Stephen King brings vampires to America’s Old West in a newly published comic book. Unfortunately, probably the most prolific author working today displays a penchant for clichéd dialog and a theme near and dear to Michael Moore.
Stephen King’s properties have been adapted to comics before with The Gunslinger Born, The Long Road Home, The Stand Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and others. American Vampire, however, is the first time King produces his own comic book script.
In an interview with King, The Daily Beast reports that the American Vampire’s
arc will trace the origins of the first American vampire, Skinner Sweet, as he goes fang-to-fang with even nastier vamps, a group out to get rich by damming up a river to create a new town.
If you’re still uncertain about the approach he’ll take, King make the book’s ideology perfectly clear:
“It’s really the vampire as American capitalist gone totally wild.”
And it takes “a real, undomesticated animal,” as King refers to his main character, to stop them.
Not only is the theme a cliché in comics, but sadly so is King’s writing. That, however, should not be a surprise. In his Commentary magazine review of King’s latest doorstop novel, Under the Dome, Sam Sacks writes,
Nobody since Sancho Panza has relied on clichés as much as King does [in Under the Dome]. Characters get out in one piece, are prepared for the worst, and watch each other like hawks; they get egg on their faces, see stars, find laughter to be the best medicine, and greet good news as music to their ears; hearts are chilled, drop, and rise in throats; dust settles, cats are out of bags, -other fish are fried. “Big Jim was exultant,” we’re told, and why? “He had them exactly where he wanted them: in the palm of his hand.”
It appears that American Vampire continues King’s reliance, in his writing, on cliché. By the first issue’s second page we get this scintillating bit of dialog:
James Book, Pinkerton Agent: How about you shut up and take a nap?
Swisher Sweet: I’ll sleep when I’m DEAD. …
Book: … Where’s Ronnie Jeeks and the Blackmouth Twins? …
Sweet: That’s for me to know, and you to find out!
Well, color me unimpressed. King has received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, won the O. Henry Award for best short story, and is compared to Victor Hugo and James Joyce by the New York Times. And this is the best he can come up with?
The sad thing is, the comic buying crowd will probably eat up this Left-wing anti-capitalist agitprop because “it’s Stephen frickin’ King, man!” As history has made fully clear, that’s actually good reason to avoid it.
Sack notes, in his review, that King was once extremely successful in creating stories that “visit the macabre upon the ordinary.” Over time, however,
a shorthand had emerged in King’s writing, in which massaged clichés (a garden of fear, suffocating fear), redundancies (utter loathing and contempt), laundry-list sentences, italics, and, elsewhere, the CAPS LOCK key do all the work on the writer’s behalf. In these books even the dialogue, once original and often comic, begins to parody itself, exaggerating the New England dialects and salt-of-the-earth aphorisms. King’s small-town backdrops feel increasingly like movie sets that he can trundle from one book to the next.
The Daily Beast interview shows that we may not see a return to King’s glory days any time soon. It seems that a conversation with Mr. King is as cliché-ridden as is his writing. When asked about how comics have changed since he was reading “Caspar, the Friendly Ghost,” King states, “They used to be kind of the fallen woman of literature, but they’ve really been spiffed up, and they’ve got a lot of their reputation back.”
Massaging clichés might just be what Stephen King is all about.