Doctor Who artist Colin Howard opens up about his artwork for the VHS range in a lovingly-presented book from Candy Jar.
The volume, titled Timeslides, looks back at the many pieces of artwork that Colin Howard produced for the Doctor Who VHS range in the 90s, with Howard himself giving a running commentary on the design process and the various trials and tribulations with working to tight deadlines, and the lack of good reference material. As you know, Colin Howard was working on the artwork in the pre-internet age and therefore didn’t have access to the wealth of photos that are available today.
Timeslides also features many of the first drafts of the memorable artwork, which were pitched to the BBC for approval before he began work on the final pieces. Fascinating details include the notes he wrote to the intended recipients, asking them to wait a few moments before calling him. (This was because Colin Howard was faxing the artwork from his local shop, and needed to rush home before he could answer any calls from the BBC!)
In the book, Colin Howard’s artwork is reproduced in full, devoid of the cropping and branding that featured on the printed VHS covers. Some of the more fascinating pieces include the unused artwork for ‘Revelation of the Daleks,’ which was pulled at the last minute. Apparently, this was due to licensing issues with the music in the classic Dalek story, and the BBC was obliged to postpone the release and replace it with ‘Inferno.’ Alas, Colin Howard’s VHS cover never made it the shops (as the one that was ultimately used was a photo montage) but his ‘Inferno’ artwork did – even if he did have to deliver it in three days!
There is also the unused piece for ‘Time-Flight,’ which turned out to be the last VHS cover he did for the BBC, plus his unused artwork for ‘The Happiness Patrol.’ The book also reproduces a special painting he did for ‘The Macra Terror.’
“I was really keen to open up my portfolio and see what fell out,” Colin Howard explains. “We had a few disasters – I’d saved much of my original art and accompanying sketches, as well as the final products they were used on, but some of that was lost thanks to a leak in the roof! Fortunately, the main victims were the replaceable bits: we managed to salvage all the originals, and we’ve worked hard to reproduce them in a high-quality that even the BBC struggled to print back in the day.”
Timeslides is edited by Lovarzi’s own Philip Bates, who was kind enough to send us a free copy to peruse. “When Shaun told me Candy Jar would be working with Colin on a book of his Doctor Who art, I cleared a space on my bookshelf next to Kklak!” he said in Candy Jar’s press release. “I was eager to get my hands on a copy. Little did I realise that Shaun was actually asking me to edit it.”
He went on: “I grew up in the so-called ‘Wilderness Years,’ and those gorgeous VHS covers were my introduction to Doctor Who in other mediums, probably before I was aware of the Target novels properly. So the videos hold a special place in my heart, and I know that’s true for so many other fans too. Naturally, I was super excited at the idea of getting to know Colin, let alone riffle through his archive – much of which many Doctor Who fans have never seen before. It’s an absolute privilege.”
Philip was also kind enough to involve yours truly in this project, and (full disclosure) I’ve contributed a couple of paragraphs in the appendix. Speaking personally, Colin Howard’s artwork has always been incredibly special to me, and in reading the anecdotes from some of the other contributors, I can see that I am not alone. Like Philip, I grew up during Doctor Who‘s Wilderness Years, and so my experience of the show began on video tape. And trying to decide which volumes to purchase from my local HMV relied heavily on Colin Howard’s VHS covers, many of which were more akin to movie posters (‘Frontier in Space’ being a prime example.)
Indeed, such was my love for Colin Howard’s art that I couldn’t quite bring myself to part with it when I finally dispensed with my tape collection. I got rid of the videos (having replaced the collection with DVDs) but removed the sleeves one by one, which now rest safely in my father’s attic. To now have many of these so beautifully presented in this book is a real gift, and it seems right to me that this artwork is properly showcased and not ‘lost in time.’
Colin Howard adds: “I’m really excited to share the final book with fans. My work has never been collected together like this before, so Timeslides feels like a definitive guide.”
You can order your copy of Timeslides here.
In the meantime, did you keep any of your Doctor Who VHS covers, or even the tapes themselves? And what is your earliest memory of Doctor Who on video? Let me know in the comments below.
Cybermen Doctor Who scarf – order now from the Lovarzi shop!