In Memoriam: Doctor Who Comic Writer, Editor and Musician Roger Noel Cook

We’re sorry to report the passing of prolific British comics writer, musician, and magazine editor Roger Noel Cook, perhaps best known to comic fans for his work on “Doctor Who” for TV Comic, who passed away peacefully last weekend.

Writer Roger Noel Cook with one of his string of sports cars
Writer Roger Noel Cook with one of his string of sports cars

Roger is perhaps best known to the British comics community for such IPC comics as Whizzer and Chips and Polystyle’s TV Comic, in particular “Doctor Who”, whose comic strip stories he has possibly written more of than anybody else.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, and son Adam. Our sympathies to family and friends at this time.

Born in 1946, Roger, who read The Beano and The Dandy as a child, began his publishing career proper at IPC Magazines, joining the company as a tea boy aged 16 in 1962.  

“I immediately idolised all the scriptwriters and pestered them 24/7. My first script was a ‘Captain Hurricane’ for Valiant… aged 17.”

“The lowest form of life in a major publishing house is the tea boy/gopher,” he recounted in an interview for Vworp Vworp magazine. “I just about scraped my first tea boy interview with the massive IPC Magazines publishing house and was hired largely because the comics division was expanding like wildfire. All hands to the pump and the teapot. The first human contact I had at IPC was with the senior tea boy, a tall, lanky guy like myself called Tony Power. It turned out that Tony was a publishing prodigy but neither of us knew that as we formed what would become a lifelong bond.”

“It was the 1960s and anything was possible and I forced the issue,” he told Stuart Palmer in an interview for the artist’s Altered Vistas website, archived here, about his extensive career. “I was soon writing freelance scripts in the evenings for five guineas a time. (Heaps of money in those days.) I believe I was the youngest freelance writer IPC had ever engaged.”

“We shared one talent: we could make an entire floor of old school journalists and cartoonists hernia themselves with laughter at the drop of a one-liner. This trivial skill was noted by the Head of Comics, Jack le Grand. He asked his editors to unleash Power and Cook on the script pool – Risible Project Strategists, to give us our professional title. Le Grand figured if he could bottle us, we might put the fun back into ageing comics. My luck turned on a dime and Tony and I took to our elevated new careers like ducks to water.”

Thanks to Tony, Noel became a staff writer plus freelance under editor Dick Millington, the creator of “Mighty Moth”, on TV Comic in 1964, then published by TV Publications (later, Polystyle), publishers of TV Times, aged eighteen. “This was an awesome task,” he told Altered Vistas. I had to write ‘Popeye’, ‘Beetle Bailey’, ‘TV Terrors’, ‘The Secret Sign of the Ladybird Adventure Club’ (with John Canning) for my contract, but I was given ‘Doctor Who’ and other commissions for evening freelance (plus, I was also still freelancing for IPC, on Buster etc).”

Artist John Canning asked that Roger Noel Cook script the promotional strip, Ladybird Adventure Club, which ran in TV Comic
Artist John Canning asked that Roger Noel Cook script the promotional strip, Ladybird Adventure Club, which ran in TV Comic

His credits also included “Orlando” and “Ken Dodd’s Diddymen”, and he wrote stage material for the legendary comedian, too.

His extensive work on the Doctor Who comic strip rightfully earned him the title as the most prolific Doctor Who writer in any medium. On average, Roger calculated he was writing twenty scripts a week at five to seven guineas a time. “By nineteen I had an E type Jaguar! Poverty no more.”

Polystyle was never a conventional publishing house, Roger noted. The comics made tons of money, hence the generosity.

TV Comic 807 cover dated June 3rd 1967, Doctor Who written by Roger Noel Cook, art by John Canning
TV Comic 807 cover dated June 3rd 1967, Doctor Who written by Roger Noel Cook, art by John Canning

Writing “Doctor Who” for TV Comic, all story ideas were approved by Roy Williams at BBC Enterprises. Cook wrote scripts for Bill Mevin (“a hysterical eccentric”, Cook recalled, who never left his country home), but he felt that it was only with the arrival of John Canning on the strip that it really came into its own. “The Troughton period was visually the most satisfying, in my opinion.”

Cook was also the creator of the Trods, a comic strip replacement for the Daleks, because the rights to use the Daleks were tied up with TV Century 21 and meant Terry Nation’s creations could not initially be used in TV Comic.

Cook said of the Trods that “When the [rights issue with the Daleks] was finally resolved I immediately exterminated them! The Daleks were a big deal and sales increased markedly.”

TV Comic No. 748, cover dated 16th April 1996 - "Doctor Who", written by Roger Noel Cook and drawn by John Canning
TV Comic No. 749, cover dated 23rd April 1996 - "Doctor Who", written by Roger Noel Cook and drawn by John Canning
The opening episodes of the first Doctor Who story in TV Comic featuring the Trods, published in April 1996. The Trods were robot creatures who had overthrown and enslaved the human population. Script by Roger Noel Cook, art by John Canning

In 1970, after seeing in the arrival of the Third Doctor, played on TV by Jon Pertwee, Cook was made an offer to return to IPC that was ground-breaking in terms of the money on the table, to work on various humour titles, including Buster and Whizzer and Chips, alongside creators such as Dez Skinn. “I returned to write ‘Toffs ‘n’ Toughs), ‘Ivor Lott and Tony Broke’, ‘Headless Harry’, ‘Ghost Ship’… and a whole heap of stuff for what seemed like enormous fees at the time.”

