Quint: The Stand is one of my all time favorite books. It's one I genuinely believe will be taught to future generations. It's populist, but there's also some real artistry there in how King layers the characters, sets a world and makes it so damn easy to follow even though it's, like, 4,000 pages long. How are you approaching the material, what's your main goal as a writer for this series at Marvel?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Well, first of all, The Stand is one of my favorite novels, too; that’s why I signed-on for the long haul. Along with The Great Gatsby, Heart of Darkness, and Dracula, it’s one of the few novels I’ve read more than once. (And I get more out of it each time I re-read it.) And, like you, I believe its themes and its scope make it one for the ages, as they like to say. Also, it’s just a brilliant, gripping story that works beautifully as pure entertainment. Honoring that, first and foremost, is my main goal. I want this series to be a great read. I want people who have never encountered The Stand before to get a sense of how truly epic it is; and, fingers crossed, thirty issues will let us do that (hopefully). I want people who, like me, have read the novel to experience it in a new, fresh, literate—but also (obviously) visual—way. I want it to be a page-turner with surprising depth, complexity, and heart. Ambitious enough, do you think?
Quint: One of the stand-out attributes of the book is King's character economy. Since you're working in a more visual medium, does that make it harder or easier for you to tell this story?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: When I re-read The Stand, what struck me most—even more than the sheer ambition and the profound horror and surprising hope of it—were the characters. How multi-layered they were. How much I liked them. How much they terrified me. How much I felt for them. And that, of course, is due to Stephen King’s inherent genius; his ability to draw and develop characters quickly and deeply. But also, frankly, of the time and room he allows for these characters to, quite simply, live, especially in the expanded edition of The Stand. The series will have great action set-pieces, no question (like Larry’s journey through the corpse-choked Lincoln Tunnel), but I also want to capture as many of the quieter “character moments” as I possibly can. Luckily, penciller Mike Perkins is not only a master of action and movement, but of emotion and nuance. His faces and gestures are worth a thousand words.
Quint: Are you taking any liberties? I don't mean that in an accusatory way. I assume you're going to be faithful, but the question is what new angle is being brought to the table for this series?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Truly, my only agenda is to be as faithful as possible; to that end, I’m taking as few liberties as I can. Of course, consciously or subconsciously, you skew a certain way; it’s inevitable. But right now, I’m trying to pack as much of the novel’s essence in the adaptation as is humanly possible. I start with what speaks to me most directly—what elements I find the most gripping as a reader and as a fan of the novel—and work outwards from there. I identify what elements/scenes/whatever are the most immediate and visual and fight to include them. If something isn’t essential to the present action, but resonates for another reason—like the scene between Frannie and her mother, in that creepy parlor—I fight to include that. Ultimately, not everything will make into the adaptation—that’s impossible—but so far, so good. Nothing compromised.
Quint: Have you gotten to work with King at all? If so, how was that process, besides mind-numbingly terrifying?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I have not yet had any direct contact with the King yet, but soon, I’m hoping. (And God knows, if I don’t get a Christmas card this December postmarked Bangor, Maine, it’s gonna get really ugly, really fast…) I do know that he’s been thrilled with what we’ve turned in so far, which helps with the mind-numbing terror, though I don’t expect that will ever go away completely—nor should it.
Quint: So far who is your favorite character to write for?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Larry Underwood and Frannie Goldsmith. Larry, ‘cause he’s such a train wreck; he’s so wonderfully, fallibly human. (There’s a little bit of Larry in each of us, I think.) And Frannie ‘cause she’s so darn pretty and spunky. And they’re both so relatable.
Quint: Mike Perkins' work looks pretty great so far. How is that collaboration? Have you been happy with the art so far?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Mike’s a complete professional, and The Stand—and I think he’ll agree with me on this point—is the work of his career. His storytelling is impeccable; he’s great with action as well as with the subtler character moments; truly, there isn’t an emotion he can’t capture. So, yeah, basically…he’s the perfect man for this job.
Quint: Has there been a sequence that has visually turned out better than you thought?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I have to say, I think our first issue really hits it out of the park. For instance, Mike did a superb job with the sequence in which Charlie Campion crashes his car in front of the Texaco station where Stu’s gabbing with his friends. (It sounds simple—a car, in the distance, getting closer—but believe me, it’s hard to capture that in a dynamic or lyrical way, that Mike does.) Which reminds me: Also in that sequence, Mike really pushed for an extra page because he wanted a true moment of horror, a splash that would’ve made even Graham “Ghastly” Ingles (the infamous EC comic horror artist) avert his eyes. We got the page—thank you, Powers That Be at Marvel—and it makes the issue. (You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it…) The proverbial “water cooler” panel…
Quint: Have you written out the entire run at this point or are you still hard at work?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I’m still very much at work, burning the candle at both ends while finishing up my first (but hopefully not last) tour of duty on the HBO show Big Love. I started by beating out a detailed outline of each issue, which helps, and which is making things go a little faster at this point, but I truly feel like our journey is still only beginning. (And, you know, things change as you go along. You realize you’re emphasizing one character over another, for instance, and you adjust, etc.)
Quint: If you have finished writing are you still involved on a creative level as the pages come in or are you off to the next thing?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Like I said, I’m still very much in the thick of writing, so that’s my primary focus, but on any given day, I help spitball ideas for covers, I hone dialogue every step of the way, I basically…help out wherever I can. I want this—and every member of the creative team wants this to be—a homerun. Nothing less is acceptable.
Quint: What's up next for you?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: As soon as The Stand is up and running in earnest, I’ve got two quirky miniseries already plotted that I’m burning to script. And Angel: Revelations, my series with Adam Polina, is coming out right now, as well.
Thanks for reading along and thanks to Jim McCann at Marvel for setting this all in motion. I don’t know about you, but this is looking like a really fine series from the fantastic source material.