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BBC Paid Pat Mills & Dave Gibbons For Doctor Who, Panini Did Not

Doctor Who: The Star Beast was based on the comic that Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons created for Doctor Who Weekly from Marvel back in 1980.

Article Summary

  • Pat Mills celebrates BBC's 'Star Beast' adaption but calls out Panini for not paying royalties.
  • The BBC and Bad Wolf compensated Mills and Gibbons, unlike original comic publishers.
  • Mills criticizes UK comic publishers for subpar payments and undervaluing creators.
  • Pat Mills' new book 'Pageturners' offers insights on his work including Doctor Who comics.

Mark Millar took delight in Pat Mills' joy over the Star Beast episode of Doctor Who over the weekend. Which was based on the comic that Mills and Dave Gibbons created for Doctor Who Weekly from Marvel back in 1980. "YES! I was talking to a retailer today who told me that comic has rocketed from around 30 quid to 200 overnight."

Now, this is Mark Millar, so obviously, the numbers are going to be a bit out of whack, more like sixty quid, but still. Pat Mills, however, had a different monetary concern. Doctor Who Weekly, then Monthly and now Doctor Who Magazine, was published by Marvel UK from 1979. A company that was bought out by international magazine and football sticker publisher Panini as a result of the Marvel bankruptcy in the nineties. Recently, Panini reissued Star Beast as part of their Fourth Doctor Anthology with the Star Beast story on the cover. Not that Pat Mills saw any of it. He wrote;

BBC Paid Pat Mills & Dave Gibbons For Doctor Who, Panini Did Not

I've nothing but praise for the BBC, Bad Wolf, Russell, David Tennant and the production crew on Star Beast. They were all brilliant. But the original comic publishers –no surprise– don't come out of it so well. I didn't get a bean in comic royalties. 

What is it about British comic publishers? is it a malfunction in their moral compass?  Needs a repair, maybe with an appropriate insertion of a sonic screwdriver…

Star Beast? not a bean. UK Comic publishers simply don't understand the value of 'doing the right thing'. They would get so much fan acclaim. But they prefer to count their cash

I didn't know there was a Panini reissue as below. It wouldn't occur to them to send me a copy! No royalties for my comic Doc Who from them. As I said, everyone else was brilliant, kind and generous. But Panini come out of it as just typical comic publishers.

Panini received a fee from BBC. BBC/Bad Wolf generously paid Dave and I an ex-gratia sum which they didn't have to do. But not Panini. UK comic publishers simply can't compute the value of 'doing the right thing'. The poor things genuinely don't understand. I feel sorry for them.

Famously Marvel, rather than paying royalties, pay "incentive payments" which they can drop at a moment's notice. But since this work was commissioned by Marvel UK, it seems Panini own this one.

The comic copyright was with Panini. It was always the arrangement. But it would have been nice to see them make some small gesture or have something to positive to say. I guess they're too busy counting their cash

The only good thing about the shitty payments or zero payments of UK comic publishers is that it made me a prolific writer constantly thinking up new stories to pay the bills. Every cloud.

BBC/Bad Wolf very generously paid us an ex-gratia sum for everything. And! They gave me a new pair of safety bovver boots to comply with Health and Safety on set. (Dave already had a pair). So I'm well chuffed!

Before Brexit there was a chance of challenging UK Comic publishers in law. Not now, I feel. But publicly shaming them for their tardiness is a good second best. Works for me.

Not just Marvel UK, Pat Mills also has choice words about Rebellion Publishing, who bought out the rights to 2000AD and Judge Dredd, the comic he founded and the character he co-created.

All royalties go to Rebellion who then pay creators a small percentage below industry standard. Better than Panini who pay nothing. Both are equally indifferent to creators

My choice of words was about doing the right thing. This is something Uk comic publishers do not understand. They deserve pity as well as condemnation

There are people in this business (apart from UK comic publishers) who believe in doing the right thing. Big Finish, for example. I have nothing but praise for them, too

It's a flaw in the moral compass common to all UK comic publishers. They don't understand that a small gesture would reap huge dividends with fans and creators. That's why I feel genuinely sorry for them

Example of another. The Western Front Association (who host our cenotaph) wanted to run some episodes of Charley's War digitally. They're a charity so I was mad keen for Egmont (UK publishers) to let them do this. They ignored the requests of the WFA!

Charley's War, from Battle Picture Weekly, was published by IPC and is now published by Rebellion Publishing, which bought the IPC archive of rights and material.

In Pat Mills' new book Pageturners: How To Create Iconic Stories From The Creator of 2000AD published now, free to his paying Substack subscribers. details his detailing with publishers. And also adds a trip to the set of Star Beast (and reveals that Rose also had Cybermen and Weeping Angel-based toys in that shed)

Pat Mills writes, "I would've loved to have carried on writing more Doctor Who stories for the magazine, but Marvel UK publishers, faced with falling sales on Doctor Who Weekly, normal enough in publishing, tried to cut our script rates (but not the artist's rates), which rather confirmed my gut feeling they didn't actually value what John [Wagner] and I were doing. Or they thought anyone could write this stuff. Maybe that's how it is in the world of UK Marvel superheroes, but we do things differently in the world of mainstream British comics. My feeling is born out by the credits on at least one Panini reprint (the
inheritors of Marvel UK) where we don't receive the normal, industry-standard, equal billing with the artist. And so John and I left the magazine." He later adds, "Because our Doctor Who comics were, astonishingly, undervalued at that time. And the writers in particular. So, they even attempted to cut my script rate as a cost-cutting measure. When I said I'd have to go if they insisted, they just shrugged and said, "Go". Hence why Star Beast was my last Doctor Who comic story. The readers valued them, of course, and Russell and David Tennant in particular, and that's really good to know, but no one in authority did and our stories could easily have been lost to posterity."

The Marvel Comic That Was Adapted For Tonight's Doctor Who: Star Beast

Doctor Who: The Star Beast is available in the UK on the iPlayer. It is available worldwide (aside from Britain and Ireland) on Disney+. Panini recently collected Star Beast by Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons in Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Anthology. And Pageturners: How To Create Iconic Stories From The Creator of 2000AD by Pat Mills is published now, free to his paying Substack subscribers.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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