HOLY FLAMING MOTHER OF FUCK.
...in a good way. And a flabbergasted way.
It's over 200 pages long, looks professional-quality and it's full of amazing stuff. There's an audio adaptation of a David Whitaker 1960s Dalek comic strip given away as a CD on the front cover. It's so lavishly produced that it'll probably be the most impressive Who-related non-fiction publication you'll have bought in years, despite being "only" a fanzine. It's got interviews which are great because you won't have known these people even existed, but also interviews with people who are world-famous (Alan Moore).
Conflict-of-interest disclosure: I'm in it, but only a little bit and I've decided it's okay for me to review it anyway.
The first thing you'll boggle at is its size. How could anyone do all that? (Unpaid?) Answer: it took five years. Seen in that light, actually, its length, depth and density become reasonable. It's like a collected volume of five 40-page collections, each of which would in itself have been pretty gobsmacking.
The second thing you'll boggle at, though, is the list of interviewees and contributors. They have Alan Moore. They have an article on TV21 by Stephen Baxter, award-winning author of The Time Ships and many other SF books. Yes, an article. Not an interview. It's quite a long article, too. Yes, he did write a Troughton BBC novel in 2012, but again this is someone who's much bigger than his Who connection. Horror author Stephen Laws has no Who connection at all beyond writing a foreword for a Telos novella, but he's here too. There are original (and presumably unpaid) comic strips from Lee Sullivan, John Peel, Tim Quinn, Daniel O'Mahony, Charlie Kirchoff and more. I hadn't heard of Baz Renshaw, for instance, but his art's fantastic and apparently he's been both the creator and editor-in-chief for a number of British independent comics and comics collectives. There are interviews with people like Lee Sullivan, Gary Russell, Clayton Hickman and other people who've been involved in Doctor Who for decades but don't tend to get interviewed because they weren't on the telly. I found those fascinating.
The list of names goes on forever. Colin Baker, David Lloyd, John Stokes, Matthew Waterhouse, John M. Burns, Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Paul Cornell... all these people contributed to this issue. Personally I'd guess that it's a combination of: (a) people saying "yes", and (b) love for Vworp Vworp. Doctor Who fans have been blown away, of course, but they've been making lots of friends in the comics world too. They impressed Steve Moore and he introduced them to Alan Moore.
What makes this unique, though, is the people you haven't heard of. Peter Maddocks, JL Morrissey, Jack Fishman, Brad Ashton, Arnold Schwartzman, Peter Archer, Mary Gernat... these people all contributed to Doctor Who. I now want to read Maddocks's Hartnell episodes of Four D. Jones. Could a future issue of Vworp Vworp reprint them, perhaps? It's possible to buy, say, the 1974 COR!! annual on Ebay if you're a comics freak who likes chasing up even obscure Who connections, but 1950s-60s newspaper cartoons from the Daily Express must surely now be unavailable in their original state.
They analyse TV21 exhaustively. They look at Target illustrators. It feels like a window into the past, especially since the magazine includes articles on 1960s Dalekmania and similarities between real history (especially World War Two) and the Dalek annuals. All this is great, with articles talking in detail about a world and a comics industry that no longer exists.
They continue their study of Abslom Daak. He's become a regular in Titan Comics' 11th Doctor line since Vworp Vworp issue 2, so of course that's covered too. They do the Dalek annuals (both the 1960s and 1970s ones) and adapt one of their stories for the free audio play on the cover, starring David Graham (who voiced Daleks throughout the Hartnell era) and Sasha Mitchell (the female one from the Ruth Rendell Mysteries, not the male one from Dallas). If this hadn't been a fanzine, someone would have been having fun negotiating all this with the Nation Estate.
We even get the unpublished first page of the original eight-page version of Up Above the Gods (DWM 227), which I've been wanting to see for years.
Then we have the original comic strips, all written by someone who'd written before for Who. Their artists aren't to be sniffed at either, though.
1. The Woman Who Killed the Doctor is the longest of them and the most intricately concerned with Doctor Who itself. I'm not sure it makes much sense, but then again making sense is something it's explicitly rejecting. "Timey-wimey." (Imagine a Doctor Who version of Kind Hearts and Coronets.)
2. Robot Agent 2K is a quick two-pager and the first of two TV21 sequels, with a cameo for the Cushing Doctor. It's the most cartoonish in art style, but that's not a bad thing.
3. Deadline to Doomsday is a posthumous collaboration between TV21 legend Ron Turner (pp.1-2) and Lee Sullivan (pp.3-7), who comes across here as one of the very few artists who could follow him. Charlie Kirchoff's colours knock it out of the park in selling the transition. The script is perhaps a little too dense, but it has a cool twist and I prefer it to the first Lawrence/Turner TV21 sequel in DWM 249-254. To give a bit of background, by the way, this had been going to be published in DWM as their second TV21 sequel story by the original artist. Unfortunately Ron Turner died after painting its first two pages. That was in 1999. DWM published them in DWM 276, unlettered, but eighteen years later the story's now been completed. It's still by the original writer, too, who'd also been Ron Turner's agent.
4. The Lawman has the slenderest Who connection, but might also be my favourite of these four strips. It's by John Peel, author of some Doctor Who novels of mixed reception, but he's channelling his rather good DWM back-up strips from 1981-2. I was also blown away by Baz Renshaw's art, which is unlike anything you'll have seen before in Who-related comics.
In short, this fanzine is unique. Buy it.