RED, WHITE AND WHO: The American Colorization of the Doctor's
Marvel-ous Adventures

By: Arnold T. Blumberg
15 February 2001


     The universe of _Doctor Who_ is fraught with inconsistencies
and other annoying wrinkles in time that aggravate even the most
sedate fan.  Repeated attempts to somehow weave these myriad
incompatibilities into something resembling a cohesive whole have
resulted in the construct we have today a vast conflagration of
novels and audio dramas, television episodes and short stories
and, of course, comic books.
     But there are still inconsistencies to be found, some of
which dwell in the real-world history of the series itself.  For
example, as we all know, the Doctor's first infiltration of the
United States occurred in 1972, when episodes of Jon Pertwee's
era were sold as a test balloon to a number of American stations.
In 1978, Tom Baker arrived in the New World and conquered it
utterly, leading to a proliferation of American _Doctor Who_ 
merchandise, including the Doctor's very first appearance in a US
comic, MARVEL PREMIERE #57, in 1981.
     But that's not how it happened at least, not entirely. 
Although it remains obscure to many, the first evidence of the
Doctor's American invasion dates further back than 1972.  In
fact, the good Doctor materialized on our shores in comic book
form six years before he ever appeared on our television screens
and fifteen years before his official comic book "debut" in
MARVEL PREMIERE!  How did this happen? Was this some sort of
temporal anomaly?  Well, not quite...
     By 1966, Dell Publishing had been printing comic book
adaptations of motion pictures for many years, most recently
under the umbrella title MOVIE CLASSICS.  In the December 1966
issue, Dell featured an adaptation of DR. WHO & THE DALEKS, the
first of the two Peter Cushing _Doctor Who_ films derived from
the classic Dalek TV serial starring William Hartnell as the
Doctor.  Although this was not the same Doctor as the one we all
know and love, there is no doubt that the show's influence had
already been felt in American comics only three years after the
television series began.  Sporting some fairly solid artwork and
a rather straight-forward (and, by necessity, abbreviated)
version of the film, the MOVIE CLASSICS issue is now a
sought-after item, an early relic not only of the beginnings of
_Doctor Who_ mania but of its first infiltration into the
American pop culture psyche.
     Unfortunately, the Doctor would not appear in American
comics again in any incarnation until 1981, when MARVEL PREMIERE,
a monthly anthology series, began reprinting a few choice Tom
Baker strips from Marvel UK's DOCTOR WHO WEEKLY in issue #57
(which carried the slightly inaccurate cover blurb, "1st American
Comicbook [sic] Appearance!").  They were not the highest quality
reproductions to be sure as they were a bit muddy and poorly
colored the original strips ran in black and white but they did
spark some interest.  Issue #57 also featured some pin-ups by
X-MEN artist Dave Cockrum, who managed to capture reasonable
likenesses of Davros, a Silurian, and a somewhat superheroic-
looking Cyberman among others, but produced horrific,
unrecognizable studies of the four television Doctors and Peter
Cushing's movie incarnation.  A text piece by Mary Jo Duffy tried
to fill in the basic background for new readers and although it
perpetuated a few inaccuracies (such as the Doctor's real name),
it was remarkably detailed and well-informed. MARVEL PREMIERE was
the Doctor's American home until issue #60, which featured
another eloquent Duffy piece focusing largely on Tom Baker (and
suggesting erroneously that Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier
Lethbridge-Stewart character appeared in "The Android Invasion,"
but why quibble?) and some nicely rendered illustrations by Walt
Simonson, who gave Baker's scarf an almost Spawn-like life of its
own. 
     MARVEL PREMIERE itself ceased publication with issue #61,
which featured a sci-fi hero named Star Lord.  Strangely enough,
the paths of these two space-faring travelers would cross again
very soon.  In 1982, Marvel published a one-shot titled STAR-LORD
THE SPECIAL EDITION, revisiting the characters first featured in
MARVEL PREMIERE #61.  To fill out the special, Marvel included a
colored reprint of another Baker story as a back-up. These
American appearances proved successful enough that Marvel decided
to give the Doctor a star position with his very own title. 
     DOCTOR WHO the comic book series debuted in October 1984 and
once again featured reprinted, colored Tom Baker strips from the
UK.  Although no original US-exclusive material was ever
generated for the series (making it a rather inexpensive project
for the company, apart from the nice quality paper and color
printing), the series was 'enhanced' by the inclusion of some
cursory text features about aspects of the show's mythology and
production history.  While some of the facts were initially a bit
off the mark, most of the news and factual material provided by
WHO fan Patrick Daniel O'Neill from updates on the current shows
airing in the UK to histories of arch-foes like the Daleks was
quite reliable and sharply written even if the Daleks' creator
was once referred to in a caption as "Stravos." 
     There were some original pieces of artwork provided for the
features by Stateside creators, such as portraits of characters
and famous WHO monsters, but they often completely failed to
capture any satisfying likeness, and many were simply recycled
from the Cockrum art first seen in MARVEL PREMIERE. The UK
strips, however, looked wonderful in their new color format, and
early issues showcased brand-new covers by Dave Gibbons, who
originally drew many of the reprinted strips. Despite its flaws,
for a new American fan the comic was an invaluable source of
information, frequently featuring reviews of other DOCTOR WHO
non-fiction books and in-depth retrospectives on the Master and
the Cybermen.  Often these articles would reference episodes no
one in the US had ever seen before, opening a window to a
universe of new stories and characters. 
     Of course, by the time the American comic book debuted, Tom
Baker had long since left the show, as had his successor, Peter
Davison.  1984 was the fateful year of Colin Baker's debut as the
controversial Sixth Doctor, and for a company that always tried
to keep up with the times, Marvel now looked like it was lagging
behind rather severely with its _Doctor Who_ reprint series.  An
ill-advised attempt to revitalize the comic book resulted in a
pastel-suffused redesign (debuting with issue #17) that had more
to do with BARBIE than DOCTOR WHO. There was never any intention
of producing new stories to bolster readership in the States, but
while DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE had long since shifted their comic
strips into the "second" Baker era, DOCTOR WHO the American comic
only introduced Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor to US readers with
issue #15.  Although the Fifth Doctor's adventures had a far
shorter run than Tom Baker's, the comic book did get a chance to
represent the epic "Tides of Time" storyline, which had featured
a fully painted installment in the original British publication.
That superb coloring job was reproduced for the American reprint
and was definitely a highlight of the US run.
     In August 1986, the reprints finally came to an end, with
the company citing "poor sales" as the primary reason for
discontinuing the series. Still showcasing the Fifth Doctor while
the Sixth was battling for his very lives on television in "The
Trial of a Time Lord" season over in the UK, the comic folded
with issue #23.  Since that time, American comic book readers
interested in _Doctor Who_ have been forced to seek out issues of
DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE for regular monthly illustrated adventures,
or hunt for the graphic novel collections of strips like the
Sixth Doctor's "Voyager" or the Seventh Doctor's "Evening's
Empire" that have cropped up from time to time.  A reprint of the
STAR-LORD SPECIAL EDITION in 1996 even carried the same _Doctor
Who_ back-up strip featured in the original edition, but that was
the last time that the Doctor has appeared in a US comic to date.
     Will the TARDIS once more materialize in an American comic
book series?  Occasional sly references to the good Doctor and
his ship have turned up over the years, most often in Marvel
Comics scripted by professional fans with a penchant for
in-jokes.  The aforementioned Walt Simonson even crafted an
entire story arc for the Fantastic Four that involved a time
travelers' agency and some rather overt _Doctor Who_ connections.
So the possibility always exists that one day, the Doctor will
return to the land of four-color fiction. Time will tell, and as
the Doctor himself would remind us, it always does...


