The biggest draw at this year's ComicCon was undoubtedly Kevin Smith, who has his legion of fans but is also known to be a fun public speaker. A close second, however, had to be writing giant Stephen King, who attracted a legion of his own faithful fans at his Saturday panel to discuss Marvel's Dark Tower comic book series. King arrived on stage wearing a Shaun of the Dead t-shirt and looking typically thin and frail; he was joined on the panel by comic creators Joe Quesada, Robin Furth, Peter David, Jae Lee and Ralph Macchio (no, not that one, and yes, someone made a joke about it.) Cinematical was on hand for this event, just in case King decided to drop any announcements about upcoming film adaptations of his work, including the most obvious possibility. He did end up talking up the potential of a Dark Tower film series, which he says is more of a real consideration now because of how well the comic adaptation has been received.
King seemed to throw cold water on the notion of Frank Darabont's involvement in the potential project, saying that he felt Darabont already has his hands full with The Mist and The Monkey -- looks like the latter project might be more of a reality than anyone realized up to now -- but he did finally make with the details about his rumored collaboration with J.J. Abrams on an adaptation. King has now clearly warmed up to the idea of seeing his most cherished work get a shot at feature film greatness. As for how he feels about previous adaptations of his work, he professed to not care too much one way or the other whether most of his film adaptations turn out good or bad. He also got a rise out of the audience when he gave a questioner a line-reading from Creepshow: "Meteor shit!" When asked at one point if there were any other works he'd like to see translated into a comic book form, King immediately blurted out "We were in the green room kicking around doing The Stand." More questions and answers below, all from random audience members.
Talk about the plans to bring The Dark Tower series either to the big screen or small screen. "Well, I've said no to everybody recently, because I just didn't think that the chances of it being a good movie....I mean, this is my life's work, in a sense. It's been there since the time when I was 22 years old and I finally finished it up somewhere in my 50s. So it's very important to me. Usually, about movies, I don't give much of a shit. My attitude is 'go make the movie and if it's good, that's terrific, and if it's bad, well then it will go to the video store, the back shelves of Blockbuster, and I still get royalties on the book.' I don't care that much. I hope they're good, because I'm a fan of the movies, but when the chance came to do The Dark Tower as a comic book, I thought this was the best of all possible worlds. This will look the way they're supposed to look. And when they brought in Jae Lee and Peter David, I just thought 'this is as good as it gets.' If you guys have seen some of the movies that have been made from Marvel comic books, you know they are really, literally as good as it gets -- a lot of times the books are better than the movies. They leave more space for your imagination.
But I will say this -- the comic book was so well-received, and the idea of it was so simple and yet so brilliant, that it rekindled a lot of interest in the movies. Frank did come to me. I know Frank from before either one of us had a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, just about. And Frank said 'gee, I'd like to do The Dark Tower' and I was like [whiney voice] 'Frank, give me a break. You've got The Mist, you've got The Monkey, you've got the prison stories -- maybe someday I'll write another prison story and you're gonna make that -- you know, stop putting so much on your plate that you'll never eat it all.' And I know J.J. Abrams work and Damon Lindelof, his collaborator on Lost. David is just a total comic-book freak and loves The Dark Tower. He likes those books and I trust those guys, cause they've got a lot on the ball. So, when they said 'We'd like to talk about doing this,' I said 'You know what? Why don't you option this and see if you can develop it.' And they said 'How much do you want for an option?' And I said 'nineteen dollars.' And that's what they paid me, and that's where it is."
Do you ever think about the different path your work might have taken if you hadn't been hit by that van? "Sure, I think about how my life would be if that never happened. One of the things that I did -- I immediately took it and imported it into The Dark Tower because I had all these issues come up between the real world and Roland's world, or between our world and Rolan's world, or between our world and Roland's world, because I wasn't sure, particularly when I was working on those books, which one was more real to me. I feel pretty good. I don't feel one-hundred percent, but who does, really? And so I have more of a tendency to think about how my life would have been if I had croaked, or if that day had never happened to me at all, or if I would up in a wheelchair or something like that. Basically, what I do with that accident is what I do with everything else in my life -- it just gets plugged into the work one way or the other. I'm sort of a Philistine about that -- I take what I've got and turn it into leftovers. That doesn't make any sense."
