Dr Who has spawned more than a couple of films, tv spin-off series and gaudy trinkets for collectors – it also created an entire separate storyline in the form of the comic magazine.
London’s Cartoon Museum is tapping into Dr Who mania, by setting up an exhibition of about 100 works that showcase the Doctor in his many incarnations and shows how the character has evolved in comic since the first ones were published in 1964.
The exhibition is basically a display of some of the more interesting pages from the various Dr Who comics, with small text descriptions explaining why that particular storyline is significant to the fans and collectors. A few larger boards give more history about the artists and magazines themselves.
All the Doctors are featured in comic form, except Paul McGann, although he is added to the cartoon of all the Doctors used to promote the exhibition.
Looking around the displays, one comic caught my eye, as Operation Protus from Doctor Who Magazine in 1995 featured a tube train carriage. Despite being produced in 1995, it still showed a character smoking on the tube – which had been banned 11 years earlier. Or, maybe the story was sent in the past, and judging by the wide, slightly luxurious seating on the tube train, in an alternative reality.
The artist went to the trouble of drawing in the Northern Line map above the seats though.
A story from 2004 called The Flood showed thin androgynous Cybermen, who looked more like Sunny from iRobot than the fearsome creatures we usually think of.
Amusingly, one story line by TV Comic in 1973, The Amateur is reused again in 1978 to save money, simply by redrawing over John Pertwee’s face with Tom Bakers. It’s not very good.
Another Doctor that caused the artists a few problems in drawing was Peter Davidson, which Dave Gibbons is reported to have described as having a face like a blancmange.
The comic story lines exist on their own and separate from the TV series, although naturally they share some of the same aliens, and the Daleks feature heavily. During the hiatus between 1989 and 2005, the comics really took a life of their own with the then Doctor played by Sylvester McCoy carrying on the adventures in comic form.
However, since the resurrection of the TV show, the comics have been more tightly controlled and their storylines have to be pre-approved by the TV show to ensure they don’t both write the same story.
Then again, sometimes, the comics influence the TV Series. The story, What I Did on my Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow, printed in the 2006 Dr Who Annual inspired the later iconic episode with the Weeping Angels, Blink.
As an episode, it’s one of my favourites, even if the result is that any photo I take of graveyards now instantly results in an flood of oh so funny comments about not blinking. That’s getting tedious!
The exhibition will delight any Dr Who fan, and it was slightly amusing to overhear several children being mystified about the existence of the earlier Doctors – which supports my suspicion that the BBC (and satellite TV channels) would like to pretend Dr Who didn’t exist before 2005. That was offset by overhearing adults seeing the older characters and commenting on which one was the doctor they grew up with.
The exhibition runs until 30th October and is open every day except Monday.
Entry is £5.50, but don’t pay by credit card as they very annoyingly have a £6 minimum spend. They could do more to promote the fact that £25 gets you unlimited visits for a year, and as they have several exhibitions each year, that might prove a worthwhile investment. They also have a very annoying website, but I’ll moan about that another day.
NB: photos close up of the cartoons were not permitted, hence just the wide angle photos above.