Silent Scream, parts 1 & 2
Written by Tony Lee
Illustrated by Al Davidson
A few days ago, Humble Bundle was having a major sale of dozens of digital Doctor Who comic books.with part of the sales going to charity (Sorry, so sorry, it’s over now 🙁 ). The max payment tier was just $15 for over 80 digital issues. I have been interested in getting the digital comic books, particularly interested in the Silver Scream issue since it first came out in 2009 (I have enjoyed the few paper DW comics that I have) but never (though close) got around to buying it. And in the spirit of Chaplin’s 125th birthday, 100th anniversary of his films, and the excellent price, I snagged it!
At the end of series 4 episode, “Journey’s End” of Doctor Who, Donna makes a request to meet Chaplin, just as she is having a mental breakdown due to her mind melding with the Doctor’s. (And I’m just re-watching on Netflix. Oh, the feels!). And in this issue, the Doctor “helps to finish her last wish”.
Summary (no spoilers!)
The Doctor arrives in 1926 at a Hollywood party hosted by Archie. Two things brought him here: last request by his now departed companion, Donna, and a mysterious static point in space and time. A bunch of bad things are happening. So the Doctor can’t help but investigate it.
A Sample Page
Which is also the beginning of the story, can be found here.
So why isn’t it actually Chaplin?
So, as you can see by the cover art, it’s not exactly Chaplin. It turned out that near the end of working on the issue, IDW (comic book publisher) was not able to work our an agreement with the Chaplin estate. So they had to make some changes to the name, Archibald Maplin, and his mustache, hat, and cane.
While the artwork was pretty good in the beginning, it had some room for improvement towards the end. But there were a number of things that impressed me about the story. When I first heard about this, I was just expecting the Doctor to pop-up and share some sort of adventure. I was not expecting Mr Lee to be familiar (or well researched?) with Chaplin’s life, specifically 1926.
So how many names changed?
So due to there being no agreement between the Chaplin estate and IDW (Boo on the CE…. ((don’t hurt me!)) but they missed a great opportunity of properly introducing him to Whovians and comic book fans), a number of things had to be renamed. Here’s all the ones I noticed, in order of appearance
- Achibald Maplin, Esq. – The big one. And it’s you know who C|:=)
- Kato – Toraichi Kono. You can read more about him below in the Cameos.
- The Great Oppressor – The Great Dictator (1940). Chaplin’s masterful satire of Adolf Hitler.
- Future Times – Modern Times (1936). Chaplin’s comedic social commentary on the growing machine age.
- United Actors – United Artists. The film company co-founded by
Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (all pictured left) in 1919 to give them the freedom to make movies they way they wanted. “The inmates have taken over the asylum”
- United Actors Studio – There was no actual “United Artists Studios” during this period, but there was Pickford and Fairbanks’ Studio, nicknamed The Lot (part of it was torn down just a couple years ago 🙁 ), and there was Charlie Chaplin’s Studios (still standing! Mostly :D)
- The Fun Fair – The Circus (1928). As the Doctor tells Archie this film “will be one of your best films ever.” It certainly is.
In real life, Chaplin was making The Circus in 1926. Just as Archie tells the Doctor, the set burned down twice, and there was a really nasty public divorce battle between him and his second wife. It was so stressful for him, that his hair went white.
The photo to the right is one of my all-time favorite photos of Chaplin. It’s of him with his (first? second?) burned down set. His face says it all.
And after reading the comic, now we know the *real* reason why he was having all those problems! As with the Great Fire of Rome (64 AD) and London (1666), the baddies were trying to take over and the Doctor had to stop them. And fires broke out.
“They named a pub after you in the Elephant and Castle though. No, wait, That was for the other guy. The one in the bowler hat” – The only time Chaplin himself is referred to. And yes, there is a pub in Elephant & Castle named after him. I’ve been there quite some time ago (but that’s another story). Even Chaplin had visited it.
