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Lee Sullivan - Doctor Who cartoonist extraordinaire
Bearing in mind that Shada's about a very odd book, what's the oddest book you've ever read?
It was a medical dictionary, produced in the 1930s or 20s, which had a fold-out human form dissected. You went through the various layers and lifted parts of the paper anatomy and revealed the gory mess within and that was pretty sick. It stuck with me.
Revealed as a geek
What were you doing, or wearing, when the original Shada filming was going on?
If I were really gauche I would reveal at this moment that I was probably sporting a Tom Baker scarf at college. What can I say?
You've dammed yourself …
My mother knitted the scarf, it was a wonderful thing. A great experiment, a great failure.
What are your lasting memories of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?
Of course I listened to Hitchhikers, [though] not on its first run. I did see the Rainbow stage play with a girlfriend at the time, which was very strange.
My first memory of it is [before] I'd seen it somebody described listening to a wonderful series on the World Service where he described a whale falling out of the sky and hitting the ground. I thought 'Hm, that's the kind of series I might like to listen to.'
The Emperor's new space ship
How do you relish tacking the prospect of drawing an invisible spacecraft?
These are the kind of space craft that I dream of drawing. My whole career has been based on doing the minimum amount of lines for the maximum effect and I think this is going to be a career highlight really, the invisible space ship.
Twentieth century Krargs
Will the Krargs be true to their TV style, or will you modernise them?
True to their TV style. We didn't really see an awful lot of them.The Krargs, from what I remember, which is about a week and a half ago when I last saw the tape, are slatey looking guys, and I think they will have a similar kind of look but much more terrifying.
I understand that there's more of them than the bits that I've seen of the existing material of Shada, so I will be trying to expand on those, but I liked that slightly silicon looking effect.
I think we're going to do something very interesting with one of the spacecraft, there's going to be a flying volcano, if I read my script correctly. Yes, I would suggest a flying volcano would be very good, with lots of lava dripping out of it. One of the other things is to make sure that the aliens look suitably hot and antipathetic to human beings.
Dressing the Doctor
Last time you turned Colin Baker blue. Are there any colour changes for Mr McGann this time?
I understand that Mr McGann has been given a blue coat in Doctor Who magazine. I'm not sure that's his colour, but I'm going to be using green. I like green, and it suits his eyes, and that's why it was chosen by the very expensive costume department in the movie in the first place I'm sure. So I will be continuing that.
We've only got one episode to base his look on and, I suppose we've got to stick with that completely, because he just hasn't had enough TV exposure to give him that kind of flexibility.
His first Daleks
When did you first draw the Doctor?
Well for hire about 1988 and just for interest in 1963 I guess.
What were those first drawings of?
They were of the TARDIS and the Daleks which were my favourites, and remained my favourites really. I don't know if I watched the first episode, that's a bit hazy, but I know I watched the first Dalek story when it was being broadcast, and it terrified me completely.
I remember so much about it and it was wonderful to see it again. When I got to see the episodes again it was exactly as I'd remembered it, so it was a big influence. I still have drawings, which I suppose I may supply to the site, of Daleks which I produced in 1965, so you can see the difference between then and now, on nice little bits of yellow paper.
(Lee did provide the drawings, and you can see them here.
A Doctor a day
How long did you draw for Doctor Who regularly?
I don't think I've ever drawn Doctor Who regularly. I wanted to, but nobody gave me the job. When I started work on it the editor of the comic strip was Richard Starkings.
His idea was to run different artists for different styles of stories. I was about to get a story set on an island surrounded by water, which I suppose most islands are. It was a tribal kind of story and didn't really suit me very well, so I nabbed the story which was coming up which had apparently seven Doctors and various companions. I had drawn a likeness of Richard Branson for Transformers Comic and everybody liked that so I got to do the Doctor Who Seven Doctors story and I've done them intermittently ever since.
I've done lots of Dalek stories so it looks like I'm regular, but I come in when they want Daleks and then I go away again. The real regular stint was on the Radio Times really in 1996, which was 42 weeks long.
You've worked on both Transformers and Doctor Who, both brands which are suddenly coming back. How does that make you feel?
