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That Time IDW Had to Cut and Paste David Tennant’s Face in a Doctor Who Comic Book

David Tennant briefly returned in 2023, this time as the Fourteenth Doctor, but did you know that his Tenth Doctor comic featured the same drawing of him, again and again?

Writer, Tony Lee, has revealed that, with one day until issues of the IDW comics were due to go to print, the BBC put things on hold because they didn’t like the way that Tennant’s Doctor had been drawn.

The creative team had some connection to the BBC offices with Gary Russell writing the story, and decided that after three issues they didn’t like the way that the Tenth Doctor was being depicted. But due to them putting in a complaint on Friday and the issues being printed on the Monday, the team at IDW didn’t have a lot of time to sort the issues. They sent back a selection of new images which the BBC    approved of and then, likely out of necessity, the team continued to use those same images throughout the rest of the run with IDW with a little digital warping and moving things like eyebrows and mouths.

Of course, I can understand the BBC’s point of view: you want your leading man to look like the TV character in spin-off media. But there has to also be room for artist creation. Look at Titan’s comic book output: there’s a mixture of original looks, and poses/ faces cut and pasted from the television series; while it can be fun to try and identify which episode certain panels have been copied from, and they do    sometimes work as fun Easter eggs, Titan relies a little too heavily on this and not putting enough original poses and artwork into their comics which, when they do, looks really weird; maybe the BBC now has a rule that artists can only use certain looks for their characters?

This wasn’t the only problem with the short run though; the team found out that the historic personality of Charlie Chaplin who was due to appear in the third issue was still under copyright despite the team having been told he wasn’t. This meant that the artist had to stay up all night and turn bowler hats into top hats and put large handlebar moustaches on Chaplin and make him look like a completely fictional character.

With some pretty big issues for IDW to sort out in a two-day turnaround period, when everything had been approved and sent off to the printers, it’s a wonder that IDW would continue to have a good relationship with the Doctor Who team, creating comics for the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors as well as crossovers with Star Trek: The Next Generation, a number of annuals and one-shots, and reprinting a number of old comics from Doctor Who Magazine.

It’s a bit of a shame that the BBC feel the need to have such a creative control on a show that historically they’ve never cared for all that much; if I were an artist who was told that I needed to redraw some panels of the Tenth Doctor because the BBC didn’t like what I’d done, I would be very insulted. I think you’d be hard pressed to find people who wouldn’t be. But then the BBC has to make sure that people look familiar to readers and consumers throughout all their media too. Perhaps there could be more merging between the two so that we don’t get another situation where David Tennant appeared through a number of comics in exactly the same position…!

Jordan Shortman

That Time IDW Had to Cut and Paste David Tennant’s Face in a Doctor Who Comic Book

by Jordan Shortman time to read: 2 min
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