Elijah Snow started writing guides to his explorations of the strange in the 1930s. Reflecting the grand scope of his travels, they were called Planetary Guides, and cataloged nearly every amazing, strange,horrifying or unbelievable thing he encountered in his travels through the world. The guides were published once a year, and were indispensable for those who suffered from greater-than-average wanderlust.
As late as the 1990s, Snow had changed Planetary from a one-man project into a global organization, with offices around the world, reflecting its name. The main office was in New York City, and it was there that the three-person field team was based.
The original members of the field team were Jakita Wagner, Ambrose Chase and The Drummer. Together they explored the world and its mysteries until they caught the attention of The Four.
The Four were a group of metahumans working to prepare the Earth for takeover from a parallel universe. Part of this task was eliminating all possible threats. All magic, helpful aliens, supertechnology and metahumans were to be hunted down and eliminated. Anything that might provide humanity with the ability to advance was wiped out. They had been working in the shadows since 1961, and by 1995 perceived Planetary as a threat to their mission.
During an invasion of The Four's antarctic base, they captured Elijah Snow and threatened him with the death of his team if he did not subject himself to blocks on his memory. Snow agreed, and Randall Dowling eliminated nearly all of his memories of The Four, Planetary or his friends. While he was gone, Ambrose Chase led the field team, but was killed in 1997.
Soon after, Jakita Wagner found Snow again and tried to bring him back into the group. His memory blocks were strong, however, and it took some very careful work to get them to collapse. Once they did, and his memories started to return, Snow began an intricate plot to stop The Four and their mission.
Planetary's main purpose is also Elijah Snow's purpose - to find the hidden archeology of the world, all of its true wonders, and to save them.
Comic about comics
Interestingly enough, Planetary is a series that mixes the classical themes with the studying of comics themselves.
Though its story focuses on alternative versions of well known characters belonging to all the major comic companies, it also presents the impact some of these characters have had on the mind of the readers and their being related to precise periods of the comics publishing history as a whole.
The writer establishes a specific relation with the fans, allowing them to both enjoy their favorite hobby and studying the implications of being part of the comic sphere through merely being able to understand every reference or concept alluded to in Planetary.
This concept can be then partially and episodically seen used on a regular basis in other comics such as Invincible, where iconic characters are alternatively pivotal or decorative elements to the story.