PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Stephen King's Debt to Horror Comics

Crusty old horror comics have played a significant role in the work of author Stephen King.

The Little Green God of Agony

Writer: Stephen King
Contributors: Dennis Calero

In the foreboding early panels of Stephen King's "The Little Green God of Agony", a free, 24-part serial webcomic, a path to the author's real-life tragedy is apparent. Framed in dim blues and knife-edged, pitch-black shadow lines from Harvey Award-nominated artist Dennis Calero, the first sequence has King's billionaire and plane crash survivor Andrew Newsome in the care of Katherine MacDonald, his private nurse. Open Culture blogger Ayun Halliday highlights the connection to King's own "debilitating accident" when a van struck him as he walked along North Lovell, Maine's Route 5 in 1999. He was hospitalized for three weeks. The "Little Green" exposition is also reminiscent of Misery -- King's novel about a writer who barely survives a heinous car accident when he's "treated" for his injuries in the home of a deranged fan. Either way, the comic is off to a grim start.

"The Little Green God of Agony" appeared initially as a short story in King's A Book of Horrors in 2011. Dennis Calero inks the first six pages of this comic adaptation in such dramatic plum, black, and blue that the facial features of bespectacled bystander "Rideout," a man of whom nurse Katherine MacDonald is suspicious, are rarely very distinct. King doesn't offer up a lot of characterization or narrative buildup just yet, but the pairing makes sense given the history that Calero has with King's material: He worked as a penciler on Marvel's The Dark Tower series, a well-liked comics version of King's popular novels.

In Stephen King's On Writing, he recounts exercises that involved copying text from the comics he was reading as a young man into the pages of a notebook. In his Danse Macabre, King discusses the role that his favorite horror comics played in the development of 'Salem's Lot, his 1975 novel about a community of vampires in a small Maine town. King's early 1980s partnership with horror film icons George Romero and Tom Savini birthed Creepshow, a chilling comics-inspired horror movie built of vignettes about beyond-the-grave vengeance, insect infestations, and more. Spotted with humor as often as it is blood, Creepshow unravels just like early horror comics did, when "pacts with the devil and trips to hell" were common themes. Creepshow's opening sequence is mostly animated and the first "chapter" features King's son Joe, who won the Eisner Award for his IDW comics and recently collaborated with his dad on 2012's Road Rage comic series.

The long-expired but slowly decaying host at the forefront of Creepshow is emblematic of King's admiration for EC's Tales from the Crypt, and in particular, for "The Crypt-Keeper", the silver-haired ghoul who introduced and presided over the stories inside each issue of Tales. Creepshow's pieces are broken up by part-live action, part-animated gothic imagery, and it only made sense that a print comic adaptation drawn by Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson would soon follow. Wrightson collaborated with King again on Cycle of the Werewolf, an illustrated 1983 collection of stories about a small town ravaged by a werewolf. Two years later, a film based on Cycle called Silver Bullet opened in theaters. Wrightson also contributed artwork to later volumes of The Dark Tower.

In 2010, comics writer Scott Snyder produced a captivating work of what PopMatters calls "sinister dread" in Vertigo's American Vampire. He tapped Stephen King to blurb his chronicling of the early 20th century undead. King read Snyder's outline and fell in love with the primary character. King ended up signing a contract to write the first five issues, working from Scott Snyder's blueprint. King offered humble reflection on his contributions to the series in an introductory essay for the first American Vampire trade. More importantly, the author of runaway successes like Carrie, The Shining, and more explains why he felt an obligation to get involved in comics. "In the end, it's all about giving back the teeth that the current 'sweetie-vamp' craze has, by and large, stolen from the bloodsuckers," he wrote. "It's about making them scary again."

* * *

"The Little Green God of Agony" will update on Wednesdays for its duration.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.


MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Nudges Out Conscience in Our Time of Crises

Avatar shows us that to fight for only the people we know, for simply the things that affect us personally, is neither brave nor heroic, nor particularly useful.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.