We’re back after a long hiatus looking at works which inspired the worlds longest running science fiction series.
In this article we will be looking at the influence of American comic books, those produced by Marvel and DC such as Batman, Spider-Man and Superman.
Its no surprise that over the years Doctor Who has drawn inspiration from many iconic comic book series as Doctor Who features many classic comic book tropes such as the archenemy trope, the rogues gallery trope, the sidekick trope etc. Doctor Who itself has also been adapted to the comic book format many times including even by Marvel comics itself.
In many ways the Doctor could be seen as a hero like Batman at certain points in his life. During Jon Pertwee’s era for example like Batman he has his iconic special car, cool gadgets that subdue, but don’t kill his enemies, his loyal, young and brave sidekick, his archenemy that always shows up every week to plague him and gets arrested and breaks out of prison, and with the Brigadier his strong and brave friend who is a figure of authority who still needs his help in dealing with the more colorful villains like Commissioner Gordon.
There are many strong comparisons between Doctor Who and classic comic book characters which we will explore here.
American Comic Books and Doctor Who
I think that its really in the revival where we first see strong examples of American Comic Books influence on Doctor Who. In the original series there were some Batman elements in the Pertwee era as I have already explored.
Whilst Pertwee’s Doctor does owe a lot to characters like Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and even Jason King there is probably also a bit of Batman in there too with the Brig and the Third Doctors relationship being somewhat comparable to that of Batman and Commissioner Gordon’s, of the professional law man needing the maverick in a long and flowing cape’s help.
Also The Master can be somewhat comparable to Doctor Doom in his emaciated form. Both are deformed freaks who were once the heroes old friend who has now gone down a different path. Both Doom and The Master at least in his earlier appearances sought to bring a kind of universal order as they genuinely believed under their rule things would be better.
However the Master also bears a number of similarities to plenty of other characters including Blofeld James Bond’s arhenemy and in his burned form the Phantom of the Opera. I have never heard that He was inspired by Doctor Doom. Its possible that he was, but by and large I think that its really the revival before we start seeing very noticable examples of American Comic Books influence on the good Doctors adventures.
This is not surprising considering Russell T Davies was a huge comic book fan. Indeed Russell T Davies had actually hoped to be a cartoonist originally, but unfortunately he was color blind.
Davies has regularly acknowledged certain American Comic Book series and animated series as influences on his Doctor Who work.
The most obvious example of this is the fact that the Doctor is now the last of his kind much like Superman. Both the Davies era Doctors and Superman are all powerful aliens, the last of an ancient civillisation. They are seen as gods by the humans around them and in many ways they just want to be ordinary human beings themselves.
The Tenth Doctor is even called “The Last Child of Gallifrey” by the Daleks at one point during the Davies era, which is similar to The Last Son of Krypton the title that Superman is famously referred to by many characters.
The Master as well as Rassilon in this light can be seen as being comparable to general Zod the most evil members of the leading heroes kind who has also survived. Rassilon similar to General Zod was also a leader of the heroes planet and like Zod his corruption had led to its downfall.
The Master during the Davies era was very clearly based on The Joker. The comparisons between the two characters are numerous.
Simm’s Master just like The Joker is driven insane by one bad day. In The Jokers case it involves falling into an acid bath that scars his face and dyed his skin white in The Masters it involves staring into the time vortex. Simm’s Master’s whole persona, of a cackling, hysterical, camp, child like, vicious character with cruel sense of humor is obviously identical to the Joker. Its more like the Joker than the Masters of old. Indeed ironically the Simm Master, Tennant Doctors dynamic is the reversal of the classic era’s Doctor, Master set up. The Master was burned Master aside always a much less flamboyant character than the Doctor. He seemed more calm and eerie and he had a more toned down appearance short hair, dark clothes and and a more normal and alluring presence. The classic Doctors in contrast obviously dressed in flamboyant clothing, had big wild hair, and were very wide eyed and over the top.
With Tennant’s Doctor and Simm’s Master obviously the Master is now the over the top character whilst Tennan’ts Doctor when around the Master tends to act more stoic, calm and quiet as you can see in this famous clip here.
This dynamic of the serious hero opposite the camp, hysterical villain is obviously very much a Batman, Joker type of relationship. Be honest here the famous scissor sisters dance is something that you can imagine the Joker doing to Batman, dancing around laughing humiliating him and torturing him and you can imagine Batman reacting the same way that the Doctor does in that scene just having no reaction to the Joker’s ridiculous attempts at humor.
