INTERVIEW: Writer Nick Abadzis Talks To Us On David Tennant, Doctor Who & Titan Comics

This week sees the hotly anticipated release by Titan Comics of the first collected edition of the all-new adventures of the Tenth Doctor. Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Vol. 1 - Revolutions Of Terror collects together issues #1-5 of the officially licensed series which sends the Time Lord off on a new set of adventures with new companion Gabby Gonzalez. The collection will hit comic book stores on Wednesday 25th March and will be available in book stores from Tuesday 31st March. 

Revolutions Of Terror was written by Nick Abadzis and features artwork by Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean.

We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to put some questions to writer Nick Abadzis about his work on the new series. Nick, who has previously worked for both Marvel and DC, told us all about the creative process and revealed himself to be a fan of both Doctor Who and David Tennant. To find out what he had to say, read on:

How did you come to be invited to write for the new Titan Comics series?

Nick Abadzis: Steve White, senior editor at Titan, knows that I am a huge Doctor Who fan and he sounded me out. Shortly after that, I was invited by Andrew James, my editor at Titan, to write new Tenth Doctor adventures. This was the first time “new” Tenth Doctor stories would be made available since he regenerated on New Year’s Day in 2010, so it was a big responsibility. But as well as an honour, it was a gift, because I happen to love the tenth Doctor – I think someone at Titan thought it was “good casting.”

The Tenth Doctor is one of the most beloved incarnations of the Doctor. Did you feel the weight of responsibility for doing David Tennant’s performance justice?

NA: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But you have to believe in your own love for the character and enjoyment of David Tennant’s performance to propel your desire to capture it and get it right. You can’t just imitate what you heard him say on TV, although there is an element of mimicry to it – but the way he speaks changes and evolves, he’s very inventive, his mannerisms evolve, so you have to reflect that. I spend a lot of time thinking about how David might say a certain line and taking care that it sounds right, that it sounds truthful to his way of speaking as the Tenth Doctor. He has an infectious joie de vivre.

How did you ensure that you captured all of the nuances of Tennant’s performance that made the Tenth Doctor so special?

I spent a lot of time watching him! Besides being a tenth Doctor fan (and fan of Doctor Who), I’m a fan of David Tennant and will watch him in anything I can. He’s an outstanding performer, and if you like an actor, by watching them you can learn. I trust my own ear for dialogue too. To a certain extent, in recreating a beloved TV character in a different medium, you’re putting in a performance of your own, and this one is a collaboration between myself and the artist, Elena Casagrande.

What do you think should go into a good Doctor Who story?

NA: Jeopardy and a good measure of whacko imagination. It’s got to be scary but it’s got to be funny too. There’s no formula, though – Doctor Who is constantly reinventing itself and you always want to give a reader something they haven’t quite seen before. In this case, to a certain extent, we’re trying to replicate the feel of the RTD era, but we don’t want to be slavish about it, so there’s a lot of latitude to invent. Inventiveness underpins all Doctor Who.

How do you work with the illustrator?

NA: I write her a script, which is not unlike a TV or film script. As well as the words each character speaks, I write a description of the action and emotion in each comic panel, suggestions of point-of-view, that sort of thing. Pertinent information.  Elena takes the script and interprets it, so the end result is sort of a fusion of the two of us, plus of course Arianna’s beautiful colouring. I also provide Elena with a layout for each page so she can see how I’m thinking about the flow of panels across it and throughout the finished strip – all of these things affect pacing and how a reader gets immersed in the story.

What do you prefer: to invent your own villains or use the TV series villians?

NA: Doctor Who’s got more than half a century’s worth of accumulated mythology, so it’s nice to make a nod now and then to that rich past, so I do put in the odd little acknowledgement to past adventures and incarnations of the Doctor. When I first wrote for the Tenth Doctor, way back in 2006, my co-writer and I used the Sontarans and that was a lot of fun, because they’re iconic and we were allowed to add a few nuances of our own to them. But I like to invent new threats too. It’s great to bring back enemies who’ve appeared in the past if you can bring something new to them, but I think Doctor Who thrives on new ideas too. It’s a bit of both – there’s a balance to be had.

What is the hardest part in creating the comic book stories? And what gives you the most pleasure?

NA: I don’t have a shortage of ideas, but there is a lot of Doctor Who out there, not only on TV but in books, audio, other comics, all manner of spin-off media, and you don’t want to repeat anything anyone else has done – there’s always that fear. I did have a couple of early ideas rejected by the BBC, but for the very good reason that they were like ones in development for TV episodes at the time, so that’s an occupational hazard. They’ve been brilliant, though, very supportive.
It’s worth being aware of everything that’s gone before throughout the Doctor’s many lives across all those different media, so it’s a good job I’m a lifelong fan and have a pretty good working knowledge of past adventures.

Coming up with adventures and characters that readers respond to is a lovely feeling. It’s been wonderful to see people responding so positively to Gabby Gonzalez, the companion we’ve given the Tenth Doctor.  We have a lot of surprises and new characters on the way, so I hope they’ll stay with us. I love doing this, all of us on all the teams do.

The character of Gabby is realistic and fully rounded and more about her is still emerging. What – or who - was your inspiration behind her creation?

NA: I was asked to create a new companion for the Tenth Doctor and it was suggested that we make her American. I was bouncing a lot of ideas at my editor, Andrew James and co-writer Robbie Morrison, and I pitched the idea that she be a New Yorker, from Sunset Park in Brooklyn. I happen to live next door to that neighbourhood which is a very Mexican and Chinese area, and I was cycling around it while I was dreaming up what a companion from New York City would be like. I had the idea of the TARDIS landing in the park itself, the Doctor exiting to meet the locals – he would probably bump into someone like Gabby, of Mexican heritage. Her best friend, Cindy Wu, is Chinese-American – it all seemed to fit. The name Gabby Gonzalez is inspired by a friend of mine, Gabrielle Gamboa who is a Californian artist and teacher. I wanted my Gabby to be an artist too, to give her a way of recording and interpreting her voyages with the Doctor, which is what I’d be like if I got to travel with him! When Elena first started doing character designs, she really picked up on this, it became something of a hallmark of the character. Gabby really came alive at that point – I love getting new pages in from Elena to see how she’s evolving.

The Tenth Doctor - Revolutions Of Terror
The Tenth Doctor thought he was done with new companions after Donna’s tragic exit – but that was before he met Gabriella ‘Gabby’ Gonzalez during an incursion of psychic parasites in Brooklyn, New York!
Stuck running her father’s Laundromat, Gabby always dreamed of horizons beyond Sunset Park – whether that was going to college, making it as an artist, or just escaping her life for a while. Now she’s traveling the cosmos as the Doctor’s latest companion – and life couldn’t be more exciting! 
Battling invisible creatures on the Day of the Dead, uncovering a galactic conspiracy in the universe’s most famous art gallery... the only downside is the constant threat of death!

Collects Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #1-5 

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor - Revolutions Of Terror can be pre-ordered now from the Titan Comics website.

UK fans can order their copy from Forbidden Planet (orders must be in by 15th April).

An Eleventh Doctor collection - After Life by Al Ewing, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser – will be available on the same day.