Interviews: Peter David and Mike Perkins
Last night, Peter David and Mike Perkins did a midnight signing at the prestigious Midtown Comics in Time Square. Despite the late hour, there were several fans in attendance and each had the opportunity to be among the very first to purchase the debut issue of the new miniseries Dark Tower: Treachery and the premiere of the first miniseries based on Stephen King’s other major work, The Stand: Captain Tripps.
The Dark Tower book series is Stephen King’s very popular opus. The Dark Tower comics, plotted by King’s aide Robin Furth (who also wrote The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance) and scripted by Peter David (X-Factor, She-Hulk, Fallen Angel), have been serving as prequels to the series, showing the Gunslinger hero Roland when he was a young man and revealing other secrets of his home. Treachery is the third mini-series.
The Stand is perhaps Steven King’s most famous book, depicting how the last survivors of humanity cope with the forces of good and evil after a plague wipes out most of the planet. It is also a part of the Dark Tower series in that the demonic villain Randall Flagg makes an appearance in both. In fact, Flagg (also known as "The Dark Man", "The Walking Dude", and "The Man with no Face") appears or makes his presence felt in several other books and stories, earning him the title of King’s "super-villain." Mike Perkins (Union Jack, Captain America) is handling the art for The Stand.
Also on this occasion was the birthday of Kathleen David, Peter’s wife. Midtown Comics, being the classy people they are, were only too happy to hook up the party with a massive cake, sodas and many cupcakes.
When the signing and fan greeting was done, I sat down with Peter and Mike to ask them a few questions.
ComicMix: With The Dark Tower comics, do you see each mini-series as having its own theme or are they just one continuous story?
Peter David: I’m really seeing it as a continous series. The over-all arc is the events that shaped Roland into the individual that he became in The Gunslinger and the Dark Tower series. There’s different things that he has to cope with. But if you want to talk about a theme, there are smaller themes. This one is treachery, hence the title.
CMix: With a villain such as the Crimson King, how hard is it to explore him when Stephen King gave readers such little information to begin with?
Peter David: Well the fact that he left us so little information means that we have a tremendous amount of lattitude. Robin Furth has worked extensively with Stephen to develop the Crimson King for the purpose of the Dark Tower comic series.
CMix: In X-Factor, the team’s going through a lot of crap. They’ve lost a few members and now you’re bringing in former X-Man Longshot to lighten the mood. He’s kind of a guy where people either love him or just want to forget him. How do you tackle a character like that?
PD: By trying to come up with more stuff to make people want to love him than forget him. What I really want to get back down to is the concept of Longshot’s naivete. That is he a stranger in a strange land. I want someone who comes in and sees things differently than the rest of X-Factor. A fresh perspective. I think that’s something the book could use and that the team could use.
CMix: Do you miss having former X-Factor members Polaris and Havok to play with or are you okay that they’re off in space?
PD: I’m okay with that. I miss having Rahne [who recently joined X-Force] and I miss having Layla [who’s been sent to another reality].
CMix: With all the recent X-crossovers and Secret Invasion, is it difficult to maintain the book’s own identity and keep it separate so you can handle your own story arcs in peace? Or is it just something you’ve gotta play loose with?
PD: In this day and age, with marketing the way it is and with the market the way that it is, crossovers are simply something that are a part of getting people to read your comics. Because the problem is all books suffer from attrition. Every book, sooner or later, is going to start dropping readers at varying rates. And with comic prices what they are nowadays, getting people to sample things they wouldn’t normally read is a greater and greater challenge. When you get involved in crossovers, you are getting them to try out books that they normally wouldn’t read. And with any luck, they’ll like what they read and come back. If a crossover opportunity comes along and it’s something I think I can make a good story out of, then yes, I’m on board with that.
Peter and I parted company then and I shuffled on over to artist Mike Perkins, who was praising a fan on their wise purchase of The Stand #1.
CMix: The Stand is going to be divided into different mini-series. Is the art going to reflect time passing? Will style at all change between each mini?
Mike Perkins: No, they’re going to look like they follow each other straight away. The reason for doing different miniseries that are spaced a few months apart is so that one person can do the whole thing. The breaks in-between are so that I can catch up.
CMix: In the book, there’s a famous scene in the Lincoln Tunnel that’s entirely pitch black. How difficult is that to draw?
Mike Perkins: I’ve yet to get to it, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s pitch dark so it’s really based on a person’s imagination. I’m really looking forward to it because it’s going to be a challenge to bring that terror forward. It’s all about Larry Underwood’s imagination about what’s there.
CMix: The villain Randall Flagg is a dark force, completely evil. Is there a boundary to maintain in how scary you make him look?
MP: I think subtlety’s the key. You don’t want to go too far.
CMix: Will it be clear he’s not quite human?
MP: Yeah, I want him to be obvious as this force of nature, this supernatural being rather than a man. I think that’s the problem with any film version, because you put in an actor in there and as soon as you see the actor you see a man, not a force.
CMix: And how do you do that without going for the over-the-top route?
MP: The novel mentioned shadows a lot. He’s "the Dark Man." So I try to play around with shadows, have them always around him. Give a mystery about him.
CMix: Finally, you’ve done some great work recently on Captain America. How difficult is it to make 1940’s Bucky look cool?
MP: [laughter] Bucky’s always cool! He’s got those little red pants and that jacket. What’s not cool about that?
Thanks very much to Peter David and Mike Perkins for taking the time to speak with us. And happy birthday to Kathleen!
Alan Kistler tried to join the Gunslingers but was turned away due to his preference to use Nerf weaponry. He has been recognized by Warner Bros. Pictures and mainstream media outlets such as the New York Daily News as a comic book historian, and can be seen in the "Special Features" sections of the Adventures of Aquaman and Justice League: New Frontier DVDs. His personal website can be found at: http://KistlerUniverse.com. One of these days he’d love to write for DC, Marvel or Doctor Who.