Mentioned were the Keystone Kops, Rudolph Valentino, Harold Lloyd (as well recreating Lloyd’s famous stunt as the Doctor and baddie hanging off a giant clock), and Douglas Fairbanks who was a big silent film star and Chaplin’s best friend.
For these pictures, I found photos that were very close to how the real counterparts looked like around the time of the story.
- Toraichi Kono (renamed Kato, you can see him on that sample page) who was Chaplin’s chauffeur/secretary/ bodyguard/confidant. Kono immigrated from Japan to the US and after being in the US for a few years, applied to be a driver unknowing for Chaplin in 1916. He became in the close circle of Chaplin’s associates. It got to the point where if you wanted to communicate with Chaplin, you went through Kono. Image to the right is of Kono and Chaplin, circa 1932. Interesting info about a documentary of him here.
- Buster Keaton (using his real name!), one Chaplin’s major comedic (friendly) rivals and, to many fans, his equal.. Just as he and his cameraman witness the Doctor yank Archie into the cutout window of a falling front of a house which inspires Keaton this famous bit from Steamboat Bill Jr (and,no, it’s not a stuntman, that really is Buster):
- Laurel and Hardy (maybe?). In the footage that
Keaton shoots (cleverly drawn in black and white, with subtitles), we see the Doctor and Archie chasing the baddie on a motorcycle, and they encounter two gentlemen who closely resemble Stan and Ollie, with goatees, carrying a ladder. They would later appear in an actual episode of Doctor Who, series 6, “The Impossible Astronaut”. The three of them dance 🙂
My brief review
Pros – The Doctor and a Chaplinesque character! Good story (I always liked it when the Doctor arrives in Earth history), great nods to not only Chaplin but silent comedy in general. Fun cameos (KEATON!)
- Cons – IT’S NOT CHAPLIN! I mean, seriously?!? (but they did give it a honest go at it). Could have done away with the stereotypical person tied to the train tracks. Ahh well. Drawing was a bit off in the second issue. IT’S NOT CHAPLIN! (did I mention that already? I did?)
- Orverall — Despite the major flaw, I really liked it. I might just get it in it’s physical form!
Where to get it?
Amazon currently has issue one for the Kindle and Kindle app, as well as the full volume of Fugitive (includes the 2 parter Silver Scream as well as following 4 issues) The Fugitive is the first in 3 volumes (I am in the middle of the second volume, Tesseract),a big story arc involveing Emily Winter and Matthew . If you check out the Fugitive on Amazon’s site, you can get a sneak peak at several of pages.
And of course, I put links for The Circus DVD and also Streaming on Amazon or Hulu Plus. The music, BTW, is composed and opening song sung by him :).
Just a few places (of many) to go for more info
Tardis Data Core – a Doctor Who Wiki that also has a chat, forum, videos, episode list, etc. Also where I found out about the Humble Bundle package!
Doctor Who Online – Huge fan site that provides news, information, apps, forum, and more.
Gallifrey Base – biggest fan forum (you need to register to view it) and wonderful News page
Radio Free Skaro – excellent podcast discussing all things Who
Blogtor Who – excellent blog containing news about the show
Chaplin Then and Now – long running site that show locations that Chaplin shot at and what they look like now (or, in many cases, a few years ago)
Discovering Chaplin – wonderful blog of photos
Charlie Chaplin Is For The Ages – great tumblr blog sharing photos of Chaplin
Silent Era – One of the longest running sites dedicated to the silent film era
Movies, Silently – awesome blog containing review and information, and provides great info for those just getting interested in silent movies.
Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more) – similar to Chaplin Then and Now, shows present day locations of Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd films.
The Silent Clown Film Series – If you are in the New York City area, this group play silent comedies at various time of the year. Admission is free!
Nitrateville – Forums discussing both silent and talkies.
Silent Comedy Mafia – active forum focusing on silent comedy
Golden Silents – info on famous stars of that era, and a messageboard
William Hartnell (most famous for playing the first Doctor), became inspired to become an actor after watching Chaplin.
The original cover artwork for the issue, before things had to change around