The City of Gold and Lead is a comic featured as separate weekly strips in the Boys' Life magazine. It covers the story in the second book of The Tripods trilogy, The City of Gold and Lead and follows it very accurately.
Will begins to train with other members of the resistance, hoping he will be able to compete in an upcoming annual sporting event for a chance to go to the City of the Tripods and gather information. Julius, the resistance leader, has concerns about Will's impulsiveness and lack of discipline, but Will promises to control himself. Beanpole and Fritz are chosen as well, but Henry is asked to stay and help at the base.
The boys board a barge downriver, the craft stopping in several places to do business. In one town, Will and Fritz, the other boy competing in the games, have to split up and track down Ulf, the barge captain, who is a heavy drinker, because they fear he'll say the wrong thing while drunk. While they're looking for him, Will gets in a fight and is sentenced to the Pit, a place where troublemakers are thrown to be pelted with various items. He can't climb out because of the spikes at the top of the pit, but Beanpole finds him and helps him out. The boys then have to build a raft to get the rest of the way to the games, as the barge has already left.
At the games, Will and Fritz win their events, but Beanpole does not. Will and Fritz are taken to the city inside a Tripod, and Will quickly realizes how difficult conditions in the city are. The gravity is artificially increased, because the Masters originated on a planet with a higher gravity than Earth's. It is oppressively hot, and the Masters' air is poisonous to humans, so the servants must wear helmets with air scrubbers. The oppressive atmosphere takes a harsh toll on the servants and they all look much older than Will, even though they are only a few years older. Most of the slaves last only a couple of years before the city wears them out.
The boys are taken to a selection chamber where they wait in individual cells to be chosen by a Master. Will begins to fear he won't be chosen, but finally, he is selected. His duties include preparing meals, helping his Master bathe driving him around, running errands and serving as a companion. His Master frequently pets him with a tentacle, and Will equates himself to a dog first, then a cat. Will also does some nursing when his Master gets The Sickness, or the Curse of the Skloodzi, which makes him weak and turns his skin brownish. Will frequently brings him gas bubbles to soothe him.
Although Will's Master is benevolent, he later learns that Fritz's is brutal and regularly beats him for no reason. Will has a hard time finding him in the city, but they eventually devise a way to meet and speak. Fritz learns little, but Will's Master reveals a lot to him. He shows Will things like the Pyramid of Beauty, where the Masters preserve specimens of animal and human life for their own pleasure. Sadly, Will spots Eloise among the preserved humans-while the boys brought to the city serve the Masters, most of the girls are killed and preserved to display traits like hair color. Will also sees the Masters playing a sort of game called the Sphere Chase in an arena-like enclosure.
Will's Master also tells him of the Masters' journey to Earth and subsequent invasion with the use of mind control via television, and of their plan to transform Earth's atmosphere into one suitable for them to breathe. He learns that the mothership with the equipment for the plan will arrive in about four years' time. He begins making plans to escape and get this information back to Julius.
Eventually, Will is forced to take action when his Master finds his writings in his refuge, the place where a servant can eat and sleep without needing the respirator helmet, and attempts to examine his Cap. Will punches him in the face,and inadvertently finds that a Master can be killed with a blow to this area. He flees along with Fritz and escapes via the waterfall that takes water back into the river. Fritz, however, stays behind, planning to throw the Masters off Will's trail by telling them that Will has gone to the Place of Happy Release,that is, the city's death chamber, since his Master has died and he can no longer be of service. Will meets up with Beanpole outside the city, and the two begin the trek back to Julius at the hideout.