Monday, 20 August 2012

Dr WTF?! Artists Commentary

This post, I'll be looking at some of the thoughts I had while drawing the adventures of Hauptmann Who. This story was written by Greg Meldrum, and I have to say it is the most inspiring script I've ever worked on. Pretty much every panel had me chuckling, and Greg has been kind enough to let me quote some chunks of the script as I go through the art. In fact, since I wrote this post, Greg has written his own commentary, so check that out here.

Before we get started though, I wish to mention the brilliant work Owen Watts did on the lettering. Owen was kind enough to allow the bouncing back and forth of the lettered art, both of us editing our work till it was just as we wanted it. I'll be looking at the unlettered art in this post, but take a look at that WAAAAOOOOWOOOOH on the first page. Great stuff.

Right then, onto page 1.

The first striking thing for any who have been following my work the past few years is the colour. There are a few jokes in this strip that simply would not work in black and white. I mulled over this choice for quite some time, but eventually decided that I had to crack open the paints. The line art took me just three weeks to do, an advantage of working at A4, but the colour work added months to the work time. The actual watercolours were simple enough, it was the hours of computer tweaking afterwards that slowed me down.

In the end it was worth it. I love the vibrancy of these colours; the pinks and the turquoise and all those stars. Hopefully I kept up the strength of the colours throughout the strip and made them a vital part of the experience.

Lets take a look at the script.

The Asteroid Belt, our Solar System. Long establishing shot of a series of asteroids arcing out into space. In the f/g, materialising on top of a convenient asteroid is Hauptmann Who’s TARDIS, which appears in the form of a large upright missile, patterned after the WWII V-2 rocket but smaller scale (let’s make it the size of a police box.)...


Starting off with a Lebensraum joke. This was the first part in the script where I laughed, and I didn't stop for the next five pages. Picture two shows the roundels inside the door, providing one of the few links between this strip and actual Doctor Who. I love the idea that the inside and the outside of the TARDIS doors are entierly different shapes, a feature we sometimes see in the show, but more due to set anomalies rather than the BBC having access to strange, top-secret, time-warping material.

Lets hop forward to the introduction of Jimi Von Hendricks. The script says the guitar... 
looks like the sort of thing Jack Kirby would have come up with if you’d asked him to design a musical instrument – still recognisable as such, but more so, in a chrome-and-steel-and-mad-valves sort of way.

My friend Jenny found this page to help me out with the Jack Kirby reference; I've led a sheltered life of geekdom and so know only a little about the American greats. I modelled the top of the guitar on the most recent sonic screwdriver, for fairly obvious reasons.

Time for page 2.

Cut to Brandenburg Gate, Berlin District of Germania, futuristic capital city of Earth. The gate appears much as it does in Berlin in real life, though in the distance and nearby we can see hints of a sci-fi landscape of gleaming technological structures, with the emphasis on grandiose spectacle...

For future Germania, I went looking for Nazi plans concerning their thousand year Reich. My Wonderful Lady Friend was invaluable here; being an art-historian she was able to guide me in the right direction. Seems that the miracle of concrete would allow them to take their Roman inspiration in far grander directions. That towering building on the far right was designed by Hitler himself, a sketch passed on to Albrecht Speer, from whose mind I pillaged the other buildings. Then I chucked in a few Fliegen-rad to give it that futuristic feel. Nazi anti-gravity technology is an interesting thing, I'm sure you will agree.

I toyed with the idea of doing the picture of World War Minus 1 in sepia tones; but remembered stories of the 'Mud' period of 2000ad history, and so went for the more colourful approach. In the top right of this panel we see my attempt to replicate that famous photo of St Paul's amid the bombing. 

The Flux-Fuhrer was described as having "features warped and migrating across his face like some mad, nightmarish Picasso painting." That's why I went for the green.

Bringing us to Page 3.

Here we hit the pages that needed colour. The script called for "a sort of Rastafarian version of the Soviet Flag, with the hammer and sickle coloured black and the rest of the flag made up of three horizontal stripes of equal size: green, yellow and red." Not something easy to convey in black and white. Then we have Marley Luther Lenin. As I don't normally use colour, I don't attempt to convey any skin pigments. Black ink does not convey dark skin, white paper does not convey a lack of eumelanin. Normally I leave skin 'empty', in an attempt to bring equality to my characters; hence this black character from an earlier comic. 


