Alan Moore’s best known these days as the slightly grumpy genius responsible for such ground breaking comics as Watchmen, From Hell, V For Vendetta, Miracleman and about thirty other series which are enormously fascinating and often fun to read. But back in the eighties before the world had become aware of him he used to create simpler fare on occasion, like the E.T. influenced Skizz which was basically what would happen if an alien landed in suburban England, and in the case of D.R. & Quinch, ridiculously daft ultra violence. Joining Moore was artist Alan Davis who really adds a great deal to the story, his art is often stunning and he deserves a great deal of kudos for making the strips so much fun to read.
For those who aren’t aware of the characters, D.R. & Quinch, also known as Waldo D.R. (Diminished Responsibility) Dobbs and Ernest Errol Quinch, are two aliens who start off as students before being suspended from college, and they then go on to cause chaos across the universe. They were introduced in a one-off Time Twister for 2000AD entitled “D.R. and Quinch Have Fun On Earth” which was loosely based on the National Lampoon characters O.C. and Stiggs, but with a far more violent and futuristic bent. To be honest if he was to create the characters now the creators of O.C. and Stiggs could probably sue him, as they’re also fun loving violent types who live to annoy others, but the eighties were a slightly less litigious time and chances are they weren’t aware of 2000AD as well.
The first D.R. & Quinch story sees the duo visit Earth at various points in it’s history, where they turn out to be responsible for Isaac Newton discovering gravity, the Egyptians creating the pyramids, and why the Marie Celeste was abandoned among other things. They’re not just doing this for shits and giggles though, it’s all part of a revenge plan that isn’t revealed until the final page where we discover that all along they were altering the shape of the continents so that it spelt out a scandalous allegation in the Centravian language about the school Dean and his wife, which leads to him being fired. It’s fun, throwaway affair, and not anywhere close to Moore’s best work but the madness of it all appealed to 2000AD readers and so D.R. & Quinch were quickly brought back by popular demand.
Their second appearance in the comic was the two parter “D.R. and Quinch Go Straight”, where our beloved twosome are in court accused of arson, kidnapping, theft, grievous wounding, possession of unlawful atomic weapons, genocide and “Thirty two offences so unusual and horrible that they do not have names”. This is a much stronger outing for the characters and sees Moore create another revenge plot that is far more complex, and funnier, than the first. After the judge gives the boys a month to perform honest and charitable work so that their sentence might be shortened they head off to recruit their friend Pulger who’s a war veteran even more murderous than they are. Admittedly once again he’s a character very similar to one in O.C. and Stiggs, but Moore makes him much more extreme, and far more amusing too, and this is the last ‘homage’ (if we’re being kind) to that movie which Moore makes.
The story sees Ernest and Waldo set themselves up as a charity devoted to “Dangerous Maniac Ex-Servicemen In Need Of Love And Understanding”, which just happens to be based right next door to the judge who’s about to sentence them. D.R. then sets up a supposedly peaceful meeting with the aliens Pulger fought against, without informing him of such a thing, and mass violence inevitably takes place, with D.R. even finding the time to make sure the Judge takes the blame. It works effectively because of D.R.’s nonchalant narration of events, the ridiculously over the top violence (including Pulger angrily tearing apart cuddly toys), and the satire of how those in power act. It’s still a minor work of Moore’s, don’t get me wrong, but it is an enormous amount of fun.
Next up Moore turned his eye to love with a tale called “D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy”. This time Quinch is narrating proceedings, and it’s a three part story where much to Ernest’s horror D.R. has fallen in love with a squeaky clean girl called Chrysoprasia, and lies to her about who he truly is. After Ernest discovers that D.R. no longer wants to hang around with him he kidnaps Chrysoprasia and shows her footage of all of the murder and horror he and D.R. have got up to in the past, which includes what they did to baby newts with a giant pencil sharpener and a film they made called “Midnight Madness at the Morgue with D.R. and Quinch” which is so brutal it breaks her fragile mind and turns her in to “Crazy Chryssie”. It’s a great sequence (with the final use of the word “Eep” creating a big laugh), and so is Chryssie’s ensuing mad rampage where she steals and kills and ruins D.R.’s performance in a play they were supposed to star in together. When the cops arrive she begs for help but Waldo’s a bastard of course, and an egotistical creature too and annoyed that she ruined the play, so she’s hauled off by the police and he decides his moment of lust must have been caused by a vegan takeaway he ate. It’s the best story so far, short and sweet but full of inventive madness, great dialogue and it makes our leads more interesting and complex to boot.
The longest story followed, D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted, a five parter which sees a return for Pulger as our deadly duo end up being forced to join the army, a decision the army unsurprisingly soon regrets. Unfortunately it’s one of the weaker efforts, it’s by no means bad and there’s still a good few funny jokes but it doesn’t really do anything new and is just more ultraviolence and for once slightly predictable plotting. There are some great moments, like where the troop sing in training “We’ll nick your dogs, we’ll nuke your schools, we’ll stretch you on a rack, we’ll borrow all your garden tools and never give them back”, and D.R.’s horror that there are no expensive foreign restaurants on the planet they’re fighting on is amusing, but it really takes a while to get going and could have benefited from being at least one part shorter. At least it does allow for Moore to bring back Crazy Chryssie, who’s imprisoned on the planet the fighting is taking place on, as are D.R. and Quinch when they accidentally kill half of their platoon (and for once it is an accident) but the ending is contrived when Quinch’s mother turns up to rescue them from all but certain death, Moore had set up the idea earlier on in the story but it’s a rare example of lazy storytelling from the man.
