Adventures in the 9th Dimension – Dr Who Comics
Do you remember the story when The Doctor met Santa (or Jeff as he’s sometimes known) on another planet?
What about the one where time ran backwards for the TARDIS crew for an entire visit?
The time the Quarks fought Giant Killer Wasps?
When the Dr abandoned his grandchildren on a Planet called Zebadee?
Cybermen on skis?
Perhaps not, as all of these stories took place in the form of comics.
In countries where comics are highly regarded, they’re known as ‘The Ninth Art’.
There have been some instances of the Doctor Who strip form surpassing it’s progenitor.
Overall, Dr Who is the longest running comic based on a tv show in the World.
The history of these comics is vast , like the history of the tv show which spawned them.
The first comic appearance of the Dr was as a spoof in May 1964. ‘Dr What and his Time Clock’, appeared in ‘Boys’ World’ and ran for 4 months.
Very soon the real deal would see print.
The Dr Who strips ‘proper’ began in November 1964 in TV Comic, written & drawn by Neville Main.
The 1st story involved an nasty attack of the Kleptons.
The Dr was accompanied by his young grandchildren, John & Gillian. Like Felix the Cat, he had a magic bag which got him out of scrapes.
Together they met old & new characters such as the Zarbi & the Trods
In 1965, in TV Century 21, came the comic strip ‘The Daleks’ (Otherwise known as The Dalek Chronicles). Written by the first tv Who story editor, David Whitaker, these Doctorless stories featured the Daleks own adventures. From their Genesis (a decade before tv did it) through to what seems to be The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The Daleks strips are classics of the artform.
1966 saw Dell’s adaptation of the 1st Dalek Film with artwork by Dick Giordano & Sal Trapani (a full comic dedicated to Dr Who!).
Back at TV Comic, artist Neville Main made way for Bill Mevin, who in turn made way for John Canning, whose tenure would encompass 3 Drs (Hartnell to Pertwee). Then Hartnell made way for Troughton. The Dr’s regenerative transformation went unmentioned in the comics, & his magic bag had been replaced by a pocket lighter with laser beam.
Jamie McCrimmon’s arrival as companion signalled an attempt to honour the tv narrative.
The half-year wait between Troughton’s sentencing in ‘The War Games’ and ‘Spearhead from Space’ was bridged by the comic strip. Pre-empting a few Who things, ‘The Nightwalkers’ saw the 2nd Dr as an exile but also as a tv celebrity. The Dr’s abducted by walking scarecrows – agents of the Time Lords, which come to fulfil his deferred sentence with enforced regeneration.
The Pertwee era moved house from TV Comic to Countdown (which eventually became TV Action).
New artists Harry Lindfield, Frank Langford & (the unbeatable) Gerry Haylock created a golden age for Who comics.
The Dr drove his car, Betsy & lived in a country cottage between adventures.
The Brigadier popped by from time to time.
Sometimes he’d bump into The Master, who was out hypnotising Jacobites or whatever…
During this time, there was a competition to design a monster to feature in the strip. Many children entered but the winner was ‘The Ugrakks’, a race of strange pachyderm creatures.
With the demise of TV Action, the Dr was relegated to TV Comic.
Tom Baker was the new Dr. We saw goodbye to Haylock as artist.
Martin Asbury stepped in, with stories like the one where the Daleks were cloning the TARDIS; and the Dr’s Home Planet was called Jewel.
Canning returned & brought Leela.
Mirroring the tv show, late 1970s Hyperinflation meant that budget could sometimes be an issue for comic production. So by issue #1385, there were just reprints of old 2nd & 3rd Dr strips recycled with Tom Baker’s head & lots of tippex.
The next big change came when Editor Dez Skinn bagged the rights to publish Dr Who strips for Marvel UK. The plan started in 1976 but the magazine couldn’t manifest until the rights became available in 1979.
Writing legends, Pat Mills & John Wagner were joined by also legendary artist Dave Gibbons in making these new strips, which featured in the new Dr Who Weekly (latterly Dr Who Magazine).
The Doctor was joined by his first black companion (over 25 years before tv did it). Kronkburgers & New Earth also appear 25 years before RTD would pay homage to them onscreen.
Back up Strips populated by favourite monsters (almost certainly breaching lots of copyright) & Time Lords, whose origins were also printed in those early issues. The Deathsmiths of Goth debuted, ahead of their role in the Time War.
Alan Moore, David Lloyd, Steve Dillon, Mike McMahon & Steve Moore & many more Comic Gods were let loose on these. America came poaching with bigger pay cheques and so you later got the likes of ‘Watchmen’ for DC.
Marvel US printed colour reprints of the DWW/DWM strips, which lasted 23 issues – the first regular comic (as opposed to magazine) dedicated solely to Who.
