Nick Abadzis has a long and storied career with Marvel UK, serving as the youngest editor in the 1980s. He has since worked as a freelance writer and cartoonist, writing and drawing various children’s books, and in 2007, published LAIKA, the critically-acclaimed graphic novel about the first dog to leave Earth’s orbit. He is currently the writer of Titan Comics‘ Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, a series that we’re big fans of. Villordsutch, ComicsVerse’s UK correspondent, recently caught up with Nick to ask him about the experience of working on Doctor Who, his favorite creators, and advice for aspiring writers.

When it came to being the person behind the pen who was to launch the new Titan Comic series of Doctor Who comics, was there ever a moment of trepidation when you thought, ‘I’ll let somebody else tackle take the maiden voyage,’ or was it just full-steam ahead for you?

I didn’t even think about it. There was a bit of time between when Titan first approached me and the point when we were given the go-ahead and confirmation of which Doctor we were working on and it all was just very exciting. When I was asked to helm the first arc for the tenth Doctor, I just waded right in. I loved David Tennant in the role and Russell T Davies’ era as producer, so it was a joy and an honor to be asked.

When it came to developing the introduction of Gabby, were you told, “This is the new assistant and this is her background”, or where you brought in to help flesh out and develop the Doctor’s new assistant for this new run of comics?

No, she wasn’t developed for me. I did a lot of the work on Gabby, with input from Robbie Morrison and Andrew James, our editor. I knew Robbie was going to follow me writing the second arc, so we both wanted to set up a character we could work with and I was very grateful for his notes, because he’s a superb writer and it was great to have help from someone you trust as well as guidance from Andrew, who was very supportive on the direction we took. The only (vague) stipulation was that we should think about making her American, as it’d been a long time since there’d been an American companion, but that was only a suggestion, really. I jumped on that though, as I live in New York, which is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. We played with her originating from all sorts of backgrounds. We thought about Greek, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Jewish – there were so many possibilities. But the more I thought about it, and the more the character cohered, the more it seemed natural that she have a Mexican heritage. In some ways, Mexicans are the newest ethnic group to arrive in New York City; the Doctor had never (to our knowledge) had a Hispanic companion before, and besides, I live right next to a Mexican area in Brooklyn. I see kids like Gabby every day and it not only seemed like a really nice idea to make The Doctor’s new companion Mexican-American, it felt right. You have to listen to those instincts as a writer.

How long are you around on the Titan Comics Doctor Who series – is this just an opening run, or have you been asked to drop in and out a few times over the year? If you’re dropping in will you be stepping in on the Matt Smith’s Eleventh incarnation or even the Peter Capaldi Twelfth Doctor run of comics?

I’m writing the first five-issue arc of the Tenth Doctor adventures, Robbie Morrison is writing the second five-issue arc, then I’m back for the final five issues of this first year. I’ll be flying solo for the second year – it’ll be me on my own throughout, and I have some big plans… As for writing other Doctors, you’ll have to ask Titan! But I would like to have a go at some other incarnations at some point, yes.

Before we move away from The Whoniverse how long have you been a Doctor Who fan? Did it start with the new run with Christopher Eccleston or was it pre-C.E.?

I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for as long as I can remember. The show is older than me, so it’s always been there. I can remember Jon Pertwee and I can remember him regenerating into Tom Baker. I grew up reading the Target novelizations of the first four Doctors, so Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Baker T are foundation stones for me; I followed the Doctor Who comic strip in TV Comic before the Doctor ever had his own magazine. For me, it’s always been a literary and comics phenomenon as well as a TV show, and it’s safe to say that I am a lifelong fan.

Stepping away from Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, what is your next project you’ve got the most excitement, personally, for?

I’m not entirely sure when it’s on the schedules for release but the next project you’ll likely see out from me is a YA graphic novel called PIGS MIGHT FLY, which will be published by First Second, also the publishers of LAIKA. It’s an idea I’ve had living inside my head for about fifteen years – a world populated solely by intelligent pigs who invent flying machines. It’s world-building – an adventure story, a rites-of-passage tale and an examination of culture clash. Science and magic coexist in this world, and there’s all sorts of wild technology which my collaborator, an incredible artist called Jerel Dye, is bringing into being. I describe crazy things in my script, and Jerel seems to have a window onto my minds eye, because he draws them very much like I visualize them. It’s a hell of a lot of fun working with him. I don’t want to give away too much about the characters and plot at this stage, but I think it’ll appeal to anyone who enjoyed LAIKA or Doctor Who.

 

Is there anything out there you’re not involved in that you think we should all start reading now?

I think we’re living in a golden age of comics so there’s probably too much to list. I have eclectic tastes that take in both alternative and mainstream and I’ve never really been one for differentiating between them – if it’s good, it’s good. At the moment I’m interested in a small outfit based out of the UK called Breakdown Press who have just published a couple of really lovely books, Gardens of Glass and Mutiny Bay. They’re certainly worth some attention. The most recent mainstream book that I absolutely loved was Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer, which just fizzes with fun ideas, dialog and weird cosmic japes. If I had to pick a favorite book of the year, it’d be Daryl Falrymple’s The Wrenchies, which is apocalyptic and life-affirming all at the same time.

Looking at your writing talents was a comic book writer something you aimed for when you realized you wanted to get into this business? Was there a writer that made you think, ‘I want to be stood next to you when they read out the names’?

In terms of pure writing, people like Peter Milligan, Alan Moore, Steve Moore and Steve Parkhouse were definitely early influences. You couldn’t escape the glow of people like Wagner and Grant, Pat Mills and so on, all those great British writers. I’d have to mention the early undeniable soap operatic ear of Chris Claremont and of course before him, Stan Lee. I was always an artist and writer though, so also tended to look at the work of people like the Hernandez Brothers, Art Spiegelman, Munoz and Sampayo, Posy Simmonds, loads of European creators too like Baudoin, Moebius and Jodorowsky, Max Cabanes. Eddie Campbell was a big early inspiration and influence – that conversational, observational style of his opened out the possibilities of what could be done in comics and both he and the Hernandez Brothers’ work took the reader into and beyond emotional territory that was previously thought to be the preserve only of novelists and filmmakers. Because it was comics, they did it in a new and different way, they invented new comics grammar, invested their work with layers and nuances that were impossible in other media. All that said, you can’t reduce your influences to one set of media, one language, and I read voraciously as a teen and was an avid film goer, so I’m sure plenty of novelists, playwrights and screenwriters entered the mix too. I’m a big fan of the great William Goldman.

A piece of advice for aspiring comic book writers. What steps would you tell them to take before they even consider the first rung on the ladder?

Learn to write with brevity. There’s a tendency in today’s world to run off at the mouth, or write with extended setpieces in mind. Comics is primarily a visual medium, true, but think about the emotional undercurrents and thematic thrust of your narrative. Write your dialog and edit it – writing is saying what you want to say and then going back and saying it better. Reduce, boil it down. Don’t put in a cool idea because it’s a cool idea, think about how it affects the flow and sincerity of a story. Think about how the voice of any character, or your own editorial voice, impacts upon the ear of the reader. When you’ve learned to do that, then you can extend your scope and write epics. But you have to learn to deal with character and the subtleties of behavior first, delivered with brevity.

The final question – have you managed to catch any of the new series of the 12thDoctor Who and are you impressed?

At time of writing (there are still three episodes left to air) I think overall it’s been a very strong series. Peter Capaldi seems to be channeling the spirit of all previous Doctors into his interpretation of the role. I’m loving it.

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