Pretty much every Tom, Dick and Harry Sullivan has been writing reviews of the Doctor Who Experience at Earl’s Court. What not quite so many people have been talking about, which is a great shame, is a much smaller (and less interactive) Doctor Who exhibit at London’s Cartoon Museum (www.cartoonmuseum.com). Admittedly it’s probably mostly of interest to slightly more dedicated Doctor Who fans (though they have tried to put various things out for younger fans to draw on) but it’s certainly a half hour or so that you really should try and see before the end of the month (when it closes).
The comic strip has always been something that I’ve always been exceptionally fond of and it’s the first part of Doctor Who Magazine that I turn to. So the chance to see a wide selection of original artwork is something that I really didn’t want to miss. I collect the original artwork myself but I’ve only got a selection from rather a “narrow” era (mostly sixth and seventh Doctor strips) so, for me, this was a chance to expand my horizons and see far more. And there’s a lot more to see than I was expecting. Apart from the staggeringly good Lee Sullivan artwork that forms the first wall of the display (a Usual Style line up of twelve Doctors, including Peter Cushing) there’s something from every Doctor and a lot more than just comic strips. The first Doctor has, for me, one of the highlights of the exhibition. Coming from the first annual, there’s a black and white piece of artwork of William Hartnell standing on an alien world. If you’ve got the annual then you should know the piece but you will only have seen the colour version that they printed. The exhibition has the original black and white version and it’s so much more detailed than the rather vibrantly over coloured version you’ll be used to. Admittedly the sixties isn’t represented hugely (which is hardly surprising, I’m surprised they have any originals at all) but there is also a panel from Road to Conflict, one of the dalek only strips of the era.
The seventies is really where the exhibition picks up the story, there’s a cover panel from the third Doctor story “Steel Fist”, artwork from the Doctor Who Omnibus (including the rather striking Genesis of the Daleks piece) and also examples of the Radio Times illustrations that accompanied the stories. I really wasn’t expecting to see these as I’d been expecting pure comic strip material so the chance to see Radio Times material I’d not seen (such as The Daemons) was an unexpected bonus. There are a few Tom Baker pieces from the pre-Marvel days along with some of the comic strip material from the annuals (oh the days of the “can you guess who it’s meant to be” artwork, how I miss them). Reaching the end of the seventies and you get to the Dave Gibbons days of Doctor Who Weekly. City of the Damned, The Time Witch, Dragon’s Claw… the glory days of four or five page instalments are there on the wall for all to see. Moving along to the eighties and you get a selection from the Davison years with Tides of Time being the highlight (it would have been very difficult to do comic strips without something from this magnificent tale). I have to admit that as the 80s and early 90s are where most of my own collection comes from I moved through that section quite quickly but it’s an era that lots of fans are very fond of.
It’s not just Marvel in the 90s. Presented as part of the exhibition are frames from the Radio Times comic strip sitting alongside eighth Doctor material from The Flood, The Autonomy Bug and also some double page spreads from The Glorious Dead (amongst others). Also appearing at this end of the exhibit are pieces of artwork that were used to publicise Big Finish audio releases along with the “Past Doctor” strips that Marvel ran once they stopped using the seventh Doctor. What you also get to see are comparisons of the black and white artwork along with the colourised versions that got published. This is even more interesting when you get to the “modern” Doctors (nine onwards) where the strips were published in colour and the black and white artwork will have been unseen by pretty much everyone. There’s also artwork that accompanied stories from the annuals of the new millennium and a cover from the Vworp Vworp fanzine.
Okay, space wise, the exhibition doesn’t take up masses of floor space but there’s a hundred or so works on display from the very start of Who to the most up to date eleventh Doctor stories. There are well written captions for all the works and then there’s also the reset of the museum, a room of political satire and an upper storey (with a kids’ room) of generalised comic strip artwork from Dan Dare to Dennis the Menace. It’s a small museum but it deserves a visit, if enough people go then they might get to do another one in time to introduce Doctor number twelve, whenever that might be.