Interviews: Andy Frankham-Allen & Shaun Russell | Hannah Haisman | Simon Williams | David A McIntee |
Lethbridge-Stewart is a new series of novels set after the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Web of Fear, and based on the characters and concepts created by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln. The series is published by Candy Jar Books, and fully licensed by the executor of the Haisman Literary Estate, Hannah Haisman, and endorsed by Henry Lincoln.
It is primarily centered around the characters of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, who was at the time of The Web of Fear a colonel in the Scots Guards, and Anne Travers (also introduced in The Web of Fear), and is set during the four-year gap between that serial and The Invasion, which saw Lethbridge-Stewart reunited with the Doctor and promoted to brigadier and head of the UK branch of UNIT. The character continued in Doctor Who as a semi-regular from 1970 to 1975, and made many return appearances throughout Doctor Who‘s history, even beyond his death in 2011 when he was resurrected last year in Death in Heaven as a Cyberman. He is probably the most well-known character next to the Doctor, and a bona-fide legend of the Doctor Who universe. And yet, despite almost forty-eight years, the story of how he came to be leader of UNIT has never been revealed. Until now…
The Minds Behind the Fiction:
Range (Deputy) Editor — Andy Frankham-Allen has worked as an author for Big Finish, Hirst Books and Untreed Reads. As an editor he was responsible for the steampunk series of eBooks, Space: 1889 & Beyond. He is now Candy Jar Books’ project editor, working primarily on commissioning and overseeing the Lethbridge-Stewart series of books, as well as providing editorial work on some of their more popular titles such as Tommy Parker: Destiny Will Find You.
Editor-in-Chief — Shaun Russell, head of publishing at Candy Jar Books, has a background in television production, marketing and journalism and has worked for ITV, Channel 5, GMTV and The Children’s Channel. He has excellent contacts throughout the media in both television and print journalism and possesses a keen commercial sensibility. Responsible for overseeing Candy Jar’s book production, he is also heavily involved in marketing their titles.
- Hayley Cox initially worked with Candy Jar on a work experience placement. Since graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in English Language, she has moved from her home county of Warwickshire to Cardiff and joined the publishing team full-time.
- Will Rees is a graduate of Cardiff University with a degree in English Literature. He has a background in multi-media sales and joined Candy Jar full-time after completing a work experience placement.
- Hannah Haisman on behalf the Mervyn Haisman Literary Estate.
- Andy Frankham-Allen (The Forgotten Son, Beast of Fang Rock, The Schizoid Men)
- David A McIntee (The Schizoid Earth)
- Nick Walters (Mutually Assured Domination)
- Sadie Miller (Moon Blink)
- Jonathan Cooper (The Showstoppers)
- John Peel (The Grandfather Infestation)
- Rick Cross (Times Squared)
- Simon A Forward (Blood of Atlantis)
- Iain McLaughlin (Mind of Stone)
- Sarah Groenewegen
- Benjamin Buford-Jones
- Andy Frankham-Allen (Ambush!, One Cold Step, The Dogs of War, The Enfolded Time, Ashes of the Inferno)
- David A McIntee (One Cold Step)
- Norma Ashley (Legacies)
- Tom Dexter (The Cult of the Grinning Man, The Fright Before Christmas, The Black Eggs of Khufu)
- Sue Hampton (In His Kiss)
- Sarah Groenewegen (The Lock-In)
- Roger J Simmonds (The Band of Evil)
- Shaun Russell (The Band of Evil)
- Adrian Sherlock (The Playing Dead)
- Rick Cross (House of Giants)
- Terry Cooper (Top Secret Files)
- Simon Williams (The Forgotten Son, Legacies)
- Nathan Hudson (The Schizoid Earth, One Cold Step)
- Colin Howard (Beast of Fang Rock, The Grandfather Infestation)
- Adrian Salmon (The Schizoid Earth, Mutually Assured Domination, The Fright Before Christmas, Moon Blink, The HAVOC Files 2)
- Will Brooks (The Dogs of War, The HAVOC Files)
- Tom Dexter (The Cult of the Grinning Man)
- Shaun Russell (The Cult of the Grinning Man, The Fright Before Christmas, The HAVOC Files 2)
- Richard Young (The Black Eggs of Khufu, The Playing Dead, The Showstoppers)
Cover layout, and logo designed by Simon Williams.
