If you were in the Los Angeles area Tuesday night and you wanted a copy of "Stephen King's The Dark Tower" #1 before anyone else, you were left with little choice but to travel at midnight to Earth 2.
I know that sounds completely insane and perhaps even a brilliant premise for a Marvel/DC/Stephen King crossover, but when I say Earth 2 I mean of course the famous Earth 2 Comics and Collectibles in Sherman Oaks, CA, just a few miles north of Hollywood. It was there that area fans gathered just before midnight to get their hands on Marvel Comics' biggest release in years, "Stephen King's Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born" #1. As we are at all major cultural events, CBR News was there at Earth 2 to take in the sights and sounds.
To celebrate the release of "The Dark Tower," Marvel Comics worked with many retailers around the country to offer the book to fans at special midnight openings. The promotion was publicized heavily by Marvel as well as Stephen King himself. In Los Angeles, the "Dark Tower" midnight openings earned mentions in numerous local publications such as the LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times. Earth 2 capitalized on the hype by giving customers the chance to pre-pay for the book throughout the day on Tuesday, making it easier for them to collect come midnight. The scheme proved successful, with the exquisitely tidy yet modestly sized store being filled nearly to capacity by midnight Wednesday.
Wendy Clingon was the first person to buy a copy of "The Dark Tower" from Earth 2, which is remarkable when one considers the fact that she'd never really set foot in a comics store before.
"I've been reading Stephen King since I was in junior high, and I read the first Dark Tower story probably... twenty years ago ," Wendy told CBR News. "At that point there were two books out, and there was a letter to the reader at the end of the second that said [King] may not write them all. And then there were huge breaks in between three and four, and then he got in the car accident and we didn't know if he was going to finish them... he said he was going to quit writing."
For those readers unaware, Stephen King was the victim of an extremely violent auto collision in 1999, when he was hit by a moving vehicle while walking by the side of the road. During this period, King made statements that suggested he would never return to fiction writing.
I asked Wendy, "Did that totally freak you out?"
"It did. Completely!" she confessed. "I was like, 'nooooo!!"
Fortunately, King returned to writing and knocked out the remaining "Dark Tower" installments, and the celebrated author's magnum opus was complete. As Wendy went on to explain, Marvel's "Dark Tower" comics are all that remain for "Dark Tower" fans, as movies and other forms of adaptations are unlikely to manifest due to the massive amounts of content the saga.
"This is the only thing left for 'Dark Tower' fans," sighed Wendy.
Wendy and other non-comics-reading "Dark Tower" devotees I spoke with believe that Marvel's adaptations will "most definitely" bring new readers to the comics medium. Earth 2 owner Carr D'Angelo agreed, and he took special steps to make sure that those new readers were welcomed. D'Angelo displayed prominently in the store comics and graphic novels that he felt would appeal to Stephen King fans as well as others uninitiated into the perhaps insular world of mainstream comics. Paradoxically, the comics that the mainstream public tends to accept most readily are those that remain somewhat on the fringe within the comics industry itself; books like "The Walking Dead" and "Y: The Last Man," both of which echo Stephen King's "The Stand."
"We knew this was an opportunity to reach out to like-minded people who might not be reading comics," D'Angelo said. "It's a natural thing that the people who only read novels might find some good books here."
Throughout the evening, Earth 2 served refreshments, played music (including King-related hits like Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper," which was of course a key track in the author's "The Stand") and conducted a number of fun raffles. Tickets were deposited and mixed around in a Batman piggy bank. Winners received items like "Lost" action figures, and, most amazingly, a free copy of Vertigo's "Absolute Sandman," quite possibly the best version available of what is arguably the best comic ever. The winner of that particular prize was one Melissa Escamilla, who had no idea how lucky she was.
"Um, my husband just went to get some coffee next door," Melissa said. "It's his raffle ticket. He's a huge comic book fan."
"That comic is worth about $100.00," I told her. And it may just be the best comic book in the world."
"Really?" she asked. "It's very beautiful."
Melissa's husband Travis returned shortly, coffee in hand and puzzled to see his wife carrying an oversized brown paper bag. CBR News photographer Lex Burroughs managed to capture this series of shots documenting Travis' reaction to his absolutely free copy of "Absolute Sandman."
CBR News learned that the Escamillas are new to Los Angeles, and at the time had not yet found their regular comic store.
"Well, come on, man, now that Earth 2 gave you that...."
"Yes," Travis said. Simply, "Yes."
"It wasn't easy, logistically," D'Angelo said of the "Dark Tower" midnight opening "Tomorrow's new comics day and we still have to get up at five o'clock in the morning to receive the shipment." Despite the hardships, D'Angelo says Earth 2 is prepared to host more events of this kind, partly due to the customers' enjoyment, and partly due to the support from Marvel Comics.
"This was something different, I would even say out of Marvel's comfort zone. But guys like David Gabriel [Marvel Comics' Vice President of Sales] really understand promotion. When you have these opportunities... I mean it's been a great year. When you have books like 'Civil War,' 'Pride of Baghdad," Marvel and DC have both really gone to the mat to get these books into mainstream consciousness. Plus on the independent side you have the New York Times and serious book journals reviewing 'Fun Home' and giving that Book of the Year. 'American Born Chinese' and other indie books are being covered. So it's really a time now where the mainstream media is embracing comics, and fortunately the people behind this event knew had to exploit that.
"Stephen King, the world's best-selling offer, coming out with a comic book, is something that would get attention."
Earth 2 Comics and Collectibles is sponsoring a book drive for Penny Lane Foster Youth Library. Bring a children's or young adult book and receive one free copy of "Stephen King's The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born" #1.