Exclusive Interview: Vworp Vworp’s Colin Brockhurst and Gareth Kavanagh!

Lucky readers will already be poring over Volume 3 of the incredible fanzine, Vworp Vworp! – all 208 pages of it!

Inside, you’ll find a huge number of treats: a feature by science fiction author, Stephen Baxter; Nicholas Pegg’s recollections of the Target range; brand new comic strips; the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker remembering the time he wrote a strip for Doctor Who Magazine; interviews with DWM’s various editors, including an extensive chat with Clayton Hickman; and plenty more. Oh, this really is just the tip of a very large iceberg. And that’s without mentioning the exceedingly special free gift.

Just imagine the work that’s gone into making such a monumental magazine.

In fact, you don’t have to use your imagination – because Colin Brockhurst and Gareth Kavanagh, Vworp Vworp!‘s editorial team, chatted exclusively to The Doctor Who Companion about the fanzine’s genesis, interviewing Alan Moore, and what’s in store for Volume 4…

DWC: First of all, it’s an absolute pleasure getting our hands on Vworp Vworp! Volume 3. Which parts are you most excited about?

Colin: Ooh, loads of stuff. I doubt anyone will have noticed how each section flows into the next, in some way (including obscure ways that exist only in my head), but I’m pleased with that. I’m excited with the excursions the Vworp Vworp!’s made away from DWM and its comic strip – I thought it was time the magazine’s scope was expanded to cover some of the fantastic (in every sense) ’60s and ’70s strips, as well as other subjects that interest me such as the design of the novelisations. I’m happy with the balance between nostalgia and fact-based material, to give readers stuff to really get their teeth into. Mostly, I suppose I’m pleased to have put together a 208-page monster of a magazine that I think I’d be thrilled to have thudding through my letterbox.

Gareth: If I’m being honest, just the very fact it’s out for starters! We went down so many blind alleys trying to get this out and just as we thought we were there, real life had a habit of getting in the way. We had a good shot at getting it out for the 50th anniversary, for instance, but that didn’t work and the shape had to change as a result. But we got there! For me though, the Alan Moore material was something that I was immensely pleased with and a satisfying achievement.

DWC: I’m glad you mentioned it! Talk us through interviewing Alan Moore, Gareth – that must’ve been an incredible experience. How did it come about? Did he live up to expectations?

Gareth: As someone who must have read Black Legacy [a DWM comic strip starring the Cybermen, written by Moore] hundreds of time as a kid, Alan was on my must-have list from the very beginning. I mean, I know he’s written some very fine stuff since, but for me this was so important we chatted with him about his very early work. Work that always gets overlooked when people talk to him. The problem was, he’s not very easy to get hold of and popular wisdom was that he really had no time at all for Doctor Who (oh, how wrong you all were, popular wisdom!).

However, the very fact that we were able to speak to Alan was solely down to Steve Moore (no relation), Alan’s oldest friend and someone we’d gradually coaxed into the Vworp Vworp! tent over Volumes 1 and 2. Steve originally wanted nothing to do with us either, as the Marvel UK era was tinged with regrets and a fair degree of bad feelings. I remember emailing him asking him to reconsider as his strips meant the world to me as a kid and I was thrilled when he reconsidered and eventually, we went on to forge a very good working relationship indeed, culminating in the commissioning of Martin Geraghty (with colours by Ade Salmon) to complete The World of the War-King, his unmade Abslom Daak script from 1980, as a proper strip in Volume 2. As we completed that, I remember tentatively asking if he might be able to put in a good word with Alan as we’d love to chat with him and, amazingly the response came back as yes!

I’m very grateful to Steve for that, and indeed we were hugely sad at his death in 2014, just as things were looking up for him. It’s a reminder to never take things for granted and always look forwards where possible.

As the day approached of the Alan Moore interview, I really began to worry about it. Alan can come across as pretty direct in some interviews and, as someone who thinks very deliberately about everything he writes, I really didn’t want to come across as someone who was only looking at things from the perspective of a Doctor Who fan. I thought his work demanded far more respect than that, so I took a day off. If I’m being honest, I also wanted to ensure that if the rumours were true and Alan hated Doctor Who, then at least we’d have something to talk about. So I literally spent a whole day and crammed 20 years of Alan Moore comics in. I revisited things I was well schooled in, like Halo Jones, and others like Captain Britain I was far less invested in. It was quite a day, almost like cramming for A-Level Alan Moore and of course, thoroughly enjoyable. As it happened though, Alan had quite a lot to say on Doctor Who that was every bit as fascinating, insightful, and considered as I hoped. His love, for instance, of The Celestial Toymaker was genuine and brilliant, while his insights into what made the Cybermen and Autons tick were inspired and in some cases quite fresh.

