IDW Publishing wanted to make sure they did every TV incarnation of Doctor Who justice in their upcoming miniseries “Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time,” launching this January from writers Scott and David Tipton. So they lined up a different artist for every single issue of the 12-issue miniseries, one for each different TV incarnation of “Doctor Who.”
The first issue of “Prisoners of Time” will feature the very first Doctor, Willliam Hartnell, as its lead. Bringing Hartnell to life is Brooklyn-based Scottish-born artist Simon Fraser. Fraser is perhaps best known for his contributions to both “2000 AD” and the “Judge Dredd Megazine,” having very recently completed the 15-year epic series “Nikolai Dante” for “2000 AD.”
Fraser spoke with Comic Book Resources about “Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time,” the pressure involved with taking on the legendary British property, his favorite Doctors, his unique studio space in Brooklyn, his early obsession with the Doctor and more.
CBR News: Simon, how did you get involved with “Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time?”
Simon Fraser: My studio-mate Tim Hamilton did some IDW “Doctor Who” a few months back. He was asked if he could do this job, but he wasn’t available, so he suggested me. We seem to spend a lot of time in the studio discussing “Doctor Who” so it was an obvious choice.
Is this your first time working on a licensed property?
I’ve done licensed gigs a few times. Back when I started out I worked on the Gerry Anderson “Space Precinct” comic for Dark Horse UK. I also did some “Action Man” comics (the UK “G.I. Joe” equivalent.) This was all 20 years ago, though. Technically, “Nikolai Dante” and “Judge Dredd” are licenses too, though it tends to feel a lot closer to me than that might suggest.
As a native Englishman, how does it feel to work on “Doctor Who?” Were you already a fan?
I am a native Scotsman.[cough]
I’ve been a “Doctor Who” fan for as long as I can remember. My bedroom walls were plastered with Tom Baker’s face. I had a couple of small “Star Wars” posters, but there was no question who the daddy was. I grew up reading the old UK “Doctor Who” weekly in the 1980s. They were mostly drawn by Dave Gibbons and Steve Dillon, though there were a couple of very memorable stories drawn by Mike McMahon and John Stokes. They were written by Pat Mills, John Wagner and Alan Moore. Very classy stuff, obviously.
Sorry to mistake you as being English! I know that people have been killed for less…
There have been wars…
Moving on, what’s the basic story of “Prisoners of Time?”
Somebody is out to get the Doctor, but they are doing it in a very methodical way.
That’s pretty much all I can tell you.
This is one of your highest profile gigs yet. Is there more pressure to perform on “Prisoners of Time” compared to some of your other work?
There’s a lot of pressure to get it done on time. Everyone has been very enthusiastic about it, when I say I’m drawing “Who.” Especially those who know what a big Who fan I am. Having just drawn the conclusion of 15 years of “Nikolai Dante,” I can’t say that this is in the same ballpark of expectation though.
“Prisoner of Time’s” solicitations say it’s going to use all 11 Doctors during the course of the series. Who is your favorite Doctor, both to draw and to watch?
Well “my” Doctor was Tom Baker. He was the one on TV when I was a kid. It wasn’t quite the same after he left. I have a wide-brimmed hat, a waistcoat and a scarf that I wear sometimes and while it’s not cosplay exactly, the Baker era affected me rather fundamentally when I was at an impressionable age.
I have to say that as fond as I am of the old school stuff, since the revival we have really been living in the Golden Age of the series. Eccleston, Tennant and Smith have all been exceptionally good Doctors and the writing has generally been streets ahead of all but the very best of the old show. Not to mention the general level of the casting, the production design and the effects work. I have to say that if I had to choose a Doc to draw it would have been either Hartnell or Troughton, so I am very happy. The series exists because of the charisma, range and skill of those actors. All the other Doctors since have worked within the framework that those men built.
What’s the most fun part about drawing “Doctor Who?”
Hearing their voices in my head as I draw. The Tiptons have done an excellent job of capturing the unique idiom of each character.
Moving to a different topic briefly, you recently closed your epic, decade-plus saga “Nikolai Dante” for “2000 AD.” What was that experience like for you?
Yes, it’s been a bit like sending my first-born son off to college. After a decade and a half of living my sci-fi swashbuckling dreams, we’ve finally told Dante’s last tale. It’s not often in any medium that you get the chance to tell a story like that, over such an extended period of time and then end it in the right way. I feel very privileged that “2000 AD” let us do this and I’m very happy with the whole thing. I thought I might miss him, but it feels right. We did him justice.
I know you work in a unique shared studio in Brooklyn and you already mentioned one of your studio-mates there, Tim Hamilton. What’s that space like and how does it affect your artistic process?
The DrawBridge Studio started up in 2007 with six Brooklyn-based comics artists in a smallish studio down in Gowanus. (Tim Hamilton, Mike Cavallaro, Leland Purvis, Dean Haspiel, Joan Riley and myself.) Now nearly six years later we have three studios and 15(-ish) permanent members (Ellen Lindner, Robin Ha, Riley Brown, Joe Infurnari, Tim Hamilton, George O’Connor, Khary Randolph, Jason Little, Chris Sinderson, Doug Olsen, Mike Cavallaro, David Klein, Bobby Timoney, Andres Vera Martinez, Kevin Colden and me) with a whole bunch more regular guests who come in and take an empty desk whenever they are in town or looking to get out of the house. Sitting at home all the time is one of the worst aspects of being a freelancer, so the studio is somewhere we can come every day to hang out with other comics types, shoot the breeze, drink too much coffee and work our asses off. It also acts as a kind of clearinghouse for work, as we pass jobs around when we need to. We can also help out if a colleague is under impossible deadline pressure. There are interns coming in regularly to pitch in and get advice about their own projects and careers too. The upshot of so many comics creators under one roof is the drawbridge.blogspot.comÂ drawblog, the activatecomix.com webcomics community and numerous other side projects and professional relationships. It’s one of the best things about being in Brooklyn for me and gives me someplace to stash my now-enormous toy dinosaur collection.
What other projects do you have coming up after “Prisoners of Time?”
Next up I have a four-page short in “2000 AD” written by Monty Nero called “Rocket de la Revolucion.”
I’ll be continuing Lilly Mackenzie’s adventures at activatecomix.comÂ in the new year. Then that will eventually be published in the “Judge Dredd Megazine” when it’s done.
I’ll be contributing to Alex de Campi’s “Grindhouse” anthology with a 20-pager called “Prison Ship Antares” — think “Caged Heat” in space!
After that I have a number of pitches in various stages of progress. Look for updates on simonfraser.net.
Finally, what’s more British in your opinion: “Doctor Who” or “2000 AD?”
That’s like asking which is more British, the Beatles or the Stones? Tom Jones or The Clash? They each cater to a different type of Britishness. “2000 AD” is the angry, disreputable, noisy side, while “Doctor Who” is a bit more of a cosy, middle-class, oddball aberration. They are each the product of their time. Britishness changes and develops over time. Which is cool.
“Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time” #1 written by Scott and David Tipton and featuring the art of Simon Fraser from IDW Publishing goes on sale January 30th.