Stephen King's Dark Tower

Dark Tower: War Games

Robin Furth discusses strategizing the fall of Gilead as DARK TOWER: THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL approaches

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By Neil Kleid

 "Battles that last five minutes spawn legends that live a thousand years." - Roland Deschain

The world ends, and war comes to Gilead.

After four gut-wrenching journeys to In-World, treachery, shattered walls and broken families, the time for battle finally arrives. The Affiliation lies in ruin before the eyes of Roland Deschain's ka-tet with both friends and family in the clearing at the end of the path. Gilead falls and only one last battle remains, destined to paint Jericho Hill red with blood, beginning December 3 in DARK TOWER: THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1.

Constant Readers of Roland's life and tragedies understand that this final, desperate fight closes the door to his past and opens another, a ghostwood door upon which stands writ two inevitable words: "The

DARK TOWER: THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1 cover by Jae Lee & Richard Isanove
Gunslinger." Everything that's gone before led us to this defining moment, carefully orchestrated by Gan's storyteller, Stephen King himself, and the talented, brilliant creative team behind the best-selling series of Marvel's Dark Tower comic books. Head bent and scribbling, surrounded by notes and battle plans, series co-writer Robin Furth sits, carefully connecting dots of continuity and tying together the strings of a story she's known, loved and helped breathe life into for most of her celebrated career. But strategizing a war, no matter how brief, takes time, effort and sensitivity to both past and future events. Successful campaigns form from a solid knowledge of history and a clear understanding of how to interpret maps; thankfully, in the case of Gilead's maps and history, Robin Furth literally wrote the book on both. 

Taking time from ending everything, Robin graciously explained to Marvel.com exactly how one in In-World goes to war.

Marvel.com: Mapping a road from the spark in Mejis-Roland's ka-tet fouling Farson's plans and Susan Delgado's untimely death-to the blaze on Jericho Hill took careful planning. How much of Farson's campaign to bring down Gilead had Stephen King already outlined, and how much did your team build?

Robin Furth: Steve King gave a general outline but the details were left to us. As you can imagine, that meant that the pressure was intense! Think lots of sleepless nights! When it came to plotting, I used every scrap of information I had from the books, what I knew about the characters, and what I knew about Mid-World. I even turned to other books in the Stephen King opus, for example, "Eyes of the Dragon." Our nasty wizard plays a big part in "Eyes" too! When it came to effective battle strategies, I turned to Roland's later battle plans-as in "Wolves of the Calla"-and I also looked at historical sieges. I also studied some of those great old Hollywood epics, especially the Westerns! But as we all know, battles aren't just about battle plans, they're also about human beings and

DARK TOWER: THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1 preview art by Jae Lee & Richard Isanove
human psychology. I don't want to let any cats out of bags, but there were times when I had to turn to political and social history as well, but I'll tell you more about that after issue #3 of THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL!

One of the great things about working with Stephen King is that he is really supportive of this project. Hence, whenever I get stuck with plotting, or really panic that I'm losing the thread, I can send Steve an e-mail and run ideas past him. He's really great about that. I'm responsible for the plot, but when I'm done with all my fiddling and planning and plotting and worrying, I send my detailed outline off to the editors-Ralph Macchio and Mike Horwitz-Peter David, Richard Isanove, and Jae Lee. That's where the roundtable really begins. Ralph and Mike bring their years of experience as editors to the table, and Peter brings his experience as a writer. Richard and Jae bring their knowledge of illustration, and what makes a dynamic image on the page.

Once the arc is underway, it really is a dynamic process. Sometimes we can't make changes to an issue until we see how the story is working through. Sometimes Richard or Jae will bring up an illustration issue, and the plot will be reworked a bit so that the story will be more visually powerful. Telling a story visually and telling a story in words can be quite a different process. Sometimes Peter will read through an outline and say, "given the situation, I really think we need to adjust that sequence of events so that it flows better."  All of this makes the final story stronger.

Marvel.com: Reading through the series, both unique and by-the-book plots can be seen on both sides of the battlefield. Though the Eyebolt Canyon ambush was lifted directly from the novels, many other moments

DARK TOWER: THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1 preview art by Jae Lee & Richard Isanove
-like the Affiliation attack on Farson's camp and the enemy infiltration within the castle- seem like textbook military maneuvers. What kind of research did you do in order to write a war?

Robin Furth: Believe it or not, when I was a child I was obsessed with castles and armor and ancient weaponry. Pretty weird for a girl perhaps, but I put it down to my love of fantasy. After all if I made it to Narnia, I was going to have to know how to wield a sword! As an adult trying to plot war scenes, I often turned to fantasy novels, since I find that many of the best fantasy writers often have a very detailed knowledge of ancient history. I'm also really lucky that my husband was a real history buff while he was growing up. I think he read "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" before he was 14! Although he's a pacifist, he grew up playing war games and memorized the battle strategies of Alexander the Great, and other such famous leaders. So, he was an amazing resource. Sometimes we'd talk about Mid-World battle plans over a glass of wine. We'd have to laugh though-two such quiet and peaceful people discussing these incredible plans for destruction and defense!

Marvel.com: In previous articles comprising the series back matter, you explained the literary inspiration behind one of key deaths in FALL OF GILEAD, that of Roland's teacher, Cort Andrus. Of the machinations in and around Gilead's walls, which contain origins and influence hailing from outside the series?

DARK TOWER: THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1 preview art by Jae Lee & Richard Isanove
Robin Furth: Working on the Dark Tower [series] has become such a part of my life, and it's so important to me, that when I plot I'm drawing on every ounce of experience I have, every book I've read, and every story I've ever heard. If you gave me a particular scene to dissect, I could probably give a list of influences, though there's always the chance that I'd forget something and have to send you an additional note! By turning to other resources for plot details, I really am trying to do what Steve King would do, and make him proud. You see, Steve is an incredible reader. He reads loads of books on many different subjects. In fact, the professor we had in common-Burt Hatlen-told me once that he knew Steve would do something special as a writer from the very beginning, because whenever he saw him he always had a book in his hand. Hence, the Dark Tower novels grow out of incredibly rich soil. I'm trying to keep up the tradition with the comics!

Marvel.com: With plans drawn and considered before heading to Jericho Hill, the series' strategy must account not only for accuracy, but also serve to establish the next step for Roland's saga. How difficult has it been crafting a war when you know certain people have to live and certain people have to die?

Robin Furth: The toughest part is knowing who has to die-and how they have to die. Those are always central considerations while plotting. Although emotionally it's tough, having set guidelines about death scenes helps with accuracy. I don't want to say any more since there are folks out there who haven't finished the novels yet, and so don't know what is to come!

DARK TOWER: THE BATTLE OF JERICHO HILL #1 preview art by Jae Lee & Richard Isanove
Marvel.com: Considering the fact that Roland's world contains weapons resembling those in ours-military tanks, oil rigs and guns-yet has its roots in a more medieval times, how difficult has it been to marry the two while planning this war?

Robin Furth: That's a really interesting question, since it's something I think about a lot! In many ways, Mid-World is a medieval society, but the Old People/Old Ones were a lot like us. In fact, they were a lot more technologically advanced than us! Since that connection between a Medieval Romance, a Western, and a sci-fi novel already exists in the books, it feels pretty natural to weave the three together. At one point in the novels, Eddie Dean is telling Roland about different kinds of stories-Westerns, mysteries, etc. He talks about each kind of story as an exclusive genre, and Roland is confused. He replies, "does no one like stew?" Those aren't his exact words, but you get the essence! One of the really fun things about the [Dark Tower] novels is that they draw upon so many different genres, and I think that's great!

Marvel.com: The battle looms on the horizon and the Horn of Eld longs to sound, so what can we expect from this final series-this last, proud stand of an Affiliation of young gunslingers now stepping into their fathers' shoes to fight their battle, drive off their enemy, and-if God wills it-remember their faces?

Robin Furth: Unfortunately, there will be a lot of carnage and a lot of death, but there will be a lot of bravery too. Our ka-tet will try to stand and be true. Not only do they remember the faces of their fathers, but they also remember their loyalty to one another. And if any turn against their own, they have reasons that; even if they don't measure up to the heroic code, they at least obey the laws of the heart.  I can say no more without giving spoilers!

For more on The Dark Tower, check out Stephen King's official site and Marvel.com's Dark Tower hub.

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