Part 5 of 6 | Paul Gravett talks to Paul B Rainey about how life led him to create There’s No Time Like The Present, a graphic-novel project that has taken him seven years to complete, and how he got to Now.
Fantastic Tales of Ordinariness
Paul Gravett: There’s a pointed quote in There’s No Time Like The Present: “You youngstahs… you give the past y’cant reach such mystique.” What was your thinking behind this? Do you do this yourself?
Paul B Rainey: I often think that the secret to improvement is to move on from the past and to be excited about the future. I think that when Hugh said this line in the story, he’s expressing his bafflement that somebody who has the whole future to run around in would want to hang around with a bunch of old geezers in a present that he finds tedious and uneventful. Also, I imagine if you can travel to anywhere in time except to before sixty years ago, that any era prior to then would seem mysterious and intriguing.
Paul Gravett: Do you think such harking back and nostalgia can distract from moving forward and moving on in your life? Or is it a welcome comfort and consolation in these uncertain, accelerating times of change?
Paul B Rainey: I think that culturally, we dwell in the past a bit too much, but I also recognise it in myself a bit, too. Most of the big movies these days, for example, rely upon those of a certain age being able to connect it with something from their past. Old ideas being constantly regurgitated. For example, there have been Batman comics in the past that I’ve enjoyed, but is he really so great a creation that he can support seventy-five years worth of stories? I don’t think so.
Paul Gravett: It’s weird, I have lots of stuff from my childhood – Kirby’s Marvel, Thunderbirds, Batman on TV—that I do treasure, but I don’t feel any loyalty towards them? I am not ‘invested’ into any ongoing franchise at all. Do you religiously follow the new Planet of the Apes movies for example?
Paul B Rainey: Sometimes, I think that I am like you, and then sometimes I worry that I’m not. For example, I could have quite happily lived my life without ever having seen a new Planet Of The Apes film, but then they go and make a new one that I see and enjoy anyway. I didn’t used to believe in ‘guilty pleasures,’ but I find that my enjoyment of the Marvel Studio films defies my reasoning, that I can only think to describe them as a guilty pleasure. I know that one of the reasons I enjoy them so much is that I am making connections with comics I read and loved when I was a kid. My rational mind would much rather watch new movies with new ideas about new things, but I can’t help myself!
“I am making connections with comics I read and loved when I was a kid.
My rational mind would much rather watch new movies,
with new ideas about new things, but I can’t help myself!”
Paul Gravett: Someone has to ask you about Doctor Who, sorry. Do you have one Doctor Who is special to you? What does the character and concept mean to you? What are your thoughts on time travel and its paradoxes?
Paul B Rainey: I could take or leave Doctor Who when I was growing up. I remember Madness reviewing that year’s new annuals in the NME one Christmas during the eighties and they described Doctor Who as a wanker, which I thought was very funny. The character of Cliff in my story is inspired by a visitor to the comic shop that I worked in who loved Doctor Who. The show was cancelled by this point, and I couldn’t understand why somebody who seemed funny and intelligent was still obsessed by something that was no longer being made. When I started work on There’s No Time Like The Present, the TV show hadn’t returned, (that’s how long the book has taken to complete.) As it happens, I really enjoy the modern incarnation. I think it’s one of the best dramas on TV. By the way, my doctor is the Dave Gibbons version from Doctor Who Weekly, 1979. You cannot fully appreciate Doctor Who until you’ve experienced it in the original comics.
Paul Gravett: Did the serialised format of There’s No Time Like The Present force you to edit the story to fit the page count, or try to set up cliffhangers?
Paul B Rainey: No, I deliberately meant for it to be one long story. I would write and draw a scene at a time, and then, when I had finished twenty-four pages or so, would self-publish it as a comic. If it has an episodic feel then it is purely my subconscious exerting itself.
“A visitor to the comic shop that I worked in loved Doctor Who.
The show was cancelled by this point, and I couldn’t understand why somebody
who seemed funny and intelligent was still obsessed
by something that was no longer being made.”
Paul Gravett: Was There’s No Time Like The Present your first proper attempt at a lengthier ‘graphic novel’? How was it making the transition to this ambitious, longer-form format? What are your views on this troublesome term, this re-branding, that has become more-or-less accepted these days?
Paul B Rainey: I used to say that There’s No Time Like The Present was my attempt at a graphic novel or long comic strip. The term ‘graphic novel’ carries with it associations with depth and intelligence and creativity that I think I might have felt intimidated by. (I shouldn’t have felt intimated as most published novels probably don’t have those qualities anyway). I’m quite happy with ‘graphic novel’ or ‘comic’. They’re both appropriate to my mind. Comic does carry with it associations with pop and supposed disposability that I like, however…
Paul Gravett: Did you base any of the characters on yourself, or friends or acquaintances? And your own experiences? Has anyone recognised themselves?</b>
Paul B Rainey: As I say, Cliff was inspired by a guy I used to know called Ford, although he had evolved into quite a different personality by the time I started on the strip. In general, the characters are seemingly conjured from thin air, but are probably amalgamations of different people I know or have encountered. I usually try to inject something I have experienced or witnessed in real life into a scene to try and make it feel truthful, even if what’s happening, what the characters are saying and doing, are things that I haven’t experienced before.
Paul Gravett: What soap operas have you followed? Do you follow any still? What makes them compelling? Do they risk becoming a substitute for reality?
Paul B Rainey: I grew up watching Coronation Street and still watch it today but in my time I’ve dabbled in EastEnders, Brookside, Neighbours and even Family Affairs, Channel 5’s short-lived soap. I remember an American guest on Terry Wogan’s chat show saying that he had watched Coronation Street for the first time and couldn’t understand why it was so popular in our country, as nothing seemed to happen in it. Even as a youngster I thought to myself, well, that’s the point. Storylines about murder and affairs pretty much dominate modern soaps unfortunately, but there still occur fantastic tales of ordinariness that run in their wake that make them worthwhile.