Matt Bookman, who previously brought downthetubes readers the inside story of ROBOT, a British SF comic that never was from the BBC, is back with the story of a rather special visual A-Z of Doctor Who monsters, illustrated by Rian Hughes…
In Autumn 1993, then Radio Times Art Editor Tim Walmsley glanced at the comic book related T shirt I was wearing (probably Madman) in the magazine’s office where I was then working, grinned, and asked me “Are you a Whovian?’”.
I had no idea what he meant and looked at him blankly. He sighed wearily, smiled and started again.
“I can see you like comics, are you a Doctor Who fan as well?”.
Ah! I had heard of Trekkies/ Trekkers – but “Whovian” – a term usually used by Doctor Who fans in the United States – was a new term to me.
I said I was a great fan in my childhood and early teenage years. but had lost interest round about the time I started going to college.
Why did Tim want to know?
He explained that although the show had finished in 1989, its 30th Anniversary was coming up with a rush and that the BBC would be celebrating it with a raft of programmes. Radio Times would have a Who themed cover and a six-page feature that week. Our boss, Art Director Mike Clowes, would design the cover as always, but Tim asked me if I would like to design the feature content?
I got quite excited at the idea and said, yes please!
When I was younger, I was indeed a Doctor Who fan. The very first story I can remember was Spearhead from Space, the first Third Doctor adventure. I used to watch the programme every Saturday until it was moved to weekdays. I read the Target books novelisations which I borrowed from my library, and I bought every issue of Doctor Who Weekly/ Monthly/ Magazine, until Dave Gibbons stopped drawing the comic strip in Issue 69.
I was paired with a commissioning Editor also named Tim to plan out the six pages.
The two of us were told that the services of a ‘boffin’ in all things Who had been hired on a freelance basis to help with writing the feature. His name was Adrian Rigelsford, who had been commissioned by BBC Enterprises to write the script for The Dark Dimension, a new Doctor Who adventure which was supposed to be the big TV event that would be used to celebrate 30 years of Who. As it turned out, the programme ran into budget problems and the BBC cancelled the project and replaced it with a two-part crossover with Eastenders, played largely for laughs broadcast, in 3D, for that year’s Children in Need.
Adrian definitely looked the part of a boffin, with his tweed jacket, elbow patches, spectacles, trimmed beard and ever-present briefcase, with which he would habitually delve into to pull out an old production photograph to illustrate a point he was making.
Commissioning Editor Tim and I broke the six pages down into three separate double page spreads.
Tim commissioned regular writer Richard Johnson to write a layman’s history of the show for the initial spread. Adrian Rigelsford wrote the rest of the content. Periodically, he would show up in the Radio Times office, see how the feature was progressing, give advice, make suggestions, and disappear again.
While thinking up design ideas, I realised that there were eight panels on the TARDIS doors and there were, so far, just seven TV Doctors and one feature film Doctor, played by Peter Cushing. An elongated TARDIS illustration was commissioned for the first spread. Each panel contained a photograph and description of each Doctor.
Another spread would be about the various companions that had assisted the Doctor in his travels.
As work progressed on the feature, it became apparent that Children in Need needed substantial editorial space and encroached on the companions’ double page spread. The middle spread was the most enjoyable to work on, it was about one of the show’s most important aspects, its monsters!
Being a comics fan all my life, I was familiar with Radio Times own history with Doctor Who illustrations, largely due to two books I owned, published by Andrew Skilleter’s Who Dares Publishing in 1985.
The Man Who Drew Tomorrow by Alastair Crompton, is a biography of comic book artist Frank Hampson, which includes an illustration by Hampson of the Third Doctor and Jo Grant hiding from Daleks, originally commissioned for the Radio Times Doctor Who Tenth Anniversary Special, published in 1973.
The other book of interest is Timeview: The Complete Doctor Who Illustrations of Frank Bellamy. Most of these illustrations had been published in Radio Times between 1971-1976, some illustrations full colour, one a two-page comic strip. The majority, however, are black and white drawings the size of a postage stamp, drawn by the Eagle, TV Century 21 and the Daily Mirror‘s “Garth” artist, that were inserted into the Saturday TV listing information for that week’s Doctor Who episode.
(Bellamy didn’t draw all the illustrations that featured in this manner in Radio Times, but he certainly created the bulk of them).
I can actually remember seeing these when I was a child, although I didn’t know they were by Bellamy, or who he was at the time they were originally published. But by 1993, I knew full well who both were, and that they had both drawn the adventures of one of my favourite comic characters – Dan Dare, and Hampson, of course, had created him.
I also fondly remembered the two Target Books editions of Doctor Who Monster Books from my childhood, with their fantastic Chris Achilléos cover illustrations, that had been heavily influenced by Bellamy. The Monster books married brief descriptions of the aliens, combined with Achilléos’ illustrations and photographs from the show.
