Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Review: Adventures in Type and Space

Every so often a Doctor Who book comes along which breaks the mould ... it's something so 'out there' that you perhaps felt that there might never be a book all about it, or that maybe there wasn't much to say about the subject.

Along comes Graham Kibble-White, Jack Kibble-White and Stuart Manning asking me to hold their pint.

Adventures in Type and Space is just that book. It's a celebration of the early days of the Doctor Who title sequences, covering all the Classic series from Hartnell to McCoy. It includes interviews with the main talents behind the sequences: Bernard Lodge, Sid Sutton Oliver Elmes and Gareth Edwards and takes in discussions of typefaces, printing techniques, the famous 'slit scan' process and much, much besides ... and it's a fascinating read!

Illustrated with all manner of pictures of title sequences, machinery, catalogues and other ephemera - including the ACTUAL plate used to print the famed diamond logo (and I so want one of the prints from it, signed by Bernard Lodge!) - the book takes us on a history trip through the development of the BBC Graphics department, taking in the challenges of early title sequences, up to the computer generated sequences of the late eighties. There's so much in here which is of interest, and it's all viewed through the lens of the Doctor Who fan ... meaning that it manages to all stay relevant and grounded and interested.

It's a smashing piece of work, and if you have ever wondered how they did the titles, or want to learn more of the history and development of the art form then I commend it to you.

Copies were available from Ten Acre Films here: https://tenacrefilms.bigcartel.com/, but it seems to now be sold out. However I'm told that The Who Shop may still have copies available ... :)

Maybe there will be a reprint. There deserves to be!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Review: The Monster Man

The Monster Man is the latest release from Keith Barnfather and Reeltime Pictures, and as usual it's a slick and professional production.

Superbly edited by Roger Stevens, the production focusses on Neil Cole, the creator and proprietor of the Museum of Classic SciFi based in Allendale, England, and his work restoring old screen-used props and costumes for display.

The love and work that goes into these projects become evident as Cole, an engaging and interesting character, introduces us to his top ten restorations ... and the amazing work that goes into them becomes apparent.  He receives through the post a hand from an '80s Doctor Who monster, The Destroyer, to display - he already has the matching hand! He works on a Bannerman, on the Garm, both from Doctor Who, on a Thing mask from The Fantastic Four ... large and small, Cole is so enthusiastic about his passion, and that enthusiasm rubs off on the viewer.

There's so much to see inside the crammed cases of the Museum - I have visited and know how small a space it really is - and at one point Cole mentions there are more than 300 items on display! And many more in storage which he cannot fit in - so I assume he constantly cycles them and keeps the museum interesting for repeat visitors.

As the top ten comes to a conclusion, you feel an affinity with Cole and his passion. What he has done is incredible as virtually a one-man operation, and the battles he has fought with the local council have been ridiculous and painful as they attempted to use his Museum as a political football ... whereas in fact it's probably drawn more footfall and custom to Allendale through café and food sales and guest house bookings than anything else.

Overall the DVD is exceptionally entertaining. Barnfather and Stevens never forget that this is meant to be fun, and the production takes a potentially dry subject and turns it into an exciting and compelling documentary, which would be right at place on any streaming service or official Blu-Ray release.

The DVD is available to buy or to stream from: https://timetraveltv.com/programme/593

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Review: Cover B by Will Brooks

Will Brooks is something of a legend! For several years he was the artist on 'Cover B' for all the Titan Doctor Who comic releases.  For those not in the know, Titan released all their Doctor Who comics with multiple covers from different artists - basically making it impossible to collect them all. Indeed, the first issue of their first Tenth Doctor comic had 40 or so different covers, many exclusives to one store or retailer or another ... so utterly impossible to get them all!  'Cover B' was the photo cover, and the one that Brooks did each time.

Brooks has collected all these covers into a lovely hardback and paperback book which was kickstarted last year and which arrived a couple of weeks ago - the book is still available via the kickstarter as 'late pledges' here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1666382001/cover-b

What is so great about Brooks' work is that in most cases there's a dynamic about the art which is often missing in other 'cut it out and slap it together' pieces of photoshop. He crafts stories into the pieces, and, even though relying on photographs, they are stitched together, Frankenstein-like, to create new pieces. A hand from there, a body from here, a watch from somewhere else, a background taken on holiday, a photo of an eye from over there ... all to create a magnificent coherent ensemble image which looks as real as if it was photographed as it actually appeared!

Along the way Brooks details the story of how he came to be involved, and the trials and tribulations of trying to create this art against a backdrop of BBC Licensing, who seemed to not understand what he needed. They starved him of key photographs, and came back with late requests to remove items, monsters and so on ... all of which added to the general adversity of creating effective cover art for a licensed magazine. One strange request was that the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, should never be seen as threatened ... so she had to appear on her own or with her 'fam' - no monsters allowed to be there ... which lead to a fairly boring set of images, all of which seem to be straight out of the PR folder.

But Brooks tried. No Daleks to be used in the early years ... no Zygons permitted ... ideas scuppered ... whole covers created and then scrapped ... it's quite the horror story. And Brooks also mentions how the pay decreased over time as well ... less and less being spent, until Titan changed editors and the 'new guard' decided that they didn't want to pay anyone external for doing a photo cover and brought it all in house. End of an era.

Luckily, said era is documented, described and beautifully illustrated in this book. We have rough covers: cut and pastes of pictures to show alignments and basic ideas. Unused covers, covers which form sequences and conceptual work showing scenes you'd never quite imagine. It's quite the tour de force.

A remarkable art book of Doctor Who imagery all created by one man!  It's a triumph!