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Marvel takes The Stand

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By the last half of 1978, Stephen King was already a successful writer. Carrie had already been released both as a book and as a movie; Salem’s Lot was in the works to be adapted as a TV miniseries, and 1977’s The Shining, due in part to the success of the Carrie film the year before, became his first hardcover bestseller.

King decided to do what many writers do when they reach a certain level of popularity—he decided to push the boundaries of what was expected of him. In other words, he got ambitious. And, as a result, we got The Stand.

At 863 pages, it was almost twice the size of any other of King’s novel to that point in time. It was a sprawling epic with a huge cast and an ambitious premise. It is widely acclaimed as one of the best of King’s works.

Now, in time for the novel’s 30th anniversary, Marvel Comics is adapting it into comic book form.

Certainly, the success of Marvel’s tie-in to The Dark Tower series both creatively and financially helped grease the wheels for this latest adaptation. Even though Stephen King is one of the world’s best selling authors, that is no guarantee comic fans be willing to buy comic adaptations of his work or the legion of King fans will brave a comic shop to pick it up. And it also doesn’t mean the adaptation will be high enough quality to please King himself.

But Marvel went about the relationship the smart way. They picked top name comic creators like Peter David and Jae Lee to work on the book, hit the press—both comic and mainstream—hard with publicity. Not only did this bring readers in, but also insured that they would like what they saw when they got there.

And another side benefit of this arrangement was that Marvel got more penetration in the bookstore market. When American and European comic books are being shoved off the shelves in favor of Manga, having a New York Times Best Selling Author’s name on your cover guarantees bookstores will stock it.

Marvel is keeping quality first with their adaptation of The Stand. While Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Mike Perkins might not be as big names as David or Lee, they have done consistently good work over the years and will do justice to King’s greatest work.

While Marvel’s Dark Tower series—the first issue of the latest miniseries, The Dark Tower: Treachery #1, is being released at Midnight tonight along with The Stand: Captain Trips #1—is an original story fleshing out the Dark Tower mythos and Roland Deschain’s backstory, The Stand will be more of a straight forward adaptation. The entire novel will be brought to comic book life over the span of six, five-issue miniseries.

The novel is about a highly deadly biological weapon, a superflu, which is accidentally released on a California army base. The disease, called Captain Trips, quickly spreads across the world, infecting 98% of the planet’s population and is 100% fatal.

The survivors gather together and start rebuilding society. Some follow the path of good, some follow the path of evil. Both of these forces eventually come into conflict, and the result could very well be total annihilation.

The Stand: Captain Trips will deal with the early part of the novel and detail the disease, how it was released, and the damage it does as it spreads.

The Stand was an excellent choice for Marvel’s second King adaptation. It is an epic in every sense of the word and one of the best examples of its genre. It features a great array of characters and interesting situations. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Marvel does with this.

Also out this week:

Deadpool #1:

Say what you will about Rob Liefeld, and lord knows there is a lot to say, but many comic creators have not created one lasting character. Liefeld has created at least two—Cable and Deadpool—and both are so popular that Marvel has given them their own series over a decade and a half after they were created.

This series spins off from the recent arc in Wolverine: Origins where the Merc with a Mouth tried to kill Wolverine. The writer of that book, Daniel Way, takes the reigns of this new ongoing and gives the title a little more juice by tying it in with Secret Invasion. Will Skrulls be easier to kill than Wolvie? Well, they should be!

Daniel Way (W), Paco Medina (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Criminal Macabre: Cell Block 666 #1:

Cal McDonald has been through as much Hell as one man can be and still be among the living. He’s run up against ghosts, zombies and demons, but still has managed to come out on top. But at least he’s never been sent to prison. Well, at least, before now he hasn’t.

Framed for a crime he didn’t commit by cops and a D.A. that has it in for him, he’s received a one-way ticket to the joint. Strangely enough, a stretch in prison could be just what the doctor ordered. After all, the monsters he combats won’t be able to find him there, right? Wrong. And now he’ll be lucky to get out of jail alive.

Steve Niles (W), Nick Stakal (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

The Odd Squad #1:

You know what? I feel sorry for the things that go bump in the night. You know—the ghosts, the aliens, the werewolves, vampires, etc. I feel sorry because there are more people hunting them in every medium than there are hunting escaped convicts or grizzly bears. Seriously, Devil’s Due has two such teams in their line of comics, and each is coming out within weeks of each other.

But for the Office of Dimensional Defense, their greatest threat isn’t the beasties they hunt, but rather bureaucracy. Department head Charlotte Springs not only has to deal with staffing issues and budgetary concerns, but also a competing agency whose mission statement is to keep these hobgoblins hidden and in secret. 

