites. Whether the Laundromat features again – we will see!
CB: How does your living in Brooklyn shape your approach to a classically British character like the Doctor?
Abadzis: I guess you could say I have an international approach. Doctor Who is a British institution, but it no longer belongs exclusively to the British and is hugely popular all over the world. I like the idea of celebrating that diversity within the scope of the Doctor Who universe itself, of reflecting it in the curiosity of the Doctor and his companions as characters. I try to bring a sense of the possibilities of the world to it.
CB: Are you a longtime fan of Doctor Who?
Abadzis: Lifelong. I was brought up in the UK and it started before I was born, so I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t Doctor Who. And when I was growing up it was very much a literary as well as a TV phenomenon, we had comic strips and books too, so I was steeped in it.
CB: Who is your favorite Doctor?
Abadzis: That’s always such a loaded question! Tom Baker is “my” Doctor, the one I grew up with and who will always have a special place in my heart, but I love ‘em all, I really do. I’m really enjoying Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor, and it is probably entirely obvious from the way I write him that I love the 10th, too. David Tennant succeeded in capturing my imagination in a similar way as an adult as Tom Baker did as a child; as Paul McGann did when I was reading all the BBC Books in the ’90s.
CB: How closely do you collaborate with artist Elena Casagrande?
Abadzis: I write Elena a script, which she interprets. I give her rough panel layouts for each page, which sometimes she uses, sometimes she doesn’t. It’s not hard and fast, it’s very fluid. When we were creating Gabby, there was a lot of back and forth, but you also develop a sort of shorthand and absolute trust with your collaborators. I’m an artist too so I don’t ask her to draw anything I wouldn’t try myself, but in terms of sheer design ability she’s way ahead of me – I’m all about clarity of storytelling, which is why we’re a good team. We’re all big tenth Doctor fans, so there are “Tennantisms’ that we all sort of understand – I just kind of know that if I ask Elena to draw the tenth Doctor with certain expressions, she’ll just capture it, what I need, exactly right. Elena, and Arianna, her colorist, are incredible. I’m very lucky to have such fine collaborators.
CB: Will there be overarching “season arcs” to your work on Doctor Who?
Abadzis: Yes, there’ll be elements that crop up again, just as in the TV show. We want to give you a sense that there are many unseen adventures, that this it how the tenth Doctor’s era might’ve continued on TV, but to borrow a phrase first coined for the Virgin Books’ Doctor Who New Adventures years ago, these are deeper and wider than what you might be able to show on the box. We want to avail ourselves of all the possibilities the comics medium offers us.
CB: How do you approach writing licensed characters as opposed to your own projects?
Abadzis: You just have to be aware that you have to work within certain constraints, an approval system with Titan and the BBC, which is absolutely fair and actually very valuable because it forces you to keep your ideas absolutely fresh. Other than that, I treat all the characters with exactly the same amount of love.
CB: Any teasers for what we might expect in future volumes?
Abadzis: Currently I’m writing the “season finale” which will close out our first year and although it’s quite “Russell T Davies” in tone it’s also sort of a left turn. It introduces a new “big bad,” a being who doesn’t have any direct history with the Doctor but who has very understandable motivations for wanting to interfere with his and Gabby’s life. He’s not even a villain precisely, but he is a very powerful creature who decides he needs the Doctor’s help, that the Doctor will be useful to him, and this won’t be fun for our favorite Time Lord. There will be some interesting new allies too, and of course new worlds to explore, people to meet, tea to drink. Gabby’s time with the Doctor is just beginning really, and it’s epic in scope. We hope very much that you will come along for the ride.
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Vol. 1 Revolutions Of Terror 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.
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