I felt that Simm’s performance is very similar to Mark Hamill’s as the Joker in Batman the animated series.
Many of The Simm Master’s plans are similar to the Jokers. His plan in The End of Time turning everyone on earth into copies of himself is similar to the Jokers plan in Jokers Last Laugh where the Joker believing his is dying creates a special kind of Joker venom that can change people into a clone of himself physically and mentally and plans to ultimately transform every single person on earth into copies of him.
The Last of the Time Lords also bears some similarities to the Emperor Joker storyline. In this story the Joker steals Mr Mxlypktyk’s powers and uses it to rule the earth. The way he rules is like the Simm Master. He kills millions of innocent people carves himself into Mount Rushmore and tortures the main hero Batman over and over again but he can’t kill him. Both stories show the villain despite gaining virtually limitless power being unable to kill their nemesis. The Joker and The Master could kill their mortal enemies in an instant, but they don’t, not just simply because they want to torture them but because ironically they don’t think they could could exist without them as their whole existence is defined by their opposition to their enemy.
They even with their immense power are still nothing compared to The Doctor and Batman and this further emphasized when we see at the end of both Emperor Joker and The Last of The Time Lords gigantic, hovering, glowing images of Batman and The Doctor hovering over pitiful, cringing, cowering versions of the Joker and The Master.
Simm’s Master draws on many over the top, insane villains just as Delgado’s Master draws on many different scheming, cold, logical villains, but the Joker I think was the main influence on Simm’s Master as much as Professor Moriarty was the main influence on Delgado’s Master.
When creating the Master in the first place Barry Letts said that they felt the Doctor needed a Moriarty. I can imagine when writing Simm’s version of the character Davies probably thought what the Doctor needs is a Joker figure.
Other examples of American comic books influence on the Davies era include the Reality Bomb story arc which is very similar to the Spider-Carnage arc from the 90’s Spider-Man the animated series.
The Spider-Carnage story arc sees the Carnage symbiote an evil parasite latch itself onto an alternate reality version of Peter Parker. The resulting symbiosis drives the already unstable Parker over the edge causing him to go completely insane and become the evil Spider-Carnage.
Spider-Carnage soon creates a superweapon using an interdimensional machine that can destroy every single universe. He actually manages to detonate the device, but two powerful beings the Beyonder and Madame Web manage to travel backwards in time before the blast reaches their universe and try to stop Spider-Carnage by recruiting different Spider-Men from alternate universes to battle him.
As you can see this story is very similar to Journey’s End. In Journey’s End we have a chaotic supervillain create a super weapon that can destroy every universe and like Spider-Carnage Davros actually manages to detonate the weapon, but Rose manages to travel backwards in time just as the blast reaches our universe and tries to warn the Doctor about what is about to happen. Also finally there are multiple versions of the Doctor required to stop Davros from detonating the reality bomb, though in the Doctors case they are not from an alternate reality, rather one is a clone.
Still you can see how they both follow the same basic plot. An insane villain who in both instances creates a superweapon that can eliminate every universe, and even give a speech about destroying all of reality “I’m gonna obliterate you all!!!!” “This is my ultimate victory the destruction of all reality itself!!!!!” both manage to set it off, but someone from another universe manages to travel backwards in time to before the bomb was detonated and helps multiple versions of the hero stop it.
A final similarity between both stories is the story that comes after. Now in Spider-Man’s case, Spider-Wars which concludes the Spider-Carnage sadly is the last episode of the series. However the shows producer revealed that had the show gotten a sixth season then the first episode of the next series would have had Spider-Man travel to Victorian England with help from Madame Web where he would do battle with the real Carnage. Carnage from his universe two seasons earlier had been sucked through a portal into another universe. Here however it would be revealed that he had fallen through time and was now hunting Mary Jane who had had also fallen through a portal two seasons earlier. It would also be revealed that Carnage was Jack the Ripper!
The first story after Journey’s End meanwhile sees the Doctor travel to Victorian England where it is revealed that the Cybermen who two seasons earlier had fallen through a portal into another universe had in fact fallen through time and were now stalking the streets of Victorian England.
As you can see there is certainly a parallel between the two stories.
