Tony stiffens his spine for The Four Doctors.
How are your shelves looking?
If you think that’s an odd question, you haven’t been on social media lately. Who-fans love their shelves. It probably started with the Target books, all lined up, rigorously chronological for the most part, with the odd maverick preferring to line up their stories by author, or those who simply didn’t have the necessary touch of OCD to be a real fan going simply Doctor as a way of declaring their more bohemian, laissez-faire credentials (and freaking out any of their fussbudget fan-friends any time they hung out). Then there’d be the annuals – did you put them all together in one semi-collection of their own, or intersperse them through the Target books? The weird little books like Terry Nation’s book of Daleks, the Doctor Who Cookbook and Knitwear guide, the slablike wonders of the Peter Haining books. Then, holy of holies, videos! And videos begat DVDs, and DVDs begat blu rays (all together, or strictly chronological?), begat audio CDs, begat action figures in a range of sizes, begat bobble heads, begat remote controlled Daleks, begat voice changers, comic-books for five Doctors, begat part-works, begat autographed art, begat an insanity of wonders that has reached a pitch where Who-fans are sharing pictures of their collections, their shelves of glory, all over the social world.
What’s the point, you wonder?
The point is that shelves are important. Even in our Kindletastic, streamaholic, vaguely ephemeral age, shelves are important to Doctor Who fans. There’s something altogether different about the feeling of possession, of ownership you get when something chunky and glorious sits on your shelf to the feeling you get from owning it in any other way. It feels like a proper part of ‘the collection’ then.
Comic-book collectors of course have a tricky conundrum when it comes to their collection, simply because of the relative flimsiness of the medium. Do you stand them all up, as you would do with books? Tricky. Do you lay them flat, one on top of the other? Mmmmaybe, but there’s a feeling of a lack of care that niggles along with the idea of them being ‘a pile,’ rather than given their proper place. Do you invest in plastic covers, as most comic-book stores do, to keep them pristine? And then oh the joys of numbering and storage.
When these two geekdoms collide, the challenge becomes quite severe. How do you handle your Who comic-books as part of your shelves?
Titan Comics regularly helps a geek out – while we’re unlikely to be able to wait for the next instalment of comic-book adventuring, and so duly buy the flimsy 30-odd page issues as soon as they’re out, every now and again, Titan puts out a ‘collected’ version, with sterner spines that can stand as part of the collection, that feel more kin to ‘books’ than they do to ‘comics.’ The collected versions are more like graphic novels, and stand on your shelves perfectly well. But every once in a while, there’s a need for something even more permanent, more memorable.
2015 was a great year to be both a Who fan and a comic-book fan. Not only did we really get into the swing of Doctor Who comic-books from Titan, we added the Ninth Doctor to the mix, then the Eighth followed (I’m still waiting for this to be extended further back the timeline – we know there are Fourth Doctor comic-books coming, but will there be Fifth, Sixth, Seventh? Be still our beating hearts, will there be First, Second and Third?). But even among the embarrassment of riches we got in 2015, one series of five comic-books stood out.
The Four Doctors, written by Paul Cornell, drawn by Neil Edwards and coloured by Ivan Nunes, was in many respects the belated Fiftieth Anniversary Special many fans had been hoping for. While I bow to no-one in my appreciation of what we actually got for the Fiftieth on-screen, you just know it would have been more fun had there been more active snark between the Doctors, a la The Three Doctors. And you equally know that the Series 8 Twelfth Doctor had exactly the kind of snark that would have really brought the whole thing to biting life. In fact, you don’t have to just know it any more, because here it is, proven for you across five issues of unadulterated joy. Cornell well and truly knows his Doctors, and gives them each the very voice you remember. What’s at least as much, the story is mad and wonderful, allowing Edwards to go to the coolest parts of town and live there – soaring edifices, weird machines, tampered timelines, pesky paradoxes, dark moments from the history of New Who, the majesty of Paris, Dalek mazes of death, a fantastic – indeed possibly the best – Ninth Doctor villain, a reinvigorated First Doctor enemy that looks better than ever and *cough, cough* ready for a comeback, and ultimately, more Doctors than you can shake a sonic stick at. To call it something special doesn’t really do it justice. It’s must-own comic-bookery.
So the truth is, you probably already own it. But now you can own it again.
No, it isn’t. I know what you’re thinking, and no, it really isn’t just a way of getting you to pay twice for something you’ve already read. The hardbacked edition (did you get that – hardbacked. Ohhh, here is my money, please take it) of The Four Doctors takes a thing of beauty and effectively dips it in chocolate. Which is to say it makes it better. Now The Four Doctors is grabbable as a five issue, unhook-the-phone, grab a beverage and revel experience that stands, proudly, on your shelf when you’re done with it, as a marker of the year that 2015 was, as a marker of Cornell’s insane and glorious imagination, of Nunes’ rich, evocative colourwork and Edwards’ dedication to filling every square inch with something interesting to look at. As a marker of your being there, and being a fan in 2015, in exactly the same way as the DVD of Terror of the Zygons stands there, or the blu ray of Spearhead From Space, or your entire Target collection, or your Peter Haining books. The hardbacked Four Doctors takes event an event comic-book and makes it a must-have book. With releases like this, Big Finish going into overdrive, and the Fourth Doctor soon joining his later incarnations in Titan comic-books, one thing appears clear about 2016.
You’re gonna need a bigger shelf.
The hardback edition of Doctor Who: Four Doctors is released Wednesday 13th January.
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