Joe Hill: A Scream Nominee

Tue, October 11th, 2011 at 3:31pm PDT | Updated: October 11th, 2011 at 3:37pm

Comic Books
Kiel Phegley, News Editor
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The current "Locke & Key: Clockworks" series is the penultimate installment of the epic.

Next week, cable network Spike TV makes its annual splash in the world of comics as they honor a number a mainstream creators during their star-studded Scream Awards broadcast. Honoring the best in science fiction, fantasy, horror and comics, this year's ceremony will be taped Oct. 15 in Los Angeles and broadcast Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Spike.

The sixth annual edition of the event, this year’s Screams honor comics in the categories of Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel, Best Comic Book Writer and Best Comic Book Artist (see a full list of nominees here). The comic nominees were selected by an advisory board that includes Neil Gaiman, Wes Craven, Tim Burton, Damon Lindelof, George A. Romero, Robert Rodriguez and Rob Zombie.

For fans, Spike's broadcast remains a draw thanks in part to the sheer novelty of comics culture getting a spotlight alongside other media. Past moments include scenes of creators like Robert Kirkman hitting the big stage alongside actors and actresses (and that was before the "Walking Dead" TV show) and a year where Stan flew Lee across the crowd on a Spider-shaped platform to receive a "Comic-Con Icon Award."

Ahead of this year's proceedings, CBR News is checking in with a number of the nominated creators (see our talk with Mike Mignola here) to talk not just about Scream as an event but their output on the whole and comics place alongside the other media honored this week. Today's nominee: Joe Hill!

"I've never been before, and right now I think I might go if I can make the schedule work. It depends on how good a boy I am," the writer laughed. "At the moment I'm trying to finish up a novel, and if I get it done, I'll go. I don't know that there is an event exactly like the Scream Awards. I think it does help get out the word about how much fun we're all having. If I designed an award show, this would be the one I'd make. It's my daydream of an award show. They have an award for the most memorable mutilation...that's awesome! You don't get that at the Grammys. So it's a big fun celebration of all the geeky stuff that comic book fans and fans of pop culture get off on."

Though he broke out nationally with his work in prose horror fiction, Hill has always been a comics guy from early days slugging for Marvel series like "Spider-Man Unlimited" before his novel "Heart Shaped Box" established his full time career. And it was this early connection to comics that fostered his acclaimed IDW hit "Locke & Key" (recently adapted as a TV pilot for Fox) as the core of the pitch existed long before the publisher approached him about comics work.

But now, the years-long journey to the supernatural Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts and the Locke family that interacts with its specters is nearing an end. The current "Clockworks" mini series is threading together many long-running plotlines, and as Hill contemplated the ending of his first comics opus, he drew on inspiration from sources around much longer than any of the media honored at the Scream Awards.

"There are some things that 19th Century novelists had that I don't think they ever should have given up," he explained. "Dickens wrote for a big popular audience in episode form. 'Oliver Twist' and 'Great Expectations' didn't come out the way 'The Corrections' came out. They weren't just dumped on the world. The chapters were published in magazines episodically, and people loved it. That had the same hold on the popular imagination the way a great TV show today like 'Breaking Bad' or 'Justified' has. The other thing that I think 19th Century novelists had that we've today been denied is illustrations. Now a days, we only have that in books for kids, but in Dickens' time, there were the Sherlock Holmes stories. We all know what Sherlock Holmes looks like because we've all seen Sidney Paget's drawings of Sherlock Holmes.

"One of the reasons I love comics is because they gives me a chance to play with all of the things I love about 19th Century fiction. It's not obvious, but comics are episodic like novels once were. I get to tell one chapter at a time over a period of years, and of course, I get to work with one of the great illustrators in the field in Gabriel Rodriguez, who takes my ideas and makes them better. He makes them live on the page, pouring emotions in them to make them real and vivid. For me, this has been a blast."

"Clockworks" #3 ships later this month from IDW.

But that process of serialization comes with its pitfalls, as Hill said, "In terms of winding up, I had some tension when I was about six or seven issues in. When I was just starting 'Head Games,' I started to worry about whether or not I could stick the landing. I did a lot of thinking about how to wind it up. And now that I'm here in the home stretch, I've really enjoyed it. It seems like all the parts are there. Even though it'll probably be another six months before readers have gotten a chance to finish 'Clockworks' – which is our second-to-last arc – every issue of that series is written. And I feel like we've plugged all the holes and answered all the major questions that remain. This is not like 'The X-Files' where mysteries would get solved, but then that would just open up more mysteries underneath. After a while, it began to seem like this tremendous circle jerk. It was real frustrating because there was no resolution, and they had no resolution because they just did what was cool and they didn't worry about the explanations until after the fact. I think David and I have avoided that trap. I hope the readers will feel that way when we're done."

In the meantime, fans of Hill's writing can dig into IDW's "The Cape" – an ongoing twist on the superhero paradigm that started as a one-shot adaptation of a story from the writer's "20th Century Ghosts" collection. While that adaptation – written by Jason Ciaramella – was the first thing his publisher ever pitch to Hill, he was surprised when it finally came to fruition. "It's interesting because this is really the first thing of mine ever that's been adapted into another medium by someone else. The only time that's ever happened otherwise was with the TV pilot for 'Locke & Key.' And that was my story with some other very creative people running with it onto TV."

The comics work went so well that more stories were asked for by an unlikely source. "Almost as soon as that [one-shot] book had come out, Jason began to pester me with questions. 'What happens next? What's up with the guy's mom? Where do the powers of the cape come from?'" Hill recalled. "And I finally said, 'I don't know. Maybe you should write some more issues and figure it out.' So Jason has gone ahead and scripted more of 'The Cape,' and it's had some astonishing visuals from Zach Howard. And I kept my hand in as a creative consultant. I talk about things that work with them, and when things don't work, I help them go back to the drawing board."

The latest issue of the expanded "Cape" series.

And what of the Fox "Locke & Key" pilot? After a great fan response in multiple Comic Con screenings over the summer, the latest rumors have made it seem as though MTV may pick up the series since Fox passed on it for the fall slate. "We're going to show the pilot again at New York Comic Con, and...well, what can I say?" Hill mused. "20th Century Fox likes the pilot. They're in a peculiar situation where they have a really accomplished, engaging, emotionally satisfying pilot for a TV show that has been well liked by everyone who's looked at it, but it's problematic to make. They have looked at budgets between $2 and 1/2 to $3 and 1/2 million an episode. Those are the kinds of budgets that only a big network can swing. Nevertheless, the pilot is a really good piece of work – that's one of the reasons why 20th Century Fox keeps showing it at conventions – and there has remained a kind of interest in it.

"There was an interesting response from MTV to it, and I think they're continuing to think about it. I will say that the reports on the MTV thing were accurate, and maybe the discussions had been a little more involved than what was initially suggested online. That said, no one has picked up the show. MTV has not committed to picking it up."

Ultimately, Hill said that hope was still alive, but no one could say for sure whether the cast and sets could be reassembled this year to make more episodes. "I think it could be done. Who knows? It may depend on what happens with the fall pilots. Maybe a network will look around and decide they need something. All I know is that I'm very proud of the work that [writer] Josh Friedman and [director] Mark Romanek did. I'm tremendously proud of the performances put across. It's a great pilot, and while I do appreciate that Fox only had so many slots, I do think they might have goofed a little bit. They should have given it a shot, but it's out of my hands."

Stay tuned for more on Spike's Scream Awards this week with Robert Kirkman on CBR!

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TAGS:  spike tv, scream awards, joe hill, idw publishing, locke and key, the cape

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