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The Talisman #1
posted December 2, 2009


Creators: Stephen King, Peter Straub, Tony Shasteen, Robin Furth, Nei Ruffino, Bill Tortolini, Massimo Carnevale, Mike Krahulik
Publishing Information: Del Rey, standard comic book, 28 pages, 2009, $3.99
Ordering Numbers:

I'm old enough that I'm disconnected from the idea of a comics project as a special thing just because of the perceived implication of its success. Many mini-comics are far more interesting to me as art than anything likely to be held up on a television talk show: an extremely trite but I think always true statement, and one that bears repeating every as comics increasingly becomes a landscape of shifting marketing objectives. I was in the audience of the San Diego panel a few years back that ended with the screen project "King" by way of announcing that the horror-master would be moving into funnybooks. A lot of has happened since: King didn't end up writing anything for Marvel after all, he apparently will write something for DC, and Del Rey has jumped into the action with an adaptation of King's book with Peter Straub, The Talisman. I am neither thrilled nor impressed by the simple fact of this comic's existence, but I'm happy to give it a chance as a comic book. There's no reason this couldn't be a fine piece of work.

Stephen King and Peter Straub's The Talisman was for its time sort of the fantasy book version of the recent Michael Mann and Johnny Depp film Public Enemies. It sounded like a dream come true for a certain huge group of fans, and while there wasn't anything terrible about the final result, for many fans the perceived exquisite team-up of strong sensibilities proved to be an underwhelming experience. The fantasy in The Talisman wasn't particularly memorable fantasy, the reality of the coast to coast trip failed to connect to anything specifically memorable about that time or any of those places it visited. The lead was a generic everykid of the kind that might have his own sitcom on the Disney Channel these days, and there was little said about the bond between that character and his sick mother that hadn't long-ago been covered more effectively by Uncle Walt's most successful movies. The book's greatest legacy is probably as a dry run for King's funkier Dark Tower fantasy series, and as an occasional spur for people to pop up google to see if Straub has remained prolific since those heady days when he could be paired with King as a natural matter of course.

All of that is to say that a comic book adaptation of this work isn't necessarily something I was dying to see. This is doubly true of a sturdy, faithful adaptation (as opposed to someone throwing, say, Howard Chaykin and Richard Corben at John Norman) by artists so respectful of the material their first impulse is to pull back in reverence from rather than build on anything as emphasis or interpretation. The result is an okay, workman-like, reasonably readable comic book that bored the crap out of me. The writing is a bit heavy and self-conscious, and although so was King/Straub's in comics form it really feels like a script purchased at Don McGregor's garage sale. None of the characters make an impression, not even that dependable stereotype the sage but plain-spoken African-American advice-dispenser. I liked the lead more than I thought I would, mostly from the design, I think. Using a similar measure the boy's mother never for a second evoked for me a former B-Movie queen, in action, deed or visual impact. The most admirable things I can say about the comic is that Furth knows how to distill information in a satisfying manner, and that the creative team generally recognizes that the art is going to have to carry a big piece of this story as told in comics form. We'll see how it turns out. Okay, maybe I won't.