Category Archives: King – The Dark Tower

Stephen King & Spiderman

Stephen King Caricature by Steve Roberts
Stephen King Caricature by Steve Roberts

I’ve been reading Stephen King practically my whole life. One of the first was “It” when I was in high school in the 80s. That is probably now my least favorite of his books, not because it was badly written but almost the opposite, that is was so well written and so good at sucking you in that it’s creepy contents was just too much to handle.

I read most of the books that he had written up until I was about 25 or so (I’m in my early 40s now) but Bag of Bones really scared the bejesus out of me, and I guess I was entering a different phase of my life, so that horror was no longer my preferred genre.

Later I came back to him, finished The Dark Tower (which is not really horror, more fantasy), and I continue to read him now simply because he is such a phenomenal storyteller.  I am acclimated to and familiar with his writing style.

There is a quote I want to share with you if you are a Stephen King fan.

In an open letter in The Gunslinger Born, the first volume of the graphic novels based on The Dark Tower, he says:

“And if I could write any Marvel comic, about any character?  Spider-Man, of course.  Peter Parker, the original Sufferin’ Superhero.  I’m not sure what I’d do with him… except I see a nervous breakdown… and a tangle of OCD behavior that can’t be fixed with medication (screws up the powers, of course), and some tropical island rehab… an earthquake, of course… or maybe a volcano… a growing belief that if he doesn’t touch the door exactly twenty-three times before leaving his condo, the world will end… oh, and a sense that the costume is getting tighter… making it hard to breathe…”

This epitomizes why I love King and his writing.  As a person who has a psychology degree and loves the topic, I recognize his ability to communicate a personality disorder, it’s as if he has had every single one.

I am not currently a Spider-Man fan but if he writes this graphic novel I’m pretty sure I will be!

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More detail for Dark Tower fans

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Graphic Novel: The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)

(con’t from the last post)

The graphic novel makes some, mostly minor, changes to the story of The Dark Tower.

The Gunslinger BornWhen Roland is brought into his mother’s chambers by Marten in the graphic novel, she is naked and has that “freshly fucked” look. Then Marten beats her as Roland is still within earshot.

In the novels she is not naked, but is still humiliated and later beaten by Marten.

The storyline is the same though: Marten did that specifically to provoke Roland into challenging Cort early, in order to get his gunslinger title and obtain the guns (at left) so he could kill Marten, thinking he might fail.

It’s simply adding more detail to the story we already know if we have read The Dark Tower series. The Gunslinger Born

But the beauty of the illustrations gives more than just story details, it gives a sense of wonder and romanticism to the land of Gilead (at right).  King did an amazing job on the books, but there is no way to match graphic novels when it comes to literary visualization. 

I will review the later chapters of The Gunslinger Born as the scenes come up in later Dark Tower books.

The Gunslinger Born, Roland comes to life

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Graphic Novel: The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)

(con’t from the last post)

As I pointed out in the last post, the graphic novels based on The Dark Tower go in a more linear fashion than the books. At the beginning we very briefly see the gunslinger chasing the man in black across the desert, but then go directly to the beginning of Roland’s tale. Specifically, how he becomes a gunslinger, and his story thereafter.

The graphic novel gives striking, beautiful, dark illustration to The Dark Tower and fans of the series should absolutely read them. Check them out at the library if you don’t want to pay for them. I look forward to owning them all though (not the individual comics but the hardback graphic novels).

We are introduced to Roland with the same sentence that starts the books:

The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)“The Man in Black fled across the desert. And the gunslinger followed.”

“If the gunslinger looks familiar to you, well, that’s as may be.”

“Echoes of him have been seen in tales spun across many other places, in many other ways.

Just as stories of a great flood, for instance, cut across the consciousness of all mankind, so too does the gunslinger.

He is iconic and legend and your best friend, praise the man Jesus, and your worst enemy.

Your damnation or your salvation, and sometimes not even “or” but “and”, do ya kennit?

The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)The only thing he shares with his quarry is that he is known by many names, if one such as he can be said to be “known” at all.”

Besides Clint Eastwood’s character in the spaghetti Westerns (with a twist of Dirty Harry), the names and images I think of are perhaps John Wayne’s cowboy character, or even going back further, maybe Homer’s Odysseus or Sir Galahad and his quest for the Holy Grail.

It then goes on to describe the smells of his world and you see him and his fellow gunslingers in all their youthful glory.

“There is no more powerful summary of memories than smell.The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)

See the gunslinger now, in his youth, with the shades of young men who have little concept of their mortality. See him…see these…very well.

Smell the heady aroma of the tall grass, and the clean air unbefouled by pollution, and say thankee, sai, for being given a view of the extinct realm of Gilead…”

A beautiful, beautiful book. More to come in the next post.

 

Cort, Roland’s teacher (Dark Tower)

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Book One: The Gunslinger & The Gunslinger Born (graphic novel by Marvel Comics)

(con’t from the last post)

It’s hard to imagine a world in which someone would choose the character “Cort” from this book to be a teacher of young men. It says something about the world they live in and the challenges Cort’s young students will face.

The Gunslinger BornCort (at left, with a young Roland towering over him) is brought to an even more disturbing light in The Gunslinger Born, a graphic novel based on The Dark Tower. The old teacher Cort is a huge bald villainous-looking (and acting) pig of a man, but he is fighting on Roland’s side and he makes significant contributions to any success they may have against John Farson, the man who wants to use old machines (tanks) to destroy Gilead.

The graphic novel series follows a more linear path than the books. Except for a very brief scene at the beginning (Roland beating it across the desert after the man in black), the book starts with the story of how Roland becomes a gunslinger and continues thereafter to tell his tale.

