Aug 18, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 540: Doctor Who Weekly #36, 19th June 1980

When I teach comics, and specifically trade paperback collections of monthly comics, I tend to remind my students that the end of each chapter is also the end of a comic, and that, in most cases, there's a tendency to hit a mildly climactic moment, in order to draw readers back a month later. I'm assuming that these weekly installments of the serials in Doctor Who Weekly are composed in much the same way, but the climactic moments are slightly less....elevated, I suppose. I could see these exciting moments at the end of each installment as simply moments at the end of a page that entice you to turn to the next one. For instance, at the end of today's installment of "The Time Witch," the Doctor's cup of tea is shattered by a lightning bolt from somewhere off-panel. I've little doubt that the source of it (likely Brimo, the witch, herself) will be revealed at the beginning of tomorrow's comic, and though it's exciting, it's hardly the kind of cliffhanger that would keep one wanting more for a whole month.

I'm kind of fascinated by serialized storytelling, and how it affects the ways in which a story is told. The "Black Legacy" Cyberman story by Moore and Lloyd that rounds out these magazines is told in 2-page portions. 2 pages! It's a testament to the skill of the creators involved that they can get anything accomplished in such a small amount of space, and still be able to offer these mini-climaxes at the end of each section. When considering these comics for my daily read, I had thought that maybe I should read whole stories ("The Time Witch," for example, runs 4 installments of 4-5 pages each, so pretty much equivalent to a single monthly comic) rather than individual issues. But that wouldn't have really fit with the project, so serialization it is. The long and short of this little musing on serials is that these weekly ones, and the monthlies I love so well, offer a remarkable proof of McLuhan's aphoristic pronouncement that the medium really is the message.

Tomorrow, the Doctor and Sharon meet Brimo (I assume). It occurred to me that having Sharon, a high-school aged young lady, as companion in these comics puts the comic stories in a much closer vein to the current television series than the shows that were airing at the time of the magazine's publication. But I'll have to think on this a bit more.


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