Doctor Tomorrow, the mysterious superhero from the future introduced by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn in 1997, is back in his own Valiant series!
Written by Alejandro Arbona (editor of acclaimed titles like Lazarus and The Old Guard) and drawn by Jim Towe (Youngblood; Spider-Man/Deadpool), with colors by Diego Rodriguez and letters by Clayton Cowles, the debut issue, available now, introduces readers Bart Simms, a seemingly ordinary teenage boy… until he’s visited by his self from the future, a superhero named Doctor Tomorrow!
While Valiant’s senior editorial director Robert Meyers cites Bob Layton’s original limited series as a “starting point,” it’s clear from the first few pages (featuring a who’s-who of Valiant heroes facing off against the seemingly unstoppable Hadrian) that the creative team planned some unique twists and turns. It’s a compelling setup for longtime Valiant fans and newcomers alike, so we jumped at the opportunity to chat with the creators about costume design, time travel, and more.
GREGORY PAUL SILBER: DOCTOR TOMORROW has our protagonist, Bart Simms, meeting Doctor Tomorrow, who happens to be his future self. Meeting oneself from the future (or past!) is always a compelling sci-fi trope. What kind of inspiration did you take from those classic stories, and what kind of twists on the premise can you tease?
ALEJANDRO ARBONA: The crown jewel of the time travel genre, for me, is the first Back to the Future. I love that, not only does Marty McFly meet his parents as kids his same age in that movie, he ends up helping them become better people, through a series of his own colossal screw-ups. In Doctor Tomorrow, Bart meets his future self as a superhero and scientist, but Bart is not that guy yet. And as the first issue reveals, the process of Bart becoming a hero might actually destroy his entire universe, if he’s not careful.
ROBERT MEYERS: Oh, great question. Alejandro had a core concept for the series from the beginning, one of our first big challenges was how to keep the twists and turns a secret, to keep the reader guessing without distracting from a good read. With Doctor Tomorrow, our starting point was the original series from Bob Layton. Everything flowed from there, as we modernized and created a new Doctor Tomorrow for this version of the Valiant universe.
GREG: Perhaps more than any other character in the Valiant universe, Doctor Tomorrow resembles a quintessential superhero… at least visually! Jim, how did you approach the character’s deceptively familiar design? And Alejandro, without spoiling too much, what would you say sets Doctor Tomorrow apart from more traditional caped heroes like Superman?
ALEJANDRO: One thing that sets Doctor Tomorrow apart from classic caped characters is the hero worship of Bart, the kid, meeting Bart, the adult superhero, and the promise that he’s going to grow up to be this guy. But with the fight that’s coming his way, there’s also the peril that Bart has a really, really slim chance of even surviving this story in the first place. The hero worship of meeting the guy he’s destined to turn into might be what gets this kid killed.
JIM TOWE: When I was scribbling down costume ideas for the various Doctor Tomorrow designs that we see throughout the series, I started with the young Bart Simms costume we see in issue 1. I wanted that first suit to come off as the product of piecing a bunch of spare parts together to build a super-suit in the modern day. From there, it was all about deconstructing those design features to get to a much more simplistic, golden age superhero look. Working backwards and streamlining that bulky suit into something both minimalistic and slick helped me to keep our final Doc’s design from being a carbon copy of any classic costumes we’ve seen before.
GREG: This first issue kicks off with the adult Doctor Tomorrow leading what appears to be every major Valiant hero in a huge battle against the overwhelmingly powerful Hadrian. Alejandro, can give us any hints about what this story may mean for the rest of the Valiant Universe? And Jim, besides Doctor Tomorrow himself, were there any other Valiant characters you were particularly excited to draw?
ALEJANDRO: Hadrian is not messing around. He has a plan, and he needs a power source to make it happen. Harvesting that power source and using it destroys all of space-time. It’s not an accident, he knows what he’s doing. He’s destroyed universe after universe, ending countless lives, and he doesn’t care. And now he’s here, so if Doctor Tomorrow and Bart can’t stop him, the consequences for the Valiant Universe will be, like, yikes.
JIM: Without spoiling anything, as of issue 3, I’m not sure which heroes I haven’t drawn from the Valiant Universe! The scope of the story really gets monumental, which calls for the appearances of a whole lot of characters from across the Valiant universe. As the artist, opportunities like that are an absolute delight. One particular character who will show up a whole lot in the background, middle-ground, as well as the occasional foreground is Punk Mambo. I’ve always dug her character design, so I popped her into every panel I could!
ROBERT: That opening fight scene has some great easter eggs, can’t wait for eagle eyed fans to dive in!
GREG: Let’s talk about your collaboration. One thing I love about this story already is how even at this early stage, both of you seem to be developing a distinct voice for this title, both visually and on the writing side. Did you find you’re pulling from similar influences?
ALEJANDRO: As the writer, I started off our process by fully briefing Jim on everything I was thinking about and everything I was looking at, in terms of influences. But beyond that, once Jim started to pull from his own ideas and show us his work, that turned into an influence for me, as well. I definitely would have written a different sort of comic if someone else had been drawing it. The characterizations that are in here, especially for the heavy, life-or-death drama we go through as teens, and things like the humor, Hadrian’s imperiousness, Doc’s heroic cockiness, a lot of that comes from Jim’s work, for me. There was stuff I only had the vaguest idea of how I wanted us to do it, but then Jim started bringing it to life, and everything clicked.
JIM: From the get-go, I think Alejandro, Robert, and I all clicked while working through the first round of character designs. A good amount of the designs were locked down right out the gate, and it was definitely due to Alejandro’s vision for the series. His notes and ideas really made for a great blueprint to develop the look and feel of the book. It’s been a great collaboration since.
GREG: Finally, if you were to meet your younger selves, what would you tell them? What do you think your younger self would say to you if you visited them Doctor Tomorrow-style?
ALEJANDRO: I would tell the young Alejandro not to worry so much about imaginary consequences, all the anxieties that stop him from chasing joy with greater abandon. It’s a lesson he otherwise doesn’t really discover until adulthood. As for the kid A., he’d be thrilled that he turns out so tall and so, so handsome. But he’d be devastated about losing his hair.
JIM: “Hate to say it, Young Jim, but your odd love for Smash Mouth never dies.”
ROBERT: Follow your dreams, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Corny, but true.