The literary tradition of a remote and isolated jungle populated by natives and prehistoric animals was rooted in the "Lost World" genre, specifically Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel The Lost World, which was itself made into a silent film of that title in 1925 that Doyle lived long enough to see. The special effects of that film were created by Willis O'Brien, who went on to do those for the 1933 King Kong. Another important book in that literary genre is Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1918 novel The Land That Time Forgot .
A novelization of the original King Kong film was published in December 1932 as part of the film's advance marketing. The novel was credited to Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper, although it was in fact written by Delos W. Lovelace. Apparently, however, Cooper was the key creative influence, saying that he got the initial idea after he had a dream that a giant gorilla was terrorizing New York City. In an interview, comic book author Joe DeVito explains:
- "From what I know, Edgar Wallace, a famous writer of the time, died very early in the process. Little if anything of his ever appeared in the final story, but his name was retained for its saleability ... King Kong was Cooper's creation, a fantasy manifestation of his real life adventures. As many have mentioned before, Cooper was Carl Denham. His actual exploits rival anything Indiana Jones ever did in the movies."
This conclusion about Wallace's contribution agrees with The Making of King Kong, by Orville Goldner and George E. Turner (1975). Wallace died of pneumonia complicated by diabetes on February 10, 1932, and Cooper later said, "Actually, Edgar Wallace didn't write any of Kong, not one bloody word...I'd promised him credit and so I gave it to him" (p. 59). However, in the October 28, 1933, issue of Cinema Weekly, the short story "King Kong" by Edgar Wallace and Draycott Montagu Dell (1888–1940) was published. The short story appears in Peter Haining's Movie Monsters (1988) published by Severn House in the UK. Dell was a journalist and wrote books for children, such as the 1934 story and puzzle book Stand and Deliver. He was a co-worker and close friend of Edgar Wallace.
Several differences exist in the novel from the completed film, as it reflects an earlier draft of the script that became the final shooting script. The novelization includes scenes from the screenplay that were cut from the completed movie, or were never shot altogether. These include the spider pit sequence, as well as a Styracosaurus attack, and Kong battling three Triceratops. It also does not feature the character of Charlie, the ship's Chinese cook, but instead a different one named Lumpy, subsequently used in both the 1991 comic book version and the 2005 big-screen remake.
The original publisher was Grosset & Dunlap. Paperback editions by Bantam (U.S.) and Corgi (U.K.) came out in the 1960s, and it has since been republished by Penguin and Random House.
In 1933, Mystery Magazine published a King Kong serial under the byline of Walter F. Ripperger. This is unrelated to the 1932 novel. The story was serialized into two parts that were published in the February 1933 and March 1933 issues of the magazine. As well, that fall King Kong was serialized in the pulp magazine Boys Magazine.
Over the decades, there have been numerous comic book adaptations of the 1933 King Kong by various comic-book publishers, and one of the 2005 remake by Dark Horse Comics.
Kong: King of Skull Island, an illustrated novel labeled as an authorized sequel to King Kong (1933), was published in 2004 by DH Press, a subsidiary of Dark Horse Comics. A large-paperback edition was released in 2005. Authorized by the family and estate of Merian C. Cooper, the book was created and illustrated by Joe DeVito, written by Brad Strickland with John Michlig, and includes an introduction by Ray Harryhausen. The novel's story ignores the existence of Son of Kong (1933) and continues the story of Skull Island with Carl Denham and Jack Driscoll in the late 1950s, through the novel's central character, Vincent Denham. (Ann Darrow does not appear, but is mentioned several times.) The novel also becomes a prequel that reveals the story of the early history of Kong, of Skull Island, and of the natives of the island. The book's official website claims a motion picture version is in development.
The novelization of the 2005 movie was written by Christopher Golden, based on the screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson, which was, of course, in turn based on the original story by Merian C. Cooper & Edgar Wallace. (The Island of the Skull, a "prequel" novel to the 2005 movie, was released at nearly the same time.) In November 2005, to coincide with the release of the 2005 movie, Weta Workshop released a collection of concept art from the film entitled The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island. While similar collections of production art have been released in the past to complement other movies, The World of Kong is unusual — if not unique — in that it is written and designed to resemble and read like an actual nature guide and historical record, not a movie book.
Also in 2005, Ibooks, Inc published Kong Reborn by Russell Blackford. Ignoring all films except the 1933 original, it is set in the present day. Carl Denham's grandson finds some genetic material from the original Kong and attempts to clone him. Late in 2005, the BBC and Hollywood trade papers reported that a 3-D stereoscopic version of the 2005 film was being created from the animation files, and live actors digitally enhanced for 3-D display. This may be just an elaborate 3-D short for Universal Studios Theme Park, or a digital 3-D version for general release in the future.
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