Carole Barrowman: Spinning a Torchwood Yarn

Barrowman: Spinning a Torchwood Yarn

It's not often the sister of Torchwood's Captain Jack gets a mention - but that changes in March. 

As we announced back in January, John (Captain Jack Harkness) Barrowman and his sister Carole are writing a Torchwood comic for issue #14 of Titan’s bimonthly Torchwood magazine, illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards and Trevor Goring.

Entitled “The Tale of the Selkie,” the story explores “role of myth in a culture’s zeitgeist” according to Carole, and traces its roots back to a brother and sister wandering around the set of the popular BBC Doctor Who spin-off series.

With the US release of the issue with the story in it coming up, we spoke with Carole for more about “The Tale of the Selkie.”

Newsarama: Carole, you mentioned in the press release that the story got rolling when you and John were on the set. Can you expand on that a little? What was the spark?

Carol E. Barrowman: It was the summer of 2007 and I think we were in a warehouse in Cardiff filming the Torchwood episode with the giant hunk of alien meat – I think it was actually called “Meat”– and because there were so many shots that needed a green screen, the shoot was getting long. And as is often the case in those situations John starts something silly and his antics eventually became this game he and I called, ”What Would Jack Do?” What would Jack do to end this shoot right now? Anyway, John and I kept playing in the car on the way home and when we started to invent some decent ideas, John said, “We should write a real Captain Jack story.”

NRAMA: Was turning the story into a script, especially for a comic, something new for you? How did it work out?

CB: Yes, indeed, this was something new for me as a writer. I’ve written for a variety of media but this was my first comic. Trevor and Tommy Lee were terrific. Talk about learning from masters. I sent them a scene by scene breakdown of the story when John and I settled on it, and then Trevor created the panel layouts. I wrote the full script at that point with some input from John. Usually when I write, it’s just my computer and me. I loved how collaborative this whole process was and I appreciated how tightly and succinctly the medium forced me to write and to think.

NRAMA: How much did John contribute to the story? Did he give Jack all the good lines?

CB: He contributed a lot in the beginning of the process. After John and I settled on the story and it’s overall plot, I took over and wrote the script. And, of course, Jack has all the best lines.

NRAMA: So what's “The Tale of the Selkie” about, and how does it connect to, as you said, the role of myth in the culture's zeitgeist?

CB: According to Celtic myth, the selkie is an enchanted seal that sheds its skin and takes human form. The reasons for this vary depending on the version of the story. In some of the stories, the selkie is the protector of the islands and the waters off the Scottish and Irish coasts. Historically, cultures have had stories like this that represent the values and the beliefs of that time and place (in ancient time the seals in those waters were highly valued). Anyway, myths adjust and are retold as a culture’s needs and values change. For example, Grimm’s fairy tales are not the Disney stories that today’s culture has embraced. They serve very different purposes, and yet there are still some essential elements that remain in both (for example, non-existent mothers and evil stepmothers). I was interested in exploring an ancient myth like the selkie story and seeing what it might look like in the context of the 21st century. You’ll just have to read the comic to see how Captain Jack gets involved in all of this.

NRAMA: I'm sure the magazine would be very willing for more from game to writing more stories?

CB: I’m game!

Carole is a Professor of English at Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI, where, among other things literary, she teaches a course titled, 'The Future in Film and Fiction.' She's a regular reviewer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, and a regional NBC morning show.

Titan’s Torchwood Magazine #14 is currently on sale in the UK and Ireland, and hits US shops and bookstores on March 17th.

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