The Dark Tower (series)
"The Dark Tower" painting by Michael Whelan
|Illustrator||Michael Whelan, Phil Hale, Ned Dameron, Dave McKean, Jae Lee, Bernie Wrightson, Darrel Anderson, Michael Whelan|
|Genre||Dark fantasy, science fiction, horror, Western|
|Followed by||The Dark Tower (comics)|
The Dark Tower is a series of eight books written by American author Stephen King that incorporates themes from multiple genres, including dark fantasy, science fantasy, horror, and Western. It describes a "gunslinger" and his quest toward a tower, the nature of which is both physical and metaphorical. The series, and its use of the Dark Tower, expands upon Stephen King's multiverse and in doing so, links together many of his other novels. King has described the series as his magnum opus. In addition to the eight novels of the series proper that comprise 4,250 pages, many of King's other books relate to the story, introducing concepts and characters that come into play as the series progresses.
The series was chiefly inspired by the poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning, whose full text was included in the final volume's appendix. In the preface to the revised 2003 edition of The Gunslinger, King also identifies The Lord of the Rings, Arthurian Legend, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as inspirations. He identifies Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character as one of the major inspirations for the protagonist, Roland Deschain. King's style of location names in the series, such as Mid-World, and his development of a unique language abstract to our own (High Speech), are also influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's work.
Stephen King saw the Dark Tower series as a first draft. He planned to rewrite it to eliminate continuity errors and possibly remove himself from the later books, but after revising The Gunslinger, he decided a rewrite for the entire series was no longer necessary.
In the story, Roland Deschain is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of "Arthur Eld", his world's analogue of King Arthur. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West but is also magical. Many of the magical aspects have vanished from Mid-World, but traces remain as do relics from a technologically advanced society. Roland's quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland's world is said to have "moved on", and it appears to be coming apart at the seams. Mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish without a trace and time does not flow in an orderly fashion. Sometimes, even the sun rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland's motives, goals and age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries.
For a detailed synopsis of the novels, see the relevant article for each book.
Along his journey to the Dark Tower, Roland meets a great number of both friends and enemies. For most of the way he is accompanied by a group of people who together with him form the Ka-tet of the Nineteen and Ninety-nine, consisting of Jake Chambers, Eddie Dean, Susannah Dean, and Oy. Among his many enemies on the way are The Man In Black, Mordred and The Crimson King.
King created a language for his characters, known as the High Speech. Examples of this language include the phrases Thankee, Sai ("Thank you, Sir/Ma'am.") and Dan-Tete ("Little Savior"). In addition, King uses the term Ka, which is the approximate equivalent of destiny, or fate, in the fictional language High Speech (and similarly, Ka-tet, a group of people bound together by fate/destiny). This term originated in Egyptian mythology and storytelling, and has figured in several other novels and screenplays since 1976. The term also appears in King's short story, Low Men in Yellow Coats, in which Ted describes its meaning to Bobby.
|1||The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger||224||55,376||1982|
|2||The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three||400||125,948||1987|
|3||The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands||512||173,489||1991|
|4||The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass||787||254,691||1997||1998 Locus Award nominee|
|4.5||The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole||336||91,857||2012|
|5||The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla||714||242,776||2003||2004 Locus Award nominee|
|6||The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah||432||118,221||2004||2005 Locus Award nominee|
|7||The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower||845||272,273||2004||2005 British Fantasy Award winner|
While the series was declared finished with the publication of the seventh volume in 2004, King described in an interview in March 2009 an idea for a new short story he'd recently had: "And then I thought, 'Well, why don't I find three more like this and do a book that would be almost like modern fairy tales?' Then this thing started to add on bits and pieces so I guess it will be a novel." According to King, the idea was a new Dark Tower novel.
