Recently, I finished Stephen King’s most recent Dark Tower novel. Inserting itself between novels 4 and 5, it was an interestingly ret-conned story. As the plot in the novel is minimal, and it mainly works on storytelling within the Dark Tower world, that worked just fine, say thankya.
The Dark Tower is a bit of a growing thing. For instance, the main book series is done, but clearly not dead if Stephen King is still writing books in the world. There is a series of comics coming out of the Dark Tower, as a way of approaching a new fan base – or giving more to the existing one? And, like I mentioned in a previous blog post, a Dark Tower movie or TV show has some potential.
Anyway, I want to talk a bit more about the book and the comics, so read on if you like Stephen King, or like me, want to know more about him! I will try to avoid actual spoilers.
The Dark Tower Comics
I have found the Dark Tower comics to be very hit or miss. I think this is in part because they are starting the plot from the beginning – rather than where the books start. I said I would avoid spoilers, but it is a large part of the Dark Tower books that we learn about the protagonist, Roland, throughout the series. He eventually gets to storytelling, and the fourth novel, Wizard and Glass, is almost entirely backstory, a tale from Roland’s youth.
So the comics start here, in Roland’s youth, exploring this story. Unfortunately, as someone who’s read the book, the comics retelling this tale don’t add much to the experience. I also am not sure I would recommend reading the comics before the books – because then you will feel some repeats once you reach Wizard and Glass. Perhaps they are intending for the comics to be for people who don’t want to read the books?
The main point I would make about the comics is that they are by my favorite author, Peter David. I mentioned this before when recommending Peter David as an author. As I just mentioned, though, some of the parts of the comics were just a retelling of what Stephen King wrote – and that did not leave much room for Mr. David to add to the story.
However, in the other comics, the ones that have been new material, there have been some fascinating bits. For instance, the Big Bad from the books was introduced, and is a character frightening to behold.
Shoot, doing no spoilers means no pictures, doesn’t it? Ah, what the heck:
I suppose one other point is that I have not bought any of the comics since I read the one where they led up to the plot at the start of The Gunslinger. The prequel comic stuff was over, it seemed, and I let it be. I’m thinking I may want to pick up those other comics, and see what they’ve done, but I don’t know. Are they planning on doing comics of the entire series? When do I stop – or do I? Or do I buy comics of the entire book series? Is this their goal, or, as I’ve mentioned, are they trying to tell the story to an entirely different audience? In which case, am I not their target audience, and is this not being made for me?
I don’t know. Let’s go to the books.
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Not to knock Stephen King, but this definitely felt like a case of him having a short story idea, thinking it belonged in the world of the Dark Tower, and working it into something larger than just a short story to be printed in an anthology someday. Side note – it looks like one of the comic story arcs is based on a short story that ended up in a short story anthology. So that’s apparently happened too.
Again avoiding spoilers, this fits in nicely with Wizard and Glass, as a later adventure that Roland is telling to his companions, in which he tells a story to a character within that story, within his past. That’s right, the novel ends up at a point where you are reading a story within a story within a story. Even better, I stopped reading one night at a point where an epic wind storm – a Starkblast – was on the horizon in all three stories.
This novel layered interestingly, added to the world of the Dark Tower, and I think would have worked just fine to have been read in-order when reading the whole series through. Also interestingly, there is a new story from Roland’s youth which did not come from the comics – so it was new material, though I was wondering if it would not be. Although now, does that mean the comics missed a part? Or will they go back to tell this story?
Fanning the Flames of the Fandom
It is interesting to see where this fandom might go. There are a lot of elements in play. There’s an epic, genre-shattering journey novel series. There’s a world famous author. And there are additional cultural artifacts being created to add to the experience. Where will this go?
Will the comics just keep going, retell the whole story of the Dark Tower, and then quietly be done? They’re being published by Marvel, but unfortunately, they aren’t on the Marvel app – though they can be found on ComiXology – and I wonder about the support that the now Disney-owned Marvel might give to this series.
Because it is definitely an adult set of novels, and definitely has “horror” as one of its many genres – along with fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, and western. And I don’t know that I see Disney as backing what would be an R-rated movie or TV series.
As I mentioned before, the place I see a Dark Tower series doing well is on a premium channel like HBO, once they are looking for new material with Game of Thrones done – or the competition looking for something to compete with Game of Thrones. I should add, I’ve thought of another casting option for a Dark Tower movie or series – Chris Pine as Eddie.
But those sorts of plans could take years, although the studios are always looking for franchises that they could turn into the next epic saga. And with the books done – unlike Game of Thrones – it is a bit more of a sure bet.
Well, the book series is “done”… but the story can live on, and I am okay with that. But in what form will it show up next? What do you think?