It was a great chat and a dream interview, mostly because Alan made it so easy for me and I’m grateful for that. I’ve contacted him since a few times for queries and advice and he’s forever gracious with his time. Best of all though, he loves what we did in Vworp Vworp! and even asked for an additional copy for a very good friend who shall remain nameless. A class act all round and let nobody ever say he hates Doctor Who ever again because it’s just not true!

DWC: Moore, to some degree, informs the rest of the magazine, alongside Dalekmania. Do you go into each issue with a main theme in mind? It’s been a few years since Volume 3 was first teased, so what was the initial vision for the volume and how has that changed since? I’m presuming the page count has swollen drastically since its conception…

Colin: I should say so! That’s down to me both piling more and more stuff in and massively underestimating how much space it would fill! Not a fault I’ll apologise for, because it turned out rather well. This issue has evolved quite organically, with the main focuses becoming obvious as time went on. Originally, as Gareth mentioned, there was this ambitious idea for the 50th to do something that celebrated the comic strip in all its forms including half a dozen comic strips, with Alan Moore clamouring for attention in there somewhere (not that he needs to clamour). But too many strips fell through, and I became disheartened. I’m really glad that version of Volume 3 didn’t progress – we couldn’t have given TV Comic and Countdown/TV Action the space and detail they deserve, but the seeds were sown for Volume 4. Anyway, after much nagging I finally pulled my finger out, looked at it again, and the issue kind of built itself around Alan Moore and TV Century 21.

Gareth: I think, from my point of view, it’s always nice to have a few tentpoles to build an issue round. However, the mission for Vworp, if you like, has also been evolving in recent years to take in wider art considerations and aspects of fan culture, as well as celebrating the strip and DWM. It’s something Colin has been a great advocate of and he’s quite right. And you’re right; the issues have certainly has swollen in size since Volume 1 which looks like a pamphlet in comparison. Colin, to be fair though, always finds something new to pop in there and he’s invariably right to do so. However, I feel confident in saying Volume 4 of Vworp should be back to a more manageable size, something nearer Volume 2’s far more post box-friendly 104 pages, unless Colin makes the case for the inclusion of something sensational. I’d not rule anything out at this stage!

DWC: It’s not just the contents that are a big draw for Vworp, though: there’s The Mechanical Planet, starring the David Graham. It’s available mainly as a CD, but there’s another, a third cover with the audio adaptation on vinyl. It’s temporarily sold out, so what’s the update on that?

Gareth: The demand for the Mechanical Planet vinyl has been extraordinary and really validates the risk we took with it. The opportunity to produce a beautiful artefact seemed too good to pass up and I think Alan Stevens and his team did an extraordinary job with it. The numbers are strictly limited though as it costs a fair fortune to produce, but happily I can confirm the final stocks of the TV Century 21 cover with the record will be back on sale on April 13th, with orders shipping the week after. Beyond that, there will be no more aside from taking a chance on eBay, so really, don’t miss out.

DWC: What about the very rare fourth variant, in Japanese?

Colin: The Japanese sleeve is indeed being sent out as promised, but there aren’t many of them and their inclusion is entirely random. I’m very chuffed with it, though, it’s one of the oddest things I’ve ever done (with more than a little help from Andrew Orton and Phil Stevens). The shonky Japanese is entirely deliberate, by the way, to anyone who’s fluent and wondering.

DWC: Taking you back a few years, how did the idea for Vworp Vworp! come about?

Gareth: There were a lot of threads which just came together at the right time looking back. I’d co-edited with Steve Preston what turned out to be the last issue of Black Scrolls in 2006, which had included an in-depth piece on the final (and quite brilliant) Eighth Doctor strip, The Flood. 2006 saw Black Scrolls eventually fold, and with proposals for a spiky new fanzine called Alt.Universe failing to launch either (despite some great talent and ideas), I began to think about areas I’d like to research and write about.

The one thing I kept coming back to was the Doctor Who comics and how little was known about them compared with the rest of the wider Doctor Who world. This morphed into an idea to research and write a book on the comics with Matt Badham, Barry Renshaw, and Leon Hewitt on the comic strips, which Matt helpfully suggested we should call Vworp Vworp!. The idea was to cover every era with critical essays, interviews, episode guides, and a detailed page-by-page analysis of a single strip, a sort of mash-up between About Time and the Virgin Doctor by Doctor guides. Sadly, as with many endeavours that begin in pubs, the idea of a book fizzled out, but not before I’d collected quite a bit of material for the Cybermen strips, which was the test chapter I was preparing for the book.

