Gareth Kavanagh, Vworp Vworp!‘s publisher and one of its driving forces (alongside Colin Brockhurst), wanted me to do an alternate cover for Vworp Vworp! #3 based on our mutual favourite Dr Who Weekly back-up strip, Black Legacy by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. I have a general rule that I don’t work for fanzines because I think they should be an opportunity for amateur artists to get a public platform (though the Internet has superseded that). However, I’ve known Gareth for more than 20 years as a collector of my work and, more importantly, a close friend. Many is the time we’ve talked late into the night of the merits of those monster strips hidden away like some dark secret in the back of the comic. Whilst the Doctor took centre stage opening the comic, the Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Yeti, Silurians, and Zygons benefited from the abilities of some of the 1970s finest creators.
My cover was to be based on a famous Two-Fisted Tales cover drawn by Harvey Kurtzman for E.C. Comics in the 1950s. Gareth knew I was a huge E.C. Comics fan and laid the bait well.
Initially, the plan was to draw a wraparound cover much like Martin Geraghty did for his Business As Usual Autons cover, but time and work transpired against my plans. I wanted the front cover image to show Cyberleader Maxel framed by the Apocalypse Device whilst the back cover was to include the Cybermen’s spacecraft in the shadow of the Black Colossus of Goth! It had all the makings of an epic picture but The Power Of The Daleks got in the way. I was working with Martin on the animation and just couldn’t find time to devote to my cover – in fact, I believe I tried to excuse myself from cover duties, but Gareth said he’d rather wait as long as it took, bless him.
In hindsight, doing it as a single cover worked in the homage’s design favour. I read the original tale again and found the same reference that David Lloyd had used for the Colossus – Frantisek Kupka’s The Black Idol etching. I pencilled a rough layout on A4 photocopy paper leaving an approximate area for the title lettering. This was approved by editor Colin Brockhurst and I then enlarged the image in Photoshop before printing and lightboxing onto watercolour paper just blocking in the basic composition before setting out in earnest to properly pencil the cover. This took about 3 days, off and on, and was then inked using a variety of markers and black ink. I used a spatter brush for the multitudes of stars in the sky and included the Sontaran ship that descends at the end of the original story. Over many a beer, Gareth and I have mused on what happened next and how the Apocalypse Device escapes the planet in the Sontaran ship, imagining me drawing it! After inks had been scanned in, I coloured the cover in a very contrasting palette under the impression that Colin might attempt to ‘age’ the cover like an old comic. I had said that I felt these faux aged covers had been overdone recently but left the option on the table.
Colin mimicked the same typeface used on the Two-Fisted Tales cover, which I thought worked beautifully. I hand drew a small credits plate that simply said ‘ Salmon after Kurtzman’ to acknowledge the source.
Looking again at the E.C. Comics issue, Colin noted that they had employed circular host images to introduce readers to the contents of their comics. Colin suggested we might incorporate this idea even though technically they had only been used on the horror comic books, not Two-Fisted Tales. We decided that the golden Dalek Emperor, Alan Moore, and Colin Baker would be our imaginary hosts. I created these as a separate artwork that was dropped onto the cover as a layer by Colin. I wanted them to be titled “The Emperor”, “The Writer”, and “The Doctor”, but Colin preferred to name them after the contents for commercial reasons, which made sense.
The final printed result exceeded my expectations and I’m planning a limited edition A3 poster – details soon. This was just one of four wonderful projects I worked on in 2016 – Doctor Who Magazine’s The Stockbridge Showdown #500 celebratory strip; the return of my signature strip, The Cybermen in a two-page instalment in a DWM Cyber special issue; and of course shading all Martin’s glorious drawings for The Power Of The Daleks animation.
However, returning to my favourite Doctor Who monsters, the Cybermen in the strip and cover probably was the icing on a glorious year-long cake!