It was while Roger was at IPC Magazines that he formed the band Stud Leather in 1972 as lead vocalist, with fellow IPC staffer, Art Editor Alan Kirkham, on guitar. Haydn Gridley was on bass, Johnny Aldrich on drums and Dickie Graves on backing vocals. The band was signed to DART (Dart Records) but disbanded after one single, “Cut Loose”, co-written by Cook and Kirkham, which also featured Raphael Ravenscroft on saxophone (who later played the famous sax solo on Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”). Cook then released a single with Alan Kirkham, “Slick Go-Getter“, on DART, released October 1973.

“Basically, I’d always fancied myself as a songwriter and Kirkham and I started out writing stuff more like Yes during their Fragile period,” he recalled in an interview about his music career, “which was a long distance from the way we eventually ended up sounding.”

His career as a vocalist was, however, brief, entirely because of his huge success as a writer, but he never lost his passion for music.

“The reason the band was doomed from the outset was I had already become financially very successful by age of 21… I was a successful writer… I’d sold a pop poster concept to IPC. I had a leather clothing company called Foreskin Ltd and Warner Bros asked me to be the youngest ever CEO of their Publishing Division, when I was 24. Basically, I was doing better than any of the guys topping the charts and I could see much more moola coming my way. It was music or money.”

Comics writer, musician, editor and publisher Roger Noel Cook in the 1970s
Comics writer, musician, editor and publisher Roger Noel Cook in the 1970s

Becoming the UK CEO of Williams Publishing, the publishing division of Warner Communications, where among other duties he edited the men’s magazine Parade. After that company shut down in the late 1970s, he declined the role of CEO at Marvel UK, because he was making too much money, suggesting instead Dez Skinn, who he’d hired to manage Williams Top Sellers imprint, who launched Doctor Who Weekly in 1979.

Roger joined lifelong friend Tony Power at publisher Paul Raymond Publications, famed for what we can describe as its “men’s magazines”, including Escort, Club International (the title that published infamous nude pictures promoted as featuring Doctor Who star Lalla Ward, who sued and won her case in 1983), Mayfair, Men Only, Men’s World and Razzle.

Roger Noel Cook dining in New York with his  second wife Elaine (far right)and lifelong  friend Tony Power, and his partner, Wendy
Roger Noel Cook dining in New York with his second wife Elaine (far right) and lifelong friend Tony Power, and his partner, Wendy

While there, Cook invented the first video men’s magazine, Electric Blue, for which he also wrote and recorded most of the music. He formed a band called Broadsword to cut Electric Blue – The Music, and another band, Crossfire, to cut Out of the Blue, the rock tracks from those compilations still played on the Playboy channel in the United States.

Electric Blue – The Movie was released in cinemas in 1980 and was a big success in London’s West End. Cook performed a number in the movie called “Brooklyn Bars”.

As noted in his interview for the Doctor Who zine, Vworp Vworp No. 4, tried to retire at 38 in 1984, and spent seven years “studying consciousness in an attempt to become the second coming of Christ”. This pursuit was cut short when publishing magnate Richard Desmond called, and asked him to run the beleaguered Penthouse for him.

“This went very well, and Richard commissioned me to build an adult magazine company to rival my ex-boss, Paul Raymond.

“I tried to retire again aged 49, but my dear pal Felix Dennis had other ideas and took me on freelance as editorial consultant for Maxim magazine. Felix, who had Tony’s addictive appetites, died a young 68 years old. I had lost another friend.”

Although by now better known for his magazine work, Roger hadn’t done with comics entirely. In 2004, Desmond commissioned Cook to write the first tabloid 3D picture strip.

“Richard commissioned me at one thousand pounds per day to produce the first tabloid 3D picture strip,” Cook recalled. “It was called ‘Big Shot’, and it was of course a soccer star soap. It ran for 365 strips and cost over a third of a million pounds. Probably the most expensive strip in publishing history. Both Richard and I realised the costs of 3D colour to occupy less than a page in a daily newspaper were unsustainable.“

At the time of his Altered Vistas interview, Cook was working on a script for a graphic novel, called “Guns ‘n’ Moses”, (not to be confused with the Guns ‘n Roses tribute band of the same name), about a right-wing, Bible-quoting Bruce Willis/Mickey Rourke-style private eye who uses a New Testament with a Kevlar cover to deflect bullets.

We don’t know if he found a publisher, but the pitch sounds like something that still holds appeal, just like Cook’s fondly remembered early work.