Will the character of Jack Sawyer be touched upon in the Dark Tower comic series? "Well, as far as Jack Sawyer goes, he belongs in a series of books that are sort of tangential but related to The Dark Tower. There are two books -- one called The Talisman and one called Black House -- and really, he should have a third book. That was always the plan." [auditorium erupts in applause]
What is the overall theme of The Dark Tower? "I would argue that if there's an overall theme to The Dark Tower, it's one of evolution. You don't get what you want immediately. Sometimes you have to try more than one time. I'm not going to get any closer to a spoiler than that, but if you've read all the books you know what I'm talking about. Sometimes you don't get it right the first time, or the second time, or the fiftieth time -- there has to be an evolutionary process. Let me just say this -- because I know that some of you are Harry Potter fans -- when you do a long volume work, it's essentially one work. When you get to the end, you're always going to piss off the fans. They are pissed off because it's over, and they are pissed off because whatever they had built up in their minds....its nothing you can do at the end. I was on Dark Tower sites, and they were talking about worm holes and quantum physics....I'm a guy who got a took a gift C in chemistry in high-school."
Would you ever be interested in working on a Marvel character? "I never say never to anything. If something comes up in my mind, these would be the people I would go to, obviously, because we have that working relationship, but right now, I can't think of a superhero....the only person I can think of is Charlie McGee from Firestarter, who can light her own fires."
You've mentioned actually doing a re-write of the series. Is that correct? "Yes, that's correct. It's a first draft. It was written over a long period of time, and I look at it as a work that's still in progress. That's why I re-did the first book. The vision that I had of what was going on got clearer as it went along. So, for instance, I looked back at the first book and I said to myself 'there's a lot of things I can do with this now, now that I know how everything turns out in the end.' I'm a really instinctual writer -- I don't work with an outline. I did have an outline of some of The Dark Tower stuff way back when, when I started, when I was stoned, and I lost it. I didn't have a clue, and I couldn't remember what was going on, and I had that poem by Robert Browning to draw on, to start, so I knew certain elements that I wanted to be in it, that were in the poem. So, when I got done, and I looked at it, I said This Horn of Eld should be there at the front. That's what you when you rewrite a book. I've got a book now called Duma Key, and there's a woman who has some bracelets and the bracelets are important, but they're not there until the end of the book. What I'm saying is, I know now some things I could do. The Dark Tower is one book, and I'd like go back and fix it up. Who knows -- I might end up novelizing their comic book."
Aren't rewrites a bad idea? We learned that from George Lucas. Don't go back and rewrite books, please. Greedo did not shoot first. "Here's what's not going to happen. What's not going to happen is a re-release as the 'special, revised, special version.' It will go out there with no fanfare."
How did you decide on an entry point in the series for the comic adaptation? "We talked about what a sort of doorway into this series might be like. Somebody, I don't know if it was me or if it was Peter or Ralph -- someone suggested there is this period -- first of all, Wizard & Glass was almost like a self-contained novel. It had the Romeo & Juliet theme to it, and it has a beginning, middle and the end. It's not like some of the other books, in the sense that it's just a continuing story, although I argue that The Dark Tower itself is a novel. It's one long book. Someone point out -- it might have been Robin -- that when we talked about Roland's 'young-manhood,' there's a little about it in the first book and a lot about it in the fourth book, when he sits by the turnpike and tells his friends the story about Magis and Susan Delgado and its a real story that picks up on where we meet Roland at the end of the first book. But then there's a blank spot in the middle where you know some of the things that he says. I really wanted Jae to do this -- I really, really want to see this -- I gotta see this -- there's a story about Jericho Hill where all these guys are screaming and attacking. It's like 300, the last bunch still holding out, and the guys that are against them all have blue faces like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Roland is the only one who gets away, and he gets away on a pile of dead bodies. I really want to see that -- that's got to be a double panel."
When you're writing a character, do you ever put an actor to the character in your head? "I never see them. I don't know how to explain it. That's why seeing the artwork these guys put together is so fantastic. I don't really see characters. It's like I'm behind their eyes. Maybe if they looked in a mirror I would see them."