By Sean T. Collins
"Are we there yet?"
That familiar phrase has been heard on countless family trips and long drives. But picture, if you will, that you're stranded on the island of Manhattan with millions of corpses, the power out, and the roads clogged with crashed cars and their dead drivers. Now imagine that the only way out lies through the claustrophobic, pitch-black Lincoln Tunnel deep beneath the Hudson River to New Jersey-1.5 miles of cadaver-strewn darkness you have to navigate on foot, without getting stuck, getting killed, or going insane in the process.
"Are we there yet?" takes on a whole new sense of urgency, doesn't it?
That's the situation for Larry Underwood and Rita Blakemoor in issue #3 of THE STAND: AMERICAN NIGHTMARES-on sale May 20-which spends the bulk of its pages tackling this memorable sequence from Stephen King's post-apocalyptic masterpiece.
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And the creative team of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Mike Perkins have been asking "Are we there yet?" about this eagerly anticipated issue ever since the project launched.
Marvel.com spoke with Perkins, artist of the series, about what makes this issue such a can't-miss, the unique challenges of making horror comics, and whether there's a light at the end of the tunnel for the protagonists.
Marvel.com: You and Roberto have been talking about this issue ever since THE STAND was first announced. What makes it so special?
I think it's a turning point in the novel. Most of our main protagonists are now set up and have started their initial journeys both physically and mentally. This scene with Larry just oozes tension. The sequence in the book only lasts a few pages but because of its intensity it feels a lot longer-and it stays with you even more so. For something that's basically a man walking through a pitch black tunnel-well, that's pretty damn impressive writing.
Marvel.com: Most of the time, adaptations are a matter of whittling down the source material to fit a new medium, but this is a case where you've expanded the source material; virtually the entire issue is spent tracing Larry and Rita's nightmarish journey through the Lincoln Tunnel. It's just two characters performing one simple task-why devote so much space to it?
For most of the reasons above, really. It's one of the monumental scenes in the book and one that I was determined to get exactly right. When I was in New York last year I walked Larry's route from Central Park down to the Lincoln Tunnel-via 5th Avenue, turning right on 39th-and taking a ton of reference photos. I wanted this scene to be perfect. Of course, by doing this, I opened up myself to a whole mountain of hand-cramp! Those New York scenes seemingly took forever to illustrate, but I think it was worth it in the long run.
Marvel.com: Horror comics are often seen to have certain limitations in terms of scaring the audience. Comics are visual in addition to verbal, so you can't let the reader's imagination do the heavy lifting like a horror novel can. But they're also silent and unfold at whatever pace you read them rather than the speed a director or editor chooses, so you can't do "jump scares" like horror movies can. This issue is maybe the
purest horror story we've seen from THE STAND so far. What challenges did that present you as an artist, and how did you overcome them?
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There are certain moments I've expanded on from the source material, [adding] a little touch of horror that even the constant readers of King lore would not expect. With regards to the tunnel, that's a particularly challenging operation in sequential storytelling as, when you're reading the book, the reader is handling the fear in their own particular way. A fear of the dark is fairly universal and a person's imagination is their own worst enemy in that situation. We've chosen to keep things fairly dark and shadowy but highlight Larry's own vivid imaginings, and through this we can visually highlight the horror.
Marvel.com: What is your take on what this journey means for Larry and Rita, both individually and as a couple? Obviously it's a lot more emotionally grueling than your average Jersey-bound commute.
I'm sure the Jersey-bound commuters would heartily disagree with you there, but yes, it is fairly grueling. I guess for Larry and Rita it must have seemed like they were forcing themselves onward through the horror and away from the danger of Manhattan. I'm sure it says a lot about human nature in the sense that they both go into the horror alone and almost crack up from the strain but then, when faced together, the journey becomes a little easier. I'm almost certain they felt that if they get through this it couldn't possibly get any worse. Little do they know...
Marvel.com: Finally, do you get claustrophobic in tunnels, or jumpy when it's pitch black around you? How do you think you'd fare if you were in Larry or Rita's shoes?
I don't get too scared in darkness, but I'm not sure I could have done what Larry and Rita put themselves through. They've walked through the horrors of a disease-ridden post-apocalyptic Manhattan. They've experienced Captain Trips first-hand and they've no doubt felt the presence of the Walking Dude. They have no idea whatsoever as to the greeting they may or may not receive on the other side yet they still force themselves through that darkness. I think I would have taken a small rowing boat across-and I definitely wouldn't have worn Rita's shoes!
Published by arrangement with The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. This graphic novel is produced under license from The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group and Stephen King.
For more on THE STAND: AMERICAN NIGHTMARES, visit Marvel.com's hub page and Stephen King's official site!
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