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Book Review

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The Comic Strip Companion
The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who in Comics: 1964-1979 (Paperback)


Author: Paul Scoones
Telos Publishing
RRP: £16.99, US $35.95, Cdn $35.95
ISBN: 978 1 84583 070 0
Available 30 September 2012

First launched within the pages of TV Comic in November 1964, the comic strip version of Doctor Who is just one year younger than the television series on which it is based. This is its story... This volume chronicles the first 15 years of the Doctor Who strip, from its origin in TV Comic to just before the ongoing strip was launched as a regular feature in Doctor Who Weekly in 1979. Follow the exploits of the Doctor in his first four incarnations alongside John, Gillian, Jamie, the Brigadier, Liz, Sarah Jane and Leela as he battles Daleks, Cybermen, Quarks, Kleptons, Trods, Sarracoids and the Ugrakks! Also covering strips in The Dr Who Annual and the Dalek books, this is your comprehensive guide to Doctor Who in the comics...

Despite being the earliest example of licensed fiction featuring the Doctor, and an exceptionally long-running one at that, Polystyle Publications’ Doctor Who strip, which ran on a weekly basis in the pages of TV Comic, Countdown and TV Action from November 1964 to May 1979, has largely been lost in the mists of time. By comparison, the Dalek strip published in TV Century 21 and World Distributors’ Dr Who Annuals are relatively well known, the former having been reprinted numerous times and many of the latter having gained a new lease of life in PDF format as special features on BBC DVDs. Many of the Polystyle strips were reprinted in Doctor Who Classic Comics, which ran from December 1992 to December 1994, but sadly that title was cancelled long before its work was done. I was gutted at the time.

Various guides to the strips have been produced over the years, including a fairly comprehensive one on the Doctor Who Reference Guide website, but even that lacks plot information for several Fourth Doctor stories. Paul Scoones’s 600-page tome goes into more detail than ever before, providing episode-by-episode story breakdowns, continuity and production notes, including comments from some of the original contributors, and a critical review of each story. Where possible, the writers and artists, many of whom were uncredited at the time, are attributed - some of them for the first time. Scoones’s researches also allow him to describe how certain stories changed between the initial synopsis sent to the BBC for approval and the strips that were ultimately published. Did you know, for example, that the very first Doctor Who strip, The Klepton Parasites, was originally intended to feature the Daleks? Further historical context is provided not only in the form of publication dates but also with reference to which episodes of the television series were being broadcast in the UK at the time.

Special sections in between the story entries cover major developments that were going on behind the scenes, such as the strip’s launch in TV Comic and subsequent relaunch in Countdown, several unmade stories and unrealised publishing proposals, wranglings over the rights to the Daleks and the Quarks, and “Doctored” reprints - Second or Third Doctor strips retouched to show the then current Fourth Doctor.

Though coverage of the Polystyle strips takes up the bulk of this volume, additional chapters towards the back of the book deal in similar detail with the strips (though not the text stories) published in the Dr Who Annuals, the TV Century 21 Dalek strip, and the strips (though not the text stories) published in various Dalek books and annuals. The first Dalek Book actually appeared before the TV Comic or TV Century 21 strips, and was remarkably ahead of its time in terms of expanding the mythology of the Daleks, as Scoones observes. Appendices give additional details about where and when comic strips have been reprinted, notable examples of humorous strip cartoon depictions of the Doctor and the Daleks, and the relative handful of Polystyle text stories.

As usual with unofficial and unauthorised books such as this, there are few illustrations - which is particularly ironic given the subject matter. Eight colour pages depict 127 classic comic and annual covers in miniature, but there are no reproductions from interior pages. The author’s detailed synopses mean that you can enjoy this book whether or not you have read the strips in question - but it does make you wish that these stories could be seen, especially the ones that Doctor Who Classic Comics never managed to get to. If only Titan Books could do what it has done with the vintage James Bond newspaper strips...

The Comic Strip Companion is also available as a limited edition hardback with a specially commissioned front-cover painting by 1960s TV Comic artist Bill Mevin. Whichever edition you decide to get, get your hands on it now, and feel like an excited little kid all over again!


Richard McGinlay

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