An interview with Andy Frankham-Allen and Shaun Russell, conducted by Stephen Jewell (January 2015)
Andy: Doctor Who has a long history of not crediting the character of Lethbridge-Stewart to his creators (indeed, they’ve only received on screen credit once in forty-seven years, not counting the script in which they introduced him), and it’s a well-documented bone of contention. In the summer of 2014 I was re-watching series seven and I noticed that for the three appearances of the Great Intelligence the creators received credit only once – now as I already knew the grandson of Mervyn Haisman (co-creator of Lethbridge-Stewart), I made a post on Facebook to see if Daniel was aware of this. This Facebook post led me into contact with Hannah Haisman, Mervyn’s granddaughter and the executor of his literary estate. We talked a bit and she told me she had some work her granddad had done and did I know anyone who might be interested. I was aware that my publisher, Candy Jar, had recently acquired the rights to the novelisation and original novel of Dr Strangelove, as well as other works by Peter George. I introduced her to Shaun to see if they could do something similar together.
Shaun: Hannah came to see me armed with three very big folders of work. Mervyn had adapted The Abominable Snowmen (his first Doctor Who script) into a non-Who novel and a screenplay. Alas, these adaptations were pretty much word for word that which had been transmitted, with the exclusion of all Doctor Who elements. Despite being a very interesting oddity, I wasn’t sure what we could do we them. Perhaps a Kindle release if the fans are interested? The other book, however, was very interesting. It’s not connected with Doctor Who but still has a strong concept, and we hope to publish it at a later date.
We carried on chatting and it occurred to me, although I’m sure I knew on some level already, that Hannah owned the rights to the original characters and situations from Mervyn’s three Doctor Who scripts, which included the character of Brigadier Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. For a second I found myself lost for words at the possibilities. It was the work of moments to realise we could do a series of book featuring Lethbridge-Stewart.
Andy: It was a simple and obvious matter, and we’re both surprised that nobody had looked into such a series before. The license followed very quickly, but developing the series took a fair bit longer. We had to show Hannah we were the right people to be entrusted with her grandfather’s legacy, and understood and respected the integrity of the Lethbridge-Stewart character. Building a trust between Hannah and Candy Jar was essential. So what followed was five months of preparation; developing the concept of the series, writing the first draft of The Forgotten Son and assembling a team of authors who knew the characters.
Shaun: I think the series has huge potential, both in the sense of narrative and following. Already the reception has been astounding. Fans love the Brigadier! And, in some ways, this is the series they’ve been harking for ever since Torchwood was mooted back in late 2005. Fans wanted a Brigadier led-UNIT series, and this is by far is the closest they’re likely to get.
How did you come to choose the novelists who will be writing the first four novels and how did Andy Frankham-Allen come to pen the first one?
Andy: The selection of authors was pretty much down to me, as I have the Doctor Who contacts after being involved with Who fiction, on and off, for the past ten years. Shaun and I discussed the kinds of authors we wanted, and how one of our missions was to bring back some of the excellent authors who were part of the Virgin/BBC ranges of the ‘90s – authors who haven’t had a proper shot at Who-related fiction since the BBC rebranded the novels in 2005. (Indeed, we look at ourselves as Virgin.2!) I suggested David McIntee, mostly on the back of his novel The Face of the Enemy, which strongly focused on the Brig, plus he’s done some great Who novels over the years, not to mention some really good Star Trek stuff. Nick Walters was totally my choice as I’ve known Nick for a few years now, and I’ve always wanted to see more Who work from him, plus the plan for book four suited his personality to a tee. Indeed, all the authors were chosen based on the kinds of stories we wanted for the first batch of four books.
Shaun: As for Andy opening the series, that was pretty much a given, although we did toy with the idea of having a more established author open the series. Eventually it came down to planning. These books need to work together and Andy is the engine in the machine.
Andy: I’m the range editor, I developed the series, so it follows that I know more about where it’s coming from and where it’s going than anyone. Besides which, honestly, how could I not open the series? I’ve written a fair chunk of published material over the last ten years, and I know the Brig inside out. Plus, as I’ve established a trust with Hannah, I’m not sure she would have been as comfortable had the first book not been written by me.
How did you come to set the books just after The Web of Fear? Was the fact that it marked the Brigadier’s Doctor Who debut? Are these part of an origin story as such?
Andy: I think it was the obvious decision. Shaun and I pretty much came to that conclusion at the same time, that we had the ‘four years or so’ gap after The Web of Fear to play with initially. It’s a period of the Brig’s life that has never really been touched on in Who media, other than a few references and flashbacks. I suppose, in a manner of speaking, you can say it is part of an origin story, in that we get to look at the man before he became the legend. What turned him into the character that became such a mainstay and import part of the Doctor’s life? There are a few clues scattered throughout the TV series, but not as much as you’d think, so we have a pretty empty canvas to play with in some respects.