But back to Cort, the teacher. Roland has nearly killed him in the final gunslinger test and minutes later encounters Marten, his true enemy. His friend Cuthbert, after The Gunslinger Bornseeing the interaction, surmises the reason that led Roland to attempt the gunslinger test early: to attain the weapons that would enable him to kill Marten, the man who is doing terrible evil to his mother and father and their world.

Cuthbert is at right, middle of the page, with Roland and his hawk on top, as he plans his victory over Cort.  (Marvel Comics)

Roland, when asked by Cuthbert why he didn’t just kill Marten right then, quotes his old teacher Cort:

“As Cort always said, run without consideration and fall in a hole.”

Roland continually quotes Cort throughout the series, this hateful character who taught Roland to kill. He taught Roland how to live and succeed in this harsh dark world. In a sense, we owe Roland, and who he is, to Cort, the evil teacher, and King doesn’t want to let us forget it.

In The Gunslinger, Cort physically beats his students, but he falls just short of that in the graphic novels. Regardless, the apocalyptic present of Roland’s childhood comes across loud and clear in both books. The end of the world is coming and Roland will be the only one left.

More on The Gunslinger in the next post.

More about Roland’s “ka” (Dark Tower)

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Book One: The Gunslinger

(con’t from the last post)

About half way through this book, Roland is feeling sad about leading Jake to his death.

The Gunslinger“It ends this way, he thought. Again and again it ends this way. There are quests and roads that lead ever onward, and all of them end in the same place – upon the killing ground.

Except, perhaps, the road to the Tower.”

The above excerpt is in the original version of the book (1982) but the new version adds:

“There, ka might show him its true face.”

What’s interesting here is that when King was writing the original words his “again and again it ends this way” is a somewhat prophetic statement to make seeing as he didn’t know how he was going to end the series.

To quote the graphic novel The Gunslinger Born:

“The gunslinger is a creature of what we would call destiny and he calls “ka’”. Ka is a wheel, its one purpose to turn, and in the end it always came back to the place where it had started. The gunslinger’s ka turns toward an inevitable goal… a Dark Tower.”

More about The Gunslinger Born in the next post.

The Gunslinger’s “Ka” (Dark Tower)

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Book One: The Gunslinger

(con’t from the last post)

In the last post I described how the man in black made it clear to Jake that he was going to die by telling the gunslinger (in the presence of the boy) that only them two would hold council together on the other side of the mountain. Jake pleads with Roland not to continue but Roland steels himself against anything that will prevent him from continuing his quest to reach the man in black and the Dark Tower. He even steels himself against the boy he has come to love, Jake.

“In the end there was only ka” Roland thinks, and then:

“The price of any betrayal always comes due in flesh… something happened in his mind, an uncoupling. That was the moment in which the small figure before him ceased to be Jake, and became only the boy, an impersonality to be moved and used.”

It’s as if he can turn his “sociopath” switch on in order to get through the day. (Maybe some of us in this world do that from time to time too.)

But it’s not the first time that he uses “ka” as an excuse. In fact he constantly refers to the feeling of ka and the workings of ka.

The GunslingerTo quote the graphic novel The Gunslinger Born:

“The gunslinger is a creature of what we would call destiny and he calls “ka’”. Ka is a wheel, its one purpose to turn, and in the end it always came back to the place where it had started. The gunslinger’s ka turns toward an inevitable goal… a Dark Tower.”

As he and the boy find that the climbing is not hard going up the mountain, neither of them are surprised by this. It’s as if ka has chosen this path and there is no wavering from it, and the boy will play his part in the story because there is no other choice. No other destiny possible.

Roland “felt ka at work on the surface of things and no longer even considered it odd” even when the going was surprisingly easy for a boy of 10.

Everything backs up ka, justifies ka, or upholds ka. Not to sound anti-religious, but it reminds me of people who always come back to God whenever faced with a dilemma or question, or something fascinating or notable. Yes, yes, God did that. Right right. And that’s how Roland is about ka. It answers every question and that’s enough for him.

(Ka is also a Cirque du Soleil production that I’ve seen twice and I highly recommend it. 🙂 )

Stephen King’s tiny details

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Book One: The Gunslinger

(con’t from the last post)

In recent posts I’ve pointed out that Roland is a sensitive, sentimental person (“romantic”) and a rather sexual creature.

The GunslingerHe has compassion as well – both times in The Gunslinger that Roland has sex it’s mostly out of pity. First he has pity on Alice (who becomes “Allie” as he spends more time with her), a woman who keeps bar and has a significant scar on her forehead. He has a sexual relationship with her, then he uses sex as a bargaining chip with the Oracle later on.

But either way, Roland is a complex character and what woman wouldn’t want him.

His dreams give him glimpses of himself (as dreams do). When he and Jake arrive at the willow grove where they meet the Oracle, he has a vivid dream where he is witnessing the murder of his beloved Susan from ages ago. In the dream as she burns, Susan urges Roland to put his attention on “the boy”. When he then looks at him, Jake has a spike through his forehead.

Later, Roland and Jake have an encounter with the man in black, and as the man in black whisks away, after stating that on the other side of the mountains “just the two of us” will hold much council, Jake looks up at Roland, pleading with him not to go down this path, the one that will lead to his (Jake’s) death.

“For a moment the gunslinger saw the face of Allie, the girl from Tull, superimposed over Jake’s, the scar standing out on her forehead like a mute accusation, and felt brute loathing for them both. (It wouldn’t occur to him until much later that both the scar on Alice’s forehead and the nail he saw spiked through Jake’s forehead in his dreams were in the same place).”

What an ingenious detail but only the most astute readers would have put the two forehead themes together so King had to point it out with parentheses.

I’ll talk more about this in the next post.