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The 10 Doctors by Rich Morris

Essay and Interview by John Seven

There’s lots of fan fiction out there, but not as much fan comics. And when you do stumble upon a fan comic, it’s usually brief and amateurish. Not “The Ten Doctors.” a sprawling epic by a talented cartoonist. It’s a work that both takes its subject seriously and intersperses lots of healthy self-deprecation towards it. 
And it’s insane.

Cartoonist Rich Morris seems to have one goal and one goal only — to weave an epic tapestry that includes every character to ever appear in the television series. Considering how long it’s been on, that’s quite something to aspire to. And yet Morris thus far seems up to the task, not only cleverly injecting multitudes of minor players and villains, but capturing their personalities brilliantly and logically. It’s astonishing how none of this seems forced at all. 

Is this for non-fans? Perhaps not. But it is a testament to the encyclopedic imagination that can lurk in fans.

The 10 Doctors by Rich Morris
Click a thumbnail to view comic.

Materials: I draw “The 10 Doctors” on just a white piece of paper out of the photocopier.  While I am a working artist and getting paid to draw Storyboards, cheap is still better. So what I do is just use what I’ve got around me. I drew the 8 panels on a piece of paper with a ruler and photocopied it a zillion times. When the muse and opportunity take me to draw a new page, I just pull out the binder and take out a fresh blank page of panels. I draw with a Staedler brand B pencil when I can, but pretty much anything between an HB and a 2B will do, depending on what’s on hand. No fancy tricks of the trade, here. It’s all very basic. Hey, if they didn’t keep snapping on me I’d be happy with a stack of #2 pencils from the dollar store!

I use a (very old) copy of Photoshop on my PC to do the lettering and the occasional ink job, like the poster shot of the Doctors, or the coloured centennial pages of “Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic”.

Q: What is your history with the show?
A: Professionally none. I’ve been a fan of the show ever since I saw my first episode back in 1976/77 or thereabouts. It was episode 1 of “The Masque of Mandragora”, I was 7 years old and visiting family in England (I’ve always lived in Canada). It gave me nightmares for weeks! It stuck with me and when I returned to England in 1980 I sought it out and caught episode 1 of “Warrior’s Gate”. I was hooked. I loved the concept and had no idea that Tom Baker was actually the 4th actor to play the Doctor. I just loved this crazy wild-eyed guy in the phone booth traveling anywhere and anywhen in the universe. I finally found out it was being broadcast in Canada when Peter Davison had taken over the role, so I had some serious adjusting to do, but each new twist the series threw me had me wanting more of it. My friends and I managed to get a copy of the old FASA Doctor Who RPG and we played it for years and years. The local PBS stations started to show them all so I ate it up and when I got access to the old videos…

Well, suffice it to say I’ve seen pretty much everything that’s been released and own more than half of it.

To work on the series would be a DREAM job, which was just a dismissed fantasy considering that the series was cancelled seemingly forever when I graduated out of animation school. Only recently now that the series has started up again is it an actual possibility, though I’ll confess a remote one. My experience is mostly in children’s animated series and I have almost no experience in Special Effects. If they’re ever looking for a designer, though, I’ll be on the next plane with my portfolio.

Q: Do you have to use a lot of reference, or is most of the information you use off the top of your head?
A: Most of it is just off the top of my head. I do have a page of photos of each actor and companion that I occasionally glance at when I’m stuck somewhere. And when I’ve tried to incorporate something really obscure (like the actual Terminus ship, for example) have I had to look it up and print off a picture for reference. If I know I’m coming up to a part where I’m going to include a new character I’ll try to watch a relevant episode again or glance at a few vidcaps. I’ve also got a couple of books, a photographic history of the series, for example, that has come in handy in an emergency situation.  How many fingers do the Foamasi have again? Ah yes, three.