A promotional image for The Devil's Detail, a graphic horror novel written by Roger Noel Cook, 3D art by Stuart Palmer
A promotional image for The Devil’s Detail, a graphic horror novel written by Roger Noel Cook, 3D art by Stuart Palmer

Paul Scoones tells downthetubes that he never mentioned Guns ‘n’ Moses in email exchanges while he was researching his book, The Comic Strip Companion 1964-1979, a guide to the Doctor Who stories from TV Comic, but he did talk about a graphic novel he’d written called The Devil’s Detail. In 2012, he was hoping to adapt it as a movie starring Matt Smith.

An abandoned Twitter/X account reveals The Devil’s Detail, was brought to life as 3D art by animator Stuart Palmer, who was one of the team behind a fan reconstruction of the Doctor Who TV adventure, The Daleks’ Master Plan, and has since worked as an animator on telesnap reconstructions of The Evil of the Daleks and Galaxy 4 on the BBC DVDs. Stuart now runs Blue Tree Studio, producing 3D models for use in Poser and DAZ Studio modelling software.

Stuart himself has provided downthetubes with more background to the project. “Roger was always so full of life and ideas and drive,” he says. “Having read my reviews of his TV Comic ‘Doctor Who’ strips online (very few of which were even remotely flattering), he contacted me directly. He not only found my reviews amusing, but had decided he wanted to work with me on a project.

“Now, he could have just emailed me the details, but Roger being Roger, he insisted on flying me out to San Pedro in Southern Spain and footing the entire bill for my brief stay. I did wonder if this was going to be a terrible revenge for my scathing reviews, but he couldn’t have been lovelier or more generous. He even insisted on photographing me at the wheel of one of his flashy sports cars (amusing for anyone who knows me, as I don’t drive or have any knowledge of cars!)

“The project he had in mind was ‘The Devil’s Detail’, which we first put together as a graphic novel but then developed further as a screenplay. Roger’s relentless enthusiasm even got a Doctor Who director involved, but ultimately we never got it off the ground and COVID probably helped seal its fate as so many projects were cancelled or delayed. We kept in touch and I was even able to reacquaint him with a couple of other comic strip writers he’d known back in the 1960s.

“It’s a very sad loss,” Stuart reflects of Roger’s passing, “but I still take with me his advice never to carry a mobile phone: ‘There’s nothing, not even stocks and shares, that can’t wait until you get home!’

"The Psychopath" by Stuart Palmer, concept art created for "The Devil's Detail ", written by Roger Noel Cook. Via Stuart Palmer, with thanks
“The Psychopath” by Stuart Palmer, concept art created for “The Devil’s Detail”, written by Roger Noel Cook. Via Stuart Palmer, with thanks

Roger released the graphic novel for free via a now defunct web site, while promoting his novel, Adapt or Die, and promoted the offer in Essential Marbella Magazine in 2012.

Adapt or Die by Roger Noel Cook

A132-page vampire-reptilian horror tale, The Devil’s Detail sees a demonic coalition infiltrate America’s senate and big corporations via a covert alien invasion. It centred on a team of psychics, pitting wits against sinister demons, as they sweep across globe from Tibet to heart of power in New York.

Roger released Adapt or Die, a self-published spy thriller in 2012, a story that centres on Steve Rawlings, a premier league hacker and cyber thief with no moral compass.

Rampaging across four continents he plunders banks, corporations, Iran’s nuclear program and even sells Pentagon weapon secrets to the Chinese. His only religion is money but nothing this rewarding lasts forever. Eventually, as the world closes in all you can do is run and at that point …

In 2014, from his home in Marbella, Spain, following a 35-year break from music, Cook returned to his first love. With over 50 million units of his songs from the last three decades in circulation, he signed an agreement with the Russian Music Box TV network for his material to be aired to their 80 million Pan-European viewers. 

In partnership with Dez Skinn, who he’d work with at IPC and Williams, he was also commissioned to develop a range of film and TV production concepts for the Asian film market, Hollywood and, for European TV, a new crime thriller series.

Working with Dez from his tax exile home, he also published a limited edition of the second issue of the 1970s horror magazine, Monster Mag as remastered limited edition – the “unsuitable” original pulped by HM Customs & Excise back in 1973.

There are few comic writers who could claim to have made a fortune from their work, but Roger Noel Cook was certainly one of them, and will be much missed.

Roger Cook, born 18th June 1946, died 9th March 2024

Read Paul Scoones tribute to Roger Noel Cook on his blog

Vworp Vworp issue 4 includes a feature on Roger Noel Cook, available here

• Roger was interviewed for the website, “Altered Vistas”, in 2010. An archive version of the interview is held by Wayback Machine, the final snapshot here

Buy Paul Scoones’ The Comic Strip Companion 1964-1979 (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)

Sweet Soundtrack: Some of Roger Noel Cook’s many music credits

Listen to Broadsword – Shades of Blue, written by Roger Noel Cook

With thanks to Colin Brockhurst, for pictures featured, Paul Scoones and Dez Skinn

Categories: British Comics, Comics, Creating Comics, Doctor Who, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Magazines, Obituaries, Other Worlds, Television

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