Carole E. Barrowman: Torchwood goes Comic Strip

A comics interview article by: Ray C. Tate
In a recent issue of Torchwood Magazine, Carole E. Barrowman and brother, John Barrowman, joined forces to present us with the first Torchwood comic strip. Recently, Ray C. Tate, got chance to pick Carole’s brain about the comic strip and writing in general.

Ray C. Tate: When did you decide to become a writer?

CB: I have to say I never decided . . . when I was young I wrote stories, kept journals, all that stuff so I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. I started university pursuing journalism, but when I finally had to decide on a career path, I chose to follow what had always been my other passion -- teaching. I thought teaching would give me time to read and write, which it has.

RT: Do you have a preference -- fiction or non-fiction?

CB: Although, I’ve published more non-fiction than fiction, I love both. I think I just really like to write. Period. I can sit at my desk for hours and forget to eat when I’m writing. I like the act of writing. . .

RT: What are some of the differences between writing a comic strip and writing prose fiction?

CB: The script for the comic really forced me to let go of extra exposition and to allow the artwork to help carry the plot forward. I write a lot of book reviews on a regular basis so I know how to write succinctly, but writing this script took that kind of precision and careful diction to a new level for me. Plus, one of the biggest differences for me was how collaborative this process was. I’m used to working at my desk alone; whereas, working on this I was in regular contact vie email and phone calls with John, with Tommy and Trevor, with Martin Eden, the editor at Torchwood Magazine. At times it got very crowded in my office.

RT:Do you think that women add something unique to writing? Something that most male writers have yet to tap into?

CB: Hmm . . . what a great question. If you’re asking does gender as a construct shape imagination . . . well, that’s a question for one of my lit seminars and makes for fascinating discussions. I have to say, though, that I think a really good male writer can capture that “something” and vice versa. A really good female writer can create a very ‘male’ book -- whatever that is. I never underestimate the power of a writer’s imagination no matter what his or her gender. Now as a feminist I have to say that I do think female writers face unique challenges that male writers don’t have to face (like finishing a column while breast-feeding).

RT: What's it like working on a comic strip when your writing partner is actually the star of the series?

CB: John certainly brought a unique perspective to the process since he knows Jack so well, but for me, most of the time, he’s just my ‘wee’ brother.

RT: Given that you know the stars of Torchwood, and that they can readily contact you, did you feel more pressure to do their characterization justice?

CB: This comic is a stand-alone Captain Jack tale so, luckily, I only had John to worry about . . .

RT: Torchwood is known for its more adult-oriented storylines. How do you balance such themes in a comic strip that's likely to be viewed by a larger, possibly younger audience without losing the risqué flavor of the series?

CB: From the beginning when John and I were brainstorming the initial story, we were aware of our larger audience and so we never really had to edit or tone anything down.

RT: Without giving away any surprises, can you give some details about the comic strip? Who are the Torchwood team in your story? Do they face a new antagonist or something that would be familiar to the fans of the series or Doctor Who? When does it take place in the Torchwood/ Doctor Who timeline?

CB: As I mentioned earlier, this story is all Jack’s. He doesn’t get any help from anyone else on the Torchwood team, and, yes, he does face a new antagonist of sorts . . . There’s one clue in the story that may allow fans to place at least part of the tale in the broader Torchwood/Doctor Who canon. Is that cryptic enough?

RT: Captain Jack is a man that cannot die. What are some of the challenges in writing such a character? How do you build suspense around him?

CB: It’s certainly a big challenge . . . in this story the suspense came in the mystery Jack finds himself caught up in and I think in the feelings Jack has to confront.

RT: Your brother is a well-known Anorak (Doctor Who aficionado). What about you? Were you or are you an Anorak?

CB: Oh, my yes . . . a big one with matching wellies and a wee knotted hanky. Growing up in Scotland in the sixties and early seventies, I watched the original classic doctor (Jon Pertwee was my favorite) and I have remained a loyal fan. I was giddy the first time John brought me on the Doctor Who set and I actually was able to touch the controls of the Tardis (I may have jumped up and down and giggled a lot that day). I even got my husband hooked when we were in university in the US and the classic series was running on WTTW in Chicago in the late 70s (Tom Baker was his favorite). I should also like to add that my favorite companion from the classic series was Tegan.

RT: What are your next projects?

CB: Well . . . John and I may have one or two things we’re planning for the near future.

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