Since Doctor Who Magazine‘s debut some 500 issues ago, one feature has stood since day one. Through writers and artists, editors and the cancellation of the series, the DWM comic strip has blazed a trail of memorable and unique characters, legendary moments and some truly great writing and art.
From Dave Gibbons and Pat Mills to Steve Parkhouse and Alan Barnes, there are dozens of talented individuals who’ve applied themselves to the medium, creating some of the finest comic strips under the Doctor Who banner.
And we have to pick ten.
A difficult task, leaving out the near contenders such as the excellent Wormwood, a personal favourite in The Curse of the Scarab and iconic early contenders such as The Fangs of Time and Dragons Claw… but we finally broke it down to our top ten… +1.
Nearest Runner-Up: The Stockbridge Horror
Written by Steve Parkhouse with art also by Parkhouse alongside Mick Austin, The Stockbridge Horror ran for six issues (70 and 75) of Doctor Who Magazine (then Monthly). It’s somewhat fitting we start our list with the quintessential DWM strip location, one the magazine returns to for the very special 500th issue strip The Stockbridge Showdown.
Back in 1982 however, in the third part of the Fifth Doctor Stockbridge Trilogy, the Doctor’s holiday in Stockbridge is interrupted yet again when he learns that an imprint of a London police box has been found in millennia-old limestone at the local quarry. He soon confirms that the imprint has come from his TARDIS, but before he can investigate further he is attacked by an elemental being, a force formed of fire and fear….
10: Junkyard Demon
With art by Mike McMahon and Adolfo Buylla, this Steve Parkhouse written strip appeared over two issues of DWM in 1981 and featured the Fourth Doctor. While maybe not the deepest in terms of story, 2000AD‘s Mike McMahon brings the strip to life in unique style with some excellent design, Steve Parkhouse is in his finest whimsical mood meanwhile to create a winning combination. The strip was deemed worthy of a sequel in the 1996 Doctor Who Yearbook, this time penned by Alan Barnes.
Interstellar scrap dealers have a lucrative business reprogramming dormant Cybermen into domestic servants, until one prematurely awakens and steals the Doctor’s TARDIS…
Frobisher is in it, what more do you need to know? Seriously, Doctor Who fans can be divided into many camps, but the only two that matter are those that love Frobisher and those that hate Frobisher. And we love Frobisher! Voyager, which ran for four issues in 1986 featured the Sixth Doctor and introduced the character of Astrolabes, beginning the Voyager arc that concluded in Once Upon a Time Lord. The story was reprinted in graphic novel format in 1989 which made it one of the first ever Doctor Who graphic novels and reading the full saga is recommended.
The Doctor and Frobisher find themselves in Antarctica, but things take a turn for the worse when they meet Astrolabusand the mysterious Voyager.
Something of a personal choice, but that’s what these lists are all about right? …though we feel sure some purists will be enraged at Endgame coming in ahead of Voyager! But the excitement at all new Eighth Doctor adventures following the TV Movie in 1996 make this a strip of fond memories.
The first ever Eighth Doctor strip in DWM, Endgame returned once again to Stockbridge, nicely tying the all new Doctor into DWM comic lore and introducing Izzy Sinclair in a story that spanned four parts across DWM issues 244 to 247. It was a strong debut for the McGann incarnation, a spiritual sister strip to the Tides of Time and Endgame kicked off a trend of some of the best stories within the format since the mid-1980s.
Returning to Stockbridge, the Doctor is reunited with an old friend, gains a new companion and comes into conflict with an old enemy… the returning Celestial Toymaker!
7: Stars Fell on Stockbridge
“The night that stars fell on Stockbridge”
We like the Stockbridge tales, ok?! 🙂 (and we’re certainly not done yet)
Introducing the recurring character of Maxwell Edison, who appears again this month, Stars Fell on Stockbridge was the last DWM comic drawn by the great Dave Gibbons, the magazine’s main artist since the first issue of Doctor Who Weekly. The “middle part” of the Fifth Doctor Stockbridge tales, the story appeared across issues 68 and 69 of DWM in 1982. Much of the story would be dramatised in the Big Finish audio Castle of Fear as part of a flashback, making all kinds of continuity problems for another day and another article!
Maxwell Edison, a normal man from the village of Stockbridge finds himself entering the TARDIS and The Doctor’s adventures. There’s no time for questions when Maxwell suddenly finds himself on an alien spaceship and facing the battle of his life to save his village from destruction.
