To the chagrin of fans worldwide, there are no new episodes of “Doctor Who” airing until the annual Christmas special arrives. At Titan Comics, however, the Twelfth Doctor continues to fly through time and space, jamming on his guitar, and generally trying to make sure he doesn’t have to hug anybody. It’s an interesting time for the series by Robbie Morrison, artist Rachael Stott and colorist Ivan Nunes, because the comic is about to sync up to the events of the most recent TV season — which means readers are about to see the last of Clara.
But as we say farewell to the Impossible Girl, we say hello to Rachael Stott as the continuing artist on the comic. A hugely passionate fan of the show, Stott’s dedication for all things Whovian shines through in each issue of the comics series — something which has not gone unnoticed by Peter Capaldi himself, who recently sent her some rather unexpected fan art…
To get a bit more insight into Stott’s approach to the comic, her thoughts on the current Doctor, and her new designation as Capaldi’s Favorite Artist, CBR News spoke the the artist, and her answers were *fantastic*! Wait, no, sorry — wrong Doctor.
CBR News: This seems like a dream gig for you as it’s clear you’re a huge “Doctor Who” fan. Where did you first start with the series? Did you come on with the relaunch and Eccleston, or has it been part of your life since childhood?
Rachael Stott: To be honest, I’m a comic fan first and foremost, so literally any job I get is a dream job! I’ve been reading comics since I could read, whereas yeah, I only got into “Who” in 2005, with the relaunch. I absolutely adore the show, though I have to admit that my interest was waning a little near the end of Matt Smith’s tenure. But, as soon as we got “The Twelfth Doctor,” I was back into it in a big, bad way.
What do you think has helped the series keep going all these years? What is it that makes it so enduring?
You can reinvent it as many times as you like, for one thing. You can change the main character — not just with a new face, but a new personality, too. Plus, the space/time travel element of the show means you can literally make any type of story fit into the mold. A great example was “Heaven Sent” from series 9 — it’s crazy that you can get an amazing piece of insanely original storytelling like that in a show that’s 50+ years old.
And how did you first get involved in drawing the “Doctor Who” comics over at Titan? Did they approach you, did you approach them…?
One of their senior editors approached me at London Super Comic Con, which was nice! I visited their offices, and they asked if I’d be interested in drawing the Twelfth Doctor.
This is all in only your second year as a published comics artist. How do you feel your work has changed or improved since your first work at IDW?
When I look at it now, even if I see all the mistakes — and I cringe at plenty of it — I’m still very, very proud of the work I did. At the time, I just focused on doing the best I could, but compared to what I do now, I definitely see an improvement. It’s ridiculous the speed and degree with which you improve just by going from a part-time hobbyist to a full-time professional.
On “Star Trek/Planet of the Apes,” I was almost improving on a daily basis. A lot of that was also with the help of my editor at the time, Sarah Gaydos. As it was my first gig, she had literally limitless patience with me, and she gave me so much guidance and insight. Even with the work I do now, I try to scrutinize it with as much objectivity as she did when I was on “Trek.” I’d love to go back and have another crack at that franchise, I love it to bits and “Trek/Apes” was so much fun to draw.
Now that I’ve been full time for over a year, the improvement and development of my art is much more of a conscious thing. Assessing where I need it improve and applying myself to that end. I work digitally (Manga Studio EX 5, on a Wacom Cintiq; for anyone interested in the technical side).
What’s your starting point for a comic? When you get the script, what are the first things you do?
I go through and read it beginning to end, just so I get a sense of the story. Then I go through again and make little thumbnails — sometimes not the whole page, but if I just have an idea for a panel layout or something I’ll jot it down. Then I just go through and do all the layouts, and at this point if anyone’s doing a weird facial expression, I’ll search for some reference.
How have you found working with Robbie, Ivan, editor Andrew James, and the rest of the team? What’s the collaborative process like?
Working with Robbie’s been great. His scripts have a lot of action and humor, so I think we were a good match. You can tell he has a really good sense of the Twelfth Doctor’s personality as well. Andrew’s a wonderful editor, and the whole Titan team are great. They’re really invested in just making top notch comics.
Don’t get me started on Ivan Nunes, though. That man is a wizard. His colors contribute so much to the tone and storytelling of the comics, and are rich and vibrant, really making the pages pop. I get excited every time I get sent a new batch to look at.
Peter Capaldi’s quite a fan of your work, it seems…
Ha! Yeah, even though my job is constantly awesome and ridiculous, that ranks very highly as one of the most awesome and ridiculous things to have happened to me.
To not only get a letter, but a beautiful painting off your hero? I think that’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’m incredibly lucky.
Do you know how that came about? Is he reading the comics?
I know that Titan send the cast copies of all the issues they’re in — though to be honest, I think I used to purposely avoid thinking about it as it adds a lot of pressure! Now, I have confirmation that he looks at them. I feel extra guilty every time I have to draw him being punched in the face.
What do you think motivates and drives his Doctor?
People talk a lot about him being a grumpy Doctor, but I think that couldn’t be further from the truth. I think out of all the modern Doctors, his is by far the most vulnerable. Whereas (for example) the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor would whisk companions away, show them things, lie to them, want to impress them, the Twelfth doesn’t really care what people think of him, apart from Clara. He values her opinion. He’ll ask where she wants to go, if he upsets her it bothers him, and so on.
But he doesn’t wear shades and play guitar on a tank because “tanks are cool.” He does it because he wants to. Previous Doctors would put on acts for other people, to gain their trust or approval, but that meant there was still a boundary up between them. The Twelfth Doctor is very much, “This is me. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem.” Like if someone’s going to die, that’s it — he can’t pretend to care to please anyone else, and he won’t lie to them and tell them they’ll be fine if they won’t… unless it might help their chances.
He’s very logical, but also joyful. And punk.
What work goes into capturing his likeness for the comics? How do you monitor his presence, his body language — and his eyebrows?
Watching a lot of “Doctor Who!” The Twelfth Doctor is my Doctor, so I’d always felt like I had a good sense of who he is, and how he acts. A lot of capturing his body language is just research — trying to remember how he stands, how he runs, etc. He has a very recognizable silhouette. His face is very expressive, but that’s useful because you can show a wide range of emotions pretty easily. Someone like Captain Kirk is more difficult because he generally just furrows his brow a bit — unless he’s going properly “full Shatner.”
I’ll rough out the face and figure first before I look at reference — that way, I don’t stick too slavishly to the photo, and it retains some expression and movement.
We’re at a fascinating point for the comic because you’re syncing up to the continuity of the television show — and Clara is no longer on the show. What did Clara bring to the Doctor, and how did you enjoy her as a character? With her gone, how will things change for him?
I loved Clara, and Jenna Coleman is a ridiculously brilliant actress, but I am looking forward to seeing who they bring in next. I think, essentially, she switched traditional roles with the Twelfth Doctor, which was an interesting exploration of the usual Doctor/companion dynamic.
She was portrayed as a bit of a flawless, all-knowing, brave, morally superior hero, whilst the Doctor was constantly unsure of himself, craving her approval. It’ll be nice if next we get a companion next who’s not so perfect.
Finally, at the risk of getting River Songed — what’s coming up for your series over the next few months? What can we expect from The Twelfth Doctor?
Ummmmmmmm…time travel? Guitars. Baddies.
A lot of running.