Friday, 22 June 2007

Present Enemy

So, the Master.

The villainous Time Lord had been almost ubiquitous in the television series since the start of 1971, but his first appearance in comic strips, in TV Action in March 1973, coincided with his last appearance on the screen. The Master would make two more comic strip appearances that year, in a Doctor Who Holiday Special which I don’t have anymore, and in the Doctor Who Annual 1974. But, by then, Roger Delgado, the actor who had brought him to life, had been killed in a car accident. The Master would not appear in the comics again until after the TV series ended.

For the TV Action story, Dick O’Neil concocted a daft but enjoyable tale in which the Master impersonates Bonnie Prince Charlie in order to lead a bunch of time-displaced Jacobite highlanders to seize a nuclear submarine. Gerry Haylock’s art really shines here, in what was, I think, his last Doctor Who strip to be run in full colour throughout.

But look at these pictures of the Master.

Notice how many of them have the right eye in shadow, just like that Radio Times cover at the top of this post. Haylock evidently had very little by way of photographic reference for Roger Delgado – a common problem for comic strip artists in the days before home video.

Steve Livesey, who drew the comic strip for the Doctor Who Annual 1974 seems to have had even less to draw on. He achieves good close-up likenesses of the Doctor, but the Master, like Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, is shown only at a distance and seems not quite right. Apparently lacking good photographs to work from, Livesey relies on strong visual signifiers to make these characters readily identifiable – the Brigadier’s uniform and moustache, and, for the Master, his widow’s peak, moustache and goatee beard.

So strong were those visual cues that when the part was eventually recast on television, Anthony Ainley was obliged to dye his hair black and wear a false beard. The same signs recurred in the Master’s most recent comic strip appearance, a solo, Doctorless, story called “Character Assassin”, in which the Master travels to the Land of Fiction to destroy Professor Moriarty. In his commentary in Panini’s reprint edition, writer Scott Gray notes of Adrian Salmon’s character designs that “the Master started off as the Delgado version, but morphed into a more iconic incarnation” pitched somewhere between Delgado and Ainley.

That strong image could be misleading. This character, from the Countdown Annual 1972 (published in 1971) is not the Master, but a mad botanist called Rayner, who is eaten by his killer plant a few pages later. Artist Jim Baikie had presumably just made use of a stereotypical set of sinister facial features.

Doctor Who Magazine has run a few other strips featuring the Master’s image over the years. In one, a cardboard stand-up is being used as a target at a UNIT training site. In another, a teacher who disapproves of Doctor Who bears a strong resemblance to Roger Delgado. The Master himself made an unambiguous appearance in “The Man in the Ion Mask”, a rather crudely drawn story about his attempt to escape from imprisonment in between the TV serials “The Daemons” and “The Sea Devils”.

“Flashback” seems to have been intended to be read as an origin story of sorts. In it, the seventh Doctor shows Benny Summerfield a holographic record of how the first Doctor fell out with a fellow Time Lord called Magnus over a cruel and potentially catastrophic experiment. Magnus is shown as arrogant and callous, but perhaps not yet irredeemably evil – symbolised by the fact that he has grown a moustache, but not yet a goatee!

Of course, the last three television Masters – Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi and John Simm – have been beardless. Doctor Who Magazine’s eighth Doctor stories “The Fallen” and “The Glorious Dead” featured a version of the Master who was not only beardless, but bald, after another bout of body-hopping (in the same way that he had absorbed the forms of Nyssa’s father Tremas in “The Keeper of Traken” and a human ambulance driver in the TV Movie). This version of the Master applied for the soon-to-be-vacant post of God, but lost out to another applicant.

And what of the John Simm version? We shall see over the next two weeks if there is room for him to cross over into the comics. Even without a beard.

Pictures and panels

Radio Times cover, 2-8 January 1971, taken from The Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Doctor Who “The Glen of Sleeping” by Dick O’Neil (writer) and Gerry Haylock (artist), TV Action issues 107-111, 3 March – 31 March 1973, Polystyle Publications, reprinted in Doctor Who Classic Comics issue 20, 25 May 1994, Marvel Comics UK

Doctor Who “The Time Thief”, art by Steve Livesey, Doctor Who Annual 1974, World Distributors, 1973

“Character Assassin” by Scott Gray (writer), Adrian Salmon (artist), Roger Langridge (letterer), Alan Barnes & Clayton Hickman (editors), Doctor Who Magazine issue 311, reprinted in Doctor Who: Oblivion, Panini Books, 2006

Doctor Who, art by Jim Baikie, Countdown Annual 1972, Polystyle Publications, 1971

Doctor Who “The Man in the Ion Mask”, script by Dan Abnett, art by Brian Williamson, letters by Helen Stone, editor John Freeman, Doctor Who Magazine Winter Special, Marvel Comics UK, 1991

Doctor Who “Flashback”, by Warwick Gray (script), John Ridgway (art), Alan O’Keefe (letters), Gary Russell (editor) Doctor Who Magazine Winter Special, Marvel Comics UK, 1992

Doctor Who “The Glorious Dead” part 10, by Scott Gray (story), Martin Geraghty (pencil art), Robin Smith (inks), Roger Langridge (lettering), Gary Gillatt & Alan Barnes (editors), Doctor Who Magazine issue 296, reprinted in Doctor Who: The Glorious Dead, Panini Books, 2006

1 comment:

Sean Kleefeld said...

As far as I'm concerned, you're not really evil unless you have a goatee! :)

I'm not sure which is more frustrating: that so many of these great-looking Doctor stories haven't made it over the Atlantic or that the last new Master we've seen over here was Eric Roberts. Season Three doesn't start over here for another two weeks, and it'll be another month after that before I can even think about tracking down some of these great comics you keep talking about!

Where's my tissue compression eliminator...?