The Dark Tower Series is a series of eight books and one novella written by Stephen King, between 1970 and 2012, widely considered to be (and described by King himself as) his magnum opus. The series incorporates elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and Western stories.
They revolve around Roland Deschain's quest to find and protect the Dark Tower. Besides the eight novels that compose the series proper, many of his other books relate back to the story, introducing concepts and characters that come into play as the series progresses. After the series was finished, a series of prequel comics followed. There are now comics that are being based on the series itself, specifically The Gunslinger.
The series has many inspirations, but was chiefly inspired by the poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, by Robert Browning, which also gave its name to an novel by C.S. Lewis. Amongst his other inspiration, King lists The Lord of the Rings, the Arthurian Legend, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as influences that led to the series. He identifies Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character as one of the major inspirations for Roland. King's style of location-names in the series, such as Mid-World, and his development of a unique language (High Speech), are also influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien's work.
In the story, Roland is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of Arthur Eld, much like our King Arthur. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet bears many similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West, but also incorporates elements of magic. While the technology of the Old Ones is largely gone from Mid-World, there are still some relics from that highly advanced society. Roland's quest is to find and protect the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland's world is said to have "moved on". Roland's nation of Gilead has been destroyed. Time, itself, does not flow in an orderly fashion; clocks have long since been rendered useless. Even the Sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east.
Along his journey to the Dark Tower, Roland meets a great number of people, both friends and enemies. For most of the way, he is accompanied by a group of people who form the ka-tet. This ka-tet consisted of Jake Chambers, Eddie and Susannah Dean, Oy, and later Father Callahan. Among his many enemies are Randall Flagg and the Crimson King.
As with most of Stephen King's novels, many elements of popular culture are mentioned in each of The Dark Tower novels, including other books, poetry, songs, and movies. These works may be mentioned in passing or as important plot devices. The series has become an anchor that ties together much of King's work, with each of his other stories representing different levels of the Tower. 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.
Here is a partial list of Stephen King's works related to The Dark Tower:
|Salem's Lot||The Stand||The Talisman (with Peter Straub)|
|It||The Eyes of the Dragon||Insomnia|
|Rose Madder||Desperation||The Regulators (as Richard Bachman)|
|Bag of Bones||Black House (with Peter Straub)||From a Buick 8|
|Hearts in Atlantis|
- The Little Sisters of Eluria from Everything's Eventual (2002)
- The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (1982)
- The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
- The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
- The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997)
- The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
- The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003)
- The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004)
- The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004)
- Dark Tower Movie (2017)
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 the first and fourth books. Pocket-sized paperback reprints contain only black-and-white chapter or section header illustrations. The illustrators who worked on each book are:
- Michael Whelan, multiple award-winning science fiction and fantasy painter. 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, graphic designer noted for working in many media, including photography and film. The only Dark Tower illustrator to work in photocollages.
- Bernie Wrightson, established illustrator for 1960s and 1970s horror comics.
- 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.
Reviews from critics have been mixed. Bill Sheehan of the 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 from 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. Michael Agger writing for The New York Times was disappointed with how the series progressed. While he was amazed 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 boasts a strong and dedicated cult following.
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.
- Main page: Dark Tower Comics
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. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born was plotted by Robin Furth, scripted by Peter David, and illustrated by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. The project was overseen by King. The first issue of this first arc was released on February 7, 2007. A hardcover volume containing all 7 issues was released on November 7, 2007. The following story arcs were created in a similar fashion and are still being produced, all detailing Roland's quest before the beginning of The Gunslinger.
|1.The Gunslinger Born||(7 issues - 2007)|
|2.The Long Road Home||(5 issues - 2008)|
|3.Treachery||(6 issues - 2008 - 2009)|
|4.The Fall of Gilead||(6 issues - 2009)|
|5.The Battle of Jericho Hill||(5 issues - 2009 - 2010)|
|6.The Journey Begins||(5 issues - 2010)|
|7.Little Sisters of Eluria||(5 issues - 2010 - 2011)|
The Dark Tower: The Sorcerer was a single-issue comic released as a prelude to The Fall of Gilead, though instead of following Roland and his ka-tet, the story centers on the actions of Marten Broadclock.
Comic adaptations of the books are now being written beginning with the Battle of Tull.
|1.The Battle of Tull||(5 issues 2011)|
|2.The Way Station||(5 issues 2012)|
|3.The Man in Black||(5 issues 2012-2013)|
- Main page: Dark Tower Movie
In April of 2010, Ron Howard took on the project and has decided to make it into a trilogy of feature-length films and two seasons of a television series in between the film releases. Universal expects the first film to be released in theatres on May 17, 2013. Production is expected to begin in the spring of 2012. It was announced that Javier Bardem will play the lead role of Roland. Since then, Universal has dropped the project, but Howard's production company retains the film rights.
Multiple mock trailers have appeared on YouTube. Also, the official Grand Prize winner of Simon & Schuster's (King's Publisher) American Gunslinger contest, by Robert David Cochrane, can be found there.
In King's 2007 film The Mist, the main character, David Drayton, can be seen painting a movie poster with Roland in the center, standing in front of a trans-dimensional Ghostwood door, with a rose and the dark tower to each side.