2017 will go down as a massive year for the king of horror, Stephen King. A bestselling novel (Sleeping Beauties), multiples television shows (The Mist, Mr. Mercedes), film adaptations on both Netflix (1922, Gerald’s Game) and the big screen (It, The Dark Tower) – the list goes on and on. Here to add to it are two books tied in to the Stephen King Universe – one a blast from the past, the other a look at what should have been the beginning of a bright future.
Originally published back in 1982 at the same time as its cinematic release, the classic Stephen King graphic novel Creepshow has been reprinted for the first time in decades by Simon & Schuster. The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate, as the artwork for Creepshow comes from the pencil of the great and now sadly gone Bernie Wrightson. The co-creator of Swamp Thing, and a regular illustrator of King’ work, including his contributions to King’s Cycle of the Werewolf, Wrightson died this year after a long and continuous battle with ill health. His influence on generations of artists has never been in doubt, and it’s wonderful to have his and King’s tribute to the EC comics of their youth readily available for a new generation of horror fans eager to dig in. The graphic novel features the five stories that made up the original film, which was directed by another master who left us this year, George A. Romero.
For me, Creepshow brings back some vivid memories. When I was a kid, roughly six or seven years old, my Dad’s mother, who I called Nanny, would often take me to a children’s bookstore located about two blocks from the apartment that her and my Grandpa lived in. It was a two floor building, with the kids material on the top, and then a grown-up section in the basement. There wasn’t much for me to look at there, mind you, but I’d always make my way downstairs, just to stare at the cover of the only comic book in the place – a copy of Creepshow. I think I may have even flipped through it once or twice, but Wrightson’s art was definitely the stuff of nightmares for a kid my age, so I never actually added the book to my collection. Amazingly, something so creepy is able to bring back some very fond memories for me.
From the past to the present, there’s little question that the majority of Stephen King fans were let down by the failure of this past summer’s lacklustre The Dark Tower movie, which failed to live up to the epic standards of the original series of novels. Having followed the film’s development, I knew what was going to wind up on screen wasn’t going to come close to the Mid-World we wanted to see. So, instead, I chose to accept the film for what it was, which meant I was able to enjoy the results, however lacking. Infinitely more successful is the book The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film, written by Daniel Wallace. One thing made clear right off the top is that the film was always meant to be lean and mean in terms of its story focus. Rather than explore the entire Gunslinger mythos, the plan was always to focus on the Roland and Jake relationship.
With full access to cast and crew, along with countless pages of behind the scenes pictures, designs and props, Wallace’s book does a gorgeous job in laying out how The Dark Tower came together, while also highlighting aspects of what could have been. In many ways, The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film does a better job in creating a real life version of King’s series than the actual film does. For fans of the film or the series, this book is the trip we wish we could have taken.