---------------------------------------------------------------

     Arnold T. Blumberg has been a DOCTOR WHO fan since 1986, and
his collection pales in comparison to David Howe's. He is Editor
for Gemstone Publishing, where he edits and oversees production
of THE OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE and HAKE'S PRICE GUIDE
TO CHARACTER TOYS. He has also written articles for both guides
and co-designed and assembled the final volumes.
     Arnold served as Senior Book/Comic and Tube Reviews Editor
for EON Magazine, where he writes extensively on science fiction,
horror, fantasy and comic book entertainment. He has also written
articles for OVERSTREET'S FAN, COLLECTOR'S SHOWCASE, iF
(INDEPENDENT FILM MAGAZINE), and other on-line and academic
venues.
     He authored the on-line guide to sci-fi collecting available
in the "Sci-Fi-O-Rama" section of the eBay auction site, and has
contributed short fiction to the forthcoming DOCTOR WHO charity
anthologies, MISSING PIECES and THE CAT WHO WALKED THROUGH TIME. 
He is also the co-author of "HOWE'S TRANSDIMENSIONAL TOYBOX:
THE UNAUTHORIZED GUIDE TO DOCTOR WHO COLLECTABLES."
     He teaches a course in comic book literature at the
University of Maryland Baltimore County. He holds a Masters in
Publications Design from the University of Baltimore and is
currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Communications Design at
the same university...and yes, that means friends and family will
soon be required to call him "Doctor."

---------------------------------------------------------------

Prepared for:
'Time and Space On Television' - 
A Display of Realia Related to the 
_Doctor Who_ Television Series

A display located at:
Milwaukee School of Engineering 
Walter Schroeder Library
November 23, 2000 - March 31, 2001

Display sponsored by:
Earthbound Timelords 
(http://www.bw.edu/~jcurtis)
Wolves of Fenric 
(http://www.wolvesoffenric.freeserve.co.uk/)
Milwaukee School of Engineering MAGE Club 
(http://www.msoe.edu/st_orgs/gaming/)
Milwaukee School of Engineering Walter Schroeder Library
(http://www.msoe.edu/library/)

---------------------------------------------------------------


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Last Updated February 23, 2001