With the first six books of the seven-issue miniseries "Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born" averaging sales of nearly 140,000 copies each and the title ranking in the Top Five month after month in the Diamond counts, Marvel Comics and author Stephen King have repositioned an extremely bankable franchise into a new medium.
CBR News spoke with the acclaimed horror writer's personal research assistant and plotter of the "Dark Tower" comics, Robin Furth, as well as editor Ralph Macchio about yesterday's news from the Baltimore Retailer Summit that the first issue of the second "Dark Tower" series – "The Long Road Home" – is scheduled for February of next year.
It was also confirmed in Baltimore that "The Long Road Home" will be scripted by "Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born's" Peter David ("Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man," "Young Justice").
Furth told CBR News that "The Long Road Home" consists of five issues and will be books #8-12 in what is expected to be an epic 30-issue "Dark Tower" comic bookopus featuring King's legendary anti-hero Roland Deschain.
"This is a direct sequel to 'The Gunslinger Born,' Ralph Macchio told CBR News. "We'll be picking up on Roland and his ka-tet as they move beyond Hambry and Mejis with the death of Susan Delgado fresh on their minds. And we will still be dealing with a young Roland who has only recently become a gunslinger. The most important thing to remember is that Roland is still a young man in this arc and is extremely prone to the impulsiveness that's part of the growth process.
"We will be moving beyond the events detailed in the fourth "Dark Tower" book and heading off in new directions for this next arc," added Macchio, although he wouldn't say just exactly where those new directions might be. "That would be telling and that I don't want to do. I think my previous answer will whet the appetite of any potential readers and they'll drop in to see where the saga of Roland Deschain heads next."
Robin Furth teased a little more on where the ka-tet may be heading. "Ah! That's the million dollar question," quipped Furth. "Let's just say that, thanks to Maerlyn's Grapefruit, Roland – or part of Roland – is separated from his companions for a while. Hence, while they face the dangers of the road, and of being pursued and attacked, Roland has some otherworldly monsters to face. But, I shall say no more."
However, Furth did remark, "We're also going to follow some of Sheemie's adventures."
If "Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born" #7 sells 167,199 copies – just shy of sales total for #1 – the series will have sold an estimated 1,000,000 first-run copies for Marvel Comics since its February, 2007 launch.
"I can't speak for the higher ups at Marvel, but I was, personally, extremely pleased with the reaction to the first arc," said Macchio. "We could have fallen flat on our faces, with legions of Stephen King fans angry at us for tampering with the sacred text, but, it didn't turn out that way. The sales were excellent and the word-of-mouth was terrific. Any time you deal with a property that has achieved such legendary status and has such a vocal fan base, you better be sure you do things right. Of course, there really wasn't a guidepost for us to follow when we took this project on. So far, we've done okay."
Furth echoed the sentiments: "I was incredibly pleased. Thanks everybody. You made all that hard work worth while."
One über-fanboy both Macchio and Furth want to please specifically is Stephen King, the man who originally created the world Roland explores in the pages of the "Dark Tower" comics. "This is his monumental creation and we want, first and foremost, to have him pleased," explained Macchio. "Stephen King was the man at the top of the pyramid on this project. He was of course there during the initial meetings we had during which the 'Dark Tower' series was formulated. It was his vision that we're following and his voice that set the tone for the series. He was involved in every aspect of the series. He was involved from the outline stage all the way through to publication. He saw all the artwork and scripts and made astute comments on both. Nothing went out without his eagle eye glancing at it."
"Also, as Creative Editor and Executive Editor, Steve has final say on the project," added Furth. "Keeping all that in mind, we've also really tried to stick with Roland's youth as recounted over the five volume 'Dark Tower' novels. There's a lot of info there, if you know where to find it. And thanks to the endless page references in my 'Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance,' we can find them."
Macchio says he and the creative ka-tet are up to the challenge of joining Roland on his quest to find the Dark Tower. "I couldn't be happier that the entire team is staying together," said Macchio. "Robin was our touchstone to 'Dark Tower.' She was the fount of wisdom on all things relating to it. She was and is indispensable to this project. And the articles she did were such competently written pieces of supplementary material. Also, you couldn't find a nicer, more cooperative person to collaborate with than Robin Furth.
"Likewise, Peter David's scripts were such an important aspect of the success of the series. Putting words in the mouth of Stephen King characters is an intimidating position to be in. But, Peter handled it with aplomb, very quickly finding a proper voice not only for the characters, but for the narrator. He's done an outstanding job and I am happy he's back ready to go on this next arc."
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