Tuesday, December 03, 2013


When I saw this house ad for the following issue in Doctor Who Classics #4, I got really excited...

...(incidentally: Photo Reference Sighted Off the Starboard Bow, sir!)...

...I got really excited not because Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor was going to meet Sarah Jane Smith, the companion of the Third and Fourth and Tenth Doctors (and only those three Doctors, if you want to pay attention to a silly little thing called canon):

Panels from "Train-Flight" in Doctor Who Classics Series V #5 (October 2013), script by Andrew Donkin and Graham S. Brand, pencils and inks by John Ridgeway, letters by Glib, new coloring by Charlie Kirchoff, originally published in Doctor Who Magazine #159 (April 1990), "with thanks to London Buses and British Rail for reference material"

But rather because the cover features One of My Favorite Things in the Whole Wide World™, The London Underground Map.

But instead, what appeared a month later on the comic book store racks and on your ereaders was this cover, substituting the familiar skyline of Westminster in London for the Underground (or "Tube") map.

Cover of Doctor Who Classics Series V #5 (October 2013), art by Matthew Dow Smith

I was disappointed but not surprised. Let me explain why. But first, let me show you that I loves me the London Underground.

So, yeah, I'm pretty much the world's most eminent Little Stuffed Fan-thority on the London Underground.

And I have especial fondness for the iconic London Tube map, created by Harry Beck in 1933 as work-for-hire (and we all know how well that works out for creators). Here's an excellent website on the creation and evolution of the Tube map from pre-Beck to today.

The innovative design, based on Beck's observation of electrical circuit diagrams, is still basically used today, with many modifications and additions, of course.

Now, my point (and I do have one) is that the London Underground and roundel (the red and blue circle-and-bar logo of London Transport/Transport for London) are so iconic around the world that even if you haven't been to London, you probably recognize it. And Transport for London will, and does, happily capitalize on it by licensing it to hundreds...nay, thousands of companies to reproduce as official souvenir merchandise.

In fact, Harry Beck's map has made more money for the Underground than will ever be made by running trains.

Which is, I'm guessing, why you didn't see that photostatic repro of the London Tube map on the cover of Doctor Who Classics #5 after all. Whether it was planned and then quashed at the last minute, or maybe even never intended to be the actual cover of the comic I don't know. But I do know this, Babs: the only entity in London more powerful than a Time Lord is the marketing board of Transport for London. Using an exact and unlicensed repro of the map is a good way to get at the very least a cease and desist and at most an Underground train run through your house. That's why, if you do see a Tube map in a comic book, it's going to be redrawn by hand, rather than reproduced from the actual map. For instance:

Covers of The Losers #22 (May 2005), painted art by Jock
and Union Jack (2006 miniseries) #1 (November 2006), pencils by Mike Perkins, inks by Andrew Hennessy, colors by Laura Villari

Even inside a comic book, it's probably a smart idea to re-draw the Tube map rather than repro it:

Panel from The Vinyl Underground #5 (April 2008), script by Si Spencer, pencils by Simon Gane, inks by Cameron Stewart, colors by Guy Major, letters by Jared K. Fletcher

Here's an example of using the Tube map's recognizable design but not reproducing it, which seems to be A-OK with TfL's marketing people. I'm guessing on something like this you could always claim parody or pastiche rather than slavish copying. I do suggest this sort of defense if the person you've offended is, say, Joe Don Baker.

Covers of Vertigo Pop!: London #1-4 (January-April 2003); pencils and inks by Philip Bond
(Click picture to Great Portland Street-size)

You could of course follow the example of Alan Moore (and artist J.H. Williams III) and create an entirely new map based on the look of the Tube map:

Panels from Promethea #14 (June 2001), script by Alan Moore, pencils by J.H. Williams III, inks by Mick Gray, colors by Jeromy Cox, letters by Todd Klein

In fact, it's in an Alan Moore comic book that I could find a violation of copyright when David Lloyd includes a (somewhat heavily re-Xeroxed) actual London Tube map. But hey: I wouldn't try to cross Alan Moore, nosiree.

Panel from V for Vendetta #10 (May 1989); script by Alan Moore, pencils and inks by David Lloyd; colors by David Lloyd, Siobhan Dodds, and Steve Whitaker Letters: Steve Craddock

All of which makes me think that the Occupy Money Cooperative is taking a risky chance with their logo being a two-barred version of the London Transport roundel. They're even using the typeface Johnston, the official font of Transport for London:

The lines are blurred even more on their proposed credit/debit card, which even copies the red-and-blue color scheme of the London Underground roundel:

Me, if I were gonna create a design for an Occupy Movement credit card...well, I think it would go a little something like this:

You may note that I've put V for Vendetta's co-creator David Lloyd as the owner of this sample card. I originally did put Alan Moore's name down there, but he asked to have it removed from the project.

So, in conclusion: The Doctor and Sarah Jane did ride on the Tube...

(Hey, look: a young(er) Matt Smith!:)

...but they wisely avoid clashing with Transport for London's copyright lawyers and instead just go to the Cave Annex of the London Transport Museum.

Remember: only buy and use officially licensed London Underground map products!

So...Tube map, won't you?

No blog post on the London Underground is complete without directing you to the definitive London Underground blog, Annie Mole's wonderfully delightful and absolutely essential Going Underground. If you're an urban railway/subway enthusiast, don't miss it!

1 comment:

DC Sheehan said...

Oh Bully, that gives us two loves in common - the Tube and comics! How do you feel about ice cream?