NYCC: King's Dark Tower Comic Panel!
When I was about 12 years old, maybe a little younger, my father was dating a woman who was really into Stephen King. I had dabbled with the man’s work before, primarily a reading of The Stand earlier that year, so I was curious as to what about this Gunslinger book she was freaking out about was so great. I read it in pretty much one sitting and demanded there be more, immediately, and thankfully this was about the time the second Dark Tower book, The Drawing of the Three had hit shelves so, for the first and last time in my history with Roland and his ka-tet, I was granted immediate gratification.
Going forward from there was a horrendous waiting game as King released the next books very slowly, over a matter of years, until he finally sat down and finished the whole thing in one fell swoop, something I honestly didn’t know if I’d live to see considering how long it was taking for the new books to be released. But man, when those books hit shelves it was like Christmas and Halloween and my birthday all rolled up into one; a momentous event that almost never failed to amaze and surprise me with the massive amount of layers King would keep adding on in each successive story.
Needless to say, The Dark Tower has always been a very large part of my life.
So when Marvel announced a comic series, with art being handled by the immensely talented Jae Lee, that would tell of the time of Roland the Gunslinger’s days following when he first got his guns at the young age of 13, I couldn’t wait for it. Thankfully the first issue doesn’t disappoint on any level; I recommend any and all fans of King’s epic series get out there and experience The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born as soon as you can.
My first impression of Stephen King in person was a memorable one. While waiting outside the exhibition hall for the panel he would be participating in with the rest of the comic team to discuss The Gunslinger Born at this weekend’s New York Comic Con, King came walking right past us and a woman ran up to him with what looked like a first edition of Carrie, looking for an autograph. Though the security at the Jacob Javitz Center tried to keep her away, as is their job, King was gracious enough to stop, sign the book, and make a very happy woman indeed. In fact I think she was almost in tears when she went back to her place in line.
That just goes to show how much people love King, despite some dips in the road and a few missteps here and there, the man has always been able to hold the devotion of his fans, which seem to grow in number every year. The crowd that qued up at 5am that morning in the freezing cold to get tickets to see the panel were evidence of that, as was the standing ovation King received when he took the stage.
It really was like seeing a rockstar in person for the first time, since the man does so few appearances nowadays; it’s something I won’t likely forget anytime soon.
After the introduction of the panel, which included artists Jae Lee and Richard Isanove, writer Peter David, editor Ralph Macchio, consultant Robin Furth, letterer Chris Eliopoulos and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, they just opened the floor to audience questions right away. After all, that’s what we all came for, right? Right!
The biggest question was just how far into Roland’s life would we be traveling in the comic series since it will only be 7 issues long and there’s a lot we don’t know about the Gunslinger’s past. Robin Furth, who worked on most of the storyline for the books, and King both confirmed that the tale would take us up to the Battle of Jericho, which is the first time we see Roland again after he gets the guns and attempts to best Marten the Wizard.
Of course we had to know if there’d be more stories of Roland’s life after this one, to which King said "there are always more stories". Quesada elaborated a bit on this; "The collaboration was so easy ... When it goes that smoothly and works so well, there’s always a desire to do more." So now it’s just a matter of what and when they can work on it, but they have been working on ideas already, such as Roland’s quest to finally destroy the witch who ruined his life, Rhea of the Coos.
Each person involved with the series had their own moment when they realized it was going to work, but some of the highlights were when King was getting ready to leave one of their first meetings with Jae Lee, where there were large versions of Jae’s artwork on display, and King asked if he could just take a few of them home with him. Jae said that was a great moment for him; how may people can say that Stephen King wanted their art? He also said being escorted into the room for the panel by stormtroppers (who were escorting celebs around all weekend) was the geek highlight of the whole endeavor so far.
"I’m an instinctual writer," he told the crowd. "The Dark Tower, to me, has always been one big book, a first draft at that, and after working on this collaboration I’ve started thinking about ways the rest of the series could be modified so it feels like one long, continuous story." As you may be aware a revised version of the first book, The Gunslinger, came out a few years back, so perhaps the idea of updating the rest of it isn’t as crazy as it sounds. I just don’t think it would need to be done, as the series works so perfectly on its own.
"Working with this great, creative team has really worked well for me!” he enthused. ”I might end up novelizing the comics!"
Of course the subject of the possible Dark Tower movie/TV series was brought up, of which King spoke cautiously about; "I talked to Frank Darabont about doing it, he brought the idea to me, but I told him he just had too much on his plate already to work on something so large," he explained to the crowd. "But then J.J. Abrams (creator of "Lost" and "Alias") came to me expressing interest and both his and "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof’s passion for the series got me thinking about it again. So I told them 'why don’t you just buy the option for it and see what you can get done?' and they did; I sold it to them for $19!" Of all the people that have been mentioned as possibly working in the project over the years, the Abrams/Lindelof team are the only ones who I think could pull it off.
As for future projects, King said that just before coming on stage he and the creative team were discussing a possible comic adaptation of The Stand (which got a riotous amount of applause) and that the saga of Jack Sawyer, hero of The Talisman and Black House had always been planned to take place over three books, so another should be coming at some point, though no more specifics were mentioned.
It was a great appearance by King and I’m very glad we were there to witness it. King still has the natural report with his audience that’s helped make him such a successful writer and public speaker over the years and I hope this is just the first of many such events he comes out for!