With these in mind, I suggested that for our middle spread we would have a feature, surrounded by an illustrated border of an A-Z of Doctor Who monsters, consisting of brief descriptions and thumbnail size images, roughly the same size as Bellamy’s 1970s illustrations.
To my mind, there is a strong connection between Dan Dare artists and Doctor Who. Dave Gibbons had drawn Dan for 2000AD and Who for Marvel UK, and there were a few other artists who’d drawn both Who and Dare-related material. John Ridgway had even drawn a two-page crossover featuring the characters for the Comic Relief Comic in 1991, written by Dan Abnett. But at the time I was working on this feature, one of the most recent UK comic artists to draw Dan Dare was designer, illustrator and typographer Rian Hughes, who employed a European ligne claire (clear line) drawing style.
I had first noticed his work in 1982, with Escape Magazine issue two for which he had drawn a wraparound cover and interior comic strip, and followed his comic strip work from Escape to The Science Service, written by John Freeman, and then to the Grant Morrison-penned reimagining of “Dan Dare” for Revolver.
I thought that Rian would be the perfect artist to draw an A-Z of monsters, because his clear line would be perfect for drawings that were going to be reproduced at a tiny size. I had met the artist a few times in the past, and commissioned him twice before. As the 1990s progressed, Rian would almost always use Adobe Illustrator as his tool of choice for his illustrations, but it was his hand drawing and mark making I wanted to utilise in this instance. So I rang Rian to see if he would be interested but, to my surprise, he didn’t seem very enthused. I knew he was a huge fan of Thunderbirds, but he wasn’t very familiar with Doctor Who.
I explained how Frank Bellamy had created very small artworks for Radio Times, and that I wanted him to do something similar. What I was proposing was an alphabet of monsters, so 26 illustrations would be needed – and quickly!
Now intrigued by this challenge, Rian started warming to the idea.
It was unusual to commission that many images in one go for a single magazine spread and, unfortunately the budget was not generous. Individually, there was not much in the pot for each image but, collectively, the images added up to a decent fee. That agreed, we drew up a short list of 26 Monsters for Rian to draw.
It was obvious that C was for Cybermen and D is for Dalek but some of the other letters were problematic. My knowledge of Doctor Who from 1963-84 was pretty good, but I knew next to nothing of 1985-89. It was a good job Adrian was around to suggest newer monsters I hadn’t heard of, like Bio-Mechanoids, Haemovores and Vervoids!
I couldn’t make a choice between Zarbi and Zygons, but only one could be used for the letter Z. Adrian suggested that with some cheating we could use a Zygon for Loch Ness Monster as the Zygons were Nessie’s controllers.
I laid out the spread, leaving holes for Rian’s illustrations, which would be scanned in as soon as they arrived.
For Rian’s reference, I collected a mixture of office file copies of Doctor Who reference books, a smattering of black and white photographs from both Radio Times picture library, and from BBC Picture Publicity. I also lent Rian my cherished copy of Frank Bellamy’s Timeview book, and a smattering of Doctor Who Magazine back issues with post-it notes inserted to highlight individual monsters.
One of the photos amused Rian in particular – a publicity shot from 1967 showed Cybermen on Ealing Green, which was yards away from where Rian’s studio was then located.
The illustrations were drawn on A5 size card using black brush and marker pen. Each picture had a spot colour created by Rian laying down a sheet of Pantone film and cutting away excess detail from it. I seem to remember getting the illustrations biked over in three separate batches as Rian worked his way through them.
Bit by bit, the layout filled in the missing gaps. Each time I received a package from Rian, it was an event. They looked fantastic at original artwork size and when reduced to the intended print size they tightened up massively and looked very impressive.
I believe Rian had to work at quite a breakneck speed to make the deadline, but I believe all that effort was well worth it.
I have always thought it a shame that these illustrations were printed once and have not seen the light of day since. I think they would make a very nice small illustrated book, was glad to hear recently that Rian is considering that very possibility!
Matt Bookman is a freelance graphic designer with a varied background in magazine publishing – including TV, music, women’s and photography titles – as well as CD and book covers and marketing materials. Recent clients include the Chelsea Magazine Company, Cedar Communications, TI Media, Penguin Random House and BBC Audio. A lifelong comic book fan, his favourite creators include Jack Kirby, Serge Clerc, Yves Chaland, Frank Hampson and Mike Allred
• Examples of Matt’s work can be found at mattbookman.carbonmade.com
Since this commission, Rian has revisited Doctor Who, creating t-shirt designs for Eaglemoss Hero Collector, and other memorabilia – check out his work here, available from the Hero Collector web shop