Tony the Tigger welcomes Number 8 to the comic-book world.
For all the charm of his Byronic looks, the Eighth Doctor, both on TV and throughout his life so far in Big Finish audio is more akin to Tigger from Winnie The Pooh than he is to the moody poet. His enthusiasm knows no bounds, and he’s perhaps more likely to be bouncing off the walls in mere childlike joy than most of his Classic era predecessors. So what you need if you’re going to transpose him into two dimensions and give him comic-book life is to get that bounce right, that sense of living and thinking on the balls of his feet and the edge of enthusiasm, just waiting to bounce over the line.
Step forward George Mann, writer of, among others, Engines of War featuring the War Doctor, and a recent foray into the world of the Twelfth Doctor with Issue #11 of his comic-book series. Mann’s no slouch in capturing the essence of respective Doctors then, so it shouldn’t surprise you when we report than issue #1 of the Eighth Doctor comic-book is bouncy. Bouncy as all get-out. From the Doctor’s arrival at his home (yes, you read that right), the bounce of the Eighth Doctor is faithfully reproduced, as he bustles a new friend, Josie (Josephine Day – blue eyes, blue and pink hair, artist) into helping him find his copy of Jane Eyre (a neat reference as the Twelfth Doctor met Bronte and helped inspire the book in Mann’s recent comic). As it happens, Josie’s in the Welsh cottage the Doctor calls home to get some peace and quiet to work on her art, which has recently become popular with the locals. Art that depicts strange creatures, including reptilian men from Mars, silver giants with handles on their heads and blank staring eyes, life forms with big pointy crystals for heads, and more besides (including one that looks distinctly like the creature from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Encounter At Farpoint, just saying).
Things get quickly out of hand when it turns out these monstrous creations have stepped out of their paintings and are herding the villagers towards the village green. It takes the Eighth Doctor’s innate ability to make fast friends, and Josie, in a one-shot that serves as her audition for us, figuring out what she needs to do, to bring the sudden bout of chaos to an end. Pleasingly though, while the peril is short, sharp and contained, as you need in a launch issue one-shot, it by no means neglects its duty to provide us with curiosity-hooks to lead us on. Firstly, the reason the Doctor was looking for his copy of Jane Eyre is because it contains a To-Do List written by…someone – probably, but not necessarily, one of his other selves (though not, we’re assured, the one with a taste for velvet and frills), and when the Doctor and Josie decide to go off together at the end, it’s to check out what the list entails. Then of course there’s the question of how an – as far as we know – ordinary Earth artist comes to be painting Ice Warriors, Cybermen, Krotons and more, though ultimately, that probably has something to do with a spare telepathic circuit that the Third Doctor left laying around the place the last time he was there.
So – storywise then, a great beginning for the Eighth Doctor in comic-books, with Mann absolutely capturing the essence of his puppy dog enthusiasm for the universe, and giving us a new companion to add to Eight’s formidable list, who has a bit of Sarah-Janeish gumption and a bit of Amy Pondlike modern spirit to her, and as such could do very well alongside the Eighth Doctor’s boundless energy and nose for mysteries. If you want to keep within the Eighth Doctor’s timeline, on the evidence of this first issue, you could say Josie’s what happens if you smash Charley Pollard and Lucie Bleedin’ Miller together. There’s not a universe anywhere in all the multiplicity of dimensions where doing such a thing gives you a bad result on any level.
When it comes to the artwork, there’s a less exactly on-the-nose approach in Emma Vieceli’s work. More than anything, Vieceli evokes the great DC and Marvel superhero comic-books of the seventies, with faces and bodies that are more impressionistic than photo-realistic, backgrounds that are more notional than highly detailed, with more than just occasional panels showing a simply coloured background wiping out the actual background, or a coloured background with rows of dots to give a sense of the world only really being composed of the speakers, so as not to overstimulate the brain and to focus the reader on what’s being said. It’s a style the delivers good speedy storytelling – necessary with a Doctor like McGann’s – but it does lead to several panels where, but for the fact that he’s wearing the costume (the Night of the Doctor costume, incidentally – the comic-book picks up at a point some time after the Eighth Doctor’s entanglements with Molly O’Sullivan in the Dark Eyes stories. If this means nothing to you, don’t panic: it’s a Big Finish thing), you’d never point him out and go ‘That’s the Eighth Doctor.’ Still, there are at least eight or nine panels when you would definitively be able to point him out in a line-up of men in strange outfits, which given that we’re into year two of the Tenth Doctor comics and there’s still a great variability of success in terms of capturing David Tennant’s face, is by no means a bad start. The art – aided and abetted by a mostly pastel colour palette from Hi-Fi – never overpowers Mann’s storytelling here, but it does push it along with enough commitment to setting and character to translate the energy of Mann’s words into a visual landscape that’s familiar to us and that promises adventure.
If you’re looking for the headline, it’s this: don’t just run out and buy The Eighth Doctor #1.
Get your Tigger on and bounce out instead – it’s what the Eighth Doctor would want.
The Eighth Doctor #1 is released Wednesday November 4th. View all the variant covers and an advance art preview here.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk