Sunday, 24 November 2013

FIFTY YEARS OF DOCTOR WHO - WITH FIRST-EVER COMIC STRIP...


 

Doctor Who & the Daleks, Morecambe & Wise, Abbott & Costello,
and, er... Fish & Chips... are name-pairs that somehow seem to belong
together.  Don't ask me why - they just do.  Never was that more true than
in the good Doctor's case, as - if it hadn't been for the sensation created
by the metal-cased mutants - Doctor Who's popularity probably
wouldn't have survived for anywhere near as long as it has.

And I was there when it all started.  I sometimes think that the '60s
were the best-ever years in which a child could grow up.  Just think of
all the Gerry Anderson and Hanna-Barbera programmes that kids were
privy to back then, to say nothing of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission
Impossible, Batman and Star Trek.  Were we lucky or what?  And then
there were the comics, chief amongst them TV Century 21 which, along
with strips based on the afore-mentioned (and recently departed) Mr.
Anderson's puppet programmes, also featured the dreaded and
deadly despotic demons known as The Daleks!

The Daleks were everywhere;  on mugs, badges, games, jigsaws,
toys, models - you name the merchandise and the Scions of Skaro
had lent their name and shape to it.  Apparently, Christmas of 1964 was
christened 'Dalek Christmas', so popular was the Louis Marx 'Tricky
Action' (bump 'n' go) Dalek, as well as every other kind of plaything in
which the mutated Kaleds' appellation and image could be cast.


The Doctor, along with his two grandchildren John and Gillian,
appeared every week in TV Comic, published by Polystyle Publica-
tions.  The grandkids (exclusive to the comic in place of Susan) had dis-
appeared into limbo by the time the Doc had moved over to another comic
in the Polystyle stable, Countdown (later to be retitled TV Action), in ad-
ventures aimed at slightly older readers than its predecessor.  However,
eventually the Time Lord and his first periodical were reunited (when TV
Action fell victim to declining sales) and remained firm friends until Dez
Skinn lured the Guardian from Gallifrey over to Marvel U.K.
with the promise of his very own weekly publication.

I had occasionally read the Doctor's adventures in TV Comic
around 1964-'65, but - truth to tell - they were nothing special and
failed to exploit the 'unlimited budget' uniquely available to the comic strip
medium.  After all, whatever fantastic premise the writer can dream up can
potentially be portrayed as realistically as anything the artist is capable of
drawing, so the sky's the limit.  Not in TV Comic's case, alas, but the full-
colour Dalek strip on the back cover of TV Century 21 was something
else entirely.  Here, the incredible came to life, and the 104 episodes
which ran for the first two years of the comic's span are still fondly
remembered today by readers who devoured them at the time.

And, as I said, I was one of them.  I still remember making my way
to school some mornings as a mere six-year old boy, oblivious to every-
thing around me as I lost myself in the photogravure pages that depicted
the exploits of the metal-clad mutants bent on universal domination of all
sentient life-forms.  I'm not sure why, but I don't think I ever regarded the
Daleks as the bad guys in these tales;  I always took their side and wanted
them to win.  If I should ever find myself up in court someday, accused of
some anti-social act, I'll be sure to blame the insidious influence of the
good Doctor's diabolical adversaries for corrupting me.  (I knew that
Fredric Wertham's theories would come in handy one day.)


You can imagine my delight when, years later (as a professional
lettering artist), I was invited to work on a few strips for Doctor Who
Magazine, the first issue of which (in its weekly incarnation) I had pur-
chased back in October 1979.  As it happened, one of the strips I letter-
ed was published in an issue which also featured a full-colour reprint of
a TV21 Daleks page, and it gave me a strange-but-welcome sense of
reconnection to my childhood.  By some odd quirk of fate, my name was
appearing in a magazine which had pierced the veil of time and space
and plucked a page from my past - a page that I particularly recalled
reading on one of my trips to school nearly 27 years before.  For a
moment I was a kid again, wishing my life away until the next ex-
citing chapter in the mysterious, white-haired stranger's
Saturday evening adventures on BBC TV.

