Book Review: The Art and Making of The Stand by Andy Burns

Priced at $45, The Art and Making of The Stand (Titan Books) is a coffee-table bit of glossiness devoted to the 2020 CBS miniseries of The Stand, Stephen King’s apocalyptic tome of a novel.

I’m a big fan of the King novel (at least the 1978 Doubleday edition). But I soured on the ABC miniseries version (1994) and was not about to watch the CBS version—until now, that is. The Titan book gives a nice overview of the show. It’s piqued my interest.

Like King’s “little Vietnam” of a book, The Art and Making of The Stand lavishes its length on the characters. And that’s one reason I keep returning to the novel. There, King stretches out; but he’s got a corker of a premise (albeit one that others have appropriated to death), and he does a fine job shading the details, giving us precious real estate in the heads of characters who take a stand for the forces of good (i.e., Mother Abagail [Whoopi Goldberg in the 2020 miniseries]) and evil (i.e., Randall Flagg [Alexander Skarsgard]). He delivers memorable set-pieces, too, and the Titan book focuses on three standouts (i.e., Stu’s escape from the clinic; Larry’s flight through the sewers of New York [a change from the Lincoln Tunnel in the novel]; and the crossing of the gully). A sycophantic string of actor profiles spells these smaller inside pieces, but I’ll say this for the cast and crew: On the evidence of the earnest interview quotes assembled, they at least hold the novel in high regard.

And good on them. They strive to bring a serious and fresh approach to a beloved property. In the novel’s spirit, the onset of Captain Trips—the super-flu that brings the world to its knees—gets far less attention than its aftermath. The production team knows it can only present so much information to the viewer. And they embrace the challenge of modernizing King’s masterwork without straying too far from the source. So, they flip the genders of certain characters. They also make the inspired choice to shoot in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, whose terrain subs for the ones in King’s book. I especially commend the special effects team for the way they bring Captain Trips to life. That ghastly tube neck does justice to everything I first imagined when I read the novel (as it does to the Bernie Wrightson illustrations in the unabridged edition).

I’ve not much else to say about The Art and Making of The Stand, though. It’s a handsome companion, or footnote, to the show. As to the section on the various Easter eggs from King World that the filmmakers sprinkle throughout the series, I think King fans will enjoy it. Also, King’s script for the coda episode (which is unique to this miniseries, and might be curious to fans of the original story) is here in its entirety.

I just wish the Titan book did even more to convey the magnitude of the production. I wanted more art and stills—more of the marginalia associated with the rich universe of The Stand. That, though, is a nit-picky preference. The Art and Making of The Stand will still give your inner Stand geek a fix.

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Jack Cormack

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