With Stephen King's landmark novel "The Stand" considered by many a modern masterpiece, artist Mike Perkins ("Captain America," "House of M: Avengers") and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa ("Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four," "Dead of Night featuring Man-Thing," "Big Love") have a huge task and trial ahead of them in transforming the 1,153-page novel into an epic 30-issue Marvel Comics series. As with the similarly high-profile adaptation of "The Dark Tower," Stephen King is overseeing Marvel's "The Stand" himself.
"The Stand" begins with an apocalyptic super-flu that wipes out virtually the entire American population. The survivors split into two factions led by the prophet-like characters Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg, and the story tracks the expansive cast as they head toward the ultimate battle between good and evil, which takes place (where else?) in Las Vegas. There is more, of course. A lot more.
Perkins has thrown himself into the project feet first, with a plethora of research that began with character sketches so true to the novel that King himself complimented one of the artist's renditions by saying it was exactly what he was thinking while writing the book. Perkins also has traveled to Boulder, Colorado, which plays a huge part in the novel, to explore ways in which reality can be translated honestly to the comic page.
Mike Perkins spoke to REFLECTIONS about his work on this most anticipated project.
CBR: When was the first time you came across Stephen King's "The Stand?" Was it in novel form or through the 1994 ABC television miniseries?
Mike Perkins: It was in the novel form. When they asked me if I would be interested in doing it, I hadn't read it up to that point, but as soon as they asked I turned to the novel, began reading and found out I couldn't put it down. I didn't even know about the TV miniseries because it was never released in England.
Had you read other King books before "The Stand?"
Yes.I'd read quite a few. I'd read "'Salem's Lot" and it was one of my favorites -- and remains so. One of the first ones I read was "Insomnia." I was aware more of the films, like "The Shining" and "Misery," which are just brilliant. Since I've started this project I've been listening to loads of them on audiobook. And they are great to listen to while working, because they really put you in the mindset of the Stephen King world.
Have you seen the television miniseries?
I checked it out online, saw who was in it, but that hasn't come into any consideration on my take on the characters, which comes straight from the descriptions in the novel. I don't even want to see the miniseries. I don't know whether it's good, bad or indifferent, but I want to take it straight from the source material and concentrate on that.
What struck you most about the novel that made you know you had to draw the comic book adaptation?
There is a lot of character work, which I always enjoy doing. I always like to put emotions in there. The characters go through a lot in this book, and there is a journey each one goes through, not just on a physical level but on an emotional level as well. That's intriguing for me. There's also the supernatural element of Randall Flagg, the walking dude. I was also looking for a long-term project, and when they offered me this one, it really appealed to me.
Marvel's "The Stand" will run thirty issues and be composed of several miniseries or arcs. How much of your time is this going to take?
That's the next three years, tied up. That is what I wanted to do, because I've always been jumping around from project to project recently. I've always had "Captain America," yes, but at the same time I would always be working on something else too. It got to the point where I just wanted to concentrate on one thing, and this was the one. Although I'm also contributing the covers to the "House of M: Civil War" miniseries; any excuse to work with Christos [Gage] again!
What moments from the King's novel are you most looking forward to illustrating?
The sequence in the Lincoln tunnel where Larry Underwood is crawling through the tunnel from Manhattan, and it's completely pitch black. It's really going to be a challenge, because it's just his imagination and what he's thinking the entire time he is in that tunnel. That's going to be a challenge to draw and one of the reasons I'm really looking forward to it. Also, any parts with Randall Flagg are always enjoyable, as well as Trash Can Man, who is just a maniac. He's one of the characters that just completely deteriorates throughout the novel, and that will be fascinating to draw.
Roberto is also cooking up something with Tom and Nick crossing the plains and encountering the tornado.
Are there any moments or locations that make you shudder to think you will have to draw?
At the moment, there are a lot of characters talking and sitting before the super-flu breaks out -- which I enjoy drawing, please don't misunderstand me, but I'm looking forward to getting the characters out so that the vistas open up.
I seem to be looking forward to depicting the entire novel! Nothing strikes me as being particularly shudder worthy.
Which character spoke to you most in the novel?
Larry. He's a guy who always wants to do the right thing, but he's never in the right place. He doesn't think he's worthy enough or strong enough. Every time he thinks he's getting ahead, someone tells him he's not a good guy.
Visually, of course, it's Randall Flagg or Trash Can Man.
I know Roberto really liked Harold when he first read the book and identified with him, which is kind of scary, but there you go. [laughs]
What does the first miniseries, "The Stand: Captain Trips, encompass?
It takes us through the outbreak and introduces all the characters up to that point in the book. As far as the initial proposal went, it ends with Randall Flagg appearing in America. I think that's how this arc ends.
And how far are you into illustrating Captain Trips?
I'm just wrapping up issue two this week, since I'm penciling and inking it. I'll probably be halfway through issue three by the time the first issue comes out. That's great, because they are set up like "Dark Tower," with a break every couple of months. It gives you some breathing time.
Why did you decide to pencil and ink "The Stand?"
I've always preferred to do that with my work. I've worked with some great inkers, but still, I always prefer to ink my own work. It's a true vision of your artwork at that point, and I enjoy both aspects of it. And with this book especially, I wanted to pull out all the stops and do it exactly as I would see it. I've said before that this has to be the definitive comic version of "The Stand," and that's how I'm visualizing it.
What has surprised you most about drawing the book?
I added an extra page in the first issue because I wanted the first super-flu image to be a nice splash image that hit you. I had no problem getting it approved; I just approached Roberto and editorial and they okayed it.
The thing that surprised me is how much I enjoy the Frannie sequences. At this moment she's just talking to people and sitting there, like her dad and ex-boyfriend. But that comes back to the fact that those moments are more open, in vistas, instead of in a building, and that is more enjoyable to draw. You can change the camera angle and pull back much more than you could in an interior setting.
It's been very enjoyable so far -- and I should hope so since I have 28 issues more to go. [laughs]
Let's talk about Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Were you familiar with his work before this project?
I read "4," primarily because I was following Steve McNiven's work. I liked the different take on the Fantastic Four. I've read some of his Spider-Man stuff as well. I really liked the character work he has accomplished.
What he is dsoing now on "The Stand" is great. It's not just straight from the books; he's studied the book and broken it down to the essence of the characters and made it really work. It's not something you can sit down and read in two minutes. There is a lot of work in there and he's done some extremely good work so far.
What are the differences between Marvel's "The Stand" and King's original novel?
Some of the scenes have moved around so we can introduce characters in a different order. In the comic you have two or three pages then move to another section of the story, because that's more interesting than following one character for ten pages. That's a lot more visually interesting.
Apart from that, [Aguirre-Sacasa's] staying very close to the book. And, of course, I go back to the book as well when I'm drawing. When I read the novel originally, whenever a character was introduced, I made a note of it so I could go back and look to see what a character looked like -- what a character was doing -- what a character was wearing. So there are bits and pieces that I get to put in as well.
Have you spoken to King yet?
Not yet.I'm hoping to at some point. But Marvel has the relationship with him, and I'm happy to leave it to them. He did say that my depiction of Frannie was exactly how he envisioned her when he wrote the book, which is a huge compliment. He liked the other designs as well, but that was the one that immediately stuck out to him. That's fantastic.
What's going on with your signings and book launch parties?
There is one in Midtown Comics -- with Peter David also in attendance - at midnight in Manhattan on the night it's released on September 9. Then [on September 10] I'll be signing at Jim Hanley's Universe in Manhattan at 5:00pm. And then I have a signing that Saturday [September 11] at Yancy Street Comics in Florida. The information can be checked out on my blog.