HAIL TO THE KING: Dark Tower Panel @ HeroesCon

Sun, June 17th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Brian Carlton, Contributing Writer

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Day Three at the Heroes Convention was all about the King, as Peter David and Robin Furth tackled questions about their work on Stephen King's "The Gunslinger Born" comic. The Marvel Comics series serves as a prequel of sorts to Steven Kings "Dark Tower" series of novels, and wraps up the first arc in August with issue #7, which portrays events first described in the flashback sequences from the fourth novel in the series, "Wizard and Glass."

As some fans may know, artist Jae Lee and painter Richard Isanove were some of the first of the creative team to be involved with the project. Peter David told the story of Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada pitching the concept of adapting "Dark Tower" for comics to Steven King, and how he had brought with him artwork by Lee and Isanove. The pair had gone through the novels and picked out scenes to illustrate, giving King an idea of what the finished product would look like.

At the same time, David said, Lee was originally supposed to be the artist on his new "X-Factor" book and that's how Ryan Sook took over. David was told Lee couldn't do the X book anymore because another project had come up and that they couldn't tell him what it was. Flash forward several months to when David was asked to write the "Dark Tower" comics series, Quesada happened to mention that Jae Lee was the artist. "So I lost to Steven King? I can handle that," David said.

Fans asked the panel if it was working on "Dark Tower" was any different from working on their own material, especially because this project comes from someone as regarded as Stephen King. "I think we're all bringing our A++ game because it's Stephen King," said David. "You always want to put the best book out there, but I'm putting this out there for Stephen King. If Stephen King sends back notes saying, 'great, you nailed it', then I'm fine."

A fan asked if the "Dark Tower" team wants to "bring their A game," does that mean the bar gets raised with every issue, with the team tries to outdo themselves? David said that they weren't trying to outdo themselves, but that they "must do work that is worthy of the trust Stephen King put in us for his characters."

Another question was if David ever tried to somehow surprise Stephen King with something involving the comic. "I'd really rather not surprise Stephen King," said David. "It probably wouldn't end well."

One thing David was originally concerned about was using a first-person narrative in the "Dark Tower" comic. He asked the audience what the first line of the series was and the crowd responded, "The man in black fled across the desert."

"Everyone thought that would be the first line of the book," Daid said, "but it's on page three.

"I wanted to force people's eyes to stay on Jae's artwork. I wanted them to stop and look long enough to appreciate what Jay and Richard had done."

David said that he envisioned people in the bookstores browsing and flipping through the "Dark Tower" comics. He thought the artwork and first line might not hook people, so he started doing the captions and found he was developing a new way to tell the story. "That really made me nervous," David said, "and I was concerned that we'd get a letter back from Steve saying 'what's going on?'"

But the letter never came, and back in February, at New York Comic Con, David took King aside and said, "I've got to ask you, face to face, how am I doing?"

David said that King put his hands on each side of his face and said, "You're doing great. I love the work you're doing."

Switching gears, the questions turned to Robin Furth, who's handling the plotting for the series. For over five years, Furth has worked as the personal research assistant to Stephen King and used that knowledge to help clear up the two main issues concerning Charlotte, NC audience, specifically the physical appearance of John Farson and if he was indeed a separate character from Martin Broadcloak.

In the books, John Farson was a revolutionary leader who wanted to end the training of Gunslingers and eventually did so, destroying Roland's home of Gilead. Furth said the team had done research to find out if a description was ever mentioned and it wasn't, only that Farson was known as "The Good Man." When readers first see him in issue #3 of "The Gunslinger Born," he's shown as a tall man with long black hair.

Also in the comics, Roland's nemesis Marten Broadcloak and John Farson are seen as two different people. According to a fan in the audience, the books seem to imply the two characters are actually the same man.

"In the first four books, it really looks like they're the same," said Furth, "but in the last three, [King] makes it clear that they're different."

The conversation soon turned to Hollywood, with fans asking the creative team if there was a chance to see any "Dark Tower" material on television or in film. Back in February, Furth said, there was talk that J.J. Abrams would be working with King on possible series of movies or television projects. Furth said there's not been a script or anything else submitted, but that there is a lot of interest. She went back and forth with the audience, talking about who should be cast. For the character of Roland, the hands down favorite was Hugh Jackman, while both Angela Bassett and Halle Berry were mentioned for Susanna.

As the panel got set to wrap up, the question was asked as to what other "Dark Tower" material could be expected from Marvel Comics in the future. Marvel has mentioned doing multiple volumes down the road, but fans wanted to know how true that was.

"Marvel has only told me I'm doing the first [storyline']" said Daivd, adding that on the other hand, Marvel haven't said anyone else is taking over, either. "If they want me to continue, I'd be thrilled."

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