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American Dreams

Ten years ago a distinctive range of Doctor Who comics began a journey into unchartered territory. This is the story of how IDW boldly went where no comic publisher had gone before…
The debut appearance of the Tenth Doctor and Martha in IDW’s first Doctor Who comic, published in the US in February 2008. Art by Nick Roche.
The TARDIS in flight from issue one. Art by Nick Roche.

First announced at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con, a series of comics published between 2008 and 2013 marked an important milestone in Doctor Who’s history. This was a new take on Doctor Who, in a version created primarily for a US audience.

The first of IDW Publishing’s Doctor Who comics appeared in February 2008. Written by former Doctor Who Magazine editor Gary Russell, it served as something of an introduction for readers unfamiliar with the television series. The story opens with a lengthy explanation of Gallifrey and the Time Lords (“Learned and responsible, they observed the universe”), and even goes on to explain the blue box our heroes inhabit: “This is the exterior of the TARDIS. An infinitely battered exo-shell that looks like a 1950s police box. Police box? Don’t ask…”

The comic proved popular, but behind the scenes there were already problems. Nick Roche had been announced as drawing the entire six-part miniseries that opened IDW’s run, but he left the project before completing the first issue. This left Joe Phillips to fill in the gaps, resulting in some noticeable shifts in style between pages. The rest of the miniseries (later collected as Agent Provocateur) was similarly troubled, with its remaining five issues crediting seven different artists and colourists, along with three editors – Chris Ryall, Scott Dunbier and Denton Tipton.

Despite these teething problems, IDW continued with a second original miniseries later in 2008. This saw Denton Tipton taking over as editor for the entire Doctor Who line, as well as the first appearance of a writer who would help define much of what that line became.

Tony Lee was best known to Doctor Who fans for writing F.A.Q., a Doctor Who Magazine strip edited by Clayton Hickman, which ran in 2006 from issues 369 to 371.

“IDW asked me to submit three or four pitches,” says Tony. “One of them was so dull I can’t even remember… it was ‘The Doctor goes to the dentist’, or something. One of them was the story that later became [2009 comic story] Silver Scream. And the third was this absolutely crazy thing: ‘How about we have all the Doctors together, solving some big mystery?’ I thought there was no way they were going to pick that one. Then I got a phone call a week later saying, ‘Yes, we love the idea of having all the Doctors together – off you go.’ I was thrilled, because I never thought I’d get away with it!”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

• In his Production Notes showrunner Chris Chibnall recalls recording the Thirteenth Doctor's special reveal scene last July • 40 years on from his Doctor Who debut, we pay tribute to Douglas Adams, “the greatest writer ever to have turned his genius to Doctor Who” • A look at Douglas Adams' notebooks reveal more about his creative process • Peter Purves answers questions from DWM's TARDIS tin • A blast from the past as DWM investigats the Sky Ray ice lollies which were enjoyed by Doctor Who fans in the summers of 1967 and 68 • The story of IDW's distinctive range of Doctor Who comics in America • DWM chats to graphic designer Lee Binding about the packaging for the Season 12 Blu-ray box set • Part Five of The Clockwise War, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • The Time Team tackles three of Doctor Who's most controversial and complained-about episodes • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2017 Twelfth Doctor story Empress of Mars • Seventh Doctor cosplay with Jamie Lenman • Previews, audio reviews, news, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!