However, never one to let go of a patently good idea, I began to look how we could use the material. At one point in late 2007, for example, I remember I persuaded Steve Preston to resurrect Black Scrolls for #9, but that fizzed out too (although the cover by Anthony Dry would have been superb, going on the sketches). However, the most likely of all the possibilities looked to be a one shot fanzine on the Doctor Who comics called Vworp Vworp!. I even arranged a mini convention at my old pub, the Lass O’Gowrie in Manchester, to tie in with the zine in 2008, but as usual the deadline was missed. The problem this time was in finding a designer willing to take it on, with the original designer dropping out due to work conflicts. Finally though, this was where Vworp Vworp! got the break it was looking for as Colin Brockhurst finally joined the party.

I found Colin almost be chance on GallifreyBase (or Outpost Gallifrey, as it was then I think). I put a shout out for a designer to do some poster and flyer design work for a number of nights and events at the Lass and Colin put himself forward. His work was extraordinarily good and he had a drive and focus which was refreshing. I mentioned that I was working on a fanzine and did he fancy joining as designer? Over the following weeks, it became clear that he was the driving force, the spark the project needed and such was his input I offered him the co-editorship and we never looked back. I think the lesson is that if you have a good idea, hold on to it, don’t give up but also, accept that sometimes the time is not right either. A good idea always enjoys a day in the sun if you wait long enough.

DWC: How have your roles developed since Volume 1 then? Colin, from what Gareth’s saying, I take it you were originally brought in to work on its design then Vworp Vworp! evolved into a joint vision?

Colin: That’s right, but having edited fanzines since 1993 I struggled against the shackles of being purely the designer… especially as (just between you and me – don’t tell Gareth, or any of our readers…) I didn’t know a great deal about Doctor Who comics when Gareth approached me. I mean, I’d enjoyed them as a kid but they didn’t feel like the TV series, and to the younger me that was their ‘problem’. Now, 30-something years later, that’s what I love about them, especially the ones that develop elements of the series into something new and exciting (TV Century 21, of course, and the back-up strips) or go so wildly off-topic they’re barely Doctor Who at all (TV Comic, of course, due a much-deserved re-evaluation in Volume 4). So Gareth was the driving force behind the comic strip side of Volume 1 while I got on with celebrating 30 years of Doctor Who Magazine. Now, while I run the important stuff past Gareth and he, of course, has an enormous amount of input into what goes in the magazine, I’m comfortable calling myself the editor as I’ve got the time to devote to Vworp Vworp! (I can’t tell you how many thousands of hours I spent on the last one… but I’m the first to admit I’m a slow worker!).

Gareth: I always say Vworp Vworp! is a fusion of our passions and ambitions and all the better for it. As publisher and editor now, I think the balance is just right and helpfully plays to both our strengths. It’s Lucas and Spielberg on the Indiana Jones films (don’t worry Colin, I’m Lucas)!

DWC: Are there any plans to bring the first two volumes back on sale? Maybe an omnibus edition like Nothing at the End of the Lane?

Gareth: We’re certainly bringing out e-editions which will be downloadable for a charitable donation once the dust has settled on Volume 3, but an omnibus edition is one of those suggestions that never seems to go away either. I’ve an open mind, although we would need to include an errata section and the free gifts would be impractical in some senses (although I’d never rule out a new gift if the right idea came to mind). One to ponder.

DWC: And finally, what else can you tease about Vworp Vworp! Volume 4?

Colin: Steve Lyons’ take on the Trods and George Mann’s Third Doctor Ugrakk epic! Gerry Haylock! Harry Lindfield! Finally, a detailed biography of John Canning! Past Doctor strips during the Wilderness Years! Sylvester McCoy! A 400-page extravaganza! (Again, you won’t tell Gareth, will you?)

Huge thanks to Gareth and Colin, not just for this interview but also for Vworp Vworp!: it’s a real masterpiece.

Head over to Vworp Vworp!‘s official site to get your hands on Volume 3 (and look out for the special vinyl, plus electronic editions, and Volume 4).

  • Rick714

    They had the first part of The Time Leech in the first issue a long time ago—I kind of hoped that they’d continue the story in subsequent issues (having illustrated the third and final part, and all that). Ah well.