Stephen King claims to have been obsessed for more than three decades with The Dark Tower, his seven-book epic-wannabe that didn’t just chronicle the quest of Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, for a tower that was the epicentre of all worlds, but sought to integrate as much of his own writings over the past two decades (so much so that he even wrote himself a part in it).
The books themselves were published between the late 1980s and the mid-2000s (although the five parts that make up the first of the seven books, The Gunslinger, did appear as short stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction well before this). King’s own literary quest started off well—the first three books of the series were really good and King seemed to have really reached the pinnacle of his writing abilities with the third, The Wastelands. The fourth book was good, not great, but the last three were disappointing.
King’s comics: At par with his books.
That might have been because King was almost killed in the late 1990s when a van ran into him and he wrote the last three books after he recovered. Still, writers can’t proffer excuses and King, for his part, hasn’t done so.
CF is writing about The Dark Tower because Marvel (bless their rainbow-hued souls) launched, some time back, a comic book series called The Dark Tower with King’s blessings. King also is the creative director and executive director of the project—that means he pretty much decides how these books are written.
The first seven books of the series, The Gunslinger Born, have been collected into a trade hardback.
Unlike the books, the comics are in chronological order and they draw from the first four books of the series to present the early years of Roland of Gilead. The comics are everything the books are and, like only comics can be, then some. The result is probably the finest comic book franchise going, and given that King has seven books to travel through, it is going to be one long franchise.
The comic books also give King an opportunity to—at least in this columnist’s opinion—redeem himself and rewrite, at least in part, the last three books without making too many significant changes in the overall plot. Knowing King—he announced his retirement a few years ago but has since produced at least three books that, without deviating from the genre that made him rich and famous, can be termed high-lit—he will probably do just that.
And maybe (just maybe), the prospect of keeping the comic book franchise alive will tempt him, or Marvel to tell us what all happens after Roland enters the tower.
Write to Sukumar at firstname.lastname@example.org