Shooting The Breeze With ‘Doctor Who’ And ‘Wolverine’ Writer Paul Cornell

by Olly MacNamee

Olly MacNamee: Now, for many creators a life of isolation is nothing new, but these are, I think we can all agree, unprecedented times. As such, have you noticed any changes yet to your regular daily routines, for better or for worse?

Paul Cornell: Well, I’m doing half the childcare, and we’ve designed a daily schedule for our autistic little boy.  He’s thriving, honestly, because he doesn’t get bored, and as long as there’s structure, with regular schoolwork to do, he’s happy.  Because of him I have seen so many fan-made Thomas the Tank Engine videos.  They’re his special interest, as the autistic term goes.  And that seems like any fandom, with a lot of detailed work done by those who enjoy doing 128 bracket strongest engine contests using model railways, with animated design elements, even.  I’m happy Tom is exploring such an involved world.  

Olly MacNamee: Like so many others, have you pledged to take up any new hobbies or interests during this downtime? I imagine after one week that resolution—like New Year’s Eve resolutions—may have ebbed for some? So, do you ebb or flow? And that’s not euphemism!

PC: Oh I so do not have time for that.  I’m continuing, as therapy, the hobby which soothes my own autistic genetic contribution: cataloguing and valuing my comic collection.  I can do it in five minute bursts, and it gives me a relaxing combination of joy and book-keeping. I very much miss my cricket, which would soon be starting, and which provided much the same therapy: look at the beauty of that shot, and here are the statistics of the highest partnerships at this ground.  

Olly MacName: This could very well go on for a few months, listening to the experts rather than the politicians. We’re all going to soon be clambering the walls, if we’re not distracted. What comic book gems will you have the time to go back, dig out and re-read and suggest to our readers to go order from their local comic book store to help support their business?

PC: Volume One of Defenders from Marvel (many different creative teams, every one of whom brings something interesting and weird to Bronze Age superheroics, with Steve Gerber being the height of it) or Frank Hampson’s original Dan Dare from The Eagle (such great art) or, in manga, Fruits Basket, which is a saga of kind intentions winning in the end.  

Olly MacName: Any newer titles out there you’ve discovered or been recommended and enjoyed reading?

PC: I’d go find Rachael Smith’s self-help Kickstarter comics about mental health.  I’ve also loved Money Shot and Heist from Vault Comics, and TKO’s Sentient and The Banks.  

Olly MacName: And, what will be playing on your turntable over the coming weeks? What albums could you not live without?

PC: Kate Bush is my favourite artist, and her album Aerial is an amazing, soothing, heartening piece of work.  

Olly MacName: Any box sets you’ll be going back to rewatching? Or any new films and TV you may now have the time to invest in?

PC: We’re now catching up with the current shows, but surely the 1960s Avengers, particularly the black and white Emma Peel season, is worth anyone’s time?

Olly MacName: I must admit, getting back to comics, it’s been really pleasing to read, see and hear the comic book communities coming together at a time like this. What have been some of the positive stories coming out of the comic book industry that have caught your eye over the past week or so?

PC: I love the efforts TKO and Vault Comics have made to support comic shops, and applaud the recent decision by the big two not to publish digital comics during the shutdown. I follow a lot of comic stores and keep a list of my blog of UK shops that sell old back issues, and I love the way stores have tried hard to keep mail order going.  As someone who had a title published in the ‘lost week’ where comics didn’t get to most stores I feel hugely for others in the same boat.  We’re a very small industry, and we have to look out for each other.  Here’s that listing page:

https://www.paulcornell.com/2019/12/the-12-blogs-of-christmas-ten-uk-comic-shops-that-sell-back-issues/

Olly MacName: It would have been the start of another busy comic con season on both sides of the pond, but alas no more. Will you miss these chances to socialise and meet up with fellow colleagues and friends? 

PC: Yes!  Yes, don’t remind me!  I long to be having early and late and middle breakfasts at SDCC, running into friends by the pool and jogging back and forth between meetings and fun.  It’s my favourite thing, and I missed it last year through illness, so I am so wanting it to come back next year.  Not that it’s, err, gone yet this year, has it?  But I won’t be there.  Again.  Damn it.  There is, of course, the wonderful Thought Bubble in the UK, later this year, and we comickers are looking forward to that like salmon look forward to spawning. (Metaphor may be more accurate for some than others.) 

Olly MacName: What hopes do you harbour for the comic book industry once these stormy clouds have passed?

PC: I hope we might be able to achieve the structural change to distribution the industry needs without hurting anyone.  

Olly MacName: Finally, and to leave a smile on our readers’ faces, have you heard any good/bad jokes recently? 

PC: I’m a great fan of the comedian Milton Jones, so here’s one of his: ‘My grandfather is always saying that in the old days people could leave their back doors open. Which is probably why his submarine sank.’  

To catch up on our previous ‘Shooting the Breeze’ interviews do check them all out here.

Olly MacNamee

A unashamed DC Comics fan and sometime teacher for over 20 years! I got lucky and found the escape hatch. Now, I just read and write about comics all day long. Co-host of the ICE-Cast podcast and one third of the brains behind Birmingham's street art and graffiti festival High Vis Fest.

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