You won’t hear it from the literary highbrow among us, but Stephen King’s novel The Stand has all of the elements necessary to qualify as a (if not the) Great American Novel. If you’ve read King’s 1978 novel, you recognized themes of, in the words of editor Bill Rosemann, “faith, fear, violence, hope, religion, justice, sex, destiny, and redemption.” And if you’ve read the novel, your dreams were haunted while you were reading it, and even now some of the images from King’s story of civilization brought low by an escaped biological weapon remain fresh in your mind. You’ve probably even watched the fairly hokey mini-series that was made from the book. I watch it every time it’s on, often in all day Sunday marathons on the SyFy network.
It seems somehow inevitable that a story that evokes such strong images would attract graphic novelists interested in putting their own spin on it, and artists looking to make those images leap from the page with brush and pen. Marvel has answered the call, and is in the process of releasing a comic series based on The Stand. They have collected the first five issues and released them as the graphic novel The Stand: Captain Trips. The book takes us from the initial accidental release of the pathogen from a military research facility to the murder of people trying to get the word out via the media by military personnel. Of course looming over the whole tale is the presence of Captain Trips himself, The Walking Man. Many of the book’s other prominent characters, including Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, and Larry Underwood are introduced along the way.
King’s book has been ably adapted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, perhaps best known as a screenwriter for HBO’s Big Love, and beautifully illustrated by Mike Perkins (Captain America) and Laura Martin (Astonishing X-Men). They have brought the novel to life in a way that will have you reading deep into the night, just as the original novel did. This volume also includes a sketchbook which includes promotional artwork, sketch ideas, and variant covers. There’s also an introduction by Ralph Macchio.
You can pick up The Stand: Captain Trips at your favorite comic store or online. When you finish it, you’ll be eager for more. You can pick up the individual comics, or wait for Marvel to issue the next compilation, The Stand: American Nightmares, which will be published in February, 2010.