|Prisoners of Time #2|
Sarah: You’re welcome! The IDW Doctor Who comics are a very rare occasion where something Who-related is generated for and only available regularly to the American market. We’ve got two strands here: the new, modern Doctor Who comic (which started with David Tennant’s Doctor), and Doctor Who Classics, which is made up of collected and colored strips from the early DWM days. I have the first few issues of Classics, which presented “The Iron Legion” and “City of the Damned” and so on. They’re really nice.
Nick: My local library (in
South London!) had the
first collected set of reprints. I was dead excited to see that – the new
colouring looks great, especially for the wonderful Steve Parkhouse era, which
really deserves to be in technicolour. The only problem is that everything’s
reduced down to fit on the page, so you give yourself the worst headache just
trying to follow the dialogue. The Panini reprints have the edge, of course.
But it’s fantastic that these stories are being reissued for a new audience.
The Marvel comic authors did an amazing job of capturing the Doctor’s character
– and the ethos of the show – and then scaling everything up a hundredfold.
That’s difficult to do.
Sarah: Just thinking about those great hi-tech, no-holds-barred Steve Parkhouse comics reminds me of my own history with Doctor Who in comics. When I was a teenager I had to travel to
a couple of times a year
to see surgical specialists and the like. They weren’t the nicest trips, but
one real perk is that Maryland Public Television was one of the last few
markets in the Baltimore,
to show Doctor Who – once a week, late at night on Saturdays, in movie format.
And this was sponsored by Geppi’s Comic Shop. Well, I used to visit Geppi’s in
the USA , and I would find these wonderful
issues of the 1980s Marvel comic. You didn’t have this in Inner Harbor , but it was a comic that
ran for about two years, running colored versions of the DWM Tom Baker and
Peter Davison strips (and sometimes, the monster-only “backup” strips). And
Dave Gibbons did brand new covers for them, which was wonderful. (Intriguingly,
IDW used those same covers for the recent Classics
reprints, and often used the ‘80s coloring as inspiration for the better,
subtler 2000s colors.) Britain
|The Tides of Time|
What kind of history do you have with Doctor Who comics, Nick?
Nick: Like you, I got into Who in the so-called Wilderness Years, so I read everything I could get my hands on. That meant back issues of DWM, new issues of DWM, the occasional issue of Classic Comics (for some reason I rarely saw it on the shelves – and I only had limited pocket money in those days), and even some of those ‘80s Marvel reprints you mention. Like all my experiences of Doctor Who, it was a higgledy piggledy experience, entering stories halfway through and leaving them unfinished, zig-zagging back and forth in time. It was wonderful, though! Admittedly, for a while the weak point in all this cascade of paper was the DWM comic strip – perhaps because it was so retrospective, like the Missing Adventures of the time. It’s great that we got new Pertwee, Troughton and Hartnell comic stories, but at the time I found them unsatisfying. The McGann strip, with Izzy and Fey, is a completely different matter – it felt current, unpredictable and fun, and it’s a central part of ‘my era’.
Still, no matter what you think of those late ‘90s and early 2000s strips, it’s a bit of a shock to go from those to the very disposable stuff that came in during the first couple years of the new series. A lot of it felt little-kiddie in a way I didn’t find particularly interesting, although I’m led to believe the DWM comic started to improve in leaps and bounds once they could give Tennant original companions.
Nick: It must have difficult, in the early days of the TV show's return, everything on a knife edge. But fortunately the Magazine had such an amazing heritage to look back to - with the Fourth Doctor and, like you say, original companions - that sooner or later it was going to find its own rhythm again. It still feels to me slightly stifled by the TV show, in a way that the Izzy comics never had to worry about - though I think they capture the Doctor a little better. Izzy, Fey and Destrii are the people I remember from the Eighth Doctor's era. He just wasn't a very 'cartoony' Doctor. But he was turned into a vampire, and then regenerated - neither Marvel or IDW can do anything like that!
|Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation²|
In sharp contrast – and startlingly, because it comes from the same team of writers - Prisoners of Time is the first Doctor Who I’ve seen from IDW that feels new and fun and celebratory, which is interesting, because I think Tony Lee’s Tennant comics dropped in bits of continuity all the time, and the miniseries event The Forgotten tried – but basically failed – to do a “Ten Doctors.” I think this one works for me because it is so simple: one issue for each Doctor, each with a contained story, each ending with the Doctor lifted out of time. Is it going to be a hugely intellectually-satisfying story at the end? Probably not. But it’s very fun.
|Prisoners of Time #2|
Sarah: Well, I actually got ahold of and read the second Doctor issue first – and I bought one for you, too – so I was a little confused when you reported back how you didn’t really like the first Doctor one. I agree, the Hartnell one is much weaker, and that’s not necessarily a statement about the art, which is off-model but better than a lot of IDW comics. I think it’s more to do with the even more constrained story – since the Hartnell issue has to set up the overall threat, it’s a few pages before we get to Hartnell and his companions – and a very out-of-character solution. I like the ones we’ve seen since then (Troughton, Pertwee, and Tom Baker) a lot more.
|Prisoners of Time #2|
Nick: I must say, overall it was still somewhat unsatisfying. Once again the pace was especially at fault – something the Second Doctor seems associated with, now, for me. Time was wasted on establishing the setting, and frankly I’ve seen the ‘world where you can buy anything’ done more than once in Doctor Who before, and better. But there are a couple of nice twists, and the Doctor’s using Jamie as bait feels faithful to a more interesting version of the character portrayed on telly.
