Doctor Who Graphic Novels #23: The Highgate Horror

By Mark Wright, Jonathan Morris, Steve Lyons, Roger Langridge, Jacqueline Rayner, Scott Gray, David A. Roach, Mike Collins, John Ross, Adrian Salmon, Martin Geraghty, Dave Gibbons, John Ridgway, Dan McDaid & various (Panini Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-749-3

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Timeless Tradition… 9/10

The British love comic strips and they love celebrity and they love “Odd Characters.”

The history of our graphic narrative has a peculiarly disproportionate amount of radio comedians, stars of theatre, film and TV: folk like Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Askey, Winifred Atwell, Max Bygraves, Charlie Drake and their ilk, as well as actual shows and properties such as Whacko!, ITMA, Our Gang, (a British version of the Hal Roach film sensation by Dudley Watkins in The Dandy as well as the American comicbook series by Walt Kelly), Old Mother Riley, Supercar, Pinky & Perky and literally hundreds more.

Anthology variety comics such as Radio Fun, Film Fun, TV Fun, Look-In, TV Tornado, TV Comic and Countdown amongst others translated our viewing and listening favourites into pictorial escapism every week, and it was a pretty poor lead or show which couldn’t parley the screen job into a licensed comic property.

Television’s Doctor Who premiered with part one of ‘An Unearthly Child’ on November 23rd 1963, and the following year a decades-long association with TV Comic began in issue #674 and the first instalment of ‘The Klepton Parasites’.

On 11th October 1979 (although, adhering to US off-sale cover-dating system, it says 17th) Marvel’s UK subsidiary launched Doctor Who Weekly, which regenerated into a monthly magazine in September 1980 (#44), efficiently entitled Doctor Who Monthly. It has been with us through various title-changes ever since. All of which only goes to prove that the Time Lord is a comic hero with an impressive pedigree and big shoes to fill.

Panini’s ongoing process of collecting every strip from the prodigious annals and archives in a uniform series of over-sized graphic albums – each concentrating on a particular incarnation of the deathless wanderer – reaches its twenty-third volume here as the Twelfth Doctor returns in another (inter)stellar line-up of comic strip sagas.

This particular tome gathers stories from DWM #484 and #489-500; spanning March 2015 to July 2016; starring Peter Capaldi’s irascible old chrononaut and his saucy sidekick Impossible Girl Clara Oswald in unforgettable action across the universe and every Elsewhen imaginable.

The adventures of the Grumpy Gallifreyan are – as always – described and delineated by a rapidly rotating roster of British creators who also provide a treasure-trove of background information in the Commentary section at the back, comprising story-by-story background, history and insights from the authors and illustrators, supplemented by scads of sketches, roughs, designs, production art and photos.

None of which is relevant if all you want is a darn good read. However all the imagineers involved have managed the ultimate task of any artisan – to produce engaging, thrilling, fun work which can be enjoyed equally by the merest beginner and the most slavishly dedicated and opinionated fans imaginable.

That feast of fun – coloured throughout by James Offredi and lettered by the multi-talented Roger Langridge – opens with ‘Space Invaders!’ by Mark Wright, Mike Collins & David A. Roach as The Doctor and Clara fetch up at an orbiting storage facility just as the owners start their latest sell-off of unclaimed items. Sadly, the time-travellers are not quite quick enough to stop the avid bargain-hunters opening a container full of just hatched planet-eating monster eggs…

Following smart social satire is a multi-part action romp. ‘Spirits of the Jungle’ by Jonathan Morris & John Ross sees our heroes joining an extraction mission to recover lethal intelligent weapons-tech before apparently walking into trap on a planet where the forests have their own definition of World Wide Web…

Gothic horror and vintage thrills permeate Wright, Roach & Collins’ superb chiller ‘The Highgate Horror’ wherein Clara, her immortal straight man and neophyte Companion Jess Collins hunt vampires and satanic covens in a 1970s London cemetery and instead encounter a race of ancient predators who want far worse than mere blood…

As conceived and realised by Steve Lyons & Adrian Salmon, ‘The Dragon Lord’ was a radical activist attempting to save magnificent saurians from human fun-seekers who hunted them for sport on a medieval-themed fantasy resort world. By the time our wandering troubleshooters turn up however, things have turned decidedly bloody and it looks like nobody is getting out alive…

Roger Langridge then offers an all-him treat as Harry Houdini sends out a distress call and old pal The Doctor dutifully answers. Sometimes even fakers and charlatans have power and really resent being de-bunked by upstart human escapologists playing in the ‘Theatre of the Mind’

A new time-bending miscreant debuts in Jacqueline Rayner, Martin Geraghty & Roach’s epic tale of persecution and justice as temporal prankster Miss Chief infiltrates Clara’s workspace. After causing havoc at Coal Hill School the trickster drops Miss Oswald in the vicious clutches of Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, leaving The Doctor to either participate in a time duel or somehow search the entire 17th century for his missing school chum in a ‘Witch Hunt’ with potentially fatal and final consequences…

Our temporal tintinnabulations conclude with a splendidly appropriate anniversary party get-together of old friends and foes that will delight long-tern fans without baffling newbies or casual readers.

Written by editor Scott Gray, ‘The Stockbridge Showdown’ returns The Doctor to the alien-beleaguered British village just as cosmic corporate conqueror Josiah W. Dogbolter thinks he’s finally leveraged the keys to time itself.

As the universe nears a shocking “Going Out of Business” sale, the wily Gallifreyan and many allies from the past 500 issues unite to teach the richest man in creation the paucity of his resources and the lesson of his life in a tale crafted by artists past and current, including Dave Gibbons, Langridge, Salmon, Dan McDaid, Ross, Collins, John Ridgway, Geraghty and Roach…

This is another marvellous book for casual readers, a fine shelf-addition for dedicated fans of the show and a perfect opportunity to cross-promote our particular art-form to anyone minded to give comics one more go…
All Doctor Who material © BBCtv. Doctor Who, the Tardis and all logos are trademarks of the British Broadcasting Corporation and are used under licence. Licensed by BBC Worldwide. Tardis image © BBC 1963. Daleks © Terry Nation. All commentaries © 2016 their respective authors. Published 2013 by Panini UK Ltd. All rights reserved.