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Concluding our celebration of 500 issues of DWM, we delve into the early correspondence between the magazine and the BBC...

Back in 1979, when Doctor Who Weekly was conceived in Jadwin House, the offices of Marvel Comics, on London’s Kentish Town Road, it was a world of typewriters, Betamax videotapes and a mail service that was known to operate a ‘second post’. It was a world before emails, texting and the internet – which meant that most communication between businesses was done through letters and memos, typed onto paper using old-fashioned typewriters, and sent through a First Class postal service which cost 10p.

The correspondence between Marvel Comics and BBC Enterprises in the formative days of DWM was no different. Of course, that means that many of the physical records of various problems and conflicts still physically exist – stuffed into filing cabinets, and lying dormant for decades – not held purely in streams of binary digits, wiped in a millisecond from a hard-drive or server once they had done their job. As such, we’re able to understand some of the magazine’s extended birth pains, as the BBC and Marvel tried to establish what could and couldn’t be done with a magazine agreement built around Doctor Who.

Of course, there had been licensed BBC comic material before; the Doctor himself had been flying around the pages of TV Comic since 1964, and before that, BBC radio favourites such as Riders of the Range and PC49 had delighted the readers of the seminal boys’ comic Eagle. But these had just been a couple of pages in a wild melee of other comic characters, rather than titles devoted solely to a particular BBC show. Even when Polystyle had named a new comic after BBC1’s ill-fated action series Target in April 1978, beyond a few pages of strip based on the TV show, the bulk of the comic was made up by Hazell (from Thames), US imports such as Kojak and Charlie’s Angels, and assorted items on the pop stars of the day.

Marvel UK had been launched in 1972, allowing the American comics giant to take full control of the British reprints of Stateside material. The Mighty World of Marvel, which showcased the Incredible Hulk, kicked off the brand; this was soon followed by the likes of Spider-Man Comics Weekly. Early Doctor Who Weekly-related correspondence proudly showed the jolly green giant and the old web-head lurching across the company letterheads, emphasising what Marvel was best known for.

1974 saw the release of Planet of the Apes magazine, launched to coincide with ITV’s screening of the Fox television series derived from the acclaimed series of films. This included a few interviews and articles about the show, amidst strip reprints of the US movie adaptations and items left over from Astounding Tales or Creatures onthe Loose. More recently there had been Star Wars Weekly, offering British readers US reprints since February 1978; here Luke, Han and Leia adventured alongside the likes of Star-Lord and Adam Warlock for Marvel’s back catalogue.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

DWM 502 looks forward to the new TARDIS team of the Doctor, Bill and Nardole! Contents include exclusive interviews with showrunner Steven Moffat and with casting director Andy Pryor; artist Mike Collins shows how he created the storyboards for the 2015 series Doctor Who; the new comic strip, The Pestilent Heart by Mark Wright continues; the history of DWM with BBC Enterprises in the mag's earliest days is revealed; the Time Team watch Amy's Choice; The Fact of Fiction focuses on the 1973 Third Doctor adventure, Frontier in Space; plus prize-winning competitions, official news, reviews, previews and much, much more!