Sarah: I don’t disagree, really, although the setting finds a funny way to use the famous “Look at the size of that one, Doctor!” joke. I mean, at the end of the day, these are 22-page stories. They really can’t go very far. The best they can do is present a sort of snapshot celebration of the era with the limitless visual budget of a comic, and in that regard, this delivers. You’ve got a classic team of the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, all characterized individually if not remarkably; you’ve got monsters galore, including two from the actual Troughton era; you’ve got an alien world where the Doctor destabilizes an evil/controlling operation. That pretty much works for me. And you’ve got Lee Sullivan’s art; I’ve always liked Sullivan’s stuff, even at its most cartoony. It’s straightforward, it’s clean, it gets the job done. And admittedly, it very much comes out of that ‘80s style that found a balance between older, simplistic comic art and the more detailed and stylized stuff that started to come in more and more as the ‘90s approached.
Nick: In a parallel universe in which I am King of All, these stories would have been little pastiches of their respective comics eras. I think this is actually due to be the case with the Sixth Doctor’s issue.
Sarah: Seventh Doctor too, actually. I believe I’m right in saying they’re both being done by John Ridgway, who did all of the original DWM Colin strips and many of the McCoy ones. I would’ve killed for a fourth or fifth Doctor issue by Dave Gibbons, but sadly, ‘twas not to be. (I would imagine he’s just a touch too expensive.)
Nick: That’s a shame – but great news about the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. I suppose there is more of a congruency between the TV show and the comic strip with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors – Ace always seems to me a 2000AD-style companion, and works well in ink (especially in "Cuckoo"), while "Voyager" is all the imaginative potential of Doctor Who unbound. Some people may look on this anniversary as a celebration of the TV show only, but the real beauty of Doctor Who for me is its many weird and wonderful alter-egos. Even the ones that feel wrong are indissolubly part of the story. Wouldn’t you go for a Second Doctor story in the style of John Canning, with Zoe chucked in as a bonus – frenetic, brightly coloured, loose on ethics...
|Prisoners of Time #3|
Sarah: Yes, that would have been great! And it certainly would have been possible, even without the original artists, to homage those early strips. DWM did a 40th Anniversary strip called “The Land of Happy Endings,” in which Martin Geraghty created Neville Main-style art that paired McGann’s Doctor with comic grandchildren John and Gillian. I would have loved all of these issues to go in that direction. There are hints of it, though: Mike Collins’ art in the Pertwee issue includes several compositions that clearly reflect Gerry Haylock’s Pertwee art in TV Action!, and the plot of the Tom Baker adventure seems to owe something to Pat Mills and John Wagner.
|The Land of Happy Endings|
|Land of the Blind|
Sarah: I do remember it. That one would have been in some of the first DWMs I ever read, around 1994. You would have sent them to me; the first one you ever sent featured the previous storyline, with Pertwee and Liz and the psychic assassin. I was probably a little bit more excited by those strips than you were, because at the time I genuinely preferred the Missing Adventures to the New (strong and recognizable characterization almost always being my preference in a Doctor Who story). I don’t remember a great deal about “Land of the Blind,” but the art was by Lee Sullivan again – and to my knowledge, it’s the only DWM comic to ever be set in the second Doctor’s era.
Nick: That seems a shame, given that the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe seem like ideal lead characters for a comic. It really gives this issue some immediacy. Even bearing in mind many readers won’t even have seen "The Mind Robber" or heard "Evil of the Daleks," you know they’re getting half an idea of who these guys are when they appear, and the other half on their first line of dialogue. They’re uncomplicated and at the same time wonderfully odd. I suppose that means, conversely, the TV show in 1968/9 was becoming more cartoonish itself. Thank goodness it was well cast.
|The Doctor Strikes Back|
Sarah: I like the way you think! I’ve just been reading the first and second Doctor sections of Paul Scoones’ excellent The Comic Strip Companion – buy it from TELOS Books if you haven’t already, kids. It’s a guide book to the old comics, as well as analysis and (some) behind-the-scenes info about storylines and communications between TV Comic and the BBC. One thing that’s really jumped out at me is how bloodthirsty most of the Troughton strips are – and how much more bloodthirsty they were often intended to be before Peter Bryant or Terrance Dicks clamped down on them. Am I wrong in thinking that the outrageous cartoon violence is the main takeaway from these things? Can it be a coincidence that the major line you and I both seem to remember is “Die, infernal creatures, die” (as the Doctor shouts while gunning down a giant spider)?
|Invasion of the Quarks!|
Nick: Next week we’ll be discussing some more cartoon Troughton, in the form of Cosgrove Hall’s animated reconstructions. Now I’m dreaming of a static reconstruction, done by Lee Sullivan (or perhaps Adrian Salmon?) passing across the screen. Like a cross between Loose Cannon and Jackanory. Wouldn’t that be something?
Sarah: That would indeed be something. At this point, though, we’re almost past recons. It’s a bit of a relief, isn’t it?
Nick: It is good to see Troughton, Hines and Padbury – and next week, Nicholas Courtney! – as they are really the living structure on which a very comic book world of space monsters is based.
Sarah: Fasten your seatbelts for a long one, everybody…