The Special Events Hall at the 2007 New York Comic Con was filled to capacity for the Marvel Comics “Dark Tower” panel on Saturday afternoon. And the man everyone was there to see was the last to take the stage. Marvel EIC Joe Quesada moderated the panel, and introduced artist Jae Lee, Robin Furth, Peter David, Ralph Macchio, Richard Isanove and Chris Eliopoulos. Quesada then welcomed to the stage “one of the greatest creators of the last 50 years, maybe ever,” Mr. Stephen King. The vaunted novelist took the stage to thunderous applause, and a standing ovation, and a pair of Imperial Stormtroopers were forced to keep order with the mountain of photographers. “If you keep calling me Mr. King, I’m gonna kick your ass,” King warned Quesada.
As part of Quesada’s initiative to divest comic books from the stigma of “children’s literature” and prove that it is a “serious artform,” Quesada is proud to be telling “Dark Tower” stories at Marvel. Quesada recalled a convention panel prior to the development of “Dark Tower” when he cited King as the one person from other media he’d like to bring into the fold at Marvel. Quesada is also proud of the “wonderful marriage” they’ve facilitated between comics and novels, with fans of the book who’ve never read a comic picking up an issue for the first time, and comic fans going out and buying King’s novels in turn.
The first question asked of King was if the comic series contained spoilers for people who haven’t read the novels. “There are no spoilers!” King exclaimed. “You might as well say “I’m never gonna watch ‘Wizard of Oz’ again because I know how it comes out.'” In short: “The comic book just kicks ass.”
Veteran comics scribe Peter David admitted that it was daunting putting his stamp on the work of a living legend like Stephen King. “You just do the best job you can,” David said. David went on to say that all of his fellow creators were doing just that. “I tell people that I’m a professional liar,” David said. “I make stuff up and people pay me money.” Of his collaboration with Peter David, all King had to say was, “I am not worthy.”
King admitted that he never really had a picture in his head of the character in the “Dark Tower” world when he was writing the books, and he’s been blown away by all of his collaborators on this project. “I can’t draw a stick figure,” King lamented. “I’m just in awe of what these artists have done.” King referred to the comic series as “Roland, the lost years.”
King admitted that he’s a very intuitive writer and doesn’t work from outlines. As a result, his stories unfold as he writes them. “You job is just to stand back and let it be what it is.” As far as he’s concerned, the “Dark Tower” series is just a “first draft,” because now that he’s finished it he sees things that he wish he’d done differently in the earlier books. Lee jokingly admitted that he’s still doing revision on the already-released first issue of “Dark Tower.” David invoked the famous words of Leonardo DaVinci: “Art is never finished, it’s only abandoned.”
Quesada, for his part, said that licensing properties from other mediums “is usually a mammoth pain in the keister.” But all throughout the process, he found himself saying, “It can’t be this easy.” Quesada said he knew that King was onboard when, at the end of their first meeting, the novelist requested to keep the oversized Jae Lee art boards.
Jae Lee took a few minutes to talk about the book’s look. Originally, he and painter Richard Isanove were going to produce two versions: one with traditionally inked comic pages, and one in which Isanove painted right over Lee’s pencils. “But when I saw what Richard did with painting directly over pencils, I just said, ‘This is it.'”
When the project was first in development, King and his Marvel collaborators decided that “Wizards and Glass” was the ideal novel to use for the comic adaptation because it’s a “self contained novel” with a beginning, middle and an end. Additionally, there was a large gap between the innocence of Roland’s youth and the man who showed up at the battle of Jericho Hill.” Speaking of which, that battle of Jericho Hill is the scene that King is most looking forward to seeing Jae Lee realize on the comics page.
Of a possible movie adaptation, King said he’d turned down most offers to date. “This is my life’s work, in a sense,” King said of his 30-year-in-the-making opus. King called the comics project “the best of all possible worlds” because “this will look the way it’s supposed to look.” And the comic has rekindled interest in a film franchise. King, who has a great deal of trust in the abilities of J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindeloff, did agree to sell them an option on the material for $19, so a “Dark Tower” for film or TV may well be on the way as well.
King cited Garth Ennis’ “Preacher,” Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta” and Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” as three of his favorite comics. King also said that while his two sons were still in diapers, he read them all of his old “Plastic Man” comics. On the chances of him writing a character in the Marvel universe proper, King said, “I never say never to anything. If something comes upon my mind, these would be the people I’d go to.” King also said they were kicking around the idea of adapting “The Stand” to the comics form.
On the possibility of additional “Dark Tower” comics, King said, “There’s always more stories.”