Another example reference to Marvel comics in the Davies era can be found in the character of Captain Jack Harkness who is named after the Marvel character Agatha Harkness according to Davies.
Finally the Valiant from Doctor Who is also according to Davies based on the Shield Helicarrier.
In the Moffat era American comic books would continue to have an influence on the series, with Moffat himself also being a comic book fan too.
Indeed I think Batman’s influence can be found across quite a lot of Moffat’s work. Look at Sherlock and you can see a lot of Batman there. Moriarty in that series is far more like the Joker than the Moriarty from the novels. Certainly Andrew Scott’s giggling, camp, over the top villain who defines himself entirely by his opposition to Holmes whom he develops a twisted almost homoerotic obsession with is far more comparable to Mark Hamill’s Joker than Eric Porters, calm, steely Moriarty Irene Adler meanwhile from his version of Sherlock is also far more comparable to Catwoman being a highly sexualized thief who can outwit anybody and outright seduces the main hero than she is to the Adler from the novels. Mycroft’s relationship with his brother can also be seen as being another Commissioner Gordon, Batman relationship with the again the straight laced figure of authority being dependent on the maverick who plays by his own rules to catch the more colorful criminals.
Really when you think about Moffat should probably move to the Bat franchise after he is done with the Doctor and Mr Holmes. Just saying there is clearly a lot in it he would enjoy. Seductive femme fatales, crazy villains with a twisted obsession with the main hero, gay subtext between the two male leads and a main hero who is both a psychopath and a genius. Sounds like his ideal franchise to me!
Anyway getting back to the point, much like Davies Moffat wrote the Master as being more like a crazed comic book villain than the restrained, charming villain from the original. Of course I famously whinged about this for a long while, but among the majority this proved to be a very popular interpretation of the character.
I think villains like Missy, The Joker and the Simm Master always tend to be quite popular because of their twisted sense of humor. Any villain that can get us to chuckle even when doing the most horrible things such as brutally murdering a main character like Jason Todd or Osgood I think holds a special kind of appeal that other villains just don’t.
Many have commented on the similarities between Missy and the Joker as you can see in this humerous cartoon spoof of Death in Heaven.
Personally though I actually think Missy bears some similarities to Carnage/Cletus Kasady an enemy of Spider-Man. To be fair Carnage was based on the Joker too, but still look at this scene from Maximum Carnage where Carnage breaks free and kills several people. To me its very similar to the scene where Missy kills Osgood. Just like in Osgood’s death you see a crazed villain who is seemingly completely restrained, but still goes on to boast about how they are going to get free and kill everyone there. Nobody believes the villain but you can see they are still scared and in a matter of moments the villain somehow manages to break free and makes good on their promise and kills everyone there.
To me Missy is not the Master she is the love child of Carnage and Mary Poppins. In my head Carnage was sent to Victorian England and Mary Poppins found him. Mary Poppins tended to him and brought out his sweet sensitive side and they married. However they had a child who inherited her dad’s lunacy and fled through time.
I’m telling you she is their love child!
She has her mums good looks and her dad’s smile and sense of humor!
Another example of Batman in particular’s influence on Moffat era Who is the relationship the Doctor has with many of his enemies including both the Silence and the Daleks. The Silence we are lead to believe in series 6 emerge as a result of how powerful the Doctor has become whilst the Daleks we discover in Asylum of the Daleks have become stronger in fear of him.
This is similar to the relationship Batman has with his enemies many of whom emerge in response to him as well. Both the Doctor and Batman cause criminals like the Joker and villains like the Daleks to up their game in response to how dangerous they are. Thus they are in an ironic twist responsible for the very threats they believe they are stopping.
As you can see there a number of comparisons between the revival and many iconic comic book series.
The Whoniverse in the Marvel Multiverse
Marvel acquired the rights to produce comics based upon Doctor Who in 1979 for 20 years. These comics established that the Whoniverse is part of the Marvel multiverse and that it is designated Earth 5556.
This therefore means technically that the Doctor saved the Marvel universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Journey’s End and The Big Bang as technically Davros’s reality bomb that would have destroyed every universe would have destroyed both the main Marvel universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe too.
However at the same time Spider-Man also saved the Whoniverse in Spider-Wars as presumably the Spider-Man animated series takes place in the Marvel multiverse and therefore Spider-Carnage’s weapon would have destroyed the Whoniverse too had it not been stopped.