Genius writer, Steve Parkhouse bridged Tom Baker to Colin Baker, creating such gems as ‘End of the Line’ & ‘Stars Fell on Stockbridge’.
John Ridgway joined as artist, & he & Parkhouse invented much loved companion, ‘Frobisher’, a shapeshifter stuck as a penguin.
During the hiatus, it was the comic which was the mainstay of Dr Who, & not for the last time…..
While tv Who hit it’s nadir, the comics were firing on all cylinders again.
Voyager is not just a great Who comic, it’s a great comic fullstop.
Mini – reprints could be obtained free with packets of crisps…
After Parkhouse left, many writers including Grant Morrison created the stories.
By the 7th Dr’s time, he was also making appearances in Death’s Head & Incredible Hulk Presents . One strip (Nineveh!) features a TARDIS graveyard 20 years before ‘The Doctor’s Wife’.
Marvel also reprinted all the classic comics of the early Doctors in a comic imaginatively called ‘Classic Comics’ (The Cushing one featured a new strip – Daleks vs. Martians, set between the two Dalek films) and a 7th Dr Comic -‘Evening’s Empire. There was also a reprint of 7th Dr DWM strips in a graphic novel under the banner of ‘The Mark of Mandragora’.
Then suddenly, tv Dr Who ceased to be. Bridging the BG to AG gap, the DWM strip was arguably the main continuation of Dr Who.
It might have remained so, or it might have been superseded by an animated series (Had a Shalka Dr series been commissioned).
Whilst the 8th Dr’s tv tenure was shortlived, his comic life was prolonged, perhaps keeping the flame of Who’s worth alive.
During those dark days, Dr Who got it’s 1st gay character & 1st gay kiss, and later it’s 1st Time Lord/Fish Lady snog.
We also had the Radio Times strip, compact but solid stuff, which received a much wider readership.
When Dr 9 appeared, it was planned that 8 would regenerate into 9 in the DWM comic strip. This was dropped for legal reasons, but a sketch of post regeneration Eccleston was drawn.
In his Who tv writing, RTD liked to refer to the comics, as well as the novels & audios. I love those fanboy nods.
We’re reminded that Dr Who is a great idea for many artforms including & beyond the television show.
RTD is a talented cartoonist and recently offered to do a graphic novel for the 50th anniversary celebration but incredibly he was turned down.
David Tennant’s time saw two new ranges. ‘Dr Who Adventures’ is a junior Who magazine in the UK with Dr Who strips.
The other range is the IDW Who title, launched in the U.S., another full comic dedicated to the Dr. It kicked off with the destruction of Gallifrey (& has recently returned there). IDW also publish reprints of the old DWM strips. These titles are not licensed for distribution in the UK (but can be found in certain comic shops).
Tennant nearly saw another range launched, with his 1st BBC graphic novel until it was shelved because of similarities to tv story ‘Victory of the Daleks’. (It was eventually redrawn & published, 2nd in the range, both feature Matt Smith).
Gareth Roberts’ DWM comic stories evolved into tv shows The Lodger & The Shakespeare Code.
Panini continue to publish volumes of reprints. Unlike TV creators’ abundance of repeat fee royalties, publishing rights mean that comics creators aren’t likely to receive reprint fees.
Recently we’ve been ‘gifted’ with a Dr Who/Star Trek crossover. In comics.
IDW’s licence is about to run out. Rumour has it that Titan may be getting the rights.
The availability of the titles future distribution in the UK is in doubt.
Panini continue to publish DWM in the UK.
Other Quick Mentions –
Who Annuals – Another huge sub-genre of comic strips for all Drs bar the 8th.
Appearances in comic form elsewhere (e.g. The Comic Relief Comic, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, adverts).
(Fantastic Four – TARDIS sound effect)
(Warp-3-first comix – Wirrn Pinch)
Frank Bellamy Dr Who strip art – The Radio Times
Cartoons – both official & political
Failed ventures – Robot Magazine’s Future (& strawberry blonde) Doctor. RTD’s 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel.
Other comics spoofing Dr Who – MAD #161, Oink #24!, Dr Poo, Viz, The Bog Paper, Toby’s TimePiece, Dr What and his Time Clock, Judge Dredd – Dr Watt, etc.
Dr Who – ‘The Age of Chaos’ – The only comic written by a Doctor – Colin Baker!
Fan Comics – Sean Baldwin, Simon Mackie, Time Leech, Vworp-Vworp, CatsThat Talk, Lucy BellWood, Cathy
A comprehensive site about Dr Who comics can be found here:
Link for Stripped for action (documentries) playlist:
Some other useful links: