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Bringing Stephen King Tales to the Comic Book Page

Horror master Stephen King has taken readers to the furthest, darkest depth of his imagination with his novels that range from tales of killer canines (“Cujo”) to being trapped within an invisible dome (“Under the Dome”).

In addition to his novels and short stories, King’s works have been adapted into a number of movies and TV specials. However, his tales aren’t limited to these mediums as they have also found a way into the comic book industry.

When it came to bringing King’s vision to comic books, one of the first stories to get the paneled-paged treatment was his “Dark Tower” series. “The Dark Tower” followed gunslinger Roland Deschain as he braves a world of monsters and evil men while on his quest to reach the mythical Dark Tower and the Man in Black. Rather than adapt all the books, Marvel presented a miniseries detailing Roland’s youth as he faces tragedy and betrayal while learning to become the best gunslinger ever.

The first miniseries, “The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born,” came out in 2007 and was written by Peter David with plot from Robin Furth and art by Jae Lee.

Other miniseries continued to explore Roland’s youth with “The Long Road Home,” “Treachery,” “The Fall of Gilead,” and “The Battle of Jericho Hill” plus the one-shot, “Sorcery.”

The past two miniseries, however, feature an adult Roland already settled into his quest for the Dark Tower in “The Journey Begins,” “The Little Sister of Eluria,” “The Battle of Tull,” and “The Way Station.”

In an interview with prior to the release of “Treachery,” David and Furth discussed their intentions for the series from the start. “If by reaction you mean critical reaction, I was confident that we were putting out a quality book. The work that Robin, Jae and Richard have done is superb. So I was reasonably sure that we’d get positive notices. In terms of actual audience numbers, I honestly had no idea what to expect. It was, after all, not a superhero title. I knew if we could pull in the Stephen King fans, we’d have a ball game,” he said.

Furth also said, “I wanted so much to do a good job and to please Stephen King and all the longtime ‘Dark Tower’ fans. Bringing Mid-World to a new readership felt like a big responsibility, but I’m so glad that readers have enjoyed the story. That is a reward in itself.”

However, “The Dark Tower” miniseries hasn’t been the only story the House of Ideas has explored, as they’ve also published six miniseries (31 issues) adapting King’s ultimate story of good versus evil, “The Stand.” It was transferred to comics by writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Mike Perkins, who kept this terrifying story alive through strong visual art.

Prior to the release of the first issue of “The Stand” adaptation, “Captain Trips” #1, Aguirre-Sacasa talked to about getting this writing gig and his then-plans for the series. When asked what makes “The Stand” such a memorable tale, Aguirre-Sacasa replied, “Two words: Stephen King. Also, remember that the apocalypse is only really the first third of the book. And that after that, in a weird way, it’s about the birth of a new world…”

While Marvel has done, and still does, well with these comics based on King’s work (they also produced a miniseries of his short story, “N”), they aren’t the publisher to latch onto to his vast library of stories.

Independent publisher Del Rey presented their comic adaptation of “The Talisman” by King and Peter Straub in the six-issue miniseries, “The Talisman: The Road of Trials.” It was written by Furth and illustrated by Tony Shasteen and was about a boy who searches for a diamond or “talisman” to save his dying mother.

Next, IDW has begun publishing their comic book version of “Throttle,” written by King and his son, Joe Hill, and inspired by Richard Matheson’s tale, “Duel.” Titled, “Road Rage,” the first storyline in this four-issue miniseries follows a biker gang as they bother a truck driver who pursues them with vengeance on their mind.

The comic book miniseries is being written by IDW Chief Creative Officer Chris Ryall with art handled by Nelson Daniel.

Although many of these comics based on King’s works are done by other writers, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t offered his literary talents to the comic book industry. In fact, King wrote his first comic book story with the Vertigo series, “American Vampire,” created/written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque.

King didn’t write the main storyline but worked on a back-up feature that explored one of “American Vampire’s” prime characters, Skinner Sweet, as he went from Western outlaw to becoming a new type of vampire. The story ran for five issues and brought King’s unique brand of horror into a new mythos.

While talking to, Snyder talked about what his experience was like working with King. “Apparently it’s his first original comic. We’re excited about it. It was funny, because I didn’t realize how humble and flexible he would be going into it. I’ve known him, and he’s a great guy, but he was so eager for notes and for edits and that sort of thing. He did such a terrific job with this,” he said.

From adaptations of his prose or original comic book narratives, King’s influence seems to be weaving its way through the comic book industry one title at a time.