Comic stories have appeared in all but two issues of Doctor Who Magazine. Since its earliest days as Doctor Who Weekly, the publication has been home to many types of strips, but the most durable has been the one featuring the then-current televised Doctor. This "main strip" has usually been told in a multi-part format. Beyond these continuing adventures of the Doctor, the magazine has at different times printed comic adaptations of classic science fiction stories, reprints of original science-fiction stories from American comic book anthologies, reprints of strips originally printed in Polystyle or City Magazines publications, and original strips not featuring the Doctor which were nevertheless set in the Whoniverse.
In 1979, Marvel UK wrested control of the license to produce Doctor Who comics from Polystyle. Editor Dez Skinn immediately changed the style of the comic strip by hiring youngsters who were principally comic book artists, rather than the cartoonists and illustrators who had been in charge of Polystyle's output. With soon-to-be-luminaries like Dave Gibbons, Pat Mills and John Wagner working on the main strip and Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Steve Dillon and Steve Parkhouse initially handling the back-ups, Skinn instantly brought modern — and more American — sensibilities to the comic Doctor Who world.
At the same time, those early issues of Doctor Who Weekly brought American comic strips in front of British eyes by having a long series of reprints taken straight from Marvel's long line of American science fiction anthologies. Called variously "Tales from the TARDIS" and "Time Tales", the non-Whoniverse backup strips of those early issues involved a few panels of the Fourth Doctor framing a Marvel US adaptation of a classic science fiction story or an original strip taken from a Marvel US science fiction anthology of the 1950s or 1960s. Borrowed as they were from Marvel US, they featured the talents of Marvel legends Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, and even Stan Lee himself. Skinn also resurrected the long-out-of-print Dalek Tapes stories that had originally appeared in TV Century 21. For a time, Doctor Who Weekly regularly had three or four different strips in each issue.
Skinn's successors rather quickly ended the non-Whoniverse material, and made reprints of 1960s material increasingly sporadic. But the non-Doctor original back-ups remained well past the time the magazine became Doctor Who Monthly. These backups, however, dried up at about the time the Sixth Doctor debuted. By the end of the 1980s, the magazine generally ran only the main Doctor Who strip. However, there were rare instances when a Polystyle comic made its way into print during the 1990s. These occasional reprints ended entirely by the dawn of the 21st century. In the 1990s DWM temporarily ran a series of comic strips featuring past Doctors in lieu of the then-current Seventh Doctor, but from 1996 it once again featured exclusively the current Doctor.
Today, Doctor Who Magazine exclusively publishes a single original comic strip per issue. As has been the case since 1979, most stories are serialised and told over the course of several issues, with the occasional single-chapter standalone. Originally published in black and white, the comic strip has been published in colour since the early 2000s.
Many of the comic strips have been reprinted a number of times in, or as, various publications, including as a series of mini-comics given away free in multi-packs of crisp snacks.
Doctor Who Magazine material was first reprinted in America via the Marvel Premiere anthology series in the early 1980s. When sales proved favourable, a new title, Doctor Who (1984), was launched. Though cancelled just shy of its two-year anniversary, the title managed to reprint almost all of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors' DWM runs. It also offered some prominent American artists, such as Dave Cockrum and George Roussos, an opportunity to offer pinup and cover artwork of Doctor Who subjects. Like many DWM reprints, Doctor Who (1984) presented its reprints in colour. Towards the end of 2007, IDW Publishing picked up the option to again reprint colourised versions of DWM comic strips in a monthly American series entitled Doctor Who Classics, reprinting stories up to the early Seventh Doctor era, plus a two-volume standalone, Grant Morrison's Doctor Who, reprinting Morrison's output from DWM. IDW also published several omnibus trade paperbacks featuring DWM strip reprints. The reprints ended with IDW's loss of their license to publish Doctor Who comics.
In the UK, Panini undertook a long project to digitally restore all Doctor Who Magazine comics, and faithfully reprint the comics from their original masters. In most cases, this has meant the first monochromatic reprinting of most DWM strips. It has also offered the creative teams an opportunity to add explanatory notes and original concept artwork. These large-format volumes have to date covered most of the history of DWM from 1979 onwards.