Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Doctor Who: The dream crossovers

This might well be the nerdiest thing I ever write...

As I have established, I love a good crossover. When characters from different pop culture franchises meet. The weirder the better. I've just read a story where Batman meets Top Cat for example.

I love comics. Obviously. I'm also a huge fan of science fiction in other media and this is largely because of my childhood love of Doctor Who.

I love The Doctor. A hero who thinks his way out of trouble rather than fights. Except when the writer prefers him to fight.

And I've read his adventures in comics since I was a child.

One of the earliest I read was a crossover with alien robot bounty hunter freelance peacekeeping agent Death's Head, who spent a year bouncing around the Marvel UK titles for publicity purposes

Along the way he met Dragon's Claw, Transformers and the Fantastic Four before settling down in the Marvel 616 universe. So The Doctor is technically part of the Marvel Comics multiverse.

In 1993 he interacted with cast members of Eastenders in a Children in Need Special we don't speak of.

There are other minor crossovers. It's strongly implied in the TV show that the universe is shared with The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for example. And Michael Moorcock put his character Jerry Cornelius into his Who novel The Coming of the Terraphiles. The strip in Doctor Who Magazine has occasionally put characters like Captain Britain or Steed and Mrs Peel into background details but the only full-on crossover so far (not including crossovers with spin-off shows and strips) has been with Star Trek in IDW's rather fun 2012 comic Assimilation Squared in which the Eleventh Doctor, with Amy and Rory, arrives on board the Enterprise D in the middle of a Dixon Hill holodeck story believing they are in 1930s Chicago.

The story plays out with the Doctor and the Next Generation crew encountering a collaboration between the Borg and the Cybermen which leads to a flashback featuring the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker model) teaming up with Kirk's Original Series crew. I love that kind of stuff.

Anyway, with that in mind I've been thinking about which other properties and character's I'd like to see Doctor Who cross over with. So I've devised a list, using every Doctor and trying to keep the crossover reasonably contemporaneous. Some of them are a bit of a stretch but it's fairly in keeping. I've outlined some story ideas along the way. I've also tried to avoid the super-obvious, so no Blake's Seven or Sherlock.

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)


Steptoe and Son

My reasoning here is entirely based on rag-and-bone-man (I'm only human after all). My pitch would be a story set before the first episode (a time rarely explored, there's only that one Telos novella that's set then I think) when the Doctor is looking for a place to lay low. He reasons that he'd be unmolested in a junkyard but picks one owned by a squabbling father and son. I imagine a scene where Harold start hitting on granddaughter Susan and the Doctor tells him to back off, calling him a "dirty old man" much to Albert's amusement. Then Susan reveals her actual age and shocks Harold. A plan is hatched to take the "police box" to another junkyard on Totter's Lane.

The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)


The Prisoner

Touching down in a mysterious village which the Tardis navigational controls cannot identify (is something keeping it off the maps?), the Doctor and Jamie are cut off from their vehicle by a weird possibly-sentient bubble. Worried they may never leave they team up with a moody village native who also seems very keen to escape. The stranger has been investigating other strange goings on and suspects other villagers, including the ruling "Number Two" are somehow being mind-controlled. The Doctor discovers that there are Macra in the sea nearby!

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)


Scooby Doo

Yeah, that's right. Nobody more embodies the spirit of belief in rationalism over superstition than the Doctor and no-one loves putting on a mask to trick people more than the Master. This one writes itself. I want a fake-out scene with someone wearing a mask of the Master too. There would also be a scene with Jo Grant grooving out with Shaggy.

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)


Hammer's Dracula

Now Tom Baker was the Doctor for long enough that we could use different eras for different styles of story-telling but my own preference is the season of Gothic horror. Along with Leela the Doctor investigates a series of brutal murders in 19th century Europe. Along the way they encounter a whole world of horrors, including a patchwork creature that reminds him of Morbius and thing known as "The Reptile"!

The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)



Yep. Now, I'm no fan of the TV sitcom ALF (it's utterly terrible) but the Marvel comic spin-off was really good fun (y'know, for kids). It was, at heart about a family. And no other Doctor had a family. I'm imagining an attempt to take ALF to his home planet before it was destroyed. And the attempt is thwarted by Cybermen who try to destroy the Tardis with a massive weapon which Adric takes control of and flies it into Melmac instead.

K9 and Company


Metal Mickey

I mean Metal Mickey is even worse than ALF albeit a similar premise however in my story they team up with all the early 80s rubbish robots. The Green Cross Code robot, the one from the Goodies, Timothy Claypole's cleaning robot, Evil Edna, 7 Zark 7, the vending machine from A Grand Day Out. Who knows?

