To celebrate the launch of the newsstand version of Titan Magazines’ BBC Doctor Who Comic, here’s our exclusive interview with editor Andrew James. This piece first featured back in Issue 27 of MyM magazine, when the comic launched as a digital download in the UK…
Andrew James started out at Titan 10 years ago as the press and web assistant in Titan Books, before moving into the company’s expanding comics department. Since then he’s worked on newsstand titles such as Star Wars and DreamWorks, becoming an editor along the way. When Titan launched its US comics, he became heavily involved with Death Sentence, Chronos Commandos and the upcoming Surface Tension, somehow finding time to edit CLiNT in between all of that. Since December 2012 he’s been on board pitching and developing Doctor Who comic.
MyM: You’ve been involved with Doctor Who since December 2012 – that’s quite a lengthy pitch!
It was one of those things where you do a little work, you put something in, you wait a few months, you get something back, you do a little bit more work. But I really enjoy the pitching process, when the creative side comes to the fore – that question of what would you do if you could do anything? That’s how we came up with doing three Doctors in three ongoing comics, delving into the back catalogue and thinking how we would structure it.
Was the Twelfth Doctor in your original pitch?
No, we were putting this together not knowing that Peter Capaldi was on the way! But you go into something like Doctor Who knowing there’s going to be a regeneration at some point. We weren’t caught out but it was a late twist. Until we signed we were piecing together details just like the fans.
How do you handle the continuity?
We looked at the model Dark Horse used brilliantly on its Buffy and Angel comics. This has a showrunner on the comics, whether that’s Joss Whedon or someone else, spinning series-long arcs. They run it on the basis that, for example, this year’s comics are Season Nine, following straight on from the show. Obviously you can’t mirror that model exactly in Doctor Who – it’s an ongoing continuity, so you can’t drop in a comics series and number it as David Tennant ‘Series 5’ – Matt Smith already bagsied that! So some of the pitch was just us working out, if we’re going to tell more Tenth Doctor stories, where are we going to fit them – and, similarly, where do you do the Eleventh Doctor?
How do you get around that in such a time-twisty show?
Central to our pitch was that if we’re using past Doctors, bring in new companions. For a lot of people, Doctor Who is the story of the companions because they can change, be put in peril, die, leave on their own terms, fall in love, all that kind of stuff. Whereas the Doctor, however much he changes his face, he is basically the same character. And you don’t want to change that too much. So we wanted someone the readers look at and think, ‘I genuinely don’t know what happens to you and whether you make it out of this story alive.’ That gives it an edge.
What can you tell us about the new companions?
It wasn’t intentional box ticking that made both new companions minorities but the opportunity to tell stories of characters who aren’t cut from the same mould as recent TV companions was really interesting. To have a Mexican-American character from New York with the Tenth Doctor gives us a really different perspective there. And even though Alice Obiefune is based in London, she’s of Nigerian descent, so that again is a fresh perspective.
Is the BBC heavily involved, to maintain the time lines?
Every day we’re sending emails back and forth and we have regular meetings. One of the guys doing our script approvals was the former script editor on the show – he’s now the producer on Wizards Vs Aliens. He loves comics so much, he’s stayed on as our script editor! He’s a fantastic guy and being embedded down in BBC Cardiff, his notes are spot-on. With the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, it’s easier, because their TV adventures are available to everyone. For the Twelfth Doctor, we’re working much closer with the current TV team to make sure the comic accurately reflects the show – and to ensure we keep all those secrets!
Has much been blocked?
We were encouraged to try new things things, but we’re very experienced with licensed comics at Titan, so we know the questions to ask. Our first meeting was very much, ‘What can we do, what can’t we do?’ The briefs we were given matched our thinking: few returning monsters, an ongoing story that fits into the continuity but isn’t necessarily beholden to it, capture the Doctor’s voice and everything else flows from that. Show us new landscapes, new monsters, new times and explore new themes. In our first year of publishing, we only have one returning monster across both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor series. And that’s only because Robbie Morrison pitched a story for the Tenth Doctor that was too good to pass up!