Todd Livingston (W), The Fraim Brothers (A), Devil’s Due Publishing, $3.50. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Dragon Prince #1:

I can’t say that I have ever been what you’d call a fan of dragons. I mean, I give you that a giant-sized lizard who could fly and breath fire does have a certain coolness to it, but I never really got into them, personally.

But a lot of people have. Dragons have appeared on T-shirts, role-playing games, books, and movies. Many a person has a collection of dragon statues proudly displayed in their house and always secretly rooted against St. George.

Top Cow is hoping this market will be willing to read a dragon comic book. Aaron Chiang is the Dragon Prince, and he is charged with keeping the last few dragons on Earth safe from harm. Since they are being hunted by a group of powerful wizards, he has his work cut out for him. Good luck, Aaron!

Ron Marz (W), Lee Moder (A), Top Cow Productions, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Batman Confidential #21:

Rumors have been swirling for over a year that this title is on the brink of cancellation. Adding weight to these rumors is that similarly themed anthologies such as JSA Classified, JLA Classified, and even Superman Confidential have already been cancelled. However, this latest arc, which ends this issue, is a definitive sign that the book should not be cancelled.

Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire’s telling of the first meeting between Batgirl and Catwoman has to be one of the best Batman stories I’ve read in a few years. It is one fun read (I know, it does sound weird that any Batbook would be a “fun read”). The story is exciting, the characterization excellent and art simply gorgeous. And if it wasn’t for this title, the story would probably never have seen the light of day.

Fabian Nicieza (W), Kevin Maguire (A), DC Comics, $2.99.  Ongoing Series.

Wolverine: Saudade:

I’d wager a bet that most American Marvel fans have no idea that the company’s publishing empire stretches all the way overseas. It does, and many of your favorite characters have been interpreted by some of Europe’s greatest artist. This week, one of those stories makes it way back to North America.

Wolverine is on vacation in Brazil, but it turns out to be anything but relaxing. A stolen motorcycle leads Logan to a brutal kidnapping of a young boy. Unfortunately, he decides to take a personal interest in the abduction. He begins a quest to find the missing kid, and Wolvie always finds his quarry. The kidnappers have only two options: return the kid or die trying! Either way, it is going to be a bloody ending!

Jean-David Morvan (W), Phillipe Bouchet (A), Marvel Comics, $4.99.  One-Shot.

Dugout:

Adam Beechen and Manny Bello reuniting on a new graphic novel might not get many of you excited, but it should. Those of us who are excited are the ones who read their last effort, Hench. They told the story of a career henchman, the kind you see in just about every comic book. Told from his perspective, it painted a picture of a man addicted to danger, desperate for money, and, most of all, human like the rest of us.

This time, they are once again focused on the world of crime and punishment, but filter it through a look at our national pastime. It’s the 1960s and baseball manager Cookie Palisetti’s best pitcher is in prison. Without him, Palisetti’s team will go bankrupt and Palisetti will be broke. There is only one thing he can do—play an exhibition game with the prison team as a cover for breaking his star player out of jail. 

Adam Beechen (W), Manny Bello (A), AIT/PlanetLar, $12.95. Original Graphic Novel.

Star Wars: Clone Wars #1:

The recent Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie has been a bit of a disappointment. It was a critical failure (only 20% fresh over at Rotten Tomatoes) and has only made $53.3 million dollars after two and a half weeks of release (most Star Wars films make that much in a day). But that movie was supposed to be a fresh start to a new addition to the Lucas Empire, which is to include a new TV show as well.

So, what could have been one of the hottest comics of September, is now kind of iffy at best. This series covers the same ground as the movie and the TV show, and is supposed to act as a complement to them. But if no one wants to see the movie and there’s no guarantee that the TV series will be successful, why would anyone want a tie-in comic book?

Henry Gilroy (W), Scott Hepburn (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

X-Men: Magneto: Testament #1:

Rumor has it, that when the first X-Men film came out, Marvel felt a lot of pressure to come up with Wolverine’s origin. The logic was that they didn’t want to let the filmmakers come up with his true backstory first. Therefore, they came up with Origin and the rest was history.

There is a planned X-Men Origins: Magneto film in the works, so part of me has to wonder if this series was created for a similar reason as the one mentioned above. Both the film and the comic deal with the same subject—the life of a young, Jewish Magneto growing up in Nazi Germany, how he dealt with Hitler’s persecution and what part his developing powers played in it. 

Greg Pak (W), Carmine Di Giandomenico (A), Marvel Knights/Marvel Comics, $3.99.  Five-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also is the comic review editor for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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