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)


Red Dwarf

Now the Sixth Doctor's TV stories were full of super-violent satire but his comic-strip self was also accompanied by a shape-shifting penguin called Frobisher. The Doctor arrives on Red Dwarf during Rimmer's holo-virus induced insanity and Frobisher convinces him that he is the real Mr Flibble. After curing him Frobisher contracts some of the symptons and the crew find themselves at the mercy of another polymorph. At the end Rimmer's mind is wiped so he does not know aliens exist.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)


The Pink Windmill Show

Now, hear me out. I love the McCoy era of Who but fans always focus on the dark, manipulative schemer part of his tenure. At the start it was an attempt to take the show back to being kids show with a guy who could juggle and play spoons. For once we should embrace that. Also it's easy to forget just how great Rod Hull was and the whole weird world he built up through various TV shows. I sincerely want a story where the Rani teams up with Grotbags to attack the Doctor and Emu. Mel would be there too, obviously, and there would be a song and dance routine that resolves the story. Roger Langridge should draw it.

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)


The X-Files

Okay, this is an obvious one. The 1996 TV movie tried very hard to ape the style of the show that was omnipotent in the 90s, so why not go with it? It would be 90s Mulder and Scully, I want to see Fox hitting on Dr Grace Hollway in way that makes it obvious that she's a substitute for Dana, while Scully pretends she doesn't care. And also pretends she doesn't find the Doctor sexy. Also Tooms is being used by the Nestene or something. It doesn't matter. The real story is the relationship stuff.

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)



This was one of the trickier ones. But imagine this: The Doctor and Rose are dragged to a mysterious island whereupon the Tardis loses all power (like in Planet of the Daleks) due to some strange magnetic disturbance. They encounter a group of people who are also trapped on the island and also have no idea what's going on. Ultimately the Doctor discovers the whole thing is a TV show run by the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. There he discovers that the reason none of the people of island know what is happening is because none of the writers do either. Imagine some weird meta-textual commentary on TV storytelling. Like the Mojoverse.

This is the first show that has no official comic book or comic strip, so instead I picked some fan art from the brilliant Chip Zdarsky.

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)



A no-brainer, this. The sexy adventure-loving time lord chances upon the sexy adventure loving Mal and his crew. Thirty-something fangirls explode with delight. Story doesn't really matter but Donna is instant BFFs with Kayleigh.




A new threat to Los Angeles is in the form of an alien virus that will spread worldwide within... 24 hours! Only Jack Bauer and Captain Jack Harkness can stop it, with or without a team of Welsh investigators. There's a scene where Jack B tortures Jack H to reveal his full knowledge. He resists until death. Jack B walks out of the room and apologises to Gwen: "I'm sorry you had to see that". Gwen knows he'll just come back so shrugs it off.

The Sarah Jane Adventures


Grange Hill

Now, this one is not really contemporaneous, but taking advantage of the nature of the medium we could have a story where the kids find a rupture in time in their school that leads them to the classic era of Grange Hill. The timey-wimey stuff could bring in characters from different eras but I'd like to bring in the idea the Mr Bronson is a time-displaced Jagaroth, scattered through different time periods by the accident on Scaroth's ship. However he has no memory of who he is. He is Laurence Scarman in 1911. He is a school headmaster in 1963. He is Dr Summers in.. I dunno... the 70s? UNIT time is problematic. He is a school headmaster in 1985. He is Dr Darwin King in 1999. He is Rhos in 10,000,00 Ad and Mergrave and Lowe in other future times. He also may be... Hitler!?

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)


How I Met Your Mother


None of you were expecting that were you?

But consider this: No other show has worked as hard at playing with the time narrative as this. And Steven Moffat loves playing with time narratives. Go back to Press Gang or Coupling and you'll see that. I'm seeing a story that jumps about in time all over the place. Maybe the Doctor is moving that yellow umbrella all over New York at different times along with a mop and a fez. In comics terms expect a story like that time Mr Fantastic fought Dr Doom through time and you had to read the story twice, once in page order, then following the footnotes. This could be a massively confusing mess which would be true to both sources.

Also this has no comic strip equivalent either so here's a strip from my friend Paul Savage.

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)


Rick and Morty

Oh Yeah! Wubbalubbadubdub! The perfect contemporary clash. There are Doctor analogues in the Rick and Morty comics but never mind that. This actual grandfatherly version of the Doctor is the perfect opponent to Rick. And I definitely want them to fight rather than team up. I don't even know whose side I'd be on. I feel like Bill and Morty would just make friends and stay out of it. Bill would probably try to get Morty help for his obvious mental problems,

That's your lot. Any comments or suggestions are gratefully received. Let me know what you would do.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

On waterboarding and the Smurfs

A new comics blog, heralding a significant moment in culture: The triggering of Article 50 A new Smurfs movie!
This is, remarkably, the fourth theatrical feature film featuring the little blue gits. 

You probably noticed the previous two (2011's The Smurfs and 2013's The Smurfs 2) which were a combination of live action and CGI and starred Doogie Howser and Apu.
The first was The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, a Belgian cel-animation from 1976.
It's surprisingly good. Really. Maybe because the Smurfs themselves are little more than suporting characters for Johan and Peewit, the real stars.