Can we expect any other supporting characters or indeed The Doctor himself to show up or even have their influence felt? And I have to admit that I didn’t realise that the Brigadier’s first Doctor was actually Patrick Troughton and not Jon Pertwee, who he is arguably most associated with. Do you think that allows you to bring a kind of fresher angle?
Andy: We’re dealing with a period of the Brig’s life that so little is known about. We get to deal with the man. Alas, the license doesn’t currently allow for the Doctor to appear, but it would be nice if we can, at some point, work out a deal with the BBC to allow us to use the Doctor for one story.
Does the fact that the stories are set around the time of the 1968 series mean that you are aiming the series more at classic Who fans? And will there be any allusions to Cyber-Brig or any of his other more recent depictions?
Andy: I think it’s a foregone conclusion that our core readership will be classic Who fans, just by virtue of it being a series about Lethbridge-Stewart. But a lot of fans of the current series like to explore the old series and have become fans of his character, so we hope to bring a lot of those over too. Show them just why Lethbridge-Stewart is such a well-regarded and much-loved character.
Shaun: At the moment there’ll be no allusions to the CyberBrig, no, that’s way too far ahead in terms of narrative. We’ll probably get to seed things here and there that become relevant to later Brig appearances in Who.
Are the novelists looking closely at the late Nicholas Courtney’s performance when it comes to Lethbridge-Stewart’s mannerisms etc?
Andy: I imagine they are. Certainly, when I wrote The Forgotten Son I watched quite a lot of Brig stories, and studied The Web of Fear quite intently. I think for the established Who authors they have, like me, lived with the Brig for so long that translating him, and by extension Courtney’s performance, to page is quite easy really. I was surprised how easy I found to write him.
What else can you tell us about what to expect, especially from the first book?
Andy: How much to reveal? Okay, well, it’s a very personal story for the character, and sees the Brig facing his own past. It’s very much about the private man he keeps separate from the military man he’s most known for. It is set a week or so after the events of The Web of Fear, and so that story has a huge impact on the first novel. It brings back a few characters from The Web of Fear, some only in cameos, setting up the series as a whole. It has a link to the current series which you’ll either get or you won’t. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter, as it’s explained within the narrative and foreknowledge isn’t necessary.
Shaun: We have made it our mandate to use the TV series as our primary source of reference. The fans should expect new ideas, some familiar faces and some fantastic adventures for the dear old Brig as a thrusting young officer. Oh yes, and, as you can see from the cover, the Yeti are in it. Which, in itself, does rather suggest the return of another old enemy…
Andy: We’ve got a lot of plans for the series, and we’ve already got our second year of authors signed up. Although every book will be a stand-alone story in its own right, therefore requiring no need to purchase all for those daunted by committing to a full series, there are many plot strands and character arcs that will be spread throughout the series for those who do follow every book. Each year we intend to bring at least one ‘unknown’ to the series, as well as three established Who authors, which will eventually lead to a limited open-submissions policy – but not just yet.
It’s important to note, in closing, that we have access to all characters and concepts Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln created for Doctor Who, and that extends beyond Yeti and Lethbridge-Stewart – we will be mining that rich source. Not to mention the other author-owned elements of Doctor Who which are, subject to licensing agreements, potentially open to us.
Mervyn & Me
Interview with Hannah Haisman, conducted by Chris McKeon (November 2014)
First, how does it feel knowing that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a character your grandfather helped to create almost forty-seven years ago, is about to make a grand literary return for a new generation of Doctor Who fans?
It is very exciting indeed! I am extremely proud that Lethbridge-Stewart is held in such high regard with Doctor Who fans. There has been a lot of positive feedback on social media over the release of these novels and I am truly humbled that fans old and new cannot wait for a character my grandfather co-created to make a literary comeback.
In your previous interview with Type 40 you talked a lot about your early memories of your grandfather. Can you share with us some your earliest memories of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart?
To be honest, I never really had early memories of Lethbridge-Stewart. Doctor Who was a snapshot in time of my grandfather’s writing career, one that only spanned a period of a few years. The first memory I have is when organising his literary estate and compiling a record of all the works and characters he created.
In your earlier interview you also mentioned your grandfather’s deep love for books and literature. Did he have any particularly favourite stories in his collection? Do you know of any stories that may have inspired him to help craft the character of Lethbridge-Stewart?