6: Fire and Brimstone
Featuring the return of the Daleks to the DWM comic strip, appearing alongside the Eighth Doctor for the first time (the final part preceding BBC Books War of the Daleks by two months), Fire and Brimstone was the highlight of 1997 in the DWM strips. Spread across 5 parts, the Alan Barnes penned story saw the return of the Threshold and featured some of Martin Geraghty’s finest work for the series.
The Doctor and Izzy materialise on Icarus Falling, a small satellite orbiting Crivello’s sun, and witnessed an attack on it by Daleks. While attempting to stop the Daleks’ plans, it is revealed that another of the Doctor’s deadliest enemies, the megacorp known as the Threshold, was hired to destroy the Daleks, and already had a plan in motion. The plan fails…
5: The Iron Legion
The original! The Iron Legion is an icon amongst Doctor Who comic strips as not only the first strip to be published in Doctor Who Weekly but one of the best to boot. The placing of our top five was incredibly close, but the Pat Mills, John Wagner and Dave Gibbons classic comes in at five.
Appearing across the first eight issues of what is now DWM, The Iron Legion was rejected as a television script but has gone on to legendary status, being reprinted no less than seven times.
A robot legionnaire attacks a small English town of the 1970s. Tracing them to their origin, the Doctor arrives on another Earth in which the Roman Empire conquered the galaxy with their Iron Legion of robots commanded by General Ironicus, a servant of what he calls the gods.
4: Doctor Who and The Star Beast
Beep the Meep is one of the great villains of the DWM strips, returning for three more adventures and even a Big Finish audio. But never better than here, a second helping in a row from the classic Mills/Wagner/Gibbons team in an adventure that is 2000AD meets Douglas Adams. Introducing the first black companion way ahead of it’s TV time, The Star Beast of course excellently drawn, well scripted and intelligently plotted. But what else would you expect from the finest team the DWM strips ever boasted?
Pursued by Wrarth Warriors, Beep the Meep crashes his craft in Blackcastle, where he is found and hidden by school children Sharon and Fudge. The Doctor follows the flames of the neutron drive star cruiser and investigates, unaware that he is leading the Wrarth Warriors directly to the Meep. The Warriors attack K9, making him useless. After he has sent the Meep with Sharon for safety, the Doctor learns from the Wrarth officers, Sergeant Zogroth and Constable Zreeg, that Beep is being hunted by the Wrarth (biological constructs of the five strongest races in the galaxy) for unspeakable crimes.
3: Ground Zero
What… a… panel.
One of the most genuinely shocking comic strips in the history of DWM, the comics made a surprising break with the continuity of the then current New Adventures by killing television companion Ace, sending off the Seventh Doctor’s era as the magazine prepared for the debut of the Eighth. Then Doctor Who Magazine Editor Gary Gillatt explained this choice in DWM 240, proclaimING that the books had already diverged from the comics continuity in Deceit and Blood Heat amongst others.
The Threshold have kidnapped three of the Doctor’s former companions, along with his current one, using them for their employer’s benefit: the Lobri — a creation of the human unconsciousness, feeding on fear. They intend to destroy the unconscious link between humans. The Doctor must stop them, but at what cost?
2: The Glorious Dead
An absolute epic spread across ten parts in 2000, the scale of The Glorious Dead was unprecedented. Spread across an omniverses with the highest possible stakes, the strip fittingly saw to return of The Master after his return the previous year in The Fallen.
The Doctor, Izzy and Kroton are taken to Paradost to find that Sato Katsura and the Master have joined forces. The Doctor and Kroton must fight the Master and Sato for the Glory, where the protector of the Glory has full powers over space and time…
1: The Tides of Time
With The Iron Legion and Endgame already making this list, it seems “firsts” are popular here in the DWW cave and there is no better than the first Fifth Doctor strip published by DWM – The Tides of Time.
Debuting the fictional village of Stockbridge (though not known by that name here), the strip ran for seven issues in 1982 and was written by Steve Parkhouse, with the art being by Dave Gibbons. Mixing the unique surreal imaginativeness of Parkhouse at his best with the peerless artwork of Gibbons, The Tides of Time is an ambitious and imaginative classic, spawning many sequels and imitations both in the pages of DWM and beyond, but none better than here with the original.
The Universe is falling apart. A demon from another universe has left a hole in time and space. The Doctor teams up with Sir Justin to prevent the demon from destroying the entire universe. But first, they must battle creatures of nightmares to find the lost matrix….