Inside Marvel's The Stand

Marvel Adapts The Stand

While Stephen King himself broke the news in March, Marvel announced at Saturday's Cup O' Joe panel at Wizard World Philly that King's novel The Stand will be adapted as a comic book beginning in September.

The creative team for the series was announced, with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa scripting the book and Mike Perkins on art. Colorist Laura Martin, letterer Chris Eliopolus and cover artist Lee Berjemo will complete the team.

The Stand, which is frequently voted as King's most popular novel, is a story of a battle between good and evil after a weaponized virus developed by the military wipes out most of the human race. The novel was originally published in 1978, although it was released as The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition in 1990 with some changes by King and originally cut elements put back into the book. Marvel has indicated this latter edition of the book will be the one adapted into the Marvel comic.

The series, which Newsarama has learned will be released in six five-issue story arcs for a total of 30 issues, will begin with a five-issue story titled Captain Tripps, which fans will note is the name of the virus, indicating that the first story arc will focus on the beginning of the "superflu" outbreak depicted in the novel.

King has also indicated publicly that other possible candidates for adaptation to comic book form are The Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman and the short Dark Tower story, "Little Sisters of Eluria."

Newsarama talked to Marvel Senior Editor Ralph Macchio and Editor Bill Rosemann, who are overseeing the creative process of The Stand, about what readers can expect from this series and whether Marvel may pursue adapting other modern novels into comics.

Newsarama: From sales numbers on The Dark Tower, it's pretty obvious that the comic was a huge success for Marvel. Was that the impetus for doing another Stephen King novel?

Bill Rosemann: With the phenomenal reception readers have given The Dark Tower series, we knew it was a great time to continue the Marvel Team-Up between Stephen King and the House of Ideas. And we’re continuing to apply the #1 lesson we learned with Dark Tower: Hire the very best talent and make everything worthy of the King!

NRAMA: While it's tough to track actual sales, the retailers I speak with have all indicated The Dark Tower is reaching out to non-comics readers and is bringing them into comic book stores. Was the one of the goals?

Ralph Macchio: Yeah. I'm not the marketing department nor the publisher -- Dan Buckley is -- and these were the guys who conceived of this project being of that magnitude, being able to reach a different audience. When we first spoke about it and they mentioned that we may very well be able to bring in a whole group of different people to come into comics stores for something like this, I realized that it was a good idea and that if we marketed it correctly, we very well could do that. So in the beginning, that was very much a goal. And we're very happy about the fact that this is a non-superhero title that consistently places in the Top 5 of sales. That's almost unheard of. If it's not a well-known comic book character, a superhero or some major crossover with one of the two major companies, the book is usually relegated to somewhere beyond 50. This book that doesn't have superheroes somehow manages to stay in there. And I think that's a testament to not only the power of the name of Stephen King and his source material, but also the creative team on Dark Tower, who are doing such a great job.

NRAMA: Out of all the choices of Stephen King's books for the next comic to be adapted, why The Stand?

BR: That’s a good question for all those constant readers who name The Stand as their favorite King novel. Is it the fascinating but horrific apocalyptic setting? The huge cast of compelling characters? The links to other classic King books such as The Shining and The Dark Tower? The amazing amount of shocks and frights packed into its 1,000+ pages? The larger-than-life size of the book itself…and the larger-than-life themes it explores? All of the above? Hmmm…I’m betting the Walkin’ Dude would simply say it’s because he’s the star of the show…

NRAMA: What does this mini-series cover? From the sounds of the solicitation, is this a strict retelling of the entire story from the beginning?

RM: On this one, it's a little bit easier for us than it was on Dark Tower because we're doing a straight adaptation. With Dark Tower, we were going a little bit off on our own, particularly after that first arc. With the Stand, we have the text, and that's what we're sticking with as we go forward with the adaptation.

BR: Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa, Mike Perkins, Laura Martin, Chris Eliopolous and Lee Bermejo will take you from the very first plague-induced cough to the Biblical battle in the West to the very last page of Uncle Stevie’s sinister saga.

NRAMA: How many arcs will it take to tell the whole story? And will the same creative team be doing all of them?

BR: The plan is for six five-issue chapters, and we’re lucky enough to have the entire team ready for the long, dark ride…that is, if they don’t catch Captain Tripps!

RM: It's similar to Dark Tower in that aspect. We plan to do 30 issues of The Dark Tower, and we also plan to do 30 issues of The Stand, broken up into six five-issue arcs.

NRAMA: With the original release of The Dark Tower's first issue, Marvel supported a midnight release of the comic, which a lot retailers did successfully. Can you share any of the marketing ideas that Marvel has for the release of The Stand?

RM: We do have a big marketing plan. I do believe we're going for a midnight release again. I can tell you one thing: The book is scheduled for a September release, and at that time, we also have scheduled a first issue of the third arc of The Dark Tower. We took a break between the first and second arc. I'm not really someone who goes online or anything like that, but I've heard second-hand from people that we may have hurt ourselves a little bit in that we didn't follow from that first arc to the second arc. We lost a little bit of momentum. You wouldn't know it from the sales, but we heard from people that we lost a little bit of momentum. So after the second arc, instead of taking a break, we're going directly into the third arc.

