THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #6 & #7 & BATMAN ’66

Happy New Year. The release of DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #6 kind of fell guilty to the Festive Timefuzz, for want of a better way of putting it. We released the book on Christmas Eve, whereupon I was as guilty as anyone of concentrating on family and fun and not… comics! But it’s something that was pretty ambitious and scary to do (the comic, not spending time with my family)  and I’m kind of proud of it, so before I move into today’s release of #7, I thought I’d talk a bit about the high concept of #6 and the difficulties of then pulling it off.

Pitching ‘it’s a comic where time runs backwards and The Doctor has to reverse that and put things right’ is all well and good. Structurally it’s a fun conceit for comic pages – we start the tale at Pg 22 and work backwards to PG 1 – that’s fine. But when you start writing it you have to nail down how that works for the reader. I decided, for my sins, to make it an incremental jump back in time with every page, and no one else realises that time is going backwards, only The Doctor does. But that meant that first I had to write the story running FORWARDS, so the Doctor could then react to it.

So, in effect, this meant writing the issue twice. (is your head hurting yet?). The A plot, where a Nimon hijacks The Tardis and uses its engines to build a Black Hole bomb, which included The Doctor, Alice, Jones and Arc trying to stop him. Then, once that was written, and paced out page by page, I had to write a B plot where The Doctor’s secondary consciousness was aware of all this and had to try and avoid the A plot while finding out why time was running backwards and to stop it before the TARDIS exploded.

Ugh.

Simon Fraser made it look terrific though. Under very trying circumstance. I’m not sure he knew what was going on when he was drawing it. An artist usually gets a script, stuff is established in Act One, it repeats throughout the story, and resolves at the end. Simon was given a script where the resolutions were occurring before the establishments. “Doomed! We’re all doomed!” came the Scottish cry from Brooklyn (where he lives).

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Love that page. Spot the angry god look.

The other difficulty – and the thing that almost had me apologising to our editor Andrew James and chucking the whole thing in 90% of the way through, was ‘how, when The Doctor realises why the TARDIS is going backwards, can he actively affect the forward narrative when he will tumble backwards again at the end of each page?’ Totally stuck on this. I needed him to ‘stay in one scene’ so the Third Act could be, under his direction, a forward moving narrative, which we needed for our resolution. Ever written yourself into a corner?

Fortunately, some bright spark on Doctor Who invented Vortex Manipulators. Wristband time travel devices. Or ‘plothole beaters’ as they are known by a grateful few.

Must admit to have been very nervous about #6 on its release. I sent it to a couple of friends, including noted Whovian Paul Cornell, to make sure it all made sense on the page. I knew it did. I’d proved it on an etch-o-sketch. But would other people? Readers, for instance…

I’m a) really proud of the end product and b) never doing that again. Timey Wimey is one thing. Wimey Timey quite another. I think Mr Moffat can do the complicated stuff very well and good luck to him. Forward narratives are problematic enough.

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A Nimon, yesterday. Excellent colours by Gary Caldwell.

Anyway, onto today’s DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #7, which is a far more straightforward first of a two-parter, with some co-plotting by Al Ewing, and scripted by me. We decided to do an old-fashioned cliff-hanger drop-off here. I end #7 on a very big hanging plot point, Al has to resolve it in #8. Which he does rather beautifully in one of the best issues of our run, I think, the talented sod. Al’s ability to really clearly hit an emotional beat with clarity and economy rather makes me feel I have to up my game. He’s very good.  Anyway, the story’s called THE INFINITE ASTRONAUT and involves two alien races indulging in an endless space-war that has drifted into Earth’s solar system.

Art on this one is by Warren Pleece, who’s done a very fine job.

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Have enjoyed co-writing Who with Al. Throughout the model has been that of us both as ‘showrunners/series architects/whatever you want to call it’. We co-plotted the overall arc of the ‘season’, which would be the A plot throughout. Then we split the issues up in half so we each got to script our individual stories. Some issues – like #1 and the recent Free Comic Book Day story we’ve just finished – were co-scripted. Most issues were each of us just individually getting on with it, but with a second pair of editorial eyes, along with editor Andrew, and the BBC’s script editor. Co-writing gives you someone else to bounce ideas of, and allows us both to pace ourselves. It’s a good writing model, I think. So much of this job is a solitary thing, it’s fun and refreshing to offset that occasionally.

Also out today is the first part of BATMAN ’66 #52, which is a two-parter I’ve guest written in the primary colour world of Caped Crusaders, Boy Wonders and “Holy ___ Batman (fill in the Robin-ism of your choice)”. It’s a nostalgic treat as I loved the Adam West Batman TV show as a kid. True story: when I was three I had an operation and they gave me a Robin figure from the TV series to hold when the anaesthetic was doing its thing (the sneaky bastards). Then, when I was in the hospital bed the next morning, they wheeled in a big black and white TV and put the Batman TV show on for us in the ward. (This was the 1970s but TVs that size seem to belong in Victorian times or something. Steampunk TVs the size of small coastal towns).

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The art here is by Ruben Procopio and the colours are Jordie Bellaire. And it all looks terrific. The digital edition will give you some animated effects too, which I think you can see some examples of here. I’m really thrilled with the book. It’s a fun story whereby The Joker figures he can’t beat Batman and Robin by being a criminal, but maybe he can do so by being a superhero. So JOKERMAN is born. And it turns out criminals are a lot more scared of The Joker than they are The Dynamic Duo ™. So, with crime figures at an all-time low, is there any place for Batman and Robin in Gotham City?

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Fantastic cover by Mike Allred too.

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The US mini-series version of THE GRIEVOUS JOURNEY OF ICHABOD AZREAL (AND THE DEAD LEFT IN HIS WAKE) is released with #1 on Feb 25th, I believe. Here’s covers for #1 and #2 by Lee Garbett and Dom Reardon.

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A western and a B29 Superfortress. Heaven!

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