Friday, 27 July 2012

And So it Begins...

Well, it's finally here.  After what seems like an eternity, the London Olympics are about to start.  And, as I wait for the opening ceremony to begin, I can't help but think that, in a parallel universe, Huw Edwards is shouting at a mysteriously empty stadium, they had a more tasteful Olympic logo and this man is preparing to light the flame:

Will we see fiction and reality converge tonight?  I highly doubt it.  But, until Sir Steve Redgrave, or whomever, actually lights the flame I'll still be holding out for a man in a long brown jacket to suddenly appear and do the deed.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Comic Strip Time Team: Operation Proteus


"I make it a habit not to interfere, but on this occasion I believe I have done well."

Writer: Gareth Roberts
Artist: Martin Geraghty
Published in DWM Issues 231-233 (1995)

TARDIS Crew: First Doctor and Susan
Chronology: Before 'An Unearthly Child'
Time & Space: Mid-1963, King's Cross, London

Story: Susan witnesses a young man's sudden transformation into a strange alien creature - which promptly dies.  Susan and the Doctor investigate and unearth a top-secret government research established beneath King's Cross station.

There, the Doctor encounters Raldonn, a stranded alien who has been taken in by the British Government and put to work on the creation of illegal chemical weapons.  However Raldonn has secretly been undertaking his own experiments, trying to create a serum that will cause humans to mutate into his own species and providing Raldonn with a co-pilot, allowing him to escape the Earth.

Raldonn releases the serum into the atmosphere and Londoners begin to mutate.  The Doctor engineers a cure to the serum and Raldonn is killed by one of the mutated creatures.

Mark's Remarks:  For a writer who is usually known for the amount of humour in his stories, this is a surprisingly humour-free offering from Gareth Roberts  That's no bad thing though as it fits in with the era of the series where the story is set as well as the First Doctor's character at this point.  While not exactly humourless, the early First Doctor was certainly more detached and distant than he would later become.  Also in keeping with this era, the Doctor is reluctant to get involved with events but is forced into action - something we'll see regularly throughout the first season on TV.

One aspect of the story that I do like is the that the villain of the piece, Raldonn, is actually quite a well-rounded character.  He's not evil for the sake of being evil but someone who is a victim of circumstance and is just doing what he can to get home.  In fact, I had more sympathy for him than I did for the Minister who had forced Raldonn to build illegal weapons for the British Government.  And I think the Doctor felt the same way.

On the whole, this is a good little story, with some nice, suitably atmospheric artwork from Martin Geraghty.  It's a strong start to our marathon although ultimately fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  Well, except for this...

...which is nice little tease for something that we'll be coming back to much, much later.

Next up: A Religious Experience

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Comic Strip Time Team: Introduction

As may be obvious from my previous post, I like comics.  Of all the comics and comic strips that I've read over the years one of my favourites has been the Doctor Who comic strip published in the Doctor Who Magazine. 

The comic strip has been running for nearly 33 years, longer than the series originally ran on TV, and I thought that it might be fun to read back through those 33 years worth of comic strips in chronological (ie Doctor) order and share my thoughts on them.  And so was born Comic Strip Time Team.  Incidentally, for those who aren't aware, I borrowed the Time Team name from a regular article in DWM which involves a group of fans watching Doctor Who in order and commenting on it.

Before I get started properly there are a few things I need to explain:

 - When the Doctor Who Magazine (then known as Doctor Who Weekly) began in 1979, the comic strip focussed on the then-current Doctor - the Fourth.  As the years went by and the Doctor regenerated the strip switched its focus to the new Doctor.  So the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors all got their periods in the lime light during the 80s and early 90s.  By the mid-90s, with the series off the air, the comic strip no longer focussed on just one Doctor but alternated between the first six Doctors.  It was at this time that the first three Doctors made their comic strip debuts and so this is where my marathon begins.  Confused? All will become clear as we go on.

 - The stips that I will be focussing on are those in Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly/Magazine from 1979 to the present as well as any strips I can find in the Specials, Yearbooks or Storybooks published during that time.  I might, in time, include the IDW comics featuring the 10th and 11th Doctors but I'll make that decision nearer the time.

 - Like the BBC, I have a few gaps in my Doctor Who archieves - in particular from the early 90s.  Hopefully most, if not all of the gaps will be filled by the time I get to them but, if not, well we may have to skip one or two stories.

 - Finally, in keeping with DWM's Time Team articles I'm going to keep track of the following stats as I go:

Number of times one of the regular characters is locked up.

Number of times one of the regulars is rendered unconcious.

Number of on-screen (or on-panel) deaths.

Well that's it.  Nothing to do now but get started.  First up: 'Operation Proteus'.   


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Marvel NOW! - Right Here, Right Now

It had to happen really.  Following DC's total relaunch of all of their titles  - well, 52 of them at least - last year, Marvel have officially confirmed that they are doing something a little bit similar.

Called Marvel NOW! (presumably the capitals and exclamation mark are significant in some way) very few actual facts seem to have been revealed, although there are plenty of rumours.  From what I can gather (and I may be wrong), Marvel are going to launch or re-launch 20 or so titles between October 2012 and February 2013.  So far three of those titles have been officially announced: 'The Uncanny Avengers' (featuring the "best of the Avengers and the best of the X-Men", another re-lauch of 'Avengers' and 'All-New X-Men' where the original X-Men travel from the past to the present and don't like what they find.

There's also going to be several changes in creative teams for various titles and one piece of promotional artwork has been released.  This artwork seems to have generated quite a lot of comment, most probably because, at the moment, it's the only visual to clue as to what we can expect come October:

I'm not usually one who's too bothered by costume re-designs as they tend not to last too long before reverting to their classic looks.  Nevertheless my immediate thoughts were:

 - I see that Wolverine has managed to by-and-large escape the redesign
 - Black seems to be the popular colour this season with Spidey, Thor and even Iron Man sporting black in their costumes.
 - Cyclops looks like Daredevil
 - Why does Thor, who is rarely seen without a hammer in his hand, need TWO swords?  Will he be gaining an extra arm at some point?

My other thought concerning the re-launch as a whole is: will this actually achieve what Marvel want?  Which is presumably a big hike in sales to rival or, preferably, outsell DC.  While I'm sure that there will be a lot of interest generated in this, I can't really see it matching the interest that was generated in the New 52.  The main reason for this is that Marvel is a company that has regularly re-launched and re-vamped its core characters and titles.  Captain America, Thor and Iron Man have all been relaunched two or three times in the last 10 years alone.  Several of the X-Men have recently been re-launched as have some of the Avengers titles.  Will one more re-launch, even with the added attraction of new costumes be that much of a big deal?  At least when DC re-lauched the likes of Action Comics last year it was the first they'd done so in over 70 years.  It actually meant something.  I'm not sure the same can be said of Marvel NOW!

That said, some of the ideas behind the titles that have already been announced sound very interesting and that alone could be enough to make me pick up a Marvel title for the first time time in about two years.  Which I suppose is what this whole thing is all about really - getting more people to read their titles.  But if Marvel are expecting the same kind of response to Marvel NOW! as the New 52 received then I think they might be disappointed.  And then it might become less a case of Marvel NOW! and more like Marvel What Do We Do NOW?