Having just reviewed volume 2
, it felt wrong not to go back and look at volume 1 too. It's a lighter magazine, but still richly packed with material and a fun read.
Firstly, it's paying homage to Doctor Who Weekly's format, in a way that only another magazine could do. There are front cover transfers and just inside a colour splash page on which to stick them. There's a Who Cares letters page, a Collectors' Corner and a Doctor Who Photo-File of Dez Skinn. There's even a Letter From The Doctor. It's rather wonderful, actually, and twice as nice because they didn't try to repeat the same trick for volume 2
. You'll see loving use of the correct fonts, designs and even paper colour. (Vworp Vworp! uses far better paper though, with volume 1 in particular being printed on such paper of such quality that its strength is almost that of card.)
One thing this demonstrates, incidentally, is that the Weekly's Photo-File was a great format. I love it. Nice big photo of the celebrity in question, bullet-point run-down of their CV and achievements... it's bloody good. It's space-hogging, yes, but I think more magazines should use it.
The magazine's content is less ambitious than volume 2
would be, which isn't surprising. Everyone (rightly) went apeshit for this first issue, after which volume 2
had far greater expectations, had twice as much content and lots of famous names doing the comic strips. Nevertheless volume 1 has:
(a) an interview with Dez Skinn, the father and first editor of Doctor Who Weekly
(b) a retrospective from Jeremy Bentham
(c) lots of childhood memories from famous names, talking about Doctor Who Weekly and what it meant to them. These are fine and I understand why they're here, but I don't feel the need to reread them.
(d) a look at The Iron Legion, with original script pages and interviews with Dave Gibbons and Pat Mills. For many people, on many days including myself, this is going to be easily the highlight of the magazine.
(e) Alan Barnes, Adrian Salmon and Gary Russell talking about their rather odd and indubitably unique back-up strip, The Cybermen. For the first time anywhere they print Adrian Salmon's sample first page for DWM, followed by a fully painted two-page strip in the same storytelling style called Clash of Empires, by Daryl Joyce. This is about Ice Warriors vs. Silurians and it looks simply gorgeous, although page two in my copy is too dark.
I love their choice of The Cybermen to focus on, by the way. The other two strips they look at in this issue are mainstream options, but The Cybermen was mad as a bag of frogs and for DWM readers at the time, then unfamiliar with Adrian Salmon, looked like nothing on God's green earth. It's often barely coherent, has an off-the-wall ending and is hence a wonderful thing to talk about. For what it's worth, personally I admire it.
(f) a detailed look at DWM's final McGann strip, The Flood, which if nothing else bookends The Iron Legion. One began an era, while the other ended another one. However this isn't merely a set of interviews that happens to touch on The Flood sometimes, but instead a detailed look at this specific story, complete with original script pages, roughs, pencil art and the finished pages. For example they discuss their redesign of the Cybermen, which in hindsight is both radical and interesting, not to mention still oddly the only time to date that this has been done in the comics. (Lee Sullivan tweaked them for Gary Russell's Dreadnought in Radio Times, but nothing on this scale.)
Oh, and there's also a reprint of Adrian Salmon's Black Scrolls #8 cover, with The Flood's Cybermen.
(g) the comedians... Tim Quinn, Dicky Howett, Nick Miller, Roger Langridge, Ben Willsher, Kev F. Sutherland, Steve Noble, Leighton Noyes and Baxter Sullivan. Remember them? This was one of my favourite bits of this issue of Vworp Vworp!, actually. If you're looking for unsung heroes of DWM, you couldn't get more unsung than the humour snippets that appeared here and there... but I used to love those guys. Quinn and Howett were wonderful and I have two of their collections sitting beside me as I type this, as it happens. People like Langridge and Willsher do some of the most strong, characterful work we've seen in the magazine and it shouldn't matter whether or not it was attachd to a plot with speech balloons.
That's the prose. Now for the comic strips.
As in volume 2
, there are three of these. I've already looked at Clash of Empires, but the other two are Time Leech part one (Christian Cawley, Justin Abbot) and The Master's Life on Mars (Gareth Kavenagh, John Daiker).
Time Leech part one's artwork is full of character, if not even caricature, and rather beautifully painted. The new companion, Ruth, also has big boobs and a possible double entendre on the last panel of page five. (These are all good things.) The story's a pleasant 9-page runaround with Tennant's Doctor, which involves mashed-up timezones, a blob of snot that could swallow St Paul's Cathedral and a cameo for a Silurian with a sword. It's fine. I quite liked it. However unfortunately it ends on a sort of cliffhanger and the next episode isn't in volume 2
. To be fair, all the episodes are available on the Kasterborous website and as a collected charity edition which I've reviewed separately, but even so I'd like to see the remaining episodes reprinted in Vworp Vworp! too. It seems only fair after having run part one, even if the TV show's moved on from Tennant.
The Master's Life on Mars (ten pages) though is more cartoonish, being a comedy strip. It's amusing rather than hilarious, but it's got good momentum and some reasonable gags. (I was slightly surprised they didn't look for comedy by dumping Simm into Pertwee-era stories, but I suppose that was the obvious option and they've got plenty of alternative ideas.) It's entertaining. In addition though I found it interesting to see a comic strip version of John Simm's Master, despite this being a comedic one. He's less visually identifiable than his predecessors, but his personality has a completely different energy to any of them and he's actually a lot of fun.
Curiously also it's a Master story following Last of the Time Lords that came out in the same month as The End of Time. I have a feeling it might have worked better in black-and-white, though.
Overall, a more lightweight read than volume 2
, but that's in no way a criticism. It's still an invaluable work of fan scholarship, breaking new ground in its examination of an unexplored side of Doctor Who's history. Also, crucially, it's the first issue. Part one of anything is always the most important and Vworp Vworp! began with style, charm and an impressive attention to detail. Fans rightly went berserk for it.