Friday morning at Comic-Con, the pilot episode of the supernatural horror show Locke and Key — which was not picked up by Fox for the fall season — will be screened to the public for the first time. On the eve of its unveiling, io9 caught up with series writer Joe Hill and illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez about all the keynote issues.
The L&K guys gave us hints about the pilot and upcoming projects, and Joe discussed his new Twitter-centric zombie movie and his possible script for The Walking Dead.
You're presenting the pilot of Locke and Key after it wasn't picked up by Fox. You're showing it anyway, which is certainly an unusual move for Comic-Con.
Joe Hill: Everything about this show is strange. I'm very biased, it's a wonderful hour of television. It's very scary and faithful to the spirit of the comic. Mark Romanek [of Never Let Me Go] directed it to the hilt. It has the feel of an early Eighties Spielberg production, and showrunner Josh Friedman of The Sarah Connor Chronicles did a beautiful script. I think 20th Century Fox is in a curious position — they have something that everyone loves and proud of, but there's nothing to do with it. What will happen next, no one really knows.
The first book definitely had some gruesome scenes — to what degree was this toned down for TV?
Gabriel Rodriguez: They handled that in a very delicate and intelligent way — they knew there were things they could and couldn't show and added certain details. It's not as graphic as the comic, but it has the same vibe.
Did Gabe provide concept art for the pilot, or was it a panel-by-panel reproduction?
JH: Many of the sequences are exactly like they are in the comic, down to the finest detail. I'm not going to say Mark Romanek didn't do a Sin City job, but you'll watch it think, "Hey, that looks just like the comic!"
In a perfect world, what will happen after you premiere the show tomorrow?
JH: That's a complicated question, and it's complicated by the fact that there are things that we know that we can't entirely talk about. There are rumors circulating. A few scenarios could work out that could be really wonderful — we're just daydreaming here, we're not saying we know anything. One would be that there's an ecstatic reaction to it at Comic-Con and somebody says, "Oh, maybe we better do six episodes for a cable channel." That would be pretty great. A DVD release of the episode — especially one that was a limited edition collected with the book Welcome to Lovecraft and the pilot's script — would be fantastic. A third crazy idea would be if someone wanted to film another 20 minutes and do something feature-length, so people could check out a standalone made-for-TV movie that would be a backdoor pilot. That would be pretty wild. I'm not saying anything like that will happen, but a boy can dream!
How did you and Gabe team up for Locke & Key?
JH: I had this pitch I brought to IDW Publishing for a story about a house full of enchanted keys. Very early on Gabe came in and looked at the pitch. I responded very strongly to Gabe's art, not just because he could draw the scary stuff, but also because I felt that he could create characters people could love. A lot of people think horror is throwing entrails at the reader, and somehow that's scary. What's scary is when you love someone and they're in danger. That's how horror works.
GR: I think what makes Locke & Key so special is that it's a blend of horror, fantasy, drama, and comedy — what I like about Joe's scripts is that there are these scary events, and then BOOM, a joke and you're laughing out loud. The comedy sets you up for the horror.
I know you can't drop any hard spoilers for the brand new Locke & Key series Clockwork, but what can fans anticipate?
JH: There's a stunner that we dropped in [the last volume] Keys to the Kingdom. This is the place where you put a big spoiler alert in your article.
I can do that, one moment...
JH: Seriously, don't read this part if you haven't caught up.
Everyone's been sufficiently warned.
JH: Dodge inhabits Bode's body — this evil spirit has seized control of the most loved character in the comic. I'm so happy about the way that played out, it's always been there. The name is a pun: "Bode," "Body." This is always where we were heading. And what's great is that we have two books left: Clockworks and Omega. That will wrap up the grand story line. When you set out on a big project like, this you're worried if you can stick a landing. The great way to destroy yourself when you're writing a series is The X-Files mistake. You're just throwing stuff out there because it's cool and then say you'll explain it later. And when you reach the end, you realize there's no way you can wrap it up in a satisfying way. For example, when Dodge is down in the well combing her hair, I even know how the comb got down there. There are answers to everything we set up.
GR: Throughout Clockwork, we'll learn where the keys came from and hear more about the Whispering Iron and the Black Door.
Joe, another project you have on the table is a film adaptation of Twittering from the Circus of the Dead, your short story that uses Twitter to describe zombie carnage from a first-person viewpoint. How will you translate that unique format into a cinematic experience?
JH: A young director named Todd Lincoln is going to handle Twittering from the Circus of the Dead. He's got a great idea, but I can't say anything about it. As for the form of that short story, I love playing with form as much I love playing with content.
What I love about that story is how the typos convey a sense of panic.
JH: That goes back to Bram Stoker's Dracula, that epistolary form where you have diary entries. And that story was almost science fiction, with Dr. Seward using wax records to record his diary entries, which was like "WHOA! THE FUTURE!"
And what's the deal with The Walking Dead? Are you penning an episode?
JH: My dad [Stephen King] and I have talked to Frank Darabont and Robert Kirkman about that. I don't believe that will happen for Season 2 because of our schedules, but that's something that will probably happen for Season 3. The enthusiasm is there for me and my dad — we want to celebrate the great zombie genre, but right now it's just talk.
And what's next after Locke & Key wraps up?
JH: I believe Gabe and me are doing a mainstream, five-issue superhero book which will be the first thing we do after Locke and Key for late 2012/early 2013. We have an original horror story that's completely fresh and new that we want to do in a six-issue span for 2013.
GR: We are obligated to our readers to do the best effort we can do with Locke and Key — we don't want to mess things up when we're so close to the end. By next year, you'll be asking us about the ending of Locke and Key.
JH: It's also possible nothing will happen with the pilot and we'll launch our own web series with sock puppets, Sock and Key. Gabe and I will play all the parts!