WW Philly: Marvel Adapts Stephen King's "The Stand"

Following the tremendous commercial and critical success of Marvel Comics' adaptation of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower," the storied publisher and venerable author have unsurprisingly opted to continue their relationship with another prose-to-comics translation of one of King's beloved works -- perhaps even his most beloved work -- "The Stand."

Scheduled for a September launch, Marvel's "The Stand" will be scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, writer of such comics as "Angel: Revelations," "Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four" and "Dead of Night Featuring Man-Thing," episodes of HBO's "Big Love," and playwright of such works as "Rough Magic" and "Dark Matters."

Illustrating Marvel's "The Stand" will be Mike Perkins, known for his work on "House of M: Avengers," "Captain America" and "Union Jack: London Falling." Laura Martin will provide color art.

An immense story detailing the struggle between good and evil, "The Stand" depicts a post-apocalyptic America where virtually the entire population has perished after the sudden release of a ferocious man-made plague. The relatively few survivors are split into two factions, each compelled by either the prophet-like Mother Abigail or the antichrist-like Randall Flagg to set out on a cross-country quest to find a new home and begin society anew. When the two groups discover the existence of each other, the stage is set for humanity's last stand.

Marvel's adaptation of "The Stand" is tentatively planned as six five-issue miniseries, or thirty issues in total, and is being produced under the guidance of Stephen King, who actually initiated the project himself. To learn more about the ambitious adaptation, CBR News spoke with editor Ralph Macchio.

CBR: Obviously, Marvel's "The Stand" adaptation is a natural result of the success you've enjoyed with "The Dark Tower." Tell us more about how this deal came to be. Surely, Stephen King was eager to see more of his work in comics form?

Ralph Macchio: Yes. When we had Stephen King up for the New York Comic Con in 2007, we had gone into the Green Room to meet with him just before going [on stage for] the "Dark Tower" panel. He mentioned at that point time, "You know, maybe we could think about 'The Stand?'" That was the first that I'd heard of it and I certainly didn't say no. I said, "Stephen, that sounds like a fantastic idea."

King and Chuck Zerrill, his top man, were happy with their relationship with Marvel, and he seemed pleased to get another one of his works in print in the visual form through Marvel Comics. But the first I heard of it was directly through him when we were at the convention last year. It was very flattering and we were very, very pleased. From that point, King and his people began negotiating with Marvel; all the legal things and all the things that has to be gotten out of the way before we get moving on it.

What role will Stephen King play in the production of this adaptation?

A very similar role to that which he played and continues to play on "The Dark Tower." He is the executive guy at the very top of the pyramid. He gets to see and approve everything. When we did cover sketches, when we did character designs, the first story overview, everything went through him. And also through Chuck Zerrill, who is a very, very important guy. He is Stephen King's agent. A very, very intelligent man and we work with him also on "The Dark Tower." Everything goes through him as well. He and Stephen confer. Sometimes I hear back directly from Stephen. More often, I hear back with comments directly from Chuck. I know they're a combination of what he's wanted and what Stephen has wanted.

I really have to tell you that both of them have been the nicest people in the world to work with. When you've got a literary giant like Stephen King, who is the 800-pound gorilla in any room he's in, to be as sweet as he is to deal with and as easy going as he is to deal with, it's a wonder. "The Dark Tower's" been a charmed project and I think "The Stand" is off to the same start.

Let's talk about the creative team behind "The Stand" comic book adaptation.

Our writer is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. We thought he'd be an excellent choice for this because he has the kind of background... his writing just seems to lend itself to the kind of feel that we wanted for "The Stand." So we were very happy when he accepted the project. Again, having heard back from both Stephen King and Chuck Zerrill on Roberto's overview for the entire series, they were extremely pleased with it. Extremely pleased. We were happy and off and running when we heard that.

Mike Perkins is a British penciller. Mike is somebody who has the kind of detailed look we wanted on this project. We wanted to have it look considerably different than "The Dark Tower" because it's a considerably different piece of fiction. We didn't want to go the Jae Lee route, we wanted to go with someone with a very different kind of a look, maybe a little bit less impressionistic than Jae's work.

Mike signed onboard and immediately set to work doing character sketches which, again, we passed by both Stephen and Chuck, and with their approval on everything, we were rolling artistically. Mike has been a dream to work with. He's already four or five pages into the first issue. He and Roberto have gotten along famously. Mike is terrific.

Laura Martin should be doing the coloring on it as well. Many of the good projects we've been putting out, Laura Martin has been responsible for coloring.

With "The Dark Tower," Jae Lee and Richard Isanove truly branded that property. When you see that artwork, you know you're looking at "The Dark Tower," and when you think of "The Dark Tower," you think of their artwork. Do you plan to approach "The Stand" similarly with this team of Mike Perkins and Laura Martin?

Yes. We would certainly like to, as you said, brand it. We would definitely like to make the visual appearance of the characters and the world the kind of thing whereby anyone who reads this comic series can go back and read "The Stand" itself and see those images of those people in their minds. As we have heard from many of the people who are "Dark Tower" comic readers, if they go back and re-read the "Dark Tower" [novels] -- or are now reading them for the first time because they picked up the "Dark Tower" comic -- they see the Jae Lee visuals in their heads. Jae's visuals have imprinted themselves very strongly on everyone's imaginations. Anyone who reads "The Dark Tower," they see that look, that kind of mystic quality Jae has given to Mid-world. All of that has played into people's appreciation of "Dark Tower" when they go back and re-read or read for the first time the original novel.