I'm glad you asked.

Let me take you back to 1928 and the birth of one Pierre Culliford, who would get the nickname Peyo due to an English cousin who couldn't say his name correctly.
Actually, let's skip ahead to 1952, as that's when our story really starts.

Peyo had been earning a living as a cartoonist for various publications for a few years before getting a big break working at Le Journal de Spirou, a very popular anthology comic in Belgium, thanks to his friend Andre Franquin (a well-respected creator of the day). There he was able to create long-form stories of the adventures of Johan, a character he previously drew in other papers. Influenced by Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, Johan was a medieval page boy, trusted by the knights of his kingdom.

His first adventure is what we are interested in today, but we'll come back to that.

Over time, Johan becomes associated with his best friend, the more dimwitted, comedy relief Peewit and then... on one adventure....
They stumble across a strange, tiny blue creature, three apples high.
In the adventure originally titled La Flute a Six Trous (1958), we first encounter the beings called Schtroumpfs. Which were anglicised to Smurfs later.
They were an immediate hit. Just like Popeye, Shmoos and Snoopy before, you never know when a supporting character will become a merchandising goldmine.

The public demanded more Smurfs. And more Smurfs they got.

The first Smurf spin-off strip appeared a year later and the full story was published as Les Schtroumpfs Noirs in 1963.
The story concerns a Smurf being bitten by an insect and immediately turning black, angry and violent. On the English translation they changed the colour to purple to avoid any unintended racial connotations.
The original smurf bites the first smurf he sees who also becomes a purple smurf, just as angry and violent. Soon the biting "virus" spreads throughout Smurfland. Long story short, Papa Smurf finds an antidote and cures them all, but, from a 21st century perspective we can all see what this is.

A zombie outbreak.

Almost ten years before George Romero invents the genre with Night of the Living Dead (a movie that deliberately plays with racial tensions and the civil rights movement too).

And a merchandising phenomenon was born!
The solid plastic figurines became the must-have toy across Europe. By the late 1970s in Britain they were mascots for a chain of petrol stations...
...and had a regular original comic strip in Look-In Magazine.
And then there's the records...
Father Abraham in Smurfland was an album released in 1978 and was a massive hit across Europe. Particularly the single Smurf Song which was inescapable that year. If you want be slightly disturbed watch this video:

Or if you'd prefer to be REALLY disturbed watch Legs and Co perform a dance to it on Top of the Pops.

Good to know their choreographer also misheard "small keyhole" as "smoky hole", just like I did when I first heard it.

Such a massive hit that "Christmas in Smurfland" was inevitable.
Not an enormous amount of time spent on that design.

In 1981 American animation powerhouse Hanna Barbera produced a TV series called The Smurfs that ran for 9 seasons, cementing the little blue gits in the minds of entire generations worldwide.
So now everyone knows what Smurfs are but no-one remembers Johan.

So let's celebrate Johan by taking a look at his first proper adventure. The above-mentioned Le Chaitemant de Basenhau (The Punishment of Basenhau).

We begin our story in our undisclosed European country in a non-specific year in the middle ages. A jousting contest is taking place.
Johan is friends with the King's champion who needs his help.
Whilst going for the lance, Johan stumbles across the Count's rival attempting to sabotage his lance.
Told you.
The match is cancelled and the challenger thrown out.
This rival baron does not take too kindly to his plan being thwarted. And plans revenge. A plan to take over the kingdom and seat himself on the iron throne.

A spy is sent to the kingdom disguised as a travelling minstrel. Johan is immediately suspicious and accosts him in the style of Tintin's dog Snowy.
The troubadour runs for it and is tackled by our hero. 
Then, when our heroes demand information, the baddy refuses to co-operate.
He is introduced to the king's executioner.
No seriously. he's referred to as the executioner in the text.

And this is where things get a bit weird... 

See this story was originally published in chapter form in Spirou, half a page at a time (just like Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Blake and Mortimer et al.) and when the next chapter was submitted fellow cartoonist Franquin asked the editors what the French censors would say about the "torture scene". This gave the editors cold feet so the following scene was not published until 2015.
So our heroes (the GOOD guys) leave the baddy in the hands of the executioner to torture as he sees fit.
Oh yeah! We're talking waterboarding!
Also known as extraordinary renditioning.
Or enhanced interrogation.
A reminder: these are the good guys in our story.
Time to remind you this is essentially a humour strip.
Ha! You see, he couldn't be broken with real-world torture techniques but he hates being tickled!

So the weird thing is that that one page was declared unpublishable so readers at the time (and indeed in future republishings) skipped from the introduction of the executioner to this:
Which makes sense as a joke (we see a torture chamber: cut to  man being tickled). However the distended belly of the troubadour is not referred to. Even as he spills his (metaphorical) guts. 
So Johan makes him write a message back to our baddy feeding him false information.
And then... Ah, who cares? 

Long story short, the good guys win.

It's late and I'm tired.

Smurfs: more to them than you thought.