Most of the books in his study were for research purposes, ranging from historical to spiritual, travel to black magic! As for stories that inspired the creation of Lethbridge-Stewart, I think that was more down to his time in the army than any book on his shelf, but I feel he based the character, as he usually did, on someone he knew or had met. Certainly when the Brigadier barks orders, I reminded of my grandfather.
All characters, like people, have a name and the Brigadier has an especially dignified one. Do you know anything of how your grandfather came up with the name for Lethbridge-Stewart? I have heard before that the original surname was simply Lethbridge.
Lethbridge-Stewart was created over fifteen years before I was born, and growing up Doctor Who wasn’t really talked about, in fact none of my grandfather’s work was. Although he was passionate about writing, it was a job. It was only in his twilight years that we sat and talked about things that he had done. Looking back, I wish I had asked him so many more questions. If I had, I would be in a better position to fill in the gaps!
Was there ever a point where you realised that in creating the character of the Brigadier your grandfather had also created a television icon?
Not until recently! It was only when I had die-hard Doctor Who fans tell me the importance of Lethbridge-Stewart. I’m being educated in the importance of certain characters and thankfully Andy (Frankham-Allen, range editor of Lethbridge-Stewart) has been brilliant. I know by this statement some people will recoil in horror, but I didn’t see my grandfather as a creator of icons. To me he was the icon.
Many people credit Nicholas Courtney’s performance as Lethbridge-Stewart as the source of the Brigadier’s popularity. Certainly the actor’s forty-one year association in playing the role is a testament to his incredible contribution to the character. Did your grandfather ever discuss his thoughts on Courtney’s performance in the role?
The last time I visited my grandfather, we sat up till 3am just chatting. He spoke about the Doctor Who years and his other credits. He was very vocal about those he liked and those he didn’t! He didn’t go into detail of his thoughts on an individual’s performance, but I know that out of the three series he penned, Lethbridge-Stewart was a character he felt fondly about. This was probably due to the way Mr Courtney brought him to life.
Did you ever have the chance to meet Mr Courtney and what do you feel he brought to the character of the Lethbridge-Stewart?
Unfortunately I never had that honour. I feel that the role couldn’t have been played any better by any other actor, and Mr Courtney is as much of an icon as Lethbridge-Stewart himself.
Due to the BBC’s now defunct policy of destroying film to conserve storage space, many Doctor Who episodes from the 1960s are currently missing from the BBC archives. Because of this sad loss of material, The Web of Fear was thought to be lost to viewers. But just last year most of the missing episodes from that story were triumphantly returned to the BBC and have since been released on DVD. For many fans this was their first time to see Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in action. How did it feel to learn that one of your grandfather’s Doctor Who adventures was available again to see and enjoy?
I was over the moon when I found out that most of that story had been found. Nobody from the BBC had told me of this momentous news; I found out the same time as the general public. My twitter feed went crazy on the news of its release and I suppose that was the first time I realised just what grandad had created, and what part he had played in the formative years of Doctor Who.
I re-watched watched it today in preparation for this interview, and I have to admit, I love it! In a way it is like watching a ghost as I can see so much of my grandfather and other people in certain characters. Examples of this would be Ann Travers; she is very like my grandmother in her speech and mannerisms, and I can see a lot of my grandfather in the Doctor and Professor Travers. I have reasons to believe, from conversations I had with my grandfather about his time working on The Web of Fear, that Chorley’s character is loosely based on Derrick Sherwin!
The Web of Fear also featured as its monster the Great Intelligence and its robotic Yeti, which your grandfather co-created for the 1967 Doctor Who adventure The Abominable Snowmen, which is sadly still missing from the BBC archives. Whereas abominable snowmen are the stuff of myths and legends, the Intelligence, a formless, shapeless eternal entity, was a very novel concept your grandfather introduced to the world of Doctor Who. Can you give us any insight into what inspired him to create such an intriguing character?
My grandfather’s parents were very spiritual people, which before the war was rare. The majority of people back then were either Catholic or Christian, but after the untimely death of my grandfather’s sister Stella, the family found the Spiritualist movement, in particular Buddhism. When looking at the beliefs of Buddhists, they include a belief in an infinite intelligence, a continuous existence of the human soul where energy will change form to spirit and that the spiritual world penetrates the material world on a different dimension. It was this belief that formed the central concept of the Great Intelligence, something I feel was lacking in its most recent television appearances.
Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and a few other familiar faces from The Web of Fear will be returning next year in The Forgotten Son, the first book for the new Lethbridge-Stewart novel range. What has been your involvement in the development of this upcoming series?
After chatting with Andy, he introduced me to Candy Jar Books, where we discussed the possibility of me granting the rights to use Lethbridge-Stewart. I have given Candy Jar complete creative control over the characters and concepts my grandfather created for Doctor Who. I chat very regularly with Andy, and he consulted me when he put together the official timeline for the Great Intelligence, and I’m being kept in the loop with other authors. Most of all, I trust the authors and if I have any questions, they are more than happy to talk me through them.
Without giving too much away about the future of the series, can we expect to see some appearance of other Doctor Who characters and concepts associated with Lethbridge-Stewart along the way, such as UNIT, Cybermen, or – dare we hope – the Doctor?
Never say never! I think you will see certain characters and concepts owned by various authors, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy!
Although Nicholas Courtney died nearly four years ago and the character of the Brigadier was declared dead three years ago, it seems Lethbridge-Stewart is alive once more, but now as a Cyberman. Were you surprised to see Lethbridge-Stewart’s return as one of first monsters he faced onscreen?
It is documented that I haven’t been a life-long Doctor Who fan, but, under orders from Andy, I watched Death in Heaven and as soon as the Twelfth Doctor saluted the Cyberman, I got it. I was very surprised and more than happy to see Lethbridge-Stewart return as a Cyberman; I really wasn’t expecting that and I don’t think the fans were either.
In your last interview with Type 40, you expressed your feelings of joy at the Brigadier’s unexpected return but also your clear opinion that he should not remain as a Cyberman (and yes, those monsters still make me hide, too) but perhaps as a sort of ‘higher consciousness’ to aid his daughter in future episodes. Do you think it might be possible we may yet see the Brigadier again in Doctor Who, perhaps even with a new actor, fighting alongside the Doctor?
It would be nice to see the spirit of Lethbridge-Stewart live on, but it would have to be done right for it to work. If you have ever lost someone who is close, there are times when you feel their presence with you. If it were to be done, it would have to be in that way and not as a Cyberman!
Now seems to be a time when the character of Lethbridge-Stewart is rising once more in popularity and awareness amongst Doctor Who fans. What do you feel makes your grandfather’s character so special and so beloved and, I would say, even immortal?
I really couldn’t pinpoint what it is. My grandfather wrote his best works when he believed in the characters. When a writer believes in the characters he creates and the part is cast to the right actor, as it was with Nicholas Courtney, the character becomes believable and even more special amongst fans. With Lethbridge-Stewart it was a combination of the two – great writing and a great performance. My grandfather could not have hoped for a better legacy, and alongside Candy Jar Books and Andy, we’ll make sure it continues to be honoured.
Enter the Maestro
Interview with Simon Williams, conducted by Chris McKeon (December 2014)
Thanks, Chris. The first comic I can remember reading was Might World of Marvel issue #231, waaaaayyyyyy back in 1977! It was a UK Marvel weekly, reprinting various US titles. This issue featured among others, a reprint of the US Incredible Hulk #198… written by Len Wein, with artwork by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton. With that issue, I became a life-long fan of the Incredible Hulk, and it was Sal’s artwork that inspired me to want to draw comics. Two fun facts about this issue… The back-up strip was a reprint of Marvel US’s Planet of the Apes magazine, and the UK editor at the time was Neil Tennant (of Pet Shop Boys fame)!
How much influence did reading comics and seeing their artwork have on your development as an artist?
I can’t put into words the influence those comics had on me. Not only as an artist, but my life as a whole. I learned to read with comics, especially Marvel. All I’ve ever wanted to do was draw comics.
You count artists such as Sal and John Buscema, John Romita Sr and John Byrne as being some of your major inspirations. What is it about their art that you found appealing and how has their style inspired yours?
Well, Sal’s artwork was the first to stand out for me. With the Hulk being my favourite character, and Sal being the artist on the book for over one hundred issues, I read more of his work than anyone else’s. At the time I started reading comics, you had Sal on Hulk, Marvel UK were reprinting John Romita Spider-Man stories, John Buscema on Conan and The Fantastic Four… and John Byrne’s run on Uncanny X-Men. To me, the Buscemas, Romita and, of course, Jack Kirby were the masters and innovators of the classic Marvel style. Brilliant draftsmen who could not only draw, but were master storytellers as well. John Byrne was one of the first of the new wave of ‘hot’ artists (along with the likes of Frank Miller) to follow in their footsteps, who carried on that tradition of classic storytelling and art, while maintaining modern sensibilities.
