Lee Sullivan, a titan of comic book artistry who has delved deep into the world of Doctor Who sat down with Blogtor Who recently for a good old chat!
Before Doctor Who returned in 2005, it enjoyed much success. However, what most fans can agree on was the restrictions of the shows budget. Consequently, the comic book variations of Doctor Who dodged this. Comics enabled illustrators to visually blow up the imaginations of writers and creators to full. One of these artists was Lee Sullivan, who was gleefully sharing his work at London Film and Comic Con.
Sullivan has contributed to the Radio Times, Doctor Who Magazine, Titan Comics and a great many other outlets! He has produced Doctor Who webcasts for the BBC and his latest project is a Titan Comics five issue mini-series named ‘Rivers of London’. Currently on its third story. He will provide line artwork for the mini-series, and is a renowned cover artist in his own right.
Sullivan happily accepted an interview whilst drawing a toothy Transformer for a fan……
We frequently have many new readers coming to the site. So, I think it will be a good idea to start with you-
I’m Lee Sullivan, I’m an illustrator and a lot of what I have done is comic strip artwork and one of the things I got known for, on and off over the last 27 years I think, is drawing Doctor Who comic strips, which I started in about 1989 for Doctor Who Magazine. I did a strip called Planet of the Dead, not to be confused with the later TV episode of the same name. That featured the first seven Doctors, it was the first thing I’d drawn with humans in it actually, as a comic strip. It also featured a lot of the inverted comma’s ‘dead companions’, like Adric and Perry and Sara Kingdom and the poor, I think, Greek girl who got killed? I can’t remember what her name was even. Poor girl; she’d been sucked out of an airlock! That’s what happens if you’re Greek in Doctor Who – out the door! She sacrificed herself, and so did Sara Kingdom, so I did comic strips.
The next comic strip I did, featured a guy I am actually drawing at this very moment for someone, which is Abslom Daak, who is also known as the Dalek killer. He was the invention of some other comic strip creators Steven Moore and Steven Dylan. I drew him and the first time I drew Daleks – that really cemented my place in Doctor Who Magazine for quite awhile, because, Daleks, you know all Doctor Who fans like the Daleks. I was one of the first ones – lots of other comic strip artists have done their versions of the Daleks, but I was one of the first ones to draw Daleks like the props on the television show. I think that is what kind of cemented my little tiny place in the pantheon of Doctor Who artists. So, that’s where I come from. And probably where I shall end up <laughs>.”
What is it about Doctor Who that you think translates so well into comics? Obviously, before the revival the CGI was quite limiting for the television series. Comics must have dodged that through artistry? Is it a good fit?
Well, it’s changed actually, over the years. Because my, well I’ll give you some context. I am the same age currently as Peter Capaldi is – well I suppose I’ll always be the same age as Peter Capaldi, assuming we both survive. Indefinitely, hopefully. So I am late 50’s, and the stuff I read when I was a kid was all the strips in TV 21 which had a Dalek strip – which I’ve just finished doing the last episodes of the ones that were printed in Doctor Who Magazine. But originally they came from the biggest selling kids comic in the 1960’s which was TV 21, which was based around the Gerry Anderson properties. But the Daleks had a place in that – they had their own comic strip – and I’ve just finished doing that particular story, because Ron Turner, the great Ron Turner, who was a 60’s icon comic strip artist died sadly before he could complete them. I’m completing them for, Vork Vork Magazine #3 which is coming out later on this year.
Comic strips back in the 1960’s had a different role because the TV show was very low budget and couldn’t spring to very large special effects. So, the comic strips tended to do things that couldn’t be done in the TV show – so there were big explosions, there were huge spaceships, there were masses of Daleks – anything you could name was done to what appeared to be a big budget. Of course, the artists never got a big budget! But it looked more impressive I think. Interestingly now, the program has been able to catch up with that, so the role of the comic strip has probably changed to reflect the TV show more than our earlier versions of it did. But I think that Doctor Who has just got a great format. It’s a very intelligent man solving problems which seem insoluble – that’s his thing – in my view, he has always been Sherlock Holmes in time and space. Because he is, you know, a bright man who solves puzzles with the aid of a companion – who happens to be slightly less spectacular – who he can explain the workings of those solutions too.
You’ve worked for Titan Comics as well! We’re all massive, massive fans of Titan Comics! Perhaps you could tell me a little bit about that? What’s it like to work with them?
“Ah! Well, Titan, I’ve worked on them with some other things as well! I did some BBC webcasts when Doctor Who was away, in the interregnum, I suppose it might be called, between the major blocks of series. I also did stuff for the Radio Times when the Eighth Doctor came back. So I have done quite a few things. I also worked for IDW as well. So I’ve done bits and pieces for lots of different outlets. IDW was the last thing I worked for as a complete strip, but I’ve been doing covers for the Titan titles like I’ve done a few Matt Smith and I’m also doing some Christopher Ecclestone covers. I’ve recently just done an Eighth Doctor one page strip in the Fourth Doctor book – it’s all very confusing this – featuring some Cybermen that I drew and designed for the Radio Times 20 years ago!
I live entirely in my own past, you know! It’s like being a time traveller, I come from the past and go back to the past all the time! Yeah so Titans stuff, I haven’t done any strips for yet, but I imagine in the end I probably will! What I’m mostly doing these days is slightly Who connected, which is ‘Rivers of London’ written by Ben Aaronovich and Andrew Cartmel, both of whom are Who alumni from the Sylvester McCoy years. So there’s – you can run away from Doctor Who but you can’t escape. No one can!
What about these conventions? What do you enjoy most about attending things like this?
“Oh coming to conventions? The reasons to come to conventions is two-fold. Somebody asked me once, people frequently say ‘do you enjoy doing the conventions?’ Well, that’s easy. Yes of course I do! Because where else would you get, you know, to sit for a weekend where people come up and say they like your artwork, and if they like it enough buy bits of it off you. I would say greater love hath no person – they lay down their hard cash, for your artwork. So that’s a great thing. And to be told your work is marvellous, well it’s great. And I get to meet a lot of my comic strip buddies, who I don’t get to see much of the rest of the time. So it’s ideal! And you get to meet the audience as well, that’s an important thing. These days now on Rivers of London, I get to meet the people who are currently reading it. That’s a big, big plus, that’s really nice! Because mostly it’s favourable, and if it’s unfavourable I don’t listen to them <laughs>!
For more on Lee Sullivan and his work check out his website.