Fortunately D.R. & Quinch Go To Hollywood is a real return to form, and indeed for me it’s the best story out of all them as after meeting a homeless guy who claims he used to be a famous screenwriter, but who then dies in front of him, Ernest and Waldo steal his new script and tickets and dash off to Planet Hollywood. And no, that’s not the unpopular restaurant chain but an entire world which is devoted to making films. After meeting a producer who looks suspiciously like Alfred Hitchcock they manage to cast two actors who definitely aren’t supposed to be Marlon Brando and Burt Reynolds, oh no, and everyone’s desperate to finance it. There’s a twist in the tail though, as the homeless guy’s script is all but unreadable due to his terrible handwriting, and they can only make out the words “Oranges” and “Close the Curtains Geoffrey, I’m Amphibious”. Thus our budding filmmakers have to make it up as they go along which involves heavy artillery, women dressed as giant crabs, incredibly strange awful insane creatures with blow torches and a massive tower of sixteen thousand oranges. So yeah, it’s definitely the kind of film I’d pay a lot of money to see if it ever were made.
This being D.R. & Quinch it probably won’t be a shock to hear that it all goes terribly wrong, with them killing their leading man during filming, but the finished product does win a huge amount of awards and sees the duo interviewed by Barry Normal, a critic who couldn’t be more based on British film critic Barry Norman if they’d used a photo of him instead of a drawing. In the final part Australian critic Clive James is also sent up with Moore portraying him as a smug know it all who praises the film, despite it looking like the work “Of a large, lumbering brainless monster playing with a camera”. Mocking Hollywood is always fun and Moore has a ball doing so, making fun of actors egos, Marlon Brando’s all but incomprehensible mumbled speaking voice, and the sycophants who surround the famous decrying everything they do as amazing. There’s also some strong imagery here, a lot of very funny sight gags and Moore was clearly enjoying himself a lot while writing it.
Moore’s final script was the one off D.R. & Quinch Get Back To Nature, where Quinch and D.R. are running a summer camp (“Camp Apocalypse”) and the tale is narrated by a poor sod who is staying there who definitely isn’t being forced in to writing the letter by our murderous duo, it’d be insane to suggest a thing, or so he writes anyway. Describing all of the things that he’s been getting up to, he’s been involved with identification of birds (by shooting them out of the sky), finding out if a plant is dangerous (by throwing a kid in to it) and Camp fires (or forest fires, as you might know them as) and there’s much death and destruction as per always. It’s fine, short and sweet but nothing that special, and it’s a shame in some ways that Moore didn’t bow out with Go To Hollywood rather than this breezy but unsubstantial effort.
Two years then passed without any new stories until D.R. & Quinch eventually returned in full colour, with scripts by both Hellblazer scribe Jamie Delano and Alan Davis, and consisted of nine one page adventures. It saw the duo become agony aunts, answering queries supposedly sent in by readers, and the letters include someone asking for help as “I can’t stop chasing small furry animals” (which they endorse and just suggest other ways to hurt said creatures), someone moaning that there milk is being stolen (so they suggest blowing him up with a liquid bomb), and “Lonely from Kettering” can’t talk to girls so they tell him he should polish his zits and make them all sparkly and sexy, and also offer a leaflet entitled “Facial Acne As A Weapon Of Terror”. Another strip sees some students fearing reality and asking for help, and they’re told to blow up a nuclear power station, while reader Gavin Ockendon wants a nuclear bomb so they tell him to break in to the Pentagon. Other stories saw a slightly misjudged attack on Greenpeace supporters, the duo claiming the best way to deal with job centre advisers is to shoot at (but not actually kill) them, and two episodes feature the return of Crazy Chryssie who gives advice on how to talk to girls. Delano is a superb writer elsewhere but all of the above is a bit on the nose, there’s the odd moment which will make you smile but little more than that, and it wasn’t a surprise that it all but killed off interest in the duos adventures.
And so for a very long time, that was that. The characters were fondly remembered by many but there was no demand for their return, and all involved in their creation went on to bigger and better things, Moore’s work is of course famously well known but Alan Davis has an impressive body of work of his own, including stints drawing Batman, the Justice League of America, the X-Men and The Avengers, and Delano’s also written some fantastic comics too. However last year they they did make a brief comeback in 2018 as part of 2000 AD Regened: Free Comic Book Day, in a story called D.R. & Quinch Hijack Free Comic Book Day which was written by Owen Johnson & Colin Bell with art from Indio! & Dom Regan. To be honest it’s not that great, the comic as a whole was aimed at kids (it features Cadet Dredd rather than Judge Dredd, for instance) and while Johnson and Bell capture the character’s speech patterns well enough the story is fairly bland, there’s weak satire of characters like Superman and Wolverine, though just altered enough so no one got sued, mockery of various pop culture tropes and a trip through history which sees the duo vandalising art in a surprisingly dull way. Still, it’s easy to pretend that it never happened, and hopefully 2000AD won’t try and bring the characters back again unless it’s with better writers.
D.R. & Quinch will never win awards for being the smartest of satire, and it’s definitely of it’s time, but it is an example of 2000AD being fun and frivolous in a way which I wish it was to this day. There are still some silly stories on occasion but all too often the comic is grim dark and it’s a shame there aren’t strips which are as inventive and playful as the very best of Moore’s scripts were. So it’s not an essential purchase by any means but the graphic novel can be bought on Amazon and Ebay for very little, and if you’ve a penchant for throwaway fun you’ll probably enjoy it an awful lot.