We're hoping, too, that will play with "The Stand." It was nice to hear from Stephen, when we sent him a number of the character sketches, that about one in particular he said that in his own mind, he saw the very visual Mike Perkins had delivered. So if we can do that for Stephen King, we hope we can do that for all of the people reading the novels. We'd love to give them that kind of visual imprint. So when they go back and read "The Stand," they see Mike Perkins' visuals.

Given the enormity of "The Stand" storyline and cast, what sort of publishing model does Marvel plan to use to tell this incredibly big story?

We're heading in the direction of doing it very much like "The Dark Tower." We plan to do a series of about six five-issue arcs. With "The Dark Tower," things are flexible. I believe the first arc was seven issues, the second one was five. The next one will be six. With "The Stand," we will probably do it similarly. Roberto has kind of broken down the entire novel into a series of arcs. He really has already laid it all out and we are planning to do about thirty issues total.

Again, though, this is flexible. Don't hold me to it totally. When Roberto sits down to actually write the second arc, the plotline, the individual issues, he may see that there is something that he wants to delve into a little more deeply that he thought he would when he first constructed the outline. That may be some more characterization bits that he wants to get in there. Something may intrigue him. You never know. If that's the case, we can very well extend an arc to seven issues or whatever. We're planning to make each one five-issues.

Are you planning to keep the same art team through the whole run?

Oh, absolutely. With Jae and with Richard Isanove, there's no way we would want to lose either of them, because as you pointed out, they really have put their imprint on the whole thing. That's their look. That's what "The Dark Tower" is. It would be very, very difficult to replace either of those guys. Likewise on "The Stand," we would like to keep the entire creative team together because we know just from the stuff we've seen from Mike so far, he wants to make this the work of his career. Certainly the way he and Roberto have been getting along, I don't think either of them are dispensable. We need them both.

And also I should mention with "The Dark Tower," I don't want to minimize the efforts of Peter David. Peter's scripting has also been something, to catch the voice of those characters in "Dark Tower," has not been an easy thing. He's done that fantastically well, of course with Robin Furth in the background kind of playing the role of puppeteer, kind of pulling the strings on the "Dark Tower" stuff, being our real touchstone into Mid-world.

But back to "The Stand," yes, we definitely want to keep the same team. As long as these guys want to do it, we'd love to have them on for the whole run.

When "The Stand" was adapted for television in the early 1990s, parts of the prose had to be excised. How faithful do you anticipate Marvel's adaptation being? Is it too soon to tell us what will be in and what will be out?

Yeah, it really is because, as I said, we're kind of flexible. As time goes by, there may be some segments [that get cut]. We really haven't envisioned any sequences of importance being dropped or being minimized. Certainly, we want to follow the trash can man and his journey across the country. We want to delve into Mother Abigail and her background. Obviously, when you're dealing with a work of this length (and certainly with "Dark Tower," which was seven volumes) there are things that are going to get dropped. But nothing of importance, because if you're going to do an adaptation, you really owe it to the reader to give them all of the important stuff, you really have to. That's the only way it's going to be faithful and it's going to be satisfying. I do not envision us having any reason to drop any important sequences at all. And if there was, we would certainly discuss it well in advance. There just don't seem to be any circumstances that would arise that would make us drop anything of any importance.

The readers may say, "Oh you should have given more space to this, this or this," but that's really a matter of taste. From our end of things, we just want do the best that we can and keep all the important stuff in there.

What sort of timeline are we looking at for this project? When can King fans expect to see the first issue of "The Stand" on.. the stands?

My understanding right now is that we're shooting for a September release date. Also, what we are going to do is make it a Stephen King sweep month, as we're also planning to release the first issue of the next arc of "Dark Tower" that very same month. We're planning on having both of them on sale in September.

What can you tell us about the marketing push? Marvel got behind "The Dark Tower" in a big way with midnight sales and mainstream coverage, but "The Stand" is one of the most popular Stephen King works, even more so than "Dark Tower."

It's funny, because "The Dark Tower" seems to have been a kind of off-to-the-side Stephen King thing. I know a number of Stephen King fans who have said, "Well I got into almost everything Stephen King's written but I never really got into 'The Dark Tower.'" But a lot of them, when they read the "Dark Tower" comic, said, "You know what? This really is fascinating. I want to get into reading the book." I think that's a testament to "The Dark Tower," that it's such a unique thing that even Stephen King readers have found a little bit daunting at first.

"The Stand" of course is really one of the seminal things that he's written -- if you can have more than one seminal work . This is the one that King himself has said most readers seem to cite as being the one they're most interested in. Although, from what I've read, it's not King's favorite work of his own. Which is interesting. But we do plan a huge marketing push, similar to that of "The Dark Tower." I think there probably will be the midnight openings again. But I know that once we got approval from Stephen and from Chuck Zerrill on the plotline and on the character sketches, etc, I know that the marketing people moved into high gear to make sure that we would have material ready for conventions and interviews and all that stuff. I think you'll see that it's going to be a very similar push as it was with "Dark Tower" -- maybe even bigger because, as you say, "The Stand" is if anything a larger King phenomenon. I'll be interested to see what outsells what when we do the September release of both those books.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Marvel Comics forum.

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Tags: marvel, stephen king, dark tower, the stand, wwp2008

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