17 July, 2008

TSV 58

At the moment almost all of my writing is taken up with chronicling Doctor Who comic strips from years gone by. What started out as an interest in the comics as part of a wider focus on all things to do with a certain Time Lord has just within the last couple of years narrowed to a singular obsession as I've developed the manuscript of what will eventually be my first professionally published book.

So it is that looking back at TSV 58, first published back in September 1999, I’m interested above all else in the article it contauins about the making of one of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips. This item will in time no doubt end up being listed in my book’s bibliography (but not until the second volume).

It’s My Party and I’ll Die if I Want To was an insight into the writing and drawing of DWM’s 1998 anniversary strip, called Happy Deathday. The article was written by Warwick Gray, better known to DWM readers by his professional name Scott Gray. Warwick – or rather Scott as I should call him from here on in – is possibly TSV’s greatest success story. Scott was illustrating and writing for TSV when he was still living in his mother’s basement in suburban Dunedin. The early years of TSV owe a great deal to Warwick's creative input, as I'm sure both long time subscribers and those who've had a thorough look through the online archive will be aware.

I remain very proud of the fact that we published Scott Gray’s earliest Doctor Who comic strips, the very same work that he submitted on spec to Doctor Who Magazine and resulted in work as a comic strip writer and assistant editor on DWM when he moved to the UK in the early 1990s. Scott is now widely regarded as one of the very best things ever to happen to the DWM Doctor Who comic strip, and it's a shame in my opinion that he stepped down as the regular writer when Paul McGann's Doctor was replaced by Christopher Eccleston.

I’ve kept in contact with Scott, and have caught up with him on a few of my UK trips (though circumstances conspired against us meeting up for a drink on my most recent foray to Britain in May this year). Despite his considerable success with his comic strip writing – which is really rather extraordinary good, it has to be said – Scott’s never forgotten TSV, and back in 1999 enthusiastically volunteered this article on the writing of one of his strips for DWM. As this particular story was a team-up with artist Roger Langridge, another ex-pat Kiwi now living in London, it was the ideal strip to write about for TSV.

I think if I recall correctly, the roughs came first. Scott adored Roger’s rough versions of the strip and thought they deserved to be printed. So that’s no doubt what got him thinking of TSV as the ideal place to showcase these. I think Scott wrote his article to give the roughs some context. As it was I didn’t have the page space to print the entire strip, but I did feature many excerpts with comparison panels from the finished version seen in DWM.

With the online publication of this issue I recently took the opportunity to pull out some dusty old box files and locate the original roughs Scott sent me all those years ago, still stored carefully away in a folder, with post-it notes still attached to the pages. There are no page constraints for an electronic issue, so for the first time ever, Roger Langridge’s roughs, plus his preliminary sketches for each of the Doctors, are finally available for all to enjoy.

Still on the subject of comic strips, but elsewhere in the issue, A Locked Room Mystery was significant for finally completing the set of all eight Doctors (as there were back then). TSV had published at least one ‘serious’ comic strip story for each of the Doctors except the first, so finally it was William Hartnell’s turn, in a suitably claustrophobic tale set entirely within the TARDIS.

Around this time of TSV 58 I know I was becoming concerned with the ever-growing number of VHS releases. I was determined to publish a review of each and every story as it was released, but with the frequency of VHS releases increasing as BBC Worldwide set its sights on completing the range within a few years, and the gap widening between TSV issues, inevitably each issue would have quite a few video reviews. So I started to look for ways to diversify these, and hit on the idea of doing a commentary in print. I put the proposal to Peter Adamson and Alistair Hughes, who responded enthusiastically, coming up with the regular Beyond the Sofa feature. These days this feature would be referred to as a ‘fan commentary’; only in print, rather than on DVD.

I can’t really make any claim to originality for the idea. I’d seen it done with SFX magazine’s regular 'Couch Potato' feature, and I think Pete and Al may also have been inspired by this source. Some readers thought TSV might have copied DWM, as their long-running Time Team commentary feature had only just begun at this time. I do know that I’d already put the idea for what became Beyond the Sofa to Pete and Al by the time I first laid eyes on the 'Time Team' feature in DWM 279, as I recall being astonished that we’d come up with a fairly similar approach at pretty much the same time.

Peter also drew the front cover artwork (providing regular cover artist Alistair with what was probably a much-needed break), and Peter’s piece ties in nicely with the focus on Nightmare of Eden for the Beyond the Sofa feature.

I’m fond of the New Adventures novels, so it was a pleasure to publish Jamas Enright’s comprehensively researched piece on All-Consuming Fire. I’d done something similar myself for Happy Endings, another New Adventures novel, back in TSV 49, and if time had permitted, I would like to have had more annotated guides in this vein in TSV.

As it was, by this time I was doing less and less of the writing for TSV myself. This was an incredibly busy and sometimes stressful time for me; a change of job was just around the corner and over the following two years I'd experience a meteoric rise from call centre supervisor to the general manager of the company. But enough about me - go off and read TSV 58!

Read the issue here.

Fellow TSV 58 bloggers
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright