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Howard's End, or Achilleos's Heel: Doctor Who at the Cartoon Museum

May 6th, 2016 (10:17 pm)

I visited the Cartoon Museum in London today with gervase_fen to see the Target Doctor Who covers exhibition, which gervase_fen has written up here. I have little to add other than say that Chris Achilleos's new cover for Vengeance on Varos works better with a noose around Colin Baker's neck as originally intended, and that among the details cropped out of Roy Knipe's artwork is a well-turned button on the fourth Doctor's cuff for Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy. So much detail on the work is lost during reproduction, and was further eroded by cheap reprint methods as the books migrated methods and printers during the 1980s. The ebb and flow of the ink on what appears as a solid purple border on Achilleos's Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars is visible, as is the technique of his inking of the cosmic objects on his first three covers, ...and the Daleks, ...and the Zarbi and ...and the Crusaders. More impenetrable are the smooth washes of his early multi-coloured Daleks (very much based on the work of the last of the TV 21 Dalek artists, Ron Turner) and the methods by which he painted the incredibly smooth features of Tom Baker on ...and the Genesis of the Daleks and ...and the Ark in Space.

The exhibition draws attention to the lost art of the book cover, but could have made more of the links between the book covers and comic strip art. Chris Achilleos's covers were initially intended as patterned after the style of Frank Bellamy, too expensive a comics artist for budget-conscious Universal-Tandem to avoid, and he drew not only on Turner but on Marvel's Jack Kirby. A notable absence from the exhibition was Peter Brookes, who drew four mould-breaking but mould-defining covers in 1975. At a time when the BBC Books reprint programme is associating the Target series exclusively with Chris Achilleos, it's a reminder that there were many other artists with the 'family friendly' image BBC Books have cited as their reason for using the Achilleos covers. I think a case exists for a Peter Brookes set of reprints, a Jeff Cummins set and a Roy Knipe set.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/2016/05/06/howards-end-or-achilleoss-heel-doctor-who-at-the-cartoon-museum.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 7th, 2016 09:51 pm (UTC)

For a long time, I thought I was part of the last generation to grow up with Target novelizations; I'm glad that that has not proved to be the case.

Years ago someone gave me a book containing Frank Bellamy's illustrations for Doctor Who in the Radio Times and I can definitely see the parallels with Achilleos. Of course, growing up on the 'blue spine' reprints, I'm as nostalgic for later artists like Andrew Skilleter as for Achilleos. EDIT: having just googled Skilleter (and seen some impressive work on his official site) I see he was providing covers earlier than I thought. I think I was confusing him with Allistair Pearson.

Edited at 2016-05-07 09:56 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 7th, 2016 10:26 pm (UTC)

I think there is a new audience for the Target books, though there is clearly a nostalgia pitch they are also being presented as refreshed historical artefacts for a new generation.

I expanded this review elsewhere: https://theeventlibrary.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/doctor-who-novelization-covers-at-the-cartoon-museum/