And in a few words how do you describe your personal artistic style?
Classic, Retro, Marvel!
You have said that you broke into comics thanks to Panini editor Alan O’Keefe, who contacted you in 2003 after noticing your art portfolio online. First, tell us a little bit about that portfolio. What were some of the art subjects and do you have any particular favourite pieces from that collection?
I can remember that there were several Hulk pieces on there… as well as several pages from my original Discotronic Funk Commandos strip, which I created back in 1996. I do tend to cringe when looking at my old work (especially stuff that I drew nearly 15 years ago!), but those early DFC pages feature some work that I still feel holds up to this day.
Now, once Alan O’Keefe noticed your work he offered you a chance to draw for the then-new Transformers: Armada title. You later contributed art to titles such as Action Man, Spectacular Spider-Man and Marvel Heroes. Looking back on your entry and first years as a comic artist, what do you feel are the most valuable experiences or lessons you learned as an artist?
Well, the first thing I have to say is how grateful I am to Alan and the Panini guys for giving me my start as a professional in comics. Working with editors Ed Hammond, Brady Webb, Tom O’Malley and Rob Jones was an absolute joy. In my first year, I got to achieve two of my life-long ambitions: to draw the Incredible Hulk… and to draw a Hulk vs Thing battle (with Spider-Man thrown into the mix)! As for what I’ve learnt from back then; I’d say as an artist that you never stop learning. I still learn something new to this day.
In 2009 you generated a lot of fan and professional excitement by drawing and posting online a comic series that featured a showdown between the Hulk and Death’s Head, a robotic bounty hunter – or as he calls himself, ‘a freelance peace-keeping agent’ – first created in Marvel UK’s Transformers comic in 1987. Tell us a little about that artistic experience and also your thoughts on why the project attracted so much positive attention.
That project started out just for fun. I have always loved the character of Death’s Head, and always hoped to see him fight the Hulk back in the old Marvel UK days (after all, he met and fought the Transformers, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and even the Doctor!). So I decided to draw up some pages to post on my deviantArt page, again just for fun! However, people really started to take an interest in this strip, so I decided to finish it as part of my convention exclusive Soulman Inc Sketch Book. I never dreamt that it would actually lead to the real thing, where Marvel Heroes editor Ed Hammond told me that they were going to do a Hulk/Death’s Head strip, with me on artwork and Death’s Head creator Simon Furman writing! It was genuinely a dream come true.
In recent years you created the comic title Retro Tales – Discotronic Funk Commandos for the Retro Comics Group. Tell us a little about the vision of Retro Comics and this superhero team’s place in your own comic book world.
Retro Tales is my love-letter to ‘70s Marvel Comics. I created the Discotronic Funk Commandos back in 1996 (although back then they were called the Funktastic Four). I always had this crazy idea about superheroes and villains based of ‘70s disco musicians/bands. It’s a comedy strip, but played straight (much akin to the classic Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward). My style of artwork has always been compared to the ‘70s/’80s style Marvel comics, so I decided to use the Funk Commandos as the main characters of Retro Tales, written and drawn in a retro comic-book style.
Last year Retro Comics debuted two new characters, The Hoff and Thor, the Rock Warrior. Both creations are based on two real-life pop culture icons: American actor David Hasselhoff and Canadian heavy metal frontman Jon Mikl Thor, respectively. How did their involvement into your comic title come about, and how has it been for you as a comic creator and artist working with these two men in translating their real-life personalities into the comic book world?
Working with both Jon and David has been an absolute dream come true! I’m a huge fan of the band Thor (and often draw listening to their music!), and have been a long-time fan of the Hoff. My collaborations with both started by correspondence online, and since have met David several times. I’m hoping to meet Jon sometime this year, as I believe he will be in the UK promoting his new bio-pic I Am Thor.
Let’s return briefly to Death’s Head. It is little-known in Marvel Comics lore that Death’s Head has a comic connection with a certain Time Lord known as the Doctor, a fact which you have mentioned in previous interviews. Growing up, were you ever a fan of Doctor Who, and if so, did you ever watch the 1970s stories featuring UNIT and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart?
I certainly did! Doctor Who is a definite favourite of mine. Tom Baker being the Doctor I grew up with. Now, thanks to the DVDs and television repeats, I have seen most of the UNIT episodes featuring Jon Pertwee, and of course the wonderful Nicholas Courtney, whose character of the Brigadier is one of my absolute favourites!
