The Doctor is in.
IDW Publishing is bringing “Doctor Who,” the longest-running science fiction television series in history, back to comic book shelves in early 2008.
The announcement was made today at Comic-Con International in San Diego that current TV series script editor Gary Russell will pen the series with Nick Roche (“Transformers: Devastation” and “Transformers: Beast Wars”) providing artwork. “Doctor Who” showrunner Russell T Davies will oversee the book.
IDW will also begin reprinting Dave Gibbons’ run on “Doctor Who Monthly” from the 1980s. Originally presented in black and white, the books will now be colored using new techniques.
Russell, who has worked in virtually every medium on Doctor Who-related projects, told CBR News while the series does not directly reflect “questions of canonicity,” it will feature the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.
“The stories involve the Doctor and Martha Jones, so it’s all somewhere within the latter half of Series 3,” confirmed Russell, who edited “Doctor Who Magazine” for four years before becoming the producer for the “Doctor Who” licensed audio drama tie-ins at Big Finish Productions in 1998. He stayed at Big Finish until 2006 when he left to join the staff at BBC Wales to work on both “Doctor Who” and its spin-off, “Torchwood.”
The 43-year old Englishman has been following the adventures of The Doctor for nearly his entire life and actually remembers watching the episode when the First Doctor, William Hartnell, regenerated into the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton.
“I have two elder brothers, so I guess “Doctor Who” was something they watched and I fell into it by default. My earliest memory is the Hartnell regeneration into Troughton, but I know I didn’t understand it at all,” explained Russell. “Then from the repeat in 1968 of “Evil of the Daleks” onwards, I was hooked. Memory is funny though, with the advent of video in the 1980s, I was able to see things I thought I had 100 per cent, spot on memories of, only to discover how way-off base I was. Kids today are so much luckier. TV and movies are instant and always available, memory and nostalgia won’t be necessary for them.”
The Irish-born Roche was also inundated with the Doctor from a very young age.
“It’s something that’s embedded into your pop culture sub-consciousness when you live in Ireland or the U.K.,” said Roche. “I can’t remember specific stories, but I can’t remember not knowing what a Timelord, or a TARDIS, or a Dalek was. But I would watch anything that was vaguely fantastical or had a sci-fi bent to it then, as I do now. Most of my exposure to Doctor Who would have come through the Marvel U.K. comic, which crossed over with Death’s Head, a character I followed from Transformers. My mate Wayne was enough of a fan for both of us; I’m knowledgeable by osmosis.”
Russell, who counts the Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison incarnations of the Doctor as his favorites, said when the book was offered to him by Davies, it took all of about 10 seconds to accept.
“I’ve been reading comics since I was young. I started off flicking trough DC and Marvel ’70s anthology titles like “Where Monsters Dwell” and “Chamber of Chills” but then discovered “Fantastic Four” #131 and have been a lifelong Marvel Zombie ever since,” said Russell. “I adore Marvel team-books and indeed my only non-Marvel stuff, bar “Nexus” and “Dreadstar” and more recently “Astro City,” was TV tie-ins like DC’s fabulous “Star Trek” comics and Dark Horse’s “Star Wars.” So I’m a tie-in freak too. Anyway, to answer your question, it took no time to decide to get involved as I love writing comics because I adore the medium so much. I wrote and edited at Marvel U.K. during their big launch of stuff in 1991-92. We put out a brief but bright collection of titles and I was honored to be involved in a small way with that.”
Roche also jumped about the Tardis with little prodding.
“I like being told I’m considered good enough to do something,” quipped Roche. “I was a fan, it was something I could come in at ground level and establish myself on, and it was a chance to draw people, something that working on Transformers doesn’t always offer.”
Roche became a fan of series as a teen, watching some reruns of Pertwee’s turn as the Third Doctor.
“In my teens, I caught some Jon Pertwee-era stuff and was hooked,” said Roche. “I was apprehensive about watching it, having been fed a diet of visually slick ’90s sci-fi like the “Star Trek” series, but it grabbed me from go. Maybe because much of those Doctor’s adventures were earth-bound, the infamous creakiness of the settings weren’t apparent. It was just solid, entertaining stuff. My favourite run is definitely the current version though, no doubt there.”
Russell is also a big fan of his book’s star – Tennant the Time Lord.
In fact, knowing Tennant so well helps Russell script him in the comic.
“As I said earlier, I’ve known David a few years now, so it’s tricky, separating one of the most genuinely loveliest people in the world from my TV hero, the loveliest of those,” said Russell. “But yes, hearing his voice in my head is easy. However, translating it to the page is less so. But then, what’d be the point of doing this if it wasn’t a challenge. And I know very well that if I don’t nail it straight away, there are several thousand people out there who’ll delight in pointing this out and steering me in another direction.”
Speaking of direction, Russell, who will remain on as a script editor for the series while writing the book, added jokingly that the most vocal of those several thousand will likely be his boss – Russell T Davies.
“He approves everything I do,” said Russell of Davies. “This version of Doctor Who is his baby, his creativity and drive is involved all down the line on everything connected with the show. He is a comic fan too, so we both want this to work really well. I fear he may kill me personally if I get it wrong. Eek!”
Roche was also joking about a case of the jitters.
“I’m really stoked to be asked. I’m going to come under a lot of scrutiny for this,” admitted Roche. “I was kind of hoping there would be no announcements but just that someone would notice one day that I’d drawn Doctor Who. Now I’m nervous!”
But as the accompanying sketches can attest, Roche should have nothing to be nervous about. He says countless hours spent with the Doctor leaves him inspired.
“I’ve spent tons of time with him. He gets his suits off me,” joked Roche.” Lots of fashion tips for ol’ Dave, I have. In reality, the only time I’ve spent with Mr. Tennant is through screen-grabbing and freeze-framing his DVD self. He’s got such a recognizable face that contorts into very specific shapes and expressions that it’s important to get it as right as I can.”
Russell, who has two years worth of stories mapped out for what is expected to be ongoing series, is also happy with the Doctor’s current companion, Martha Jones, played on television by Freema Agyeman.
“I adore Martha Jones and find writing for her great fun,” said Russell, adding readers may have to wait a while to see the Doctor’s archenemy in action.
Sharing a similar sense of humor, Russell and Roche have become quick companions working on the project even though the writer has some Dalek-inspired plans for his trusted artist.
“Nick has patience, experience, a weary ‘Oh, okay Gary, if you’re sure’ and a huge sense of fun to the book,” said Russell. “God, that man is so talented it makes me sick. And he’s cheerful all the time. I hate cheerful people, so I’m making it my mission to destroy his happy exterior and make him hate me!”
Roche, however, can not be deterred.
“Gary is a lovely change of pace. The guy is incredibly generous. I tend to feel my place as an artist is to serve the story and I’m happy to do that, but Gary’s keen on back-and-forth emails about direction and what not,” countered Roche. “He’s even been as sweet to ask what I want or don’t want to draw and how many panels a page I’m comfortable drawing. The answer: One very small panel in the bottom corner. He claims he wants my input, but possibly only to indicate what direction to ignore.”
“As a concept, the Doctor never gets dull. And if it falls into a rut you don’t particularly like, in two or three years, a new producer or Doctor or companion will come along and reboot it,” said Russell.