What I wanted to write was some sort of essay – a studied piece of prose highlighting the sweeping themes and sleeping nuances, the essential elements and hidden treasures of Locke & Key.
That’s what I wanted to write.
But that sounded a bit too much like work and would certainly have been a chore to read.
Also, we would swiftly be entering spoiler territory. How – HOW? – without spoilers, do you discuss a story that can have the very ending of the tale pointed out no sooner than the fourth page of the first issue?
Maybe I could write the Welsh translation of Locke & Key? Cloy ac Allwedd! Having taken only the first two introductory Cymraeg courses, I suspect I’m not up to that task . . . yet.
But I have been wanting to write something for a long time, something to honour the Fab Five who through IDW gifted us this great comic. A thank you note? A celebratory oration? This is probably a love letter! And with filming of the Netflix show wrapped and the gang’s SDCC 2019 appearance days away, now’s the time.
|[Cover of Welcome to Lovecraft ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez]|
From the moment you see it, you know it’s special, you’re in for something different. The cover, like most traps, is deceptively simple. There’s the house – here’s the key – come on in – if you dare.
The house is enticing in its own way, unique and identifiable yet with obvious appreciation and homage to the spooky houses that came before it: Hill House, the House of Mystery, The Addams Family home, The Haunted Mansion and many more. Of course most of these houses have the same parentage, the large “Victorian” home of the American northeast, old enough as it is yet you know it has roots and this house’s roots pre-date the American Revolution – hell, this house WON the American Revolution!
But don’t be fooled. Don’t just walk in and expect to make yourself comfortable. Look again at that key. There’s a skull on it and it’s on a blood red background. Warning! Something dangerous is about. And yet, it is a key – it’s meant to open a door. Should you?
|[SNAK! - ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez]|
SNAK! Quick as a snapped neck, you’re dead and now you are the ghost who haunts Key House and must witness its story.
Having been promised horror, you’re given it, immediately – strangers at the door, the angst of growing up, the gruesome loss of one family member and the horrible abuse of another – real life horrors not ghosts and demons (not yet) but things that really scare us.
And away we go! The adventures of the Locke children have begun and 40 of the finest issues in all of comics history are yours to enjoy.
|[Tyler and Jordon flunking; I said FLUNKING - ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez]|
Well, that was 250+ words mostly about the cover alone. With so much more to be said about the actual pages of the first issue, spoilery or otherwise, you can see why a full blown doctoral dissertation or even a Master’s thesis on all 6 books and extras would be way too much. So, to continue this meagre undergraduate candidate’s project, let’s have some fun looking at Locke & Key to see what’s NOT there!
|[October Locke Lived With Bears - ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez]|
There are so many moments of the unknown and the unanswered to ponder and enjoy in Locke & Key. We are treated to mere snippets of Key House history via the Guide to the Known Keys (clearly indicating there ARE unknown keys!) and though sets of comics from every time period in this home’s story would be glorious, we can appreciate in its absence the space in which to wander and wonder. Of course we want more Locke & Key stories, as many as we can get, but the gift of being shown only fractions of other families and bits of here and there in town and then be allowed to think and dream on these aspects rather than be given any one resolution becomes part of the joy of reading. For example, I’d LOVE a story about October Locke who lived with bears, but I’m loving *thinking* about October Locke living with bears!
So here, without any big spoilers though obviously some details of the story will be described, are a few of the unexplained (some as of yet and some maybe never) elements of Locke & Key:
IS THERE ANY SIGNIFICANCE OR EXPLANATION TO THE MOTH?
From the very first and very last pages of this saga, is the appearance of a death head’s moth. It reappears a few times in other issues, even in other forms, such as a kite. So one would assume it has some significance. Perhaps it can and perhaps it does. It does tend to appear before a character’s death, rather convenient for a death head’s moth. But then why does it appear at the very end . . . whose death is next?
ARE THERE “GHOSTS” STILL IN KEY HOUSE?
“I could get used to being dead myself,” says Bode during one of his earlier uses of the Ghost Key. As demonstrated by a couple of characters, there doesn’t seem to be any time limit on the use of this key, until the user returns through the Ghost Door into a host’s body, that being remains in a spirit form. So, without giving away titles or characters or too much of any plots, we know there is one character who went through the Ghost Door and did not come back through. So is Key House truly a Haunted House?
ARE THERE DESCENDANTS OF LOUIS LIVING IN LOVECRAFT?
Again, without trying to give too many details away for new readers, in a particular story we see the character Louis leaving Key House distressed and in an altered state, heading who knows where. Once must assume headed to Lovecraft. What happened to Louis? Did Louis keep running or decide to make the best of the situation and settle in town? If the latter, it’s possible, just maybe, that one of our current characters is the great-grandchild or later of Louis and you must wonder what stories may have been made up and passed down through the decades.
|[What's missing? - ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez]|
WHAT’S THE MISSING DIALOGUE NEAR THE END OF KEYS TO THE KINGDOM?
It’s written somewhere (and I really wish I could remember where) that Joe Hill was talking about how some dialogue was accidently dropped from a panel of Locke and Key and yet the result was quite good, it looked really natural and was quite dramatic. That’s the specific panel, right up there. It does look good, huh? The whole page is full of action and emotion. But no dialogue. What was said here? Now, (psst! Chris) unlike most of the other questions in this piece (Chris! Chris Ryall!) *this* one actually HAS an answer. But how can we discover it? (Chris, psst! Hey!) WELL, if you’ve been collecting IDW’s gorgeous oversized special editions of Locke & Key, like I have, (oh, Chris . . . ) you know these tomes come with Joe’s original scripts! SOOO, we could know the answer (Pleeeeeeease!) if IDW publishes the fourth volume, Keys to the Kingdom in special edition (Please, Chris, PLEASE!). (And in a spirit of fairness and curiosity, Subterranean Press HAS published their collector editions of the fourth volume so if any of you good folk out there have one, could you please share the missing quotes with us? Thank you!)
WHAT’S SHOWN ON THE COVERED PANEL OF BODE’S COMIC STRIP?
While we’re on the topic of things missing from comic panