Sign of the Hammer!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Dr. WTF?! 2012 - Page-By-Page Commentary

Over on his blog, Louis Carter has posted a wonderful entry that reveals the creative process behind his art for our Dr. WTF?! 2012 story. I know I'm biased, but his post makes for a bloody good read, and the more I find out about his approach, the more I am blown away by his attention to detail. Anyway, here's a bit about the genesis of the story from my perspective, and a similar page-by-page commentary.

From the outset, despite a creeping residual paranoia that someone out there would think I actually approved of his views, there was never any doubt in my head that this new Doctor would be a Nazi. As such, the story would be one of excess, with everything turned up to 11, featuring insanity on a grand scale. I later came up with the idea that the Doctor liked Nazism so much because it reminded him of Gallifrey - lots of middle-aged men dressing up in fancy costumes and issuing edicts. (Indeed, there was a line in the first draft of the script to that effect, but it got cut for space reasons, and 'cos editor Owen Watts rightly wanted to limit references to 'proper' Who continuity / chronology.) So, if my protagonist was a Nazi, who could his opponents be? There really wasn't much choice - I had to go for the dialectic opposite of Fascism, in the form of Communism. (I think I was also applying 'Battle' comic logic - when they ran 'Hellman of Hammer Force' and 'Death Squad', two strips with German protagonists, the characters generally ended up fighting the Russians, so that readers wouldn't get irate if they saw them triumphing over the British.) Anyway, here's how it all went:

Page 1:
Hauptmann Who is, in a very, very tangential way, kinda sorta based on a guy who taught me Film Studies at university. He wasn't a Nazi (as far as I am aware) but he did want to be seen as pretty rock 'n' roll, despite being a kind of authority-figure, and occupying a not-particularly-rock 'n'roll position in life. He wore a long black leather jacket, jeans (with turn-ups), DM boots and black t-shirts. The t-shirt here is one of many examples where Louis improved on my ideas - I originally wanted an umlaut over a question mark in blackletter font (as used by Motorhead for their logo.) Louis instead shifted it underneath, where it also serves the function of making the whole symbol look... well, slightly rude. I very specifically wanted the character to actually be named 'Who' in the story -A) in tribute to the Amicus Dr. Who movies B) in tribute to the William Hartnell story 'The War Machines' ("Doctor Who is required... bring him here.") and C) 'cos 'Who' is such an intrinsically funny sound.

 Jimi Von Hendricks, the Hauptmann's partner, went through a couple of script incarnations before I was happy with him. He was inspired by a mod for the game 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas'. The lead character in said game, CJ, is African-American, but apparently white bigots, keen to enjoy a spot of gang-banging, couldn't tolerate playing as a black man. Therefore, they created a modified version of the game for themselves, in which the main character was white, but everything else was the same. You have to laugh at these people, you really do. That was the original concept  for Jimi - that he literally WAS Jimi Hendrix, but made white by Nazi science, so that racists could enjoy rock 'n' roll without feeling like hypocrites. However, at some level, the idea of visiting such an injustice upon Jimi started to offend me, so instead I decided that the real Jimi's talent had been transplanted into the body of a no-hope, poodle-permed glam-rocker instead (and Jimi disposed of.) Louis took the transplant theme quite literally, hence the stitching on Jimi's forehead. Given rock 'n' roll's undeniably black origins, it seemed suitably ironic that bigots woud want to appropriate it.

I do not know (or can't remember) why I picked the asteroid belt to become Communist. I definitely wanted a celestial body to do so, showing Hauptmann Who found the ideology so insidious that it could literally infect inanimate objects on a massive scale. I discovered there were lots of different types of asteroid, of different chemical composition, and then it all made sense.

The phrase 'reich und roll' was stolen from the band Carnivore's song 'Jesus Hitler' (by the late Peter Steele of Type O Negative). It was about what might happen if Jesus and Hitler both got reincarnated in the same body. It was therefore the trigger for the 'Marley Luther Lenin' idea on Page 3. (More of that when we get there.)
Page 2:

"You are the Masteroid!" is almost my favourite line in the whole thing. As previous blog posts may have indicated, I am easily amused by my own wordplay.
Germania - Many will be aware that Hitler did plan to reconstruct Berlin as Welthauptstadt (World Capital) Germania, designed by architect Albert Speer. A few elements of this reconstruction project were successfully completed, but the fortunes of war pretty much put an end to it. Not here!
World War Minus One and the Forever-Fuhrer: Well, if you had time-travel, why not win wars before they start, therefore preventing them from ever happening, in some ridiculous temporal paradox? (So much for no triumphing over the British then.) Likewise, I could imagine that Hitler would have found some way to exist concurrently in multiple different forms, like some crazy eternal version of the triple-goddess Morrigan from Irish mythology. Of course, the Former-Fuhrer was just a baby, the Flux-Fuhrer was in disarray, and the Future-Fuhrer dead, so every incarnation epitomised a sense of helplessness. Some people don't like Hitler being used as a figure of fun, but personally, I think relentless mockery is probably the best way to demean his memory.
Page 3:

Marley Luther Lenin was originally just Martin Luther Lenin, on the fairly obvious basis that the ultimate enemy of Hauptmann Who would have to be both non-white, pro-equality, and a Communist. Bob Marley was added to the mix for yet another musical angle, to allow me to give the character dreadlocks with impunity, and to bang in some more excess.
"Never wear anything that panics the cat." - This is my favourite line in the story. I originally just wanted to have the Future-Fuhrer give some completely irrelevant fashion advice (I think he's gone senile), and then I stumbled upon this P.J. O'Rourke quote.

