Available from www.vworpvworp.co.uk
The role in which Doctor Who Weekly and later Doctor Who Magazine has played in Who fandom is one which cannot be underestimated. In 2009 it celebrated its 30th anniversary, and this year the title becomes the longest-running official magazine based on one television show. Despite having arrived rather late in the game during the last years of the Tom Baker era it has survived Doctor changes, dwindling television ratings, a publishing collapse of Marvel UK, the two distinct stages of Who fandom’s own Wilderness Years, pre and post 1996 TV Movie, and now stands a true success story, flanked by sister publications for its spoin-off shows and a junior title. More importantly, beyond its longevity and tenacity the magazine can truly be said to have had and continue to have an influence on fandom, and even on the show. Without The Star Beast it is argued there would be no Smith and Jones. Big Finish have produced audio adventures with comic companions and villains alongside their ‘official’ television incarnations, and of course past and present letter writers and contributors to the magazine now feature in the credits of the new series. In short, DWM is one of the pillars of Doctor Who fandom – it’s a big deal, and it’s loved. Vworp Vworp, whose onomatopoeic title was coined in the magazine’s own strip, is a love letter to Doctor Who Magazine, and a better-written one you’d be hard-pressed to find.
It’s beautiful, from its alternative colour perfect-bound covers – one a collage of the magazine’s past and present cartoonists and artists featuring a Doctor apiece, the other a photo mock-up of initial strip The Iron Legion, to its irreverent letter’s page and its faithfully produced transfers stuck on the front (just like in issue one, but with Matt and Karen instead of Tom). Everything down to the retro tyopefaces and page layouts seems meticulously chosen, yet the zine is no mere facsimile. There’s room to gently mock the conventions of the early issues (a particularly bonkers ‘Letter from the Doctor’ included). Coverage-wise it tracks down a lot of the early, big names – Skinn, Bentham, Howe, Pixley, plus creative partners Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons deconstructing the opening episode of The Iron Legion, and later Adrian Salmon, Scott Gray, Martin Geraghty and Alan Barnes’ on final Eighth Doctor strip The Flood and Salmon and Barnes’ early collaboration Cybermen. The latter article’s been interesting for me to revisit that strip, at the time so revolutionary with the artwork and minimal storytelling, yet at risk of being overlooked simply becuae of its unconventional nature – having no Doctor and a plot which veered toward the surreal in places, its chances of appearing in a Panini trade paperback are slim for the mean-time. Thanks be to Vworp Vworp‘s enthusiasm then, for giving Cybermen a worthy platform. The zine’s original comic strips, Time Leech, The Master’s Life on Mars and Daryl Joyce’s Ice warrior/Silurian face-off vary as you might expect between cartoonish and highly skilful. I’m not sure which of the three I prefer, although Joyce’s is certainly the nicest to look at, it’s slight and begs for more instalments. On the other hand I’m unsure whether more episodes are intended, and to that end am reassured that Time Leech lives on through the creators’ Kasterborous site – serialised fiction of any kind is too often the abandoned child of a short-lived zine.
Not that Vworp Vworp promises to be a one-off, as the brilliant news is that its creators have a second issue in production, including a feature interview with Steve Parkhouse and look-in on The Tides of Time. With issue one being so very full of DWM‘s names, faces and stories you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s little left to cover in another issue, but in this case I’m left with no doubt that editors Colin Brocklehurst and Brian Terranova will surprise and delight us yet again.
Very highly recommended.