By Chris Arrant
Over the past 30 years, novelist Stephen King has steadily plotted out a sprawling world of fantasy and magic in a series of novels called The Dark Tower. But with all those pages devoted to the enigmatic Gunslinger’s struggle towards his goal of surmounting the Tower, questions were raised about where this man came from.
Marvel Comics began exploring that and other questions in 2007 with a unique series of Dark Tower comic books covering events only hinted at in King’s novels, and now with the massive 30-issue first chapter complete, it will be collected in an impressive DARK TOWER OMNIBUS hardcover totaling 928 pages scheduled for release in September.
“To be quite honest, after we came to our initial Dark Tower agreement with Mr. King all I could think of is how cool it was going to be when we can package this stuff all together to create a DARK TOWER OMNIBUS,” says Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, who cemented the deal early on in his tenure. “Just seeing it on my shelf [has] me jazzed.”
Five limited series and one standalone story comprise the comic book take on what took place around and in between the early chapters of the Dark Tower saga. For long-time Marvel editor—and King fan—Ralph Macchio, the project proved quite different than his usual assignments.
“I had read the Dark Tower novels before talk of a comic series had come along, and I had already pictured what the book would look like, so living up to that for myself and for the readers out there was difficult,” explains Macchio. “Another thing that proved difficult was planning it out; when [co-writer] Robin Furth and I worked out the first arc of 30 issues, we were thinking pretty far into the future. I know certain comics work out where they’re going in advance, but working out an entire story-arc going 30 issues was pretty ambitious, especially since the writing hadn’t even begun.”
Furth has worked for years as Stephen King’s personal research assistant and played a major role in the Dark Tower series, drawing the maps used in the novels as well as writing the encyclopedic “The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance.”
“We had so many things to tell, and over the course of the series Robin’s had so many new things pop into her head about where to go,” Macchio elaborates. “Robin was the lynchpin of the series, and had a roadmap for us plotted out pretty early on.”
With Furth guiding the comic series’ plot, Macchio brought in veteran comics writer Peter David to script the stories and bring this expansive world to life.
“Peter found the voice for Roland and the other characters in THE DARK TOWER from day one, and he’s done an amazing job,” says the editor. “Peter and Robin worked hand-in-hand to bring the narrative voice of the series into focus, and everybody was on their best behavior. Everyone was on full burners because we knew we were working on the magnum opus of Stephen King, so everyone was giving their best.”
On the artistic side, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove took on the auspicious challenge of visualizing the realm of Mid-World. Like Macchio, readers of the novels already had their own unique visions for Roland and the other denizens of the tales, but the duo were hand-picked by Marvel’s then Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada and later endorsed by King himself.
“I have to give a tip of the hat to Joe Quesada, as it was his idea to put Jae and Richard on this series,” Macchio explains. “Joe being both the talent and the talent scout that he is realized Jae would be a phenomenal artist for THE DARK TOWER. I remember when Jae first turned in art for the proposal; when we met with Stephen King to explain what we’d like to do, Mr. King was so impressed that he asked to take home Jae’s art.”
According to Macchio, King explained that Lee’s art perfectly captured how the novelist pictured it when he wrote the extensive series:
“Jae really created an extraordinary visual world, a very singular visual experience. [His] work made this not just another comic book with great art, but a true piece of art. Jae and Richard gave us the definitive looks for each of King’s characters in the series.”
Ruwan Jayatilleke, Marvel’s Senior Vice Present of Development & Planning, echoes Macchio’s sentiments
“The credit of THE DARK TOWER coming to Marvel really resides with Dan [Buckley] and one of Stephen King’s agents, Chuck Verrill,” he says. “I believe Chuck dropped off a card for Dan at one of the comic conventions years ago to inquire about if Marvel had interest in tackling one of Steve’s seminal works. My role is to be a behind-the-scenes guy who helped shepherd the project along and make sure it’s hitting all its marks. The road to visualizing the Dark Tower canon in graphic fiction took shape through a host of efforts by Marvel editorial, Steve’s team, and all the awesome creative folks who have contributed to this visual storytelling masterpiece.”
From those initial conversations to the publishing of the serialized issues to its definitive form in THE DARK TOWER OMNIBUS, the work became more than just another project for Jayatilleke as well as everyone else involved.
“THE DARK TOWER OMNIBUS demonstrates that the modular parts of storytelling combine to make a single unified work more valuable than its separate parts,” he continues. “Again, it’s all due to the incredible efforts of the editors, writers, artists, as well as support from Stephen and his team that we have this phenomenal tome for fans to behold. Plus, Chuck and I had a blast referring to this Omnibus as the ‘Big Lebowski’ for no real reason—which is why we were so supportive of this 900+ page monster volume being made.”
With the release of THE DARK TOWER OMNIBUS imminent, it’s become one of Macchio’s crowning achievements in his 30+ year history at Marvel.
“In terms of page count, THE DARK TOWER OMNIBUS is second only to the Walt Simonson THOR hardcover we put out recently,” relates the editor. We’ve got a single copy here in the offices, but as soon as it comes out I’m going to head down to the comic shop to buy it—and bring a forklift to carry it!”DARK TOWER OMNIBUS HC SLIPCASE
Written by PETER DAVID & ROBIN FURTH
Art by JAE LEE & RICHARD ISANOVE
Collecting DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN #1-7, THE LONG ROAD HOME #1-5, TREACHERY #1-6, SORCERER #1, THE FALL OF GILEAD #1-6 and THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1-5.
DARK TOWER OMNIBUS COMPANION HC
Written by ROBIN FURTH & ANTHONY FLAMINI
Collecting DARK TOWER: GUNSLINGER’S GUIDEBOOK, END-WORLD ALMANAC and GUIDE TO GILEAD; MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: DARK TOWER; and material from DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN #1-7, THE LONG ROAD HOME #1-5, TREACHERY #1-6, SORCERER #1, THE FALL OF GILEAD #1-6 and THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1-5
On sale September 7th, 2011 wherever books are sold.
To find a comic shop near you call 1-888-COMICBOOK or click here
©2011 Stephen King. All rights reserved.