Exclusive: Rod Serling's original Planet of the Apes script comes to life in new graphic novel

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Mar 16, 2018

March 27 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Planet of the Apes feature film, directed by industry veteran Franklin Schaffner and starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, and Maurice Evans.

The Twilight Zone's iconic frightmaster Rod Serling wrote the initial draft of the Apes screenplay before Michael Wilson (The Bridge on the River Kwai) was brought in to overhaul some of the plot mechanics and the overall tone of the adaptation from French author Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel, La Planete Des Singes. Serling's version was never produced, though various element of his script, mostly the Cold War parallels and futuristic Earth ending, were salvaged.

That crazy Statue of Liberty finale was not part of Serling's mindset and came from producer Arthur P. Jacobs and former Disney concept artist Don Peters' primary pre-production art back when the project was at Warner Bros.

Now, 50 years later, Boom! Studios and 20th Century Fox Consumer Products are resurrecting the Rod Serling Planet of the Apes screenplay into a special graphic novel titled Planet of the Apes: Visionaries, using concept art and makeup tests as the basis. Written by The Simpson's scribe Dana Gould and artist Chad Lewis (Avengers: Origin), it features the main character of Thomas (Taylor in the film) discovering a modernized Earth metropolis inhabited by intelligent apes, not the primitive village portrayed in the 1968 movie.

Showcasing a dramatic cover by Eisner Award winning artist Paolo Rivera, Planet of the Apes: Visionaries will be launched in August as a component of Boom!'s 50th anniversary tribute to the Apes film franchise and pop culture phenomenon.

Boom! editor Dafna Pleban feels extremely lucky for the publisher's close relationship with the Planet of the Apes universe for ten years.

"We've explored so many aspects of the franchise — from Dr. Zaius' origin story from the classic films, to how Caesar forged a society in the aftermath of the new continuity, to reprinting the classic comics that fans fell in love with," Pleban told SYFY WIRE. "With Planet of the Apes Visionaries we have an opportunity to explore the franchise in an entirely new way — through the lens of the many talented creators that have worked on Planet of the Apes through various iterations.

"It was Rod Serling that brought the key twist that defined the franchise for decades to come, but it was a vision that at the time seemed too costly to achieve. To be able to share with fans his original vision — a bustling metropolis with skyscrapers and cars, not unlike our own, but run by Apes — is an incredible gift."

A close partnership with Fox Studios, who gave Boom! Studios total access to their archives, allowed for an intriguing alternate adaptation to be manifested for this year's 50th anniversary celebration.

"We're so lucky to have Dana Gould onboard to adapt Serling's original script — he's one of the biggest Planet of the Apes fans I've ever met!," she added. "With his encyclopedic knowledge, paired with his incredible skill as a writer, and the stunningly talented Chad Lewis on board as artist, fans will get to experience the Planet of the Apes all over again, but for the first time as it was originally envisioned."

Check out or exclusive look at the first unlettered art for Planet of the Apes: Visionaries in the gallery below, then tell us if this forgotten Rod Serling vision might be something to get your paws on in August.