Two of Stephen King‘s longest works — the Dark Tower series and The Stand — are currently being adapted into comic book form, and a third, The Talisman, is forthcoming. I am reading both the Dark Tower and Stand series. Here are my thoughts.
Unlike the novel series, the Dark Tower comics tell the story in chronological order, so the first series, The Gunslinger Born, begins with the events that are told mainly in flashback in the fourth novel, Wizard and Glass. These earliest series relate significant events in young Roland‘s life, many of which were only hinted at in the books, so there is a lot of new material here. Robin Furth, King’s longtime assistant and author of The Dark Tower Concordance, writes the comics, so she is particularly well-qualified to fill in the holes. Because of the new events, which nevertheless mesh well with the existing Dark Tower storyline, the comics add a lot of value for Dark Tower fans. Each issue has additional material at the end that explains some of the mythology and other mysterious aspects of the Dark Tower universe, as well.
The art for these comics is spectacular and evokes perfectly Roland’s world, a world that has “moved on.” I think the Dark Tower comics represent the best of what a Stephen King comic adaptation can be. The visual medium truly enhances the story and adds to the reader’s enjoyment, while the new material deepens our understanding of the universe King originally created.
The Stand comic series, on the other hand, does not bring anything new to the table. Instead, it merely retells the story that King fans are already very familiar with. The artwork is fine, but the visual medium is not used very effectively. Instead of telling the story in pictures and dialogue, there is a lot of narrative for a comic book, which seems to be taken straight from the novel. If you have already read The Stand, I see no reason to reread it in comic form.
It remains to be seen which direction The Talisman will take. It is not one of my favorite King novels, and the decision to adapt it now seems to capitalize on the success of the previous two adaptations. On the other hand, The Talisman straddles both worlds, so there is opportunity to bring something new, if the writers and artists will take that risk.