Captain Jack and the Selkie

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Out last week in the U.K., and on March 17th in the States, Torchwood Magazine #14 contains a very special comic strip. It's co-written by none other than John Barrowman, Captain Jack Harkness himself in the Torchwood television series. John's collaborator on this tale is his sister Carole E. Barrowman who kindly spoke to Broken Frontier about "Captain Jack and the Selkie", tackling the comics medium for the first time and the experience of working with John on his autobiography.

BROKEN FRONTIER: What were the origins of your collaboration with John on this rather special comic strip story?

CAROLE E. BARROWMAN: John and I had just finished collaborating on Anything Goes and we had so much fun that we were always on the look-out for another project. We both wanted to do something with Captain Jack. When we attended ComicCon in 2008, we met the comic’s brilliant artists, Tommy Lee Edwards and Trevor Goring. They’d created a limited edition poster of Jack superimposed over the Face of Bo and brought it to show John at the booth where he was signing. It was brilliant. We all got chatting, hit it off, and decided we should work on a Captain Jack project together.

BF: What can you tell us about the basic premise of the tale in Torchwood Magazine #14? Is it an entirely solo outing for Jack or do the rest of the Torchwood team make an appearance?

CB: Poor Jack is on his own in this one. No one else from Torchwood. There are some unusual deaths on a small island in the Orkneys and Jack goes in to investigate. The story is based on a short story I wrote called , "The Tale of the Selkie," and John and I adapted it to make it a Captain Jack tale.

BF: At what point in the show’s continuity do the events of ‘Captain Jack and the Selkie’ take place?

CB: This is completely outside the canon of Torchwood. However, fans should be able to place part of it in a rough time frame based on a detail in one of the panels.

BF: Why choose the comics form to present this story over other media? And how did the opportunity to present it in the Torchwood Magazine come about?

CB: Originally, we thought we might tackle a graphic novel since two of the best artists in the business, Tommy and Trevor, wanted to work with us. Unfortunately, our schedules wouldn’t allow such a long project so when we heard Torchwood Magazine might be interested, the four of us didn’t want to lose the opportunity to collaborate so we decided to make the comic instead. I have to say that since my original inspiration for the selkie idea had been my short story, the idea of a comic really appealed to me. I think they have similar aesthetics.

BF: Events in the story take place on a remote Scottish island, outside of the Torchwood team’s usual stomping ground in Cardiff. How did it feel to you both to be taking Jack out of his familiar environment and away from the Rift for a while?

CB: Jack travels well so I didn’t really worry about taking him away from Cardiff and his usual territory. Plus when John and I were brainstorming about the story, he really wanted to take Jack to Scotland and I loved the idea of putting him on a remote island . . . with just his wits and a harpoon.

BF: Your storyline concerns the magical Selkie of Scottish and Irish legend. The Torchwood television series has, notably, tackled creatures of legend in past episodes. What is it about the appeal of these mythological archetypes, do you think, that resonates so strongly in the group consciousness and lends itself so effectively to endless reinterpretations in popular culture?

CB: Goodness, that’s a lot of question for a brief interview . . . and, trust me, you don’t want me to go long– remember, I’m an academic I could write you a book on it. Myths are organic. They shift and change and are re-imagined as a culture–a civilization’s–history and needs change and I think their retelling can inform us about that culture in interesting ways. Archetypal myths resonate with us on many levels–the spiritual, the subconscious, even the practical . . . in my original short story I was interested in exploring what value or purpose the selkie myth might serve in the early 21st century.

BF: The art team for "Captain Jack and the Selkie" are Tommy Lee Edwards and Trevor Goring. Tommy is something of a hot property in the comics world at the moment and is onboard fresh from last year’s critically-acclaimed 1985 series from Marvel. What can you tell us about what these two gents have brought to the visual side of the storytelling?

CB: I write in a lot of genres, but this was my first piece of graphic writing so I went to school on them. I asked lots of questions (lots of emails and phone calls) and they pretty much lead me through the scripting process for a comic. I’m lucky to have been able to work with such terrific artists on my first comic. They are great collaborators.

BF: How did John find the experience of approaching his screen persona from such a different angle? Did guiding Jack’s actions on the written page given him any fresh perspectives on the character? Were there any particular creative challenges in taking a character he is so invested in in one medium and crafting his portrayal in a different one?

CB: John really enjoyed the experience. Like me, he was thrilled to work with Tommy Lee and Trevor. When John and I worked on the story outline together, he kept me honest about Jack’s motivations etc. When I finished a draft of the script, John gave me his feedback, but because we both spent a long time planning the story, the script didn’t need much tweaking.

BF: This isn’t your first professional teaming with your brother of course. You worked with him on his 2008 autobiography Anything Goes. What was that like as a collaborative process and how has reaction to the book been?

CB: Fans have responded very well to the book and I love hearing from them via my website. Many of them share their own stories about their little brother or big sisters and all share how much the book made them laugh. That always makes us smile. John and I collaborate well together. We have similar sensibilities about a lot of things and we each have a good sense of humor and can laugh at ourselves especially.

BF: And, finally, has the experience of writing for comics whetted your mutual appetites for the world of graphic storytelling? Can we expect further Captain Jack adventures from the Barrowman & Barrowman team in the pages of Torchwood Magazine?

CB: Barrowman and Barrowman– I like the way that looks and sounds. We are both big comic and graphic novel fans so I hope this will be one of many projects we do in this area.

# # #

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.

Torchwood Magazine Issue #14

On sale in the UK and Ireland 19th February


On sale in the US 17th March


Torchwood Magazine Facebook Page


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