It should have been the greatest television show ever: conceived by Harlan Ellison, with science advisor Ben Bova and scripts by Dick, Le Guin, Herbert and Van Vogt. A new comic based on The Starlost shows what could have been.

Today sees the first issue of IDW's new comic series A Phoenix Without Ashes, written by Harlan Ellison based on the novel of the same name — which, in turn, was Edward Bryant's novelization of Ellison's pilot script for The Starlost.

Much has been written about The Starlost's failure. Ellison wanted to create a hard science fiction series, and contracted scripts from A.E. Van Vogt, Frank Herbert, Joanna Russ, Thomas M. Disch, Alexei Panshin, Phillip K. Dick, and Ursula K. Le Guin. In the end, Ellison was forced to leave the project, the storylines were dumbed down, and of the outside writers he'd contracted, only Le Guin's storyline made it to the screen.

It sounds as though this new comic series follows the storyline of Ellison's original pilot, in which a boy from a quasi-Amish community gets cast out and then discovers his town is just one of many environments on board an ark that's fleeing a destroyed Earth — and the arc is off course and heading for a deadly collision with a sun. Here's the official synopsis:

The year is 2785, and Devon, a farmer banished for challenging his community's Elders, discovers a secret that changes everything he knew about the world, leading him on an adventure beyond his understanding and a quest to solve a mystery beyond his understanding before his entire world is destroyed in cataclysm.

At least in the graphic novel version, we won't have the terrible bluescreen effects. Or the crazy giant sideburns. And these covers do look incredibly lovely. [Covers via Ryalltime]

The original pilot script for television's most famous disaster, the Starlost, coming out as a comic book

The original pilot script for television's most famous disaster, the Starlost, coming out as a comic book

The original pilot script for television's most famous disaster, the Starlost, coming out as a comic book

The original pilot script for television's most famous disaster, the Starlost, coming out as a comic book