Doctor Who: Room With a Deja View CoverRich Johnston has been on the move in 2009. He spoofed the release of the Watchmen motion picture with his release Watchmensch which had a modicum of success. He ended his extremely popular and oftentimes controversial column on CBR, Lying in the Gutters, and started his own website, Bleeding Cool, in its stead. And now, in hat trick fashion, Johnston, along with the folks at IDW and artist EricJ, has produced his first Dr. Who story entitled, “A Room with a Deja View”.
This book isn’t to be taken lightly like Watchmensch, however. In fact, this one-shot may even boggle minds of biggest sci-fi fans…because you have to read it forwards and backwards.
Confused? Newsarama contacted Johnston so he could explain the method to his madness in his Dr. Who debut.
Newsarama: Rich, this is your first Doctor Who project for IDW—how'd you get involved?
Rich Johnston: They asked me to pitch! I'd previously written a set of political cards for IDW, The Weapons of Mass Distraction, and basically I dropped heavy hints during their first two Doctor Who series. Eventually I think those hints formed a kind of psychic entity that went in and pleaded my case.
NRAMA: What sort of connection do you have with the material? Dr. Who is a pretty big deal on your side of the Atlantic—was this story intimidating?
JOHNSTON: Oh, I've been watching Doctor Who since I was four years old. I got it from my Dad who was a fan as a teenager. And I've now passed it on to my daughters. It's the most popular drama on British TV so I think most people have at least one Doctor Who story inside them. I think this was mine. It's not so much intimidating as duty to ‘Queen and Country’.
NRAMA: Tell readers about Dr. Who: A Room with a Deja View; there's a special way that this story has to be read, correct?
Blue = Backwards SceneJOHNSTON: Well, kind of. Basically, some scenes read better backwards than forwards. The Room referenced in the title of the book is an interrogation room that the Doctor sets up to talk to a member of the species that lives it’s life backwards; which means the doctor has to do some fancy TARDIS work just to get a straight answer to his question. As opposed to an answer to a question he has yet to ask.
NRAMA: What inspired you to write portions of this particular comic backwards?
JOHNSTON: Watchmen was an inspiration, for sure. Just the realization that the reader can be an active participant, choosing to read the book in a different order than it is initially presented. We all have the power of Dr. Manhattan as a reader. And for a potentially non-linear book like Doctor Who it felt like an opportunity. Also, how many of us are more comfortable reading Manga right-to-left now?
NRAMA: Did you do any sort of research into theoretical studies of temporal paradoxes? Or was this just pure sci-fi straight from your gray matter?
JOHNSTON: Well, I've read hundreds of time travel stories. The best I've read are probably “All You Zombies”, “Technicolor Time Machine”, “The Time Traveller's Wife”, and “Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and Continuity Errors”. The main rule of time travel? It has to be entertaining and provide your story with a new perspective. “The Time Machine” was a bit dull, frankly.
NRAMA: Do you think that this sort of dynamic might alienate a reader or will the strangeness entice them?
JOHNSTON: It demands more of a reader, it demands that they be more active than passive. Some people won't like that. Some will reel in it. I mean it's not HAT hard, I give clues and signals, but some I know just want Panel One, Panel Two...
Red = Regular SceneNRAMA: You're going to be in San Diego for Comic-Con; do you ever have to keep an eye out for shivs and what not because of some of the "friendships" you made over the years with Lying in the Gutters?
JOHNSTON: Most people are lovely. Most people really enjoy Lying In The Gutters and now Bleeding Cool. They are usually exceptions but I can take them in a fight—or at least run away quicker.
NRAMA: Are you going to be working with IDW on more Dr. Who projects? What else are you working on?
JOHNSTON: I’ve been asked to pitch on another IDW project, and I will; but, I'm also working on a number of books. Image is publishing one and I will be spending time in San Diego trying to place another...
NRAMA: Are there any sci-fi characters that you'd like to write from other mainstream companies—Dr. Who must be a dream come true for you...
JOHNSTON: Anyone want to do a Dirk Gently comic? Or Quatermass? Yes, there are loads. Star Trek, Babylon 5, Firefly, Starship Troopers, Judge Dredd, Dan Dare, I'd be all over any of them. But Doctor Who is the best! I should have that printed on a t-shirt.
NRAMA: Any advice for young writers who seek to get into the comic book industry?
JOHNSTON: Write a gossip column about the comics industry and then fifteen years later someone will ask you to write a Doctor Who comic.