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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

IDW's Doctor Who Classics reaches Seventh Doctor era

The first issue of US comics publisher's latest Doctor Who Classics volume went on sale earlier this month across the pond, featuring re-coloured Seventh Doctor stories by a slew of creators I've worked with down the years.

The Seventh Doctor's initial adventures were edited by Richard Starkings, and originally hit the ground running in Doctor Who Magazine Issue 130 back in 1987 with the four-part Ice Warrior story 'A Cold Day in Hell' written by Simon Furman with art from John Ridgway and Tim Perkins. It's the first episodes of that story that feature in this issue of Doctor Who Classics: The Seventh Doctor, which features an all-new cover by Robert Hack and new colours by Charlie Kirchoff.

'A Cold Day in Hell' featuring the Ice Warriors – used with the full permission of Brian Hayles’ estate, the use of TV monsters in the strip requiring such approval – saw the departure of John Ridgway as regular artist, as well as an end to shape-changing Frobisher’s journeys in the TARDIS. For many DWM readers neither decision was popular, and there were appeals for both John and Frobisher’s return. This was the last regular appearance for the shape-changing Frobisher, however, who had been stuck as a penguin for some time and although making an appearance in the Colin Baker-penned comic special Age of Chaos, wouldn't return to DWM until Issue 329, in Where Nobody Knows Your Name, a story by Roger Langridge, in which it turns out he now runs a pub!

Panels from 'A Cold Day
in Hell', re-coloured by
Charlie Kirchoff.
Writer Simon Furman was determined to have a TV villains the Ice Warriors in the story, which required clearance from (and payment to) creator Brian Hayles' estate. "My first two Who strip stories had obeyed the unwritten directive 'thou shalt not use established villains straight out of the gate,'" he recalls, "but with my third story, the first to feature the Seventh Doctor in strip form, I felt a grade A Who villain was called for.

"I’d always loved the Ice Warriors, back from when I was a little kid (I caught the original Troughton Ice Warriors story when he was partnered with Victoria and Jamie and it blew my whatever-year-old mind), and the chance to do a new Ice Warriors story was simply too tasty to resist."

 Tim Perkins recalls feeling rather daunted by the opportunity to work with John Ridgway on the story, but his inks proved very popular with readers, who voted him their favourite back in 1988. "Working on Doctor Who meant working with John, whose work I really admired, although I’m still not sure I was ready for it,” he says, "but John was brilliant and lent his advice where it was needed and made me feel I was doing it right. I had a ball on the series and was pretty much left to ink it the way I saw fit.

 "John basically draws with ink, with very sparse pencils, but everything is there, so even though he was pencilling more for me than he would for himself, there wasn’t as much on the pages as some of the other artists I had worked with at the time, which also meant there was more of me in the art.

"I think I can now do a good impersonation of a John Ridgway ink job, but back then it was just me inking like I would anything for anyone. I was learning such a lot.“

Next month, Issue 2 completes the Ice Warrior story and features 'Redemption' by Simon Furman, Kev Hopgood and Tim Perkins, and Death's Head's first appearance in Doctor Who - 'The Crossroads of Time'. Simon Furman again scripts that story, with art by Geoff Senior.

The story was designed to free the robot bounty hunter from his battles with giant robots in Transformers comic and, eventually, get him into his own US-style title.

“It was an enjoyable experience to pit Death's Head against the Doctor,” recalls artist Geoff Senior, “mainly because I didn't expect it to happen! I never thought they would ever meet, so when they did I was pleasantly surprised.

Geoff had no problems realizing a battle between the giant Death’s Head and the diminutive Doctor. “The scale didn't really cause me a problem. It was something that may have troubled Simon more – he had the problem of figuring out a way to shrink DH down in size.

“Death’s Head was initially a 'throw away' character who proved too valuable to throw away,” Geoff notes. “It was important to find an excuse to reduce him in size, so that he could interact with other more normal sized Marvel characters.”

Issue 3, on sale in April, features 'Claws of the Klathi' by Mike Collins and Kev Hopgood, with inks by Dave Hine.

“I was going through one of my 'more writer than artist' phases,” recalls Mike Collins of 'Claws', “doing scripts for various licensed books and Future Shocks for 2000AD. I'd written one Who story before – Profits of Doom – which sowed the seeds for a major arc featuring the Sixth Doctor who unfortunately got 'moved on', so it never got completed.

“I was lured back to Doctor Who by Richard Starkings,” he continues, also admitting the commission, like many others, “may have been in a pub and may have involved Guinness.

“I love Victoriana,” the artist-writer, who has since written modern-era Who for DWM, reveals. “Talons of Weng Chiang is one of my favourite ever Who stories, and I wanted to do something with that vibe.

Mike wasn’t the only person enthused by the strip’s Victorian setting. “I did do a load of research for that one, I was really fired up by Mike’s script,” says Kev. “I’m really into Victoriana, too, which I think Richard knew from our time 'working' in fanzines. It was great having Dave ink my work on this job as well. Although he’s now gone more into writing, he’s one of the few inkers that I’ve been absolutely happy with.

“It was a bit of a jolt to go onto the good Doctor after having drawn Zoids and Action Force.”

"This strip was very different to my previous collaborations with Kev Hopgood," recalls David Hine. "I was used to producing a slick brush line but this strip called for a very different style because of the Victorian setting.

"This was shortly after Berni Wrightson's illustrated Frankenstein had appeared: his illustrations recalled the pen-and-ink work of American illustrators like Joseph Clement Coll, John R. Neill and Franklin Booth. Intricate pen work that looked almost like etchings.

"Kev and I were both big fans of Wrightson and we set out to emulate that work. I ditched the brush, took up the pen and spent long days and nights finishing the job to deadline. It was a lot of work, but I think we achieved the look we were after and I remember that story going down very well with the readers."

The stories pace and shorter episode count marked a major change from previous Doctor Who comics which, during the Fifth and Sixth Doctor eras, had  more of an 'epic' feel to them.

“I wanted to do whatever I could to make the strip more reminiscent of the show,” editor Richard Starkings reveals of his approach to the strip. “I loved Steve Parkhouse's stories for the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Doctors, but felt that he was very much doing his own thing – toward the end it was practically autobiographical.

'Planet of the Dead', coming in May
(Issue 4) features seven Doctors
“The one thing I wanted to avoid was a lame duck companion slowing the strip down,” he reveals, “so we got rid of the heat vampire, Olla, Simon Furman introduced in Cold Day in Hell and I asked writers to focus on characters in each story that could fill the companion role.” (That device is of course one recently employed in more recent Doctor Who TV Specials such as The Christmas Invasion and The Runaway Bride).

Looking back on the strips now, Richard feels many stand the test of time. “I think Kev Hopgood and Dave Hine's art for 'Claws of the Klathi' is amongst the best work either of them produced to date,” he argues, “and even though I got a lot of stick for crossing over with Death’s Head and The Sleeze Brothers, they still make me giggle, and I think, along with the Keepsake story, they're the equivalent of 'Doctor Light' episodes in the recent series."

On downthetubes: A Cold Day at Marvel UK
An extended feature going behind the scenes on the early Seventh Doctor stories featuring interview material with many of the creators

IDW Doctor Who Classics - Official Information. IDW's Doctor Who comics are not officially available in the UK but they tell me they will be available as digital editions later this year

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