As well as its ‘serious’ comic strip, Doctor Who Magazine has a longstanding tradition of featuring a regular, newspaper-style ‘funny’ strip, usually positioned on its contents or letters page.
Perhaps the most famous of these was ‘Doctor Who?’, written by Tim Quinn and drawn by Dicky Howett, which ran for over a decade in the 80s and 90s
Quinn and Howett are, by any standards, a comics phenomenon. Between them, they have worked for Marvel UK, IPC and DC Thomson. Writer Ian Wheeler asked then what were their early influences?
‘Stan Lee, Dudley Watkins and Leo Baxendale’, recalls Tim. ‘They got me even before I could read and have remained an influence across the years.’ With Dicky it was ‘Eagle, Dan Dare and the peerless Frank Hampson. I tried to be like Frank, a real comic artist. As you can tell, I fully succeeded.’
Both men have lead eclectic lives to say the least. Dicky worked at the BBC in the sixties and got to see some of the William Hartnell episodes being recorded. Tim, on the other hand, joined the circus and became a clown. Does he ever wish he’d stuck with that career?
‘You must be f***ing joking! After one season at Blackpool Tower Circus I realised I didn’t have whatever the heck it is that makes a clown tick. I was no Coco, Chaplin, Laurel or Cairoli… geniuses all.’
Tim hails from that most creative of cities, Liverpool. Why does he think the city is such a hotbed of talent?
‘A great question that has no answer ‘cos nobody knows. The Arts have always been big down the Pool. That’s part of it; everything from music, drama, illustration, dance, and Uncle Tom Cobbley an’ all. Something in the water. I can only compare it to New York for the buzz.’
I asked the two men what their ‘big break’ was in the comics industry. Tim first: ‘Probably drawing a comic
strip on my bedroom wall with a stick of charcoal when I was two and three quarters. Five pictures and
they told a story that was recognisable as a story. It’s been downhill ever since.’ And Dicky? ‘Dear old Bob we’ve got to be careful’ Paynter (Group Editor of IPC humour comics). Bob plucked me from the ‘singles’ cartoon market – magazines and newspapers – and propelled me onto a totally unfamiliar path. It was thus, downhill all the way.’
In their ‘Doctor Who?’ strip, Tim and Dicky had to tell a story within two or three frames. Looking back, what do they think were the key ingredients of a really classic strip?
‘The key ingredient is the deadline,’ says Tim. ‘And our love of Doctor Who. I think that shines through in
even the silliest strips.’ Dicky lists three ingredients: ‘One: Doctor Who. Two: Two or three frames. Three: Funny. Oh, and the writing – I think Tim would agree!’
Why do they think Doctor Who continues to be such a popular TV show so many years after it started? Tim is philosophical: ‘Tis as coolio a concept as you can cook up. Who doesn’t want to escape into everything and everywhere. Totally timeless.’
‘The show manages to overcome the budget and the BBC,’ offers Dicky. ‘Two plus points I think…’
Tim and Dicky both remain busy today. Dicky’s company Golden Age Television Recreations leases antique film and video cameras to film and television productions. He worked on An Adventure in Space and Time, the 2013 drama about the origins of Doctor Who. ‘Mark Gatiss wrote the drama – he’s a fan of our ‘Doctor Who?’ strip. My company installed all the ‘TV studio’ equipment and I appeared in several scenes manning one of my cameras. It was a golden week at Wimbledon Studios in South London, and I met two of the original cast – Carol Ann Ford and William Russell. I worked last year with the mighty Tom Baker. I filmed a few scenes with him and K9 for insertion in the Shada DVD reissue.’
Tim continues to be involved in the comics industry and often visits schools, doing sterling work getting youngsters involved in the genre. What advice can he offer to budding writers and artists? ‘Don’t listen to anyone giving advice. Be original. Find your own voice and style. Enjoy.’
Writer and artist, Tim Quinn & Dicky Howett, met up in the Seventies and went on a rampage across the comic book world with their wacky strips and cartoons. Signing on with Marvel Comics, they brought British style humour to the famed Marvel Universe with strips involving all of the comic book giant’s greatest super-heroes. This book captures the best of their work with Marvel and other companies in the UK and US from the Seventies to the Nineties.
Also featured are Quinn & Howett’s memories, photos and memorabilia from this heady time period. EXTRA SPECIAL FEATURE #1 A poem specially written by Stan Lee never-seen-before on ‘How To Be a Super-Hero’.
Also featuring early work with Quinn from Comic Book Greats
John Burns (JUDGE DREDD) , Charlie (‘Walking Dead’) Adlard,
Sal Buscema (SPIDER-MAN/HULK/ AVENGERS ) ,
Mario Capaldi (TRANSFORMERS),
Russ Leach (DRAW THE MARVEL WAY), Martin Asbury (GARTH)
George Sears (TIM TYME) and Steve Parkhouse (DOCTOR WHO )