King said, regarding The Dark Tower, "It's not really done yet. Those seven books are really sections of one long über-novel." Stephen King confirmed this during his TimesTalk event at The Times Center in New York City on November 10, 2009, and the next day King's official site posted that King will begin working on this novel in about eight months, with a tentative title being The Wind Through the Keyhole. King noted that this novel should be set between the fourth and the fifth books of the series. The book, titled The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole, was announced on Stephen King's official site on March 10, 2011, and was published on April 24, 2012.
In July 2016, director Nikolaj Arcel confirmed that the Dark Tower film would be a sequel to the novels as well as an direct adaptation, with Roland in the next cycle of his journey to the Tower.
Each book in the series was originally published in hardcover format with a number of full-color illustrations spread throughout. Each book contained works by a single illustrator only. Subsequent printings of each book in trade paperback format usually preserve the illustrations in full, except for books I and IV. Pocket-sized paperback reprints contain only black-and-white chapter or section header illustrations.
The illustrators who worked on each book are:
- Michael Whelan; The Dark Tower is among his early notable works.
- Phil Hale – the only Dark Tower illustrator who created a second set of illustrations for a later printing of the book he illustrated.
- Ned Dameron.
- Dave McKean – the only Dark Tower illustrator to work in photocollages.
- Jae Lee – an illustrator who had previously worked on the Marvel Comics adaptation of the series, illustrated The Wind Through the Keyhole.
- Bernie Wrightson – illustrator for 1960s and 1970s horror comics; he also provided the illustrations for King's novella "Cycle of the Werewolf" (1983).
- Darrel Anderson – the only Dark Tower illustrator who used digital illustration techniques.
- Michael Whelan – returning more than 20 years later as the only recurring Dark Tower illustrator.
Bill Sheehan of The Washington Post called the series "a humane, visionary epic and a true magnum opus" that stands as an "imposing example of pure storytelling," "filled with brilliantly rendered set pieces... cataclysmic encounters and moments of desolating tragedy." Erica Noonan of the Boston Globe said, "There's a fascinating world to be discovered in the series" but noted that its epic nature keeps it from being user-friendly. Allen Johnston of The New York Times was disappointed with how the series progressed; while he marveled at the "sheer absurdity of [the books'] existence" and complimented King's writing style, he said preparation would have improved the series, stating "King doesn't have the writerly finesse for these sorts of games, and the voices let him down." Michael Berry of the San Francisco Chronicle, however, called the series' early installments "highfalutin hodgepodge" but the ending "a valediction" that "more than delivers on what has been promised."
The series has prompted related non-fiction books by authors besides King. Robin Furth has published the two-volume Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Concordance, an encyclopedia-style companion to the series that she originally wrote for King's personal use. Bev Vincent has published The Road to The Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus, a book containing back story, summary and analysis. Stephen King has endorsed both books.
Prequel comic series
A prequel to the Dark Tower series, set around the time of the flashbacks in The Gunslinger and Wizard and Glass, has been released by Marvel Comics. With the project overseen by King, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born is plotted by Robin Furth, scripted by Peter David, and illustrated by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. The first issue of this first arc was released on February 7, 2007. A hardcover volume containing all seven issues was released on November 7, 2007.
The second arc in the Dark Tower comic series was released by Marvel Comics. Called The Long Road Home, the first issue was published on March 5, 2008. A hardcover volume containing all five issues was released on October 15, 2008.
The third arc in the Dark Tower comic series was released by Marvel Comics, and it is called The Dark Tower: Treachery. The first issue of the six issue arc was published on September 10, 2008. A hardcover volume containing all 6 issues was released on April 21, 2009.
The fourth arc in the Dark Tower comic series was released by Marvel Comics, and it is called The Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilead. The first issue of the six issue arc was published on May 13, 2009. A hardcover volume containing all 6 issues, as well as the Sorcerer One-Shot was released on February 2, 2010.
The fifth arc in the Dark Tower comic series was released by Marvel Comics, and it is called The Dark Tower: Battle of Jericho Hill. The first issue of the five issue arc was published on December 3, 2009. A hardcover volume containing all 5 issues was released on August 17, 2010.