So if we can pull it off, we're going to have the first issue of The Stand and the first issue of the third arc of Dark Tower come out at the same time. So we'll make a Stephen King sweep for that month.

NRAMA: With the more recent release of the additional pages of The Stand novel in a complete and "uncut" book, will this comic include those additional elements? Or will it include any other parts of the story that aren't included in the novel?

RM: We are working from the unexpurgated version. We're not working from the initial version of The Stand that came out. We are working from the one that had all those 400 pages stored. So it will be the whole thing.

BR: We’re all working from – and rereading – the “Complete & Uncut Edition.” I’m up to page 1,091 today!

NRAMA: For people who have never read the book, will this be a good way for them to read the story for the first time? Or is this more intended as a supplement for those of us who are already familiar with the story?

BR: Whether you’re well acquainted with Randall Flagg or have not yet shaken his cold, dead hand, our creative team is crafting a tour de force that will send a chill up the backs of first-time readers and give an evil wink to those who have been to see Mother Abagail.

NRAMA: While The Dark Tower was based in an alternate universe, The Stand is based in a world very much like our own. Does that present a unique challenge as far as visually interpreting it?

RM: Yeah. We really lucked out with Jae Lee. And I have to say that was Joe Quesada's choice; it was a very good choice to get Jae Lee to pencil the book, and also to have Richard Isanove doing the coloring. But we did not want that to then be the look for every Stephen King adaptation we were going to do, if we were ever going to do more. As you very rightly pointed out, The Stand seems to take place in our world, or at least a world very similar to ours, even thought there are connections between The Dark Tower universe and The Stand, as you know, because in one sequence in one of the Dark Tower books, they do come across a newspaper that refers to the superflu, so there is certainly a wink, wink, and a nod there about it all existing in some sort of universe or multiverse.

But Mike Perkins seemed to be an ideal choice because we wanted something that was very rooted in reality. This was going to have a set pieces that were set pieces in our world. There are laboratories, and from the book, you know they take a tour of the country. They go all over the place. Even in the beginning, when you see a service station, you want somebody who's going to give you an authentic looking service station. You want landscapes and people who are going to be realistic, and Mike Perkins seemed be an ideal guy for that. And we were very happy that both King and [his agent] Chuck Veril loved his character sketches and loved the sample pages that he did.

BR: Mike considers The Stand to be King’s “Great American Novel” – and the realism, detail, design and grit in Mike’s art – not to mention his commitment to this undertaking and his legendary work habits -- make him the perfect pick to take us across the plague-ravaged wastelands of the U.S.A.

NRAMA: Why do you think Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was the right person to write this story?

BR: Roberto’s gift for crafting a scene, sense of drama, command of dialogue, theater background and lifetime love of King’s writing makes him the perfect guide this land of revenge and Revelations. Hurry, he’s already motioning for you to follow him into the corpse-filled Lincoln Tunnel. Don’t drop your flashlight!

NRAMA: You mentioned before that King had seen some sample pages from Mike Perkins. How involved is King in the process? Do the two of you work with him, or is your editorial role more relegated to the daily stuff?

RM: Bill is the editor, and I'm the senior editor. So Bill's more involved in day-to-day stuff. And I'm more stepping back and overseeing the project. And of course people behind me are overseeing everything else; ultimately, Stephen King is overseeing the entire affair.

BR: As with The Dark Tower, we’re working very closely with both Stephen King himself and his knowledgeable and helpful team. Expect nothing less than 100% King authenticity mixed with Marvel magic!

NRAMA: Ralph, with the success of Dark Tower that you mentioned before, is Marvel open to other authors being brought into the fold in a similar way? I know you have the Marvel Illustrated line and the titles left fro the Dabel Brothers period, but is what you're doing with Stephen King open to other modern novelists?

RM: There certainly have been discussions about doing these things with other novelists -- contemporary people as opposed to many of the classics that we're adapting now that go way, way back in history. If you can interpret it compellingly visually, and you tell that story within this medium, you can bring in that audience who already loves that work. So I'm sure we're going to be pursuing that, maybe with more Stephen King works, although I don't know anything at this point, and also with other authors. I'm sure we'll be pursuing something like that. What we've done so far has proven to be so successful. Even the Marvel Illustrated line has been a success. It's not a blockbuster in the direct market, but we never intended it to be. Those are books that we intend for libraries and bookstores, and there we've been able to make terrific in-roads. So yes, I'm sure we're open to that.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell people about The Stand?

RM: I'm very proud of it so far. I think it will be a fabulous comic for anyone who's a Stephen King fan, or anybody who's just intrigued a little bit about what all this stuff about Stephen King is about. I think they'll find out when they get into this adaptation.

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