You are the cover artist for The Forgotten Son, which is the first instalment in the upcoming Lethbridge-Stewart novel series published by Candy Jar Books. How did you first become involved in this project? Is it your first time drawing cover art for stories as opposed to comic book story art?
I was approached for the project by range editor and Forgotten Son author Andy Frankham-Allen, who is a very good friend of mine. I have always wanted to draw something related to Doctor Who professionally, and when I heard it was the Brigadier I was over the moon! This is my first time drawing covers for a novel, but I couldn’t think of anything better to start with!
Although The Forgotten Son won’t be available until 22 February your art for the book is already viewable online. In the image we see the profile of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, a young boy in somber clothes, an ominous house and a Yeti hovering over a glowing pyramid. Without giving away any details of the actual story, what can you tell us about your design for this cover and what helped to inspire you in its drawing?
The design of the cover was something I discussed with Andy Frankham-Allen, and Candy Jar publisher Shaun Russell. I told them to give me the specific elements that they wanted me to incorporate onto the cover, and of course what style they would like. I was pretty adamant though about the Brig being prominent on the cover; something both Andy and Shaun were in full agreement with!
Simon Williams, thank you.
Interview with David A McIntee conducted in September 2015.
How did you come to be involved in Lethbridge-Stewart?
‘I was asked by Andy Frankham-Allen at Candy Jar, because he liked what I’d done with some of the Doctor Who books – in particular Face Of The Enemy, which was very UNIT-heavy, with the Brig as a lead. Well, given how much I love the character, and could see lots of cool ideas to do with a pre-UNIT Lethbridge-Stewart, I wasn’t going to turn that down. There’s just so much opportunity with the character at that stage of his life.’
In what ways did writing for this spin-off series differ from writing for the parent series?
‘Obviously one had to be a bit more careful about continuity and copyright, as there’s a more limited set of rights to play with, and I think it means one can’t have the thick Brig (or others) that sometimes appeared (the one who thinks an alien planet is Cromer, for example), because you don’t have this alien bloke to look smart by comparison. And, IMO that’s a good thing, because you want everybody to be portrayed at their best – these are supposed to be the elite, after all.’
Did you come across any unanticipated difficulties in writing for the modern Doctor Who market, which is more directed at the ‘general’ fan, and less at the ‘core’ fandom that kept the property alive during the ‘90s and early ‘00s?
‘I’m not sure I’ve actually written for this modern general market, TBH – my last Doctor Who book was in 2004, before the series returned, and I reckon that Lethbridge-Stewart will appeal to the core adult fans seeking nostalgia. So… I don’t know yet, because I don’t believe I’ve had the experience.’
‘Yes, in some ways, but not necessarily in the way you’d think. For example, what you see on the cover isn’t what you think you see on the cover. And there is at least one linking character.’
What can readers expect from The Schizoid Earth?
‘‘60s style Spy-Fi, action, thrills, explosions, sudden mad reversals and unexpected cliffhangers…’
What do you feel contributes to the enduring popularity of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart?
‘Honestly, Nick Courtney. The character’s strengths, when written properly, are his intelligence and loyalty and honour, which I think are also timeless qualities we look for in our fictional heroes – especially military type ones. But Nick was, is, and always will be at the heart of it.’
What was your first Doctor Who novel, and how did that come about?
‘White Darkness – I’d fancied trying a novelisation even before the original novel line got started (and I’ve still never done a novelisation of anything, but would love to, just for the experience). In fact I did some sample text for an expanded novelisation of Mission to the Unknown, because I thought nobody else would be daft enough to try to turn it into a book, and didn’t anticipate them just doing it as a chapter in The Daleks’ Masterplan.
‘Target had been taken over by Virgin, and when they wanted to do original Doctor Who novels, I pitched one called Moebius Trip, which I’ll mention again later, but was asked to try again, and I think White Darkness was the second or third pitch, because I wanted to do something with a period setting (I love that side of the series, what with the time machine and all), and one that wasn’t set in the Home Counties. Peter Darvill-Evans liked it and off we went.’
‘I like to have a tie-in character’s voice in my head, from the actor who played the role, so that made Eight a bit problematic, as, at the time, Paul McGann had had about forty minutes of screen time. (I’d love to have another go now that we’ve had the audios.) On the other hand, I never liked Sylvester McCoy’s performance as Seven, so I always found myself sort of writing against him, which is weird.