Anyway, my thoughts on colour theory in comics are best left for another day. Lets talk about the fact that Baby Hitler has blue eyes and blond hair! Actually, I don't have anything more to say about that. The skull has blue eyes too, and Laika has a nodding Karl Marx on her dashboard! I was going to give her some furry dice as well, but they left the cockpit a little too crowded.

Hurtling into Page 4.

Here is a description for panel 4.

Int. TARDIS. We see the back of Jimi and the Hauptmann’s heads as we go close in on the view-screen to observe the surroundings. They have arrived in the primordial void - a hallucinogenic landscape, full of all manner of bad-trip-style multi-coloured fractals and twisting patterns. Central to the viewscreen is the primal atom, about the size of a house, circled by electrons, which hangs there, throbbing. It will be the source of the Big Bang. Nearby it is Marley Luther Lenin in his techno-coffin, the grabber arms reaching up towards the primal atom. Around and above the coffin, like a fine mist, is his hovering logarithmic soul. 

I changed this a little to get the action going, having them hurtling out of the TARDIS instead of peering at a screen. In doing this I give rise to my one regret for this strip; we don't have room for an internal view of Hauptmann's TARDIS. Ah well, maybe we'll do a sequel one day. Hopefully Greg didn't mind my somewhat tame portrayal of the void before time; fractals are hard to do with watercolours.

And finally Page 5, the Money Shot...

Here we go, the Doctor's wang. Let's have a look at the script for this final panel.

Long shot. 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.

So, not quite what I drew. *Ahem*.  Owen didn't want this script to become known as "The one with the wang", so we censored it so that the rest of the story had room to shine. So that post the other day is the first time that particular penis has been waved about in public.

You see, it is implied here that the forthcoming 'Big Bang' is going to start the universe rolling. Also, Hauptmann is keeping his boots on, due to being classy like that. Being a Time-lord Nazi, he has two willies but only one ball. Oh yeah, I went there. Finally we have the kiss, because stories like this end with a kiss. This is a comment on the way Doctor Who stories these days end about five to ten minutes before the credits roll, just so they can ladle on the emotional manipulation for the remainder. Also, that final heart shaped panel is lined like an Iron Cross! Isn't that sweet?

So, the guy gets the other guy, true love rules over all. Intellect and romance prevail, but do not replace brute force and cynicism. It is an interpretation of the Who Mythos that is perhaps closer to the truth of the show than many fans would be willing to admit; Who having a whole heap of unfortunate cultural baggage that seems to constantly resist going away. I'm really proud of this story, and I hope you enjoyed it.   


  1. Louis - just a quick word to say that I thought this blog entry was a really great read. Obviously I am hardly a neutral observer, but the attention to detail in your work on this story impressed me so much (that and the use of colour.) The iron-cross lining in the love-heart, and the use of actual buildings proposed for Germania - just brilliant. Your symbolic explanation for the restart of reality with a better bang than the Big one (Douglas Adams's estate will probably sue me for that line) is a cracker too. I can't help but imagine this story animated as a perilously subversive cartoon. Anyway, as a kind of companion piece, I've done my own page-by-page breakdown over on my blog. Oh, and re: the interior of the TARDIS - in my first draft of the script, there were two panels focused on the ship's interior, but I had to delete them for space reasons. For posterity:

    As one might expect, this TARDIS is a model of efficiency and order. None of the ramshackle nature of the contemporary tv-TARDIS – this one is all precise gleaming chrome and over-the-top Germanic architecture, though it adheres to the rough overall design of a TARDIS, with a central console and a time-rotor. Jimi is leaning on the aforementioned central console, peering into a small screen which flashes urgently at him.

    I'd've been interested to see what you'd have done with it, of course!

    1. 'I'd've' is an amazing word! That, my friend, is *Writing!* I'd've loved to fill the TARDIS with all sorts of Nazi related treasure; the arc, the spear of destiny, the blutfahne, etc. Yet I'm not sure that this would have really said anything or made any actual contribution to the story; it would have mostly been me being horribly self indulgent. Talking of which, I need to write up a commentary to my work in the first Dr WTF?!

      But first, I'm off to read your blog post...