In a Saturday evening spotlight at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez hosted a fan Q&A session about their Eisner Award-winning series "Locke and Key," which revolves around a series of mystical keys, the house that holds their mysterious doors, and the dark spirit who seeks to usurp their power from a family already beset by tragedy. IDW Publishing Chief Creative Officer and Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall, who also directly edits the book, moderates the panel.
"I want to thank everybody for coming to the 'My Little Pony' panel," Hill joked. IDW announced they had acquired the "Friendship is Magic" license earlier at the con. Hill, Rodriguez, and and Ryall bantered with fans as they waited for their tech to be set up.
Pointing to the blue, no-video-feed screne, Rodriquez said, "That's my cover to the next issue." As Ryall sorted through files—now on screen—Hill joked about his personal emails and "pr0n."
With the presentation sorted, Ryall launched the panel proper. He called "Locke and Key" one of his most rewarding experiences at IDW before introducing Hill and Rodriguez, noting "this is probably the last time they will appear together on a panel before 'Omega' wraps."
Before "Omega," though, comes the one-shot "Grindhouse," which will be followed by others He compared the series of one-shots to the "Sandman" single stories. "It allows us to break out of our box and do some new things," he said, recalling the "Little Nemo"-type story of "Open Moon." "I don't think we'll get an Eisner nomination for 'Grindhouse,'" Hill said. "'Open Moon is who you want to be," Ryall added, "'Grindhouse' is who you are." Rodriguez will be trying out a new style for the book, of which several pages were shown.
Hill joke-narrated the pages, which show a mobster-style crime scene, saying it about saving an orphanage. "And there's a woman who seems to be falling out of her shirt..." he began, with Rodriguez finishing, "they are trying to help her back up."
"We talked a lot about what makes a dirty crime comic from the '50s work," Hill said. "And what we decided is, it's all about teeth." He joked that anything the characters do, they're gritting their teeth—even "turning on the TV."
With the world he's built up, Hill said, "There's only so much you can build up 'This is awesome!' before people start to wonder, well, how did this shit happen? And you better have answers." He noted that "X-Files" foundered once too many mysteries were heaped up without any resolution.
Rodriguez said that "everything seems to be developing in the right way" in "Locke and Key" and thanked IDW for publishing it in the series of miniseries format, which he sees as appropriate to the story.
Hill joked that "the two things I did to annoy Gabriel—that I know one—one was I wrote in the script "ok, now draw a room with twelve mason jars..."—Rodriguez sighed loudly—"each with a tiny scene in it, and the other was having Kinsey walk into a bathroom off the kitchen," which did not exist in Rodriguez' conception of the house.
"Omega" will now be seven issues rather than six, and Hill joked that "we need to figure out what we're doing in the other six issues, because we kill off Kinsey and Tyler and Bode in the first one." He did say, though, that he believes in the "Joss Whedon system, that you have to be willing to pull the trigger on your favorite character," because characters need to be able to behave realistically. "Nothing bugs me more than when characters do something obviously stupid just to push the story along," Hill said.
Ryall confirmed that, though "Omega" is the end of the epic that began in "Welcome to Lovecraft," it's not the end for the series. Book 7, Hill announced, willl be "The Golden Age," and will not feature the current cast. It will, though, introduce previously-unseen keys.
"A lot of series that have an ending, there's really nowhere else to go, so when they come back it seems contrived," Ryall said. "But with 'Locke and Key,' there's a lot left in that world to explore."
"I don't know when we'll get to it—it might be years—but at some point I'd like to do a book called 'Locke and Key: Battleground," Hill said, which would be set during World War II and explore why adults cannot see the magic of the keys.
Ryall congratulated Rodriquez on his frist gallery showing, which is going on now in Chile and showcases panels and pages from "Locke and Key."
Ryall then opened the floor to questions, including Twitter followers.
Hill said one of the interesting things for him was exploring what makes these good kids do reckless things, with Rodriguez noting the danger of shortcuts. "You can have these magic keys, but if you make stupid decisions you will have stupid results," he said. "It doesn't matter that you have magic."
Rodriguez spoke about his history in comics after coming from an architecture background. Though the comics industry in Chile had "fallen apart," a friend directed Rodriguez toward then-new publisher IDW, which was searching for an artist for their "CSI" series. Ryall said that, regarding "Locke and Key," he went to Hill with "four samples, Gabe's and three shitty samples," because he believed Rodriquez was the only man for the job.
Hill said he sees the failure of horror is that 'in the Freddy Krueger movies, the characters are just ten-pins to be knocked down" such that the only interest was "the creative ways to spill their guts." "But when I saw Gabe's art, I knew he could make people care" about the good guys, Hill said.
"Gabe can draw anatomy with the best of them, but what we both really care about is emotional anatomy," Hill said.
Ryall read a Twitter question asking when fans would get "a Locke and Key play set." Hill said he'd like to see a Bode toy case like the old Darth Vader ones, "where you open it via a twisting motion" and opens and closes with the Head Key.
Hill said he had no intention of publishing the series bible, which he said is "too inside baseball" for most readers to find interesting. It is primarily a reference document for the creators, he said.
Hill said that "Locke and Key" came about "through years of failure" selling his novels, but had enjoyed some success with short stories. Marvel recruited him and he wrote an 11-page Spider-Man story "which was terrible, but somewhat saved by the art of Seth Fisher." He also wanted to do a story about a two-year-old Hulk—"anything that makes you laugh has the seed of tragedy in it." The idea that would become "Locke and Key" also began around this time. IDW later invited him to do some adaptations, but Hill said, "Here's this idea about a haunted hause, I'll tell the whole thing in six issues." The audience laughed, given the series' longevity.
The panelists bantered for awhile about Hill's Twitter screeds against the rock band Rush, but Rodriguez said, "I work between eight to fourteen hours a day listening to music, and I can say, without Rush there would be no 'Locke and Key.'"
Hill next discussed "Horns," his second novel. It's about a man who "wakes up with a hangover and a pair of horns growing out of his head—I've had a fewe of those." The horns compel people he meets "to confess their darkest secrets and beg permission to do worse." "It's pretty dark," he said. It was announced this weekend that Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, will star in the film adaptation.
"I don't know why he chose to do the film, except that he can't wait to get naked and ride the shopping cart down the hill," Hill joked. "So if you get full-frontal Dan, thank me."
Hill's next book is "NOS4A2," about "a bad man with a bad car." "He takes kids for a ride in his car, and when they get out they're not the same as they were," he said. "He takes them to a place called Christmasland, and Christmasland is not a nice place to visit." Rodriguez will provide spot illustrations for the novel, and Hill announced there will be a comic book tie in, again with Rodriguez on art.
Asked whether it would be possible to watch the "Locke and Key" pilot, Ryall said, "that's also about ten of the Twitter questions."
"The 'Locke and Key' pilot will be on Bit Torrent later this afternoon," Hill joked. Ryall said that Fox was generous enough to let them show it at a few cons, but it would not be returning.
Ellie's son Rufus will have a role to play in the final arc, Hill revealed in response to a fan question.
Asked whether Hill's father, the author Stephen King, would have a cameo in "Horns," Hill said he hadn't thought about it but it was possible. Then, Ryall leaned to him and joked, "Where's my stand-in for the naked cart scene?"
Hill praised IDW for taking a chance on quality products, even if they might not sell, citing Kevin Colden's "Fishtown" by name.
Hill also said he writes certain scenes to see Rodriguez draw them, such as the "Crown of Shadows" battle between a giant Tyler and shadow wolves. "That's something I wanted to see, so I thought readers would want to see it, too," Hill said.