Stephen King and Joe Hill are no stranger to comics. Although they made their name in the world of prose novels and short stories, their work is inspired in part by comics and they’ve each stepped into the medium and wrote stories from time to time. And now they’re saddling up on their motorcycles – King’s a Harley, Hill’s a Triumph if you must know – for IDW to adapt their short story Throttle as well as the short story it was inspired by, Richard Matheson’s Duel.
Debuting this week in comic stores, the four issue Road Rage adapts Throttle in the first two issues and Duel in the third and fourth. The original Duel, which some of you might remember from the early Steven Spielberg movie adaptation, follows an average man who is hounded on the open-road by a rusty oil tanker intent on driving the man mad and to his grave. King and Hill’s Throttle takes that story and spins it on its head with another big rig trucker trying to ride down a motorcycle gang who, as you may suspect, might have something to say about that.Newsarama talked with Chris Ryall and Joe Hill about this pair of adaptations running under the banner of Road Rage and Hill also hints briefly about his next big writing project.
Newsarama: Joe has a long working relationship with IDW over Locke & Key and The Cape, but how did the conversation turn to IDW adapting Richard Matheson’s story Duel and Hill and his father Stephen King’s Throttle, a short story inspired by Duel?
Chris Ryall: It started with Joe. Whenever Joe and I talk, we inevitably start chatting about projects that could be fun to do some day. I’d been familiar with Throttle—I listened to the audiobook early on, and we’d talked about its potential development as a film, all of that. But I know how hectic Joe’s schedule is already, so I tend to sit back and not press on other projects just because I think they sound like fun. But when he’s the one asking, that’s a different story. At one point last year, he asked if I’d have any interest in doing this one as a comic. He and his dad were into the idea of doing it with us and having me script it. We then talked about doing it in tandem with Duel, the same way the Road Rage audiobook was released.
I talked to Richard Matheson (I love typing that sentence) and he was also into the idea, and we were off and running. Both stories are short, so it made sense to do them each as two fast, dirty little issues and combine them all under one banner title. Luckily, we are able to use the same title as the audiobook, Road Rage. Nothing else quite fit as well.Nrama: What can you tell us about the story of Throttle?
Ryall: It’s very much in the spirit of Matheson’s Duel—it was written for a Matheson tribute anthology and both Steve and Joe were also big fans of Duel—so it has the same basic premise of a crazed trucker on the highway pursuing an unknown vendetta. Only Steve and Joe turned that story on its head by introducing a motorcycle club as the protagonists. The club is already on the run from a particularly nasty incident in their recent past, and their attempt to outrun the mess they’ve made intertwines with the truck driver. I don’t want to say more, but the second issue brings everything together in a good, explosive way that is nevertheless different from what people saw in Duel.
Nrama: Joe, what’s it to see Throttle brought to comics like this?
Joe Hill: It's a big shot of adrenaline. I've always thought Throttle was a natural for visual adaptation: we want to see those bikes throwing fans of sand, want to see the truck swatting the motorcycles into the air. Nelson Daniel has a remarkable feel for motion, for the kinetic jolt of iron smashing into iron.
Chris Ryall has done what I hoped he'd do, which is made full use of the form. This isn't the short story with some pictures added to it, it's a comic that succeeds on its own particular terms. So Chris has done startling, satisfying things with lettering, with timing, with layout. Also, he put in thought balloons. Because my Dad thinks the modern prohibition against thought balloons is stupid.Nrama: Joe and Stephen already wrote Throttle as a short story, which is adapted in the first two issues of Road Rage. Did they participate in the adaptation to comics, or did you do most of the adapting?
Ryall: They were both big cheerleaders along the way, but I adapted the story myself. It’s funny, doing these kinds of things. The first pass is always the most reverential take on the material, like I just insert panel breaks into the text. But eventually, the need to shape the material to comics and change the pacing to fit the format and flow things from page to page properly takes over and I get over feeling presumptuous about making tweaks and changes where needed. But both guys have been just great about what we’ve done. And if I can please both Stephen King and Joe Hill with what Nelson and I have done here, that tells me we’ve done okay.
Nrama: Illustrating this is Nelson Daniel, who worked on Hill’s The Cape. I’ve read that drawing car chases and the like is hard to do well in comics, but what made Nelson Daniel the guy to do this?Ryall: Nelson has knocked me out with his colors on The Cape, as well as other things he’s colored for Zach Howard (who brought Nelson to my attention in the first place). And Nelson’s a good artist in his own right, with a raw, gritty style I knew would work well here. Especially with his fantastic colors bringing the desert and the bikers and especially the truck to vivid life. You can really feel the grime on each page. What Nelson does with his colors alone is unlike anyone else working right now, and his art perfectly brought to life the story we were telling here.
He not only made the truck as distinct a character in this series as any of the humans, but he manages to make you feel each bloody impact (and there’re quite a few instances of that), as well as visually emphasizing both the speed and weight of the vehicles. Just great stuff.
Nrama: And in issues 3 and 4 you take the driver’s seat, adapting the original Duel story with artist Rafa Garres. What’s it like bringing this classic story to comics?Ryall: It’s fun for a couple reasons: one is just the chance to tell Matheson’s original story in visual form. Steven Spielberg worked wonders with his TV-movie in the early ‘70s, but the story was changed a bit. Working from the text here makes it a different story than the one most people know from TV. And Rafa is another guy who can really make vehicles menacing.
I respond well to Matheson’s material—I’ve adapted a number of his stories for our Doomed magazine years back—so it was nice to take on my all-time favorite of his. It’s just such a simple but intense story.
Nrama: Speaking of the many Matheson stories IDW has brought to comics life, let me turn to Joe and ask this: could you foresee more of your prose work being adapted to comics?
Hill: Ah, well, Chris will probably kick my ass for spilling this one, but my new novel is going to appear alongside a five-issue IDW miniseries, expanding on the world of the comic through a series of standalone stories. The first issue will adapt something straight from the novel, but the other four issues will be original tales. I'll script, and a different artist will tackle each issue. Gabriel Rodriguez will do one; hopefully Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel will each do one, as well.Nrama: And we’ll be hounding you for more information on that down the road. Last question, you guys. Have you ever had an experience similar to these stories on the open highway that made you think of Duel or Throttle?
Ryall: Oh, sure. But from the other side—since I saw Duel years before I could drive, I saw the need to be the aggressor early on. I’ve been running beleaguered drivers off the road for years. So if anyone sees me on the highway cruising around my oil tanker, you’d best move your ass to the side before becoming the next oil stain on the road… especially on Wednesdays, people. I’ve got new comics to buy, y’know.
Hill: Oh, well, I've always had good experiences out riding. I went for a run last summer with my Dad... I rode my Triumph Bonneville and he rode his Harley. Really good time: 70-degrees, nice breeze, little breeze. First time we ever rode together. When I got back, I said, "Hey, that was fun." He said, "Oh yeah. That's a pretty good little bike you got there, too, kid... even if it does sound a little like a sewing machine."