Q: How much of the story did you have planned out in advance and how much did you make up as you went along?
A: Good question and one that I get quite often. I had a story planned out just before I started.  The story that I’m writing now looks almost nothing like it. And when it’s done it’ll be totally different again. I have a few scenes in my mind that I want to do, like the 4th Doctor hanging out of the Dalek ship or the 3rd and 7th Doctor criticising the 9th, and I work them in as the story progresses. I’ve had to draw charts for myself in regards to things like who’s in Whose TARDIS at a given point or what exactly is the Master planning to do with the Sontarans and how did he arrange it, things like that.  I know who the Doctor is going to confront, who’s going to get defeated, who’s going to escape, who’s going to rescue who from what… but how they get to those situations, and how the dialogue plays out I do ad lib. I let the Doctors talk to each other in my mind and that’s how it goes down on paper. For example, I had no idea just how well the 2nd and 7th Doctors would get along until I started drawing that section. I just paired them up because they were similar.  Who knew they’d start singing old college songs and doing sleight-of-hand magic tricks for Davros!

Q: Who’s your favorite Doctor and why?
A: I have to answer Tom Baker. He was my first and for years I thought he was the only one. When I’d heard there was a new actor playing the role I figured it’d be some guy in a wig and the same costume. Or at least someone similar enough to make a transition like they do in the James Bond films. I had NO IDEA the new guy was going to be blond, straight-haired, wear a cricket outfit, etc. At first I was mortified that they would do this to the Doctor!  But later on I found out that there were others before Tom, and they were all extremely different. I learned to love the character as a whole rather than just liking the various component parts and that’s part of appreciating the series. One of the things I love about the new seasons is that they’ve kept it contiguous with the classic series. There’s references and cameos and subtle little tips that show the dedicated fans that this is really just the old series continuing. Not like, say, Star Trek: The Next Generation where they basically rebooted the show, flippantly dismissing the classic series, and more and more so as the shows continued.  Doctor Who, new and old, just carried on with a gap. Like the old shows it reflects the technology and attitudes of the times in which they were made, but they’ve also taken great pains to make it look and feel like it always did.  It would have been so easy to jazz up the TARDIS dematerialization effect or change the sound or rewrite the theme or give him alien contact lenses or any of a million things they didn’t do in order to make it appeal to the new generation of viewers who are used to things like Babylon 5 or Farscape or, God help us, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. How many times have we seen the Daleks redesigned so that they’re more practical and scary looking. They get spidery legs and cooler guns and an actual working hand.  Nope. The eyestalk, camera lens eye and toilet plunger are all intact, it just looks more modern.

But for me and my fandom experience, Tom Baker is where it started and only certain Tom Baker episodes and situations can capture that memory of the first twinklings of excitement. 

Q: You won Emmys for your work on Arthur — have you ever thought of working your magic on those characters?
A: I’m not sure what you mean by that?  Do you mean do I ever think of doing a fanfic webcomic of Arthur and his friends?  No thanks. I drew him enough when I was doing character and prop designs on the show. The first three seasons and the Christmas special were more than enough for me. Once in a while some kid would ask me to draw Arthur or Buster or one of the characters and I’ll do it. But I was never a fan of the series. It was a job. It was better written then most and a few of the episodes made me laugh out loud.  As a character designer I got to do some fun things with the props and background characters, if you look hard you’ll see the occasional TARDIS or Dalek  or a Tom Baker doll or something in and around Elwood city.  I myself and many of my friends and relatives have made cameo appearances in Arthur episodes in the guise of caricatures in crowd scenes. After I left that show I found out that they used one of my self-portrait characters for a speaking part in a later episode!  Arthur marked the real start of my career in Animation and that job lead to lots of gigs in children’s animated series. We got several Emmys for the work and they were well deserved, the series was a piece of quality that you don’t see very often anymore. Especially in the writing. The show is still being made, but I can’t vouch for its continuing quality as I don’t watch the series.

Part of the reason I’m doing “The 10 Doctors” and “Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic” is because frankly I’m tired of children’s shows. There’s only so much they can do or say without some psychologists screaming about the effect on the viewing youth!  No hard edges that look like they might hurt if they fall on them, the characters aren’t permitted to look angry or sad, only happy emotions. No big words like Terrerium, kids won’t understand. After 16+ years it wears on you. I wanted to draw characters that could EAT other characters. Or, in the case of “The 10 Doctors”, blow up Daleks with home brew canisters of Nitro 9!

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