Episode 135 of Doctor Who: Panel to Panel is live, the comics-focused podcast hosted by erudite Jeremy Bement – this time catching up with Doctor Who Magazine editor Marcus Hearn.
At a time when the long-running strip was very reluctantly put on hiatus, magazine sales, Marcus discusses the mechanics of creating a magazine during the pandemic, both highs and lows, particularly some of the highs, such as the first interview with Christopher Eccleston since 2004.
He also reveals how the Magazine team adapted to remote working and the challenge of covering the production of the show during the crisis, and how Russell T. Davies and Stephen Moffat both offered their support, leading to a brilliant interview-style feature in Issue 551, where they revealed so much of their approach to making the show.
For comic strip fans, Marcus is delighted that what he describes as an element integral to the Magazine’s DNA has now been restored, explaining how it was rested for cost reasons when sales were impacted by the closure of WHSmith stores in the UK and wider, thankfully now addressed distribution issues into North America.
At present, the Magazine is experimenting with shorter form one-off stories akin to traditional British comic anthologies, rather than longform “arcs”, and Marcus is gauging reaction to this approach. He’s adamant that it was never the intention to permanently drop the strip, as feared by some fans, which is welcome news.
You certainly get the impression that he sees the strip’s inclusion as part of what the trade would call its Unique Selling Point, side by side with its continued privileged access to the show’s production, its cast and behind the scenes team.
“We’re just about to embark on a four-part story,” he teases, hinting at new creators, too. “The new norm is that there is no norm… we’re basically going to open it up a little bit… the aim is to mix it up!” There will be more text stories, too.
Marcus also singles out designer Peri Godbold for her extraordinary production work on The Daleks Bookazine strip collection, and the collectors who provided art. “It’s the most impressive piece of comic strip restoration I’ve ever seen,” he enthuses. “I’ve loved that strip since I was a child… it has an important part in Doctor Who’s history.”
Marcus reveals that he’d love to do further classic Who reprints from the decades before the arrival of Doctor Who Weekly in 1979, but that’s in part dependent on securing original art from titles such as Countdown. It’s easier to scan from original art, rather than restore strips from the printed comics, which is both time consuming and as a consequence, more expensive. It’s clear Marcus, like all of us, would love to know how much original art is out there.
Marcus also reveals he would be keen to see a collection of Doctor Who Weekly’s early back up strips – and has also considered the idea of new “non Doctor” stories in the Magazine, too.
And for those of you wondering, “The Daft Dimension” by Lew Stringer is very much loved. “He’s very good at poking fun at aspect of the show in an entirely affectionate way,” says Marcus – plus, he loves the way he draws Daleks!
After you’ve listened to Marcus, you should also check out Episode 134, released just before Christmas, which centres on an interview with comic artist Russ Leach, who drew some of the Magazine’s recent strips, such as “The Forest Bride” and “It’s Behind You”, both written by Jacqueline Rayner.
• The latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, 573, on sale now in newsagents and supermarkets, charts the history of digital effects in Doctor Who from the 1970s to the most recent episodes. There are also interviews with costume designer Ray Holman and composer Segun Akinola, and wonderful tributes to artist Chris Achilléos and writer Bob Baker, and much more | Official Page doctorwhomagazine.com