Doctor Who Classics: Planet of the Dead re-mastered

US publisher IDW is currently publishing early Doctor Who stories from the Seventh Doctor era and the latest issue, on sale now in the US, features a rather special anniversary story by none other than myself and the wonderfully talented Lee Sullivan.

First published in Doctor Who Magazine in 1988, ‘Planet of the Dead’ (not to be confused with the more recent Who TV movie) was commissioned by then Doctor Who strip editor Richard (Elephantmen) Starkings to mark the 25th anniversary of the show. As my first Doctor Who story, you can imagine a tale featuring all the Doctors was something of a challenge, but thanks to Richard’s editing and Lee’s smashing art it turned out well, I think, and proved popular with readers.

Now coloured by Charlie Kirchoff, the story features alongside another great tale, ‘Keepsake’ by Simon Furman and John Higgins.

I’m pretty sure that this new edition is the first time my name has ever appeared on the cover of a US comic, so I’m pretty chuffed to be up there with such illustrious company.

‘Planet of the Dead’ was a two-part story featuring several past companions and the first seven doctors – in likeness, if not as the originals – and was intended as an anniversary tribute. The monsters of the piece were the Gwanzulum – shape-changing aliens that were also slipped into several other Marvel titles in the same month, to see if readers noticed their secret invasion.

Working with editor Richard Starkings was valuable experience for me – not just on this story but other titles such as The Real Ghostbusters and Thundercats. Richard devoured writing and comic art books and was, and is, a mine of information on the comics form. He taught me how to edit my strips, shape them better.

There was one instance on a Thundercats story I wrote, where economic circumstance force the cutting of a strip from 11 to five pages overnight and I argued it couldn’t be done. He did it with consummate ease — it was a very useful lesson!

Lee Sullivan, who also drew illustrations for a text story, ‘Scream of the Silent’, for the Doctor Who 25th Anniversary Special at around the same time, recalls that ‘Planet of the Dead’ was the first strip he’d drawn extensively featuring humans.

“I’d only just done a couple of strips for Transformers, he notes. “In one of those I had drawn a likeness of Richard Branson and that proved to be a ‘career-moment’ because, as a result, when Richard Starkings was assigning Who scripts to artists, he swapped mine to ‘Planet’ from ‘Time and Tide’, which Dougie Braithwaite ended up drawing. Suddenly I was having to deal with likenesses of all the ‘dead’ companions and all the Doctors, as well as being very aware of all the great artists I was following!

“It was a dream come true, though. I had followed Who in strip form since the first appearance of the Neville Main ‘Hartnell’ in TV Comic.

Of all the Doctors he had to visualize, the Seventh proved the most elusive to capture. ” I think everyone found him hard – his face has an infinite variety of expressions,” Lee says. “I find that I have to build a ‘virtual model’ of the character in my head, so that the drawings look consistent from panel to panel, but every photo of Sylvester shows a different face.”

IDW’s Doctor Who Comic Classics aren’t officially distributed in the UK, but IDW told us earlier in the year that the digital edition will be available here, so look out for it when it’s launched. ‘Planet of the Dead’ was, of course, also published in black and white by Panini, in their collection of early Seventh Doctor strips, A Cold Day in Hell.

They’ve done a great job on this Classics collection. I just wish more people in the UK could see it!

• IDW Comics is at: www.idwpublishing.com

Lee Sullivan’s Official web site

More about Planet of the Dead on the TARDIS Index File

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Collections, Doctor Who, Television, US Comics

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1 reply

  1. i might have to pick this issue up, I usually wait for trades of the old DW comics, but Planet of the Dead was the first DW comic I ever remember reading (in the old Classic Comic collection to boot).

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