Stephen King Gets Serious About Comic Books

The Comic Book "Voice" of Stephen King

The Talisman #1 variant cover

Stephen King may be among the most adapted novelists to film, but he's also becoming one of the most adapted writers to comic books.

"He has always loved comics, so I think he's really open-minded about his novels becoming comic books, and that's why you see him being so enthusiastic about it," said Robin Furth, King's collaborator on his recent comics adaptations. "Some of the first things he wrote as a kid were comics. And it's comparable to making a film out of a book. It reaches a whole new audience. It takes a story and puts it into a new medium."

The latest King novel to get the comic book treatment is "The Talisman", the 1984 fantasy novel King penned with co-writer Peter Straub. The monthly comic book version of "The Talisman" debuts in October with a preview issue from Del Rey Comics, followed by a #1 issue in November.

"I think 'The Talisman' will work especially well as a comic, because it definitely has a large fantasy element," Furth said. "The novel begins in a somewhat realistic fashion, but you begin to realize that although our main character, Jack, lives in our world, he also has access to another reality, a parallel world. And it turns out that in this other world, his story is also taking place, but there, the stakes are much higher."

The Talisman #1 cover

Furth, who worked as King's research assistant from 2000 to 2004, is also working with King on a series of monthly comics at Marvel based in the world of his "The Dark Tower" novels. Marvel is also currently adapting King's "The Stand" to comics.

With "The Talisman", King and Straub have both been very involved with the project from the beginning, Furth said.

"When we first started, we were all coming up with character sketches and talking about how things will move forward. They've gone over, really carefully, how all the characters will be depicted. And they're really good at looking over all the scripts, which is amazing when you think about how busy they both are," she said. "There's such a change when you move from a novel to a graphic novel. You have to translate the action into really visual sequences. And it means condensing the stories into scripts for each issue. But they've been involved from the very beginning."

For Furth, the experience of condensing King's novels and working with an artist to interpret the writer's vision has taught her a lot about writing and about the way King structures his work.

The Talisman #2 cover

"I've learned so much," she said. "You have to work so hard condensing and condensing. It makes you really think about the story and what the key elements are. At this point, I go with my instincts. What is it that really grabs me about a section? When I close my eyes, what do I see? And I'll write up scene by scene and panel by panel."

"The Talisman" has been particularly fun to work on as a visual story because of the "Twinners" who occupy the alternate reality that Jack visits, Furth said.

"You're really flipping between our world, with science, and the Territories, with magic," Furth said. "People in the Territories have 'twinners' in our world. If you exist in this world, you have a twinner in this other world. And Jack's mother is actually a queen in the Territories. She's a very important person. And in the Territories, the villain is trying to kill the queen to take over the Territories and exploit them.

"And Jack has this quest to find a magical Talisman in this other world that will save his mother's life, cure her cancer, will also save the queen, and will also defeat the bad guys," she said. "And this quest and the way these worlds look and the way the characters can go between them – it all looks really amazing in a comic book."

The Talisman #2 variant cover

While King is one of the more widely read storytellers in the book industry, Furth said comic books attract a different audience to his work, much like the movies that are made from his books.

"Quite often, somebody who reads the graphic novel, in my experience, will then read the novel. And there are people who read the novel and love seeing the illustrations," Furth said. "It's like a whole new experience. And there are a lot of brand new readers too, people who only read comics but realize they might like to read the novel. So it's fun to see that overlap.

"And it's a way for young readers to try something new," she said. "There are people of all ages. I've talked to people in their 80's at comics' conventions who are just coming into reading graphic novels, as well as younger people and everyone in-between."

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