I wasn’t reading Doctor Who Magazine when it published these stories, so these were mostly new to me. John Ridgway left the strip after the title story, ending a long period of artistic stability. For the rest of the book the art is all over the place stylistically. As Richard Starkings (now famous for his Comicraft lettering), then editor of the strip, explains in an introduction, that was partly down to a need to cut costs and streamline production, but also an artistic decision – he liked the idea of having different writers and artists for each story, just as each story of the TV had its own writer, director and flavour.
The results aren’t quite as bad as I’d expected, though the rotating artists mean none of them get time to develop a good likeness of Sylvester McCoy, leading to some truly grotesque panels here and there. It also leads to inconsistency in characterisation; it was quite a surprise to see the seventh Doctor dropping explosives on “primitives” to create a diversion in Simon Furman’s “Keepsake”.
One other problem is that Frobisher leaves at the same time as John Ridgway, leaving the Doctor companionless – and thus prone to endless, bizarre monologuing. Maybe that’s why he really needs companions: not just to stop him going off the deep end (as posited by the David Tennant episodes), but also because he likes to think out loud and doesn’t want to look like a nutcase when he does it!
Still, I really enjoyed this, as shown by the fact that it was a Christmas present and I’d read and reviewed it by the end of Boxing Day.
There are very few TV or film characters that have made such brilliant comics characters as Doctor Who, though to be fair very few have benefited from such consistently interesting creators, whether it’s Dave Gibbons in Doctor Who Weekly #1, or Paul Grist in #414. As well as Ridgway and Furman, this book features names like Grant Morrison, Bryan Hitch, Lee Sullivan, John Higgins and Dan Abnett. Even at low ebb, this is a strip well worth reading.
Doctor Who: A Cold Day in Hell, Simon Furman et al, Panini, pb, 184pp.