Einstein and Laika - Einstein was certainly no fan of Nazism or capitalism, and was accused of being a Communist on more than one occasion. He was definitely a socialist. As for why his head is floating in space, I am convinced this hails from one of my frequent influences, cartoonist Gary Larson, who once drew the crew of the Starship Enterprise trying to cope with the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor. As for the canine pilot, well, I like dogs, basically. I am full of nothing but total and utter contempt for those that took a lovely little dog like Laika and shot her into space to die. I'd shoot the bastards into space myself, given the chance. So here she is, salvaged from an alternate timeline and still loyal to a regime that is happy to sacrifice her yet again for their own ends. No matter who's in charge or what the ideology, dogs (and nature in general) always get the short straw (look at Hitler's dog Blondie) - but dogs love us irrespective.
"Now there's a novelty!" is one of comedian Eric Morecambe's less-prominent catchphrases, coined by writer Eddie Braben. I often feel the temptation to slip lines or paraphrased lines from 'Morecambe and Wise' into my scripts.

Page 4:

I sort of think of this as the 'Yellow Submarine' page. (It's Jimi's trousers that do it.) To my eyes it is probably Louis's greatest triumph in the whole story. I think the way he turns panels four and five into a beyond-the-panel-limits free-floating psychedelic experience is so much cleverer and more fitting than anything I'd have come up with. It expertly conveys the nature of existence before the regular rules of existence kicked in. The idea of time-travelling to the Big Bang (and calling it 'Event One') is a direct lift from Dr. Who - 'Castrovalva', one of my favourite Who stories.
"That didn't happen, Jimi!" - The odd things is, because he can time-travel and has created an alternate timeline, it may not have done. But he's probably just in denial.

Page 5:

Too much dialogue as I struggle to cram everything in. And another Motorhead reference! ('Eat the rich!') Well, Lemmy is known for collecting Nazi memorabilia.
The final panels. Yes, quite. I am only partially to be credited (or blamed) for these. Louis took something implicit (the homoerotic friction between the two leads, and the associations implicit in the phrase 'Give free vent to your love for me!') and, well, less ran with it, more hit Mach 3! Here is the script as was originally written (the dialogue is the same):

Hauptmann Who points commandingly at Jimi, who obliges by jamming on his guitar and singing of his devotion to the Hauptmann. Jimi should be throwing some kind of rock god shapes as he does so, while in the background the primal atom throbs away and the kaleidoscopic primordial void creates hallucinogenic patterns, like some atmospheric sound-to-light programme.

You will notice the lack of nudity, quasi-dimensional snogging, stereo-genitalia or singular spherical objects of a non-primal-atom nature. Basically, I wanted 'em to go out on a song, and use the famous Hendrix mondegreen in the process. A private rock'n'roll concert at the dawn of time - what could be more overblown? But Louis... naughty, naughty Louis wanted to show us what 'free vent' really means. As a result, both my Dr. WTF?! scripts now end with the main character about to indulge in acts of carnality. But let's be clear - this is the kind of collaboration I like. Er... not pre-historical misbehaviour, but where the artist takes the writer's script and gives free vent to his own ideas. I take it as a massive compliment that Louis felt the story was worth putting his own stamp on in such a way. Didn't stop my jaw dropping when I read the thing, mind!

And that's your lot. This was one of my favourite comic collaborations, because Louis brought so much to it, and gave it a colourful beauty greater than it probably deserves. A word (or several) also needs to be said for Owen Watts's lettering - I bloody love that man's sound effects! (Oh, and several more words need said for that man's remarkable skill in organising and putting together the whole smashing anthology!) Hope you enjoyed the story, or were at least suitably disturbed.


  1. I also had the creeping residual paranoia that someone out there would think I actually approved of Hauptmann's views. Not so much when reading the comic, but when looking at the preview art on my blog, where the satire might not be so apparent.

    This was a great read, and I even noticed some things I'd forgotten about in my art. Last panel of page four, Haupt is doing a sort of zero gravity goose-step; and the sudden magical appearance in the final panel of the convenient-hat-stand-from-before-time is what in my tragic mind constitutes a joke.

    1. I really liked the hat-stand - it made me think of the Peter Davison story 'Frontios' where the TARDIS gets blown up and the hat-stand's the only thing left in the ruins. It's such a quintessentially Who-ish prop, and in this case makes for some lamp-post-in-Narnia-style incongruous charm.

    2. Oh oh oh! One last thing I've remembered! The pick used by Jimmy (best seen in page 1, panel 5) is the Pick of Destiny from the Tenacious D film, giving nod to the Nazi's love of the occult!