‘Patrick Troughton’s another one where lack of surviving episodes meant there was less to go on, but at least there were always audios of the missing episodes.
‘The ones that most surprised me, actually, were the Third Doctor – who actually has a lot less depth to explore and play around with than the others – and the First, who turned out to be a lot more layered and interesting, and so kind of brought himself out quite naturally but unexpectedly.
‘Six I was more inspired by the Doctor Who Magazine comics, and Four and Five were the ones I really grew up with, so they were by far the easiest, living in my head anyway.’
You’ve been involved in Doctor Who publishing for a long time, and have worked with most Doctor Who publishers, including BBC Books, in which way would you say Doctor Who publishing has much changed over the last twenty years?
‘In practical terms, of course, it’s gone from being an open training ground for new writers to invitation-only for a rep company with occasional guest stars, which is a shame. The bigger difference, though, is in how the desired target audience has been redefined. It’s turned from children to SF-reading adults twenty-three years ago, with The New Adventures, then became aimed more at adult fans with The Missing Adventures and Past Doctors Adventures, and then back to a younger readership with the New Series books, although even then we’ve now got the guest star author ones – the Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter ones, and the Gareth Roberts novelisations, for example – being aimed at the adult nostalgia market again. So I suspect really Doctor Who publishing tends to run in cycles. The Wheel Turns, as Mary Morris says in Kinda.’
You’ve written for a lot of Doctor Who big villains over the years, including the Sontarans and the Master. Which was your favourite, and why?
‘To write for? The Master, of course. Equal but opposite, the anti-Doctor… Because with a villain you can do anything. Have him do good things, even, without ruining the character the way you would if you have the hero be too bad. As a more general favourite Doctor Who villain, but not one I wrote for, I love Tlotoxl in The Aztecs, though he’s not actually a villain, rather an antagonist to our heroes. Which is exactly why he’s so great. I basically much prefer when you can have a three dimensional antagonist rather than outright cartoon evil baddie. That said, I still want to write for the Daleks someday.’
You’re no stranger to writing books without the Doctor, does your approach with those differ to novels where the Doctor is the lead?
‘Not really, no – my approach is based on the type or tone of story, rather than which character is the lead. So it varies even when the Doctor is the lead.’
‘Yes. Oh, well, if we’re going to be more specific… I really never expected to say this, cos I’d have expected to say the Fourth, but actually – and as implied by the answer to an earlier question – the First. Which really surprised me.’
Which of the modern Doctors would you most like to write for?
‘I dunno, it’d be cool to complete the set. Ten would be good if it could undo Donna’s mind-wipe. Eleven is so much fun, and Twelve I’d love to just do as Malcolm Tucker, but… I’m gonna say Nine in the end, because I really really wish we’d had more Eccleston, and would love to sort of make that happen.’
Who’s your favourite companion to write for?
‘I think the Ian and Barbara double-act. They’re both modern enough to relate to and distant in time enough to allow for having stuff explained. And they’re just such a well balanced OTP. They’re a joy to write, and that’s largely down to the performances all those years ago.’
You’ve written novels for Star Trek, too, one of a handful of authors write for both Star Trek and Doctor Who; what would say the differences in approach are, both from the point of view of a writer, and the expectations of the publisher?
‘The expectations of the publisher aren’t that different, I don’t think – tie-in publishers pretty much have the same aim for their novels, to support the franchise. Obviously there’s more of a team thing with the Trek stories, as opposed to the Doctor’s individualism and iconoclasm, so you’re more likely to be writing in favour of an ideal than against a state you disagree with. Overall, though, the bigger differences are that there are more hoops to jump through with Trek – synopsis, breakdown, and finished text all have to be approved by different people at different stages (and, TBH I don’t mind this, as I prefer working that way), which wasn’t the case with the Doctor Who books when I was doing them, where it was just the editor’s nod.
‘Oh, and Trek paid more than Doctor Who did.’
Editor Andy Frankham-Allen was also asked what we can expect from The Schizoid Earth;
‘The rug to be pulled from under you. The cover, I feel, produces certain expectations from long-term fans, and if there’s one thing we like to do, is play on expectations and then do something completely unexpected, which will become clearer as the series progresses. And David has done that brilliantly. It’s something of a dark reflection of The Forgotten Son, and, to utilise a well-worn cliché, Lethbridge-Stewart’s life will never be the same again.’
The Schizoid Earth can be ordered here. Any pre-orders between now and September 25th will receive the free short story Legacies.