GK’s Where Are They Now?: A Brief History of ‘The Doctor’ in Comics

DOCthennowI am back, Yup after a few weeks of general intensiveness I am back. I had hoped to have a lot more pumped out in the past few weeks but my schedule just exploded and This week is no less a busy one. Me and some of the team are heading down to Thought Bubble this Saturday and pretty excited by that we are too. But talk about double booked eh? it was just a few weeks ago me and Greg realized that momentousness of that day and I’m not referring to Thought Bubble but rather Doctor Who.  Yup, unless you have been living under a rock since before the summer of 2005 will know has reached the ripe old age of 50.

I did want to avoid mixing my peanut butter and chocolate after the Sentai/Stan Lee/Marvel blog I wrote a little while back.Yet it is undeniable that the Doctor has mixed it up with the comics medium even prior to the TV series cancellation, As a comic it has been written by some of the greats like dare I say Alan Moore among many other hugely influential contemporaries. There was of course the awkward transitional period from the cancellation of the show to here yet he still remained in print in some from or another, infact it was during these years that extended media kept the ‘franchise’ alive. Then following it’s hugely successful return to TV screens it has been as popular as ever with pinstripe suits and bowties being ubiquitous at comic cons.

So let’s take a further look at the brief history of ‘The Doctor’ in comics.

DWAnnual12_cvrRI-copyWeek 17: A Brief history of ‘The Doctor’ in comics

Who were they?: Now I hope I don’t offend the older of you readers here by making you feel old but the Marvel UK Doctor Who comics that I am about to mention were an oddity to me when I was younger. I was from the generation that wasn’t really used to the TV show being on since it was cancelled a little shy of me being 2 but I had an awareness of him as a kid. Yet owed to the fact I would prowl the local bargain bins it was hard not to come across Marvel UK books going cheep. Sometimes it would be random Thor reprints, sometimes Spider-Man reprints and then original Doctor Who comics… The content wasn’t important nor the fact they were giant and made of toilet paper, Whichever was cheapest would get added to the bundle as was my viewpoint as a child.

My frame of reference was skewed reading these, afterall they were about someone who used to be on the TV but I couldn’t really recall outside of the occasional talking head TV show where some generic celeb would profess their love of the character or even rarer charity specials. It had no real strong pull over me back in the 90’s though out of this vague recognition I did dabble in the McGann TV movie when it was screened.

The Marvel strips were printed back in 79′ in a magazine format at a time when Marvel UK which had previously only printed of strips based on previously published US material. However as we know the UK scene was in a state of flux at the time with more SF/Fantasy fare from 200oAD and the like cornering the Market. This competition led to the editor Dez Skinn reformatting a bulk of the titles to ensure Marvel was keeping up with the competition adding Dr.Who Weekly to the licensed strips they already had (alongside Star Wars). That first issue had all the components to in place to equal a classic issue not only featuring the 4th generation Doctor and one who is often considered best regarded internationally due to the eccentric and charismatic Tom Baker and growing interest outside of the UK, Not only that but the main strip in this issue was written by the sensational John Wagner and “Godfather” of the UK scene Pat Mills and adding to this potent creative team on  the first strip was a certain Dave Gibbons who would later go on to achieve minor success on a little miniseries called Watchmen [Yes that was a sarcastic tone you should have read]. This initial main strip pushed what could be achieved over the relative low budget of the show with dynamic and action packed panels featuring robotic centurions, No plunges or tin foil in site.

A short period afterwards Dez Skinn left Marvel UK but if you are familiar with the history of Marvel Man you will know he went on to form his own title “Warrior” But Marvel UK still continued printing Doctor Who and as the different regeneration of the Doctor occurred on the show, the title changed along with it. Later the strips were collected in the US featuring reprints of the original UK material featuring Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor and this to changed to Peter Davidson but was cancelled shortly afterwards perhaps proving the allure the 4th Doctor had over US readers.

However the original Doctor Who weekly printed by Marvel UK underwent changes of the years as well as changing hands and morphed into what is today the Doctor Who magazine printed by Panini and continues to features comic strips. It was these strips along with other extended media that kept things ticking along.

What have they done recently?: What hasn’t the Doctor been up to in comics as of late?,  IDW of course aquired the US licensing rights to publish the Doctor in 2008 and have ran wild with the license . Printing miniseries’s which have told stories of past Doctors going all the way back retroactively and even reprinting some of the Marvel UK material as Doctor Who classics.

As you would expect the inevitable ongoing series was soon launched featuring the current Doctor and which is then revamped prior to a generation. Currently on it’s third volume and continues to sell strong for the company just a little behind their licensed titles like **SIGH** My Little Pony. As of October both the ongoing series and current mini-series “Prisoners of Time” (an ambitious year long series that has has featured a different Doctor per issue leading up to the 50th Celebrations) selling around 25 thousand issues. Which is modest compared to DC’s sales of Batman (well over 100K) but for a smaller company like IDW represents a large proportion of sales.

As mentioned with Prisoners of Time, IDW have certainly been ambitious with the title and this was no more evident than in last years melting pot of geekery that was “Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2” which I could go into details about but would rather direct you to my review of the Trade release, But if you can’t tell by the title it featured the 2 titans of the Sci-Fi genre taking part in that oh so frequently used comic trope the team up to thwart uncannily similar baddies The Cybermen and Star Trek’s The Borg.

Meanwhile the Magazine once started by Dez Skinn over at Marvel UK continues to be printed (with comic strips) in the UK via Panini Comics, Though of course the editorial focus has shifted greatly over the years with the focus being on features rather than comic strips, It’s beginnings are still firmly rooted in the very first issue printed by Marvel UK.

What can we expect next?: There is a slugh of comics due in December but IDW’s Prisoner’s of Time wrapped up just this week with issue #12 so there is still time to catch it, It really is a must for even the most casual fan of the series as it manages to tie together the 50 years of history in a way which (not to knock it) logistically isn’t possible for the TV show.

IDW’s current run of Doctor Who is now ongoing and available each month featuring Matt Smith’s 11th Generation Doctor Who and there were rumors a few months back that Titan comics had acquired the US license but nothing ever became of these rumors that we know of. However it is safe to say that after the onscreen and in comic trends things will soon change as we know Matt Smith’s tenure… Things are about to change within IDW regardless.

Was this article full of tenuous links?, Perhaps but I’m sure most of you hope that Here’s to another 50 for the big chap, Keep bringing the comics!

The writer of this piece was: GARYavGary Kane aka (GK)
Article: Where are They Now (Prev: Under The Influence)
GK tweets from @Kanoclassic

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