Incredibly happy. Transformers was not something I was interested in per se, but I knew that the audience that were reading the comics were terribly interested, and very young obviously. Then about ten years later I started getting invites to conventions, because those young guys and girls had found themselves with student loans, which they were quite happy to spend on all kinds of things they shouldn't have been spending them on.
I suddenly found myself one of the favoured gang of artists from the UK round the Transformers. It was really nice because I knew how that felt, because obviously Doctor Who had had that effect on me. Also I worked for a couple of years with William Shatner, and I was a big Star Trek Kirk fan so that was a terrific kick to me, so I can understand all that falling in love with a subject.
It's interesting to see it coming around again. I work on Thunderbirds as well, that comes around every seven to eight years. It's a sort of mini-generation, just when the older brothers and sisters are throwing their toys out the young ones take it up. I'm sure it will just come back and back and back.
Are you planning on any nods to Douglas Adams or Hitchhikers in the art work for Shada?
I hadn't really thought about that. I think the thing I've been thinking most about is how we're going to either make it similar to or different from the original unbroadcast story. I don't know whether we shall be exploring Skagra's silver cape costume in any detail. I don't think that was Douglas Adams, that must have been the costume [department].
I'm sure if there are any kind of references they will be in the script, which Gary will very cunningly place in there, I imagine.
What's the difference between doing comics now to when you started?
The differences in drawing comics now to how they were when I started out about thirteen years ago is they're really technical now. The computer has come along and things like Photoshop, the computer graphics programme, have expanded the range of possibilities.
It seems a lot like cheating to me because I was one of the last from the era when you drew with ink and you whited out with something called pelican white, made with real pelicans one assumes. Someone like Frank Bellamy would have really been appalled by the use of Photoshop, but I'm finding increasingly that if you accept that you're going to be cheating you can do an awful lot of things with it, such as special effects.
You can flip images if you're not really happy with them, you can change the size of people's heads if you've drawn a really nice likeness but it's not quite in proportion with the body. You can shrink it down and do all kinds of things like that very fast, and it does free you up to make ultimately a better piece of finished art.
Working for web
Are there any differences in the way you work when you're drawing for the web than when you're drawing for a cartoon?
Yes, the comic strip stories are a sequential series of art works that have to lead one to the other. When it's animated that is taken care of at the animation stage, so what I produce for the broadcasts, the web casts is background art work which is quite carefully thought out. It may not seem that way, but it is, I assure you. We have to allow for a lot of action to take place maybe in the far distance, in the middle distance and in close-up.
The animators will take very small areas of art work and blow them up to become entire backgrounds. It's very interesting to see that happen, because I wouldn't think of doing that myself, and it works so much of the time. I don't know whether it's a good thing or a bad thing but it's certainly interesting to see the process.
I have to supply foreground characters, middle ground and background characters. I draw them at different sizes because the level of detail required changes obviously, but it has been known for some of the foreground characters to have been blown up slightly more than they could really tolerate. Even so it actually works okay.
It's a completely different process, you have to think a lot about how the shot's going to be used.
Big it up
Is there a part of any of the animations that you've been particularly proud of?
I've been extremely pleased with all the animation actually, it's very hard to choose a piece.
I really like the long distance shots. There's a particular sequence in Real Time where the Doctor enters the interior of the pyramid, and it's just so big. I was really surprised, and that was entirely due to the animation, because there's a slow pan up.
Even though I produce the drawing and it's probably about so big [indicates quite small thing], it just looks much bigger than that. The animation is carefully moved and it gives the impression of great height, which is fantastic.
How did you feel when you saw the violent stuff in Real Time?
I felt sick. Queasy.
The comic strip business is a funny old game. Next week I shall be drawing a scene in Judge Dredd where a poor innocent secretary is sliced in half by a laser beam. That kind of stuff happens all the time in comics so you get used to a bit of gore.
The gore really was suggested in Real Time, there's lots of kind of mouldering faces and pipes stuck in various noses.
Inking the Doctor
Which Doctor is the hardest to capture the likeness of?
It's always been Sylvester for me because Sylvester has a very flexible face which is not the same in repose as it is in animation, which makes it tricky to select an image which works well. He's got a very interesting profile.
The one that I can actually draw best I think is Peter Davison, I don't know why, I think he's got a very simple face, there are very few hard lines in it and yet that can work really well. I like drawing Paul McGann, that's good fun.