The Dark Tower: interview with Peter David
Peter David, writer of stuff, was able to take a few minutes between bowling, barfing babies, and boarding a plane to Maine to explain what’s germaine and urbane (and other words in the same vein) about the new Dark Tower series, going on sale tonight at midnight. Oddly, even though I’ve known Peter for over two decades and have been his webmaster for almost five years, this is the first time I’ve ever interviewed him…
Q. Assume I know nothing (always a fair assumption) about The Dark Tower. For those folks out there who’ve never read The Dark Tower or any other works by Stephen King, or just know his works from the movies, can you sum up what the heck’s going on here? What things do I need to know about the story that will make it accessible to me? Or will the comic be fully accessible to those who know nothing about The Dark Tower or even Stephen King?
A. You don’t really need to know anything about the series (well, aside from how to read) than anyone required when the very first Gunslinger novel was published. Basically, Dark Tower is a blend of fantasy and iconic western heroes, detailing the life’s story of Roland, the last of the Gunslingers of a long-ago city called Gilead, and the circumstances that forged him into the hero he eventually became.
Q. So this is more of a true dark fantasy than King’s usual horror?
A. Again, it’s more of a blend of western and fantasy elements rather than anything having to do with the horror genre.
Q. After seven novels, each longer than the next, what’s left to tell in the story?
A. Roland’s early life, the events leading up to our introduction to him with the words "The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed." Some of those events were told in detail in "Gunslinger" and "Wizard and Glass," and we’re covering that material plus other events that are either unknown or have only been mentioned but never seen.
Q. Where does this story take place in the Dark Tower canon?
A. As noted above. We have the famous opening pages of "Gunslinger" and then go into Roland’s history.
Q. The Dark Tower is looked on by many as one of King’s most convoluted works, with ties to half of King’s other works. Is this series going to be a safe jumping-on point for new readers? Yes. Are there going to be pointers to other King works in here as well, as there are in the prose Dark Tower series?
A. The focus is on Roland. Unlike the Dark Tower novels which brought in characters from diverse works such as "Salem’s Lot" or "Insomnia," this material is pretty specific to Dark Tower.
Q. There are references to Shakespeare, always a favorite touchstone for you. Any of that work its way in?
A. Here and there. Certainly you don’t get lovers more starcrossed than Roland and Susan, who are the focus of the first series.
Q. The Dark Tower also shows up, if memory serves, in "The Five Doctors" for Dr. Who, always another favorite touchstone for you. How about that link?
Q. Why comic books? Why did Stephen King decide that he wanted to migrate more completely into comics? And why with this property?
A. Beats me. All I know is that the project evolved out of a series of meetings with Marvel and King. In terms of the specifics and how it all came about, you’d need to ask someone at Marvel.
Q. King was a well known comics fan, dating back to the days he did fanzines with Marv Wolfman and KISS’s Gene Simmons. Was King familiar with your comics work? Was his input reflective of his knowledge of comic books?
A. I’d like to think he’s at least somewhat familiar. But his input mainly focuses on the script as presented to him. Ancillary aspects of comics didn’t really factor in.
Q. You met Stephen King a number of years ago, yes?
A. Many years ago, yes, at a book signing.
Q. What was the re-acquaintance like?
A. As of this writing, I haven’t met him again.
Q. Did you create any original characters for this series? Does King get to use them in his books?
A. There’s an unseen narrator who serves as the narrative link for the way the story is told, so technically he’s a character, I suppose, but he’s really derived from King’s own narrative style.
Q. How was the creative team for this book pulled together?
A. The artistic team and Robin Furth were already part of the project by the time I came aboard. In my case, it was really something as simple as that Quesada called me and asked if I would be interested in signing on as scripter for the project, and I said "Sure."
Q. What was the writing process like on this project? Were you whisked away by Lear Jet to Bangor, Maine for plotting sessions, or were you just locked in Stephen’s dungeon for a few months until you had a script?
A. They sent me the script, the plot breakdowns, and I hauled out my assorted copies of the King novels as well as Robin’s concordances, and went from there.
Q. What’s it like working with Jae Lee again? You worked together on the last Hulk story you did…
A. I think this is unquestionably the best work he’s ever done, no two ways. It was tremendously exciting to see his vision of King’s world, and I have to think that even the most hardcore King fans will approve.
Q. When you went exclusive to Marvel a few years back, was this project dangled in front of you? Was somebody going, "Heeeeere, Peter, Peter…"
A. No. In fact, this was offered to me before the exclusive.
Q. Who’s the fanboy in this bunch? Is it Jae genuflecting to Stephen, or Stephen worshipping Marvel, or Joey Q. geebling over Jae Lee, or…?
A. All of us. One reviewer commented that the reverence shown for the material was visible on every page, and I think that’s a fair assessment.
Q. What’s your favorite King book?
A. Misery. But then I’m a writer, so that’s probably going to be inevitable.
Q. Have you met your own personal Annie Wilkes yet?
Q. No, thank God, but I’ve no doubt she’s out there.
Q. How is Marvel trying to use this project to reach out to the traditional King readership? Do you think Dark Tower will bring non-comics readers over into the comics field?
A. They’ve been marketing the hell out of it, getting word to a ton of mainstream media. I’m certainly hoping that it will indeed bring non-comics readers into the field.
Q. Do you think Dark Tower will bring you new readers to your stuff — both comics and prose?
A. I sure hope so.
Q. When the inevitable trade collection comes out, what is Marvel going to be doing to push this to the more traditional King readership? What other behind the scenes sales magic is Marvel putting into the project?
A. I dunno. Ask them. All I know is that I’m getting interview requests from sources ranging from "Entertainment Weekly" to "Variety," so they must be doing something right.
Q. In what issue does Roland meet Spider-Man?
A. If that happens, it’ll be in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
Q. How ’bout those Mets? Only another week or so, after all…
A. We’ll see.