Locke & Key: creepy and excellent graphic novel

locke_01_cvr.jpg Locke & Key is a dark supernatural comic book series available in anthology format by writer Joe Hill and cartoonist Gabriel Rodriguez. I won't be spoiling it to say it's about a family (the Lockes) whose father (a high school counselor) is murdered by a couple of his deranged students who have been directed by an otherworldly creature to retrieve two powerful artifacts (as you might guess from the title, they're keys). Locke's grieving widow and three children move from Northern California to the murdered father's childhood home in New England to get away from the bad vibes. The only problem is, the home is a dark Victorian mansion, and it's in a town called Lovecraft.

The gore and violence is over the top, and the mature subject matter prevented me from sharing the book with my 13-year-old daughter. Violence and darkness aside, Joe Hill's story is tight and well told, skillfully weaving flashbacks and present-day scenes, and inserting elements of foreshadowing to add just the right amount of complexity to the plot. Hill is the author of the acclaimed horror novel, Heart-Shaped Box (and his dad is Stephen King, which I just found out about 15 seconds ago).

I'm not familiar with Gabriel Rodriguez, the Chilean artist who drew Locke & Key, but his work is terrific. I have seen too many comics lately where the characters physical features vary from panel to panel so much that they are unrecognizable. Rodriguez's characters are extremely well-designed and consistent throughout the book, making it easy to figure out who is who. That might not seem like a big deal, but to someone like me, who isn't that great at recognizing faces, it's a big help. His depictions of architecture is stunning.

Most supposedly-scary novels and movies don't affect me, even though I enjoy them. But Locke & Key was both enjoyable and spooky. I highly recommend it.

I also found out that Fox is shooting a pilot based on the series. Locke & Key


  1. Sadly, the pilot was passed on due to concerns about “marketability”. But the book is awesome.

  2. Alas, it was announced just a few days ago that Fox has passed on the pilot. It’s possible that it might get picked up elsewhere, though unlikely.

  3. hey Mark, on a side note, i think you were the one who posted about a debut-comic in the last couple of months that had beautiful artwork about a gamer going in-universe and Moebius/ Jean Giraud stole his review copy and subsequently gave a thumbs up to. i read the preview link and it’s haunted me since but i wasn’t smart enough to write down the title and can’t find it even after seriously excavating the Boing Boing Archive. i’d love to get my hands on the real thing but can’t for the life of me remember the title.

  4. It’s an amazing series. The Subterranean Press trade hardcovers are a great way to get into the series–they include Joe Hill’s screenplays.

    I hope some network picks this up.

  5. I am in no way exaggerating when I say that Locke and Key is one of, if not the, best comic series being published right now. I cannot say enough good things about it.

  6. @Anon #3

    ‘The Iron Heel’ was written be Jack London.

    Joe Hill (Joel Emmanual Hagglund) was cremated in Chicago. Portions of those ashes were sent to every IWW local in every state except Utah, where he was executed by firing squad for a murder he probably didn’t commit, on November 19, 1915. (Wiki)

    Rather than Locke and Key, I was rather hoping to see a good remake of the life and work of Joe Hill. It would make a good movie. Alexander Skarsgard (or Gustaf) could play Joe.

    I thought ‘Horns’ was the best book from Joe Hill to date. It would also make a terrific movie.

    ‘I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,alive as you and me.
    But Joe, I said, you’re ten years dead. I never died, said he,
    I never died, said he.’

    One of my earliest music memories is of Joan Baez singing those lyrics.

    1. Gustaf, by far–he’s a tremendous actor, and has played leads in wildly diverse movies. This would be right up his alley.

  7. Thanks faceted but I was just being esoteric. Sorry! Old IWW or Wobblies thing. You’d be asked those questions to determine if you were one of them. For the record, the answer is that Joe Hill is buried “all over the world, though you touched on why that is.

  8. Oh my goodness!! I am SO glad you’re posting this: I’ve been a fan of L&K nearly since it came out. I always recommend this series to people. As you’ve said, it’s so well-written, the art is fantastic, and it’s just dark enough without being too much (for me, at least, and in my opinion). Wonderful, wonderful books, I hope readers enjoy them.

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