As EW announced exclusively on Friday, Marvel is beginning a new era in their long-running adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga. After spending many years exploring the backstory of the saga’s chief protagonist Roland Deschain, a new series of comics will focus on characters introduced in The Drawing of the Three, the second volume of King’s saga and the one where The Dark Tower revealed itself as a very different sort of fantasy story.
Peter David has been co-writer Dark Tower comics with Robin Furth since 2007’s The Gunslinger Born. The most recent miniseries, The Man in Black, came to an end back in October 2012. A couple months later, David was on a family vacation when tragedy struck. “I had a stroke at Disney World,” he explains, “Because if you’re gonna have a stroke that’s where you want to have it.” While he was recovering at a nearby hospital, he received a note from Furth, saying that Stephen King wanted to get in touch with him. “So Steve writes to me, and says he’s interested in coming to visit me,” says David. “My feeling is that he was able to sympathize with what I was going through, in terms of learning how to make my body function.” (King was struck by a moving car in 1999 and suffered considerable injuries, an experience the writer explored both in his memoir On Writing and in some of his fiction throughout the 2000s.)
David assumed that King was staying nearby; in fact, King drove five hours to visit him in the hospital. “He spent about an hour and a half visiting with me at the center, thrilling the various doctors and nurses,” says David. “In the course of our conversation, he said: ‘I’m wondering, are we ever gonna do The Drawing of the Three? Fans have been asking me about that!'”
A few months later, David heard from Marvel editor Bill Rosemann, who sees the decision to continue The Dark Tower as very much in line with Marvel’s ongoing Marvel Now! initiative. “We’re bringing in new voices, trying new genres,” says Rosemann. “Let’s do the same thing with The Dark Tower. We’re moving from the western genre into more of an urban crime genre. We’re traveling from Mid-World to our world.” Thus: The Prisoner, a five-part series focusing on the life of Eddie Dean. The series promises to track Eddie from his life in Brooklyn in the mid-60s, ultimately leading to his meeting with Roland the Gunslinger.
A new kind of Dark Tower called for a new artist, with Piotr Kowalski bringing the series into a gritty, urban setting. But it also called for a new kind of storytelling. “When I crafted the dialogue for the first series, there was an internal narrator,” says David. “A narrative voice that I always envisioned was an old man sitting at a campfire along the trail. He’s Walter Huston, Walter Brennan. Everyone’s sitting around the campfire, and this guy is telling you the story of Roland Deschain.” The Prisoner‘s narration shifts to a more grounded perspective, with the point of view coming straight from Eddie. “When he first starts, Eddie’s drug-addled, to put it mildly,” says David. “He’s the definition of an unreliable narrator.”
Readers of the Dark Tower series know that The Drawing of the Three is, in some respects, a book about getting the band together. Eddie is one of the titular “three,” and although The Prisoner is very much Eddie’s story, it’s not the only story. In describing the process of adaptation, Rosemann offers up a comparison to Marvel’s biggest super team. “In the Avengers comic book, you see the story from the point of view of the whole group. What if we chop it up and we see what was Thor doing before the Avengers? What was Captain America doing?”
Future Dark Tower miniseries are planned, focusing on the later chapters of The Drawing of the Three. (Teasing the arrival of a fan-favorite character, David exclaims: “Detta’s probably one of my favorite characters of the whole thing!”) And after The Drawing of the Three, there are still five more mainline Dark Tower books by Stephen King, not counting the myriad of tangentially connected literature. It took King over thirty years to craft the whole Dark Tower epic. Will the Dark Tower comics ultimately tell the whole tale? In response, David deadpans: “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get it in under three decades.”