October 15, 2014 6:35 pm
Stephen King

Stephen King

When it comes to undisputed masters of horror, Stephen King reigns supreme in the literary world, and in many ways, John Carpenter is often considered to be his cinema world counterpart. King and Carpenter both share influences from lurid horror comic books published in the ’50s and colorful science fiction in each of their respective mediums, and both of them are highly skilled at a creating imaginative and dark worlds for their stories to unfold in. Although King and Carpenter share a lot of common interests and seem like they would make good friends, the two have only collaborated a handful of times, and only created one feature length film together. Carpenter and King are both huge influences on the science fiction and horror worlds in their own media, and both have returned to creating the style of comic books that inspired each of them in the ’50s.

John CarpenterBoth these masters of the horror genre grew up in the ’50s reading the same trashy horror comics published by EC comics during their horror heyday. The publishing house that also produced Mad Magazine and other periodicals aimed at youngsters ran several horror titles during the ’50s that were so dark and macabre that they caused considerable controversy among the concerned public. Kids like Carpenter and King ate it up, and the dark and twisted storylines and gruesome graphics of EC Comics inspired both of them to create inspired dark story worlds of their own. King paid tribute to these comics in his collaboration with George A. Romero Creepshow (1982), and the visual elements of Carpenter’s films such as The Thing (1982) and The Fog (1980) In addition to comic books, these horror gurus also found inspiration in the science fiction genre, each within their own chosen art forms. Stephen King loved science fiction novels and stories by authors like Ray Bradbury, and John Carpenter was particularly his sci-fi fix in Howard Hawks films.

Although they share the kind of compatibility that usually compels people to go out and get a drink together, King and Carpenter have only worked together on a scant handful of projects. Their first and most notable collaboration was on the film Christine (1983), with a screenplay based on King’s novel about a murderous Plymouth Fury and directing by Carpenter right at the height of his career. It perfectly combines some of the two masters’ favorite themes; King’s depictions of an already turbulent and sociopathic adolescence falling prey to a sinister supernatural influence, and Carpenter’s deep-rooted nostalgia for ’50’s kitsch, and villains with mysterious origins (a la “Michael Myers” in Halloween, or the eponymous “fog”). Carpenter’s typical tense scoring with sythesizers provides a nice counterpoint to the film’s appropriation of ‘50s pop music, with tunes from the ’50s that help underline the theme of obsessive nostalgia, especially when Christine starts using the lyrics on the radio to communicate. In juxtaposition to the theme of nostalgia, Christine also carries a warning about the dangers of relying too much on technology. The high penalty for the main character’s tendencies to treat Christine as more important than a human being may have something to teach a modern generation that jumps into traffic on onto train tracks to save cell phones. And however absurd the premise might have seen back in those days, we’re living in an era where autonomous autos are actually being developed, and people are relying more and more upon combination home alarm and automation systems where in their appliances essentially communicate with one another. It was creepy in the ‘50s when Bradbury mused about the future, and it’s even creepier now that it’s part of the fabric of our reality
While their careers have both had ebbs and flows, in recent years Carpenter and King have both returned to their first love: comic books. In 2011 John Carpenter celebrated the debut of his Asylum comic book which carried on his dark horror legacy into a new medium, while Stephen King has collaborated on several comic book projects, including the graphic novelization of his own Dark Tower series and his recent collaboration with Scott Snyder on the horror title American Vampire. Although each creator chose a different medium, they started and finished sharing the same influential inspirations and dark dreams.

post by jared hill


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This post was written by Nadia Vella