Marvel Comics has also published three supplemental books to date that expand upon characters and locations first introduced in the novels. The Dark Tower: Gunslingers' Guidebook was released in 2007, The Dark Tower: End-World Almanac was released in 2008, and The Dark Tower: Guide to Gilead was released in 2009. All three books were written by Anthony Flamini, with Furth serving as creative consultant. End-World Almanac and Guide to Gilead feature illustrations by David Yardin.
Further comic adaptions
An adaption of King's novel The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, titled The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - The Journey Begins, was made into a comic series and released by Marvel Comics. The first issue of the five-issue arc was published on May 19, 2010. The collected hardback edition was released on January 26, 2011.
An adaption of King's novella The Little Sisters of Eluria, titled The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - The Little Sisters of Eluria, was made into a comic series and released by Marvel Comics. The first issue of the five-issue arc was published on December 8, 2010. The collected hardback edition was released on June 8, 2011.
A second adaption of King's novel The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, titled The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - The Battle of Tull, was made into a comic series and released by Marvel Comics. The first issue of the five-issue arc was published on June 1, 2011. The collected hardback edition was released on January 25, 2012.
A third adaption of King's novel The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, titled The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - The Way Station, was made into a comic series and released by Marvel Comics. The first issue of the five-issue arc was published on December 14, 2011. The collected hardback edition was released on June 27, 2012.
December 7, 2009 saw the release of a spin-off online game titled Discordia, available to play free of charge on the official Stephen King website. The game is a continuation of the original Dark Tower story, following the war between the Tet Corporation and Sombra/NCP in New York, and it has been supervised by both Stephen King and Robin Furth. From the website: "Exploring the behind-the-scenes conflict between the two companies, Discordia introduces long-time Dark Tower fans to new characters and numerous mechanical/magical items developed by Mid-World's Old Ones. Over the course of our adventure we will visit many locations, both those familiar to Dark Tower fans and others which we only glimpsed in the Dark Tower novels. While we may not see Roland and his ka-tet in this adventure, the development team has remembered the faces of its fathers. We have done our best to honor the original Dark Tower series while simultaneously mapping new and exciting Dark Tower territory."
The Dark Tower 2017 film
Initially, in 2007, J. J. Abrams was connected to a film adaptation but later revealed he had removed himself from involvement in the project. On September 8, 2010, an official announcement was made that the series would be brought to both the big and the small screens via a trilogy of feature films and two seasons of a television series to bridge gaps between the films. According to a press release from Universal Pictures from October 29, 2010, the first Dark Tower film would open on May 17, 2013. On July 19, 2011, Universal pulled its support from the production of the Dark Tower films and television series. According to reports, the studio was unable to come to terms with producer Ron Howard. Despite this, Stephen King remains confident Howard would see the project through with another studio, and Howard confirmed the adaptation was still on track, noting that HBO would now carry the television series portions of the project.
On March 13, 2012, it was reported that Warner Bros. Pictures was now interested in making at least the first film and that Russell Crowe, tipped to play Roland Deschain, was no longer on board. Reports indicated that filming may have commenced as early as the first quarter of 2013. However, Warner eventually passed on the film. Later, on April 10, 2015, it was reported that Sony Pictures and Media Rights Capital would be going ahead with the first film in the series alongside a television series, using a reworked script by Akiva Goldsman, who worked on the initial 2010 proposal, and Jeff Pinkner. On June 2, 2015, Nikolaj Arcel was hired by the studio to direct the film. On August 5, 2015, Sony set the film for a release on January 13, 2017. On March 1, 2016, it was announced that Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey had both joined the film, cast respectively as Roland Deschain and Randall Flagg.
Connections to King's other works
The series has become a linchpin that ties together much of King's body of work. The worlds of The Dark Tower are in part composed of locations, characters, events and other various elements from many of King's novels and short stories.
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