And that brings me to the Doctor himself.  Doctor Who?  Yes,
that's right.  Sure, it's an old 'joke', but it illustrates an important as-
pect of the character.  The Doctor was originally an enigma;  a mysteri-
ous stranger who nobody knew anything about.  Who was he?  Where
did he come from?  Was he good, bad, or simply amoral?  No one was
quite sure, and I have to be honest and say that I thought the Doc-
tor was all the more interesting for this approach.

Anyway, as the 50th anniversary of the Doctor's '60s debut on
television and in comics is celebrated, long may he reign - and may
the dastardly (but loveable) Daleks never be far behind him.

  
******

As an added bonus, here's part one of the very first Doctor Who
comic strip, featuring William Hartnell, ever published.  Originally pre-
sented in black and white in TV COMIC #674, dated November 14th,
1964, and reprinted in colour in DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC COMICS
#2, dated January 6th, 1993.  Enjoy!


10 comments:

Rip Jagger said...

Nice.

The "Day of the Doctor" was a pretty big and a pretty neat event. I enjoyed the episode, though I have to admit the ones which feature multiple Doctors leave me a tad cold, too much nostalgia crowding out the story. But this one was a fine, though as with many of these world shakers the ending was a bit meh. I did thoroughly enjoy the ride as I most often do with the Doctor, both older and newer.

Rip Off

Kid said...

I thought aspects of it were enjoyable, Rip - but Moffat, being a Dr Who geek himself, tends to write for other geeks, as opposed to a more mainstream audience.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I ve not seen that episode yet as I was out on Saturday with friends (but its repeated on BBC3 tonight so will try and catch it then ). However I did watch "An adventure in time and space" - I'm not a massive Dr Who fan so not sure how it was received by fans, or if it had any inconsistencies but I thought that was the BBC at its best, brilliant stuff and very engaging (for a non fan at least). I do think growing up in the 60s was brilliant although like all things Its pretty subjective (and no doubt viewed through rose tinted glasses ) for example folk my age seem to look back on the old HB cartoons with wonder but to me they were pretty awful with poor character design , basic backgrounds repeated scenes corny scripts etc (I exclude Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes as these were excellent but mostly made for the movies). But I loved the comics of our time and still think the 60s - 70s stuff is 100 times (in general) better than anything done today. But hopefully its always good being a kid no matter the decade (but ours was best and we were allowed to be children and have fun) - McS

Kid said...

As you say, McScotty, hopefully it's always good being a kid, but, unfortunately, the duration of actual childhood seems to be far shorter these days. They're behaving like 20 year olds at 11 years of age nowadays, it seems to me.

Regarding 'An Adventure In Time And Space', it was good to see BBC TV Centre being used as a backdrop. It should never have been sold.

baab said...

'An adventure in time and space' was really good.
'The Day of the Doctor' was entertaining enough.

My kids,aged nine, and their friend are running around the neighbourhood dressed as their versions of the Doctor as I write this.

Waistcoats,coats, cravats, bow-ties and sonic screwdrivers.

Kid said...

What? No Daleks, Baab? Or are you keeping that part for yourself?

John Pitt said...

Now then, just how did those 2 original Daleks get to the bus stop without a black saucer on their backs? They can only travel on metal! I see Blakey's there , saying, " I 'ate you, Daleks! "
Like yourself, I too was on the Daleks' side and it always made me cringe whenever any were destroyed on screen! " I could have had that!", I would scowl! It's also true that they made DW - case in point, as a kid I saw "An Unearthly Child" & after only a few minutes ,got bored and stopped watching. It wasn't until other kids told me about the Daleks that I went back to the programme.
Thanks for the first ever comic strip, hadn't seen this one and DIDN'T know that the reprints had been coloured in Classic Comics. Next stop - Ebay!!

Kid said...

There are 27 issuea, JP - plus an Autumn Holiday Special. Some nice stuff in them.

John Pitt said...

The Daleks at the bus stop.- my missus brought me a Christmas card of this! ( even though she hadn't seen your post ). I might have it framed & hang it up!

Kid said...

I've also got it as a card, JP - but I think it's a Valentine's card. I'll have to check. Think I'll go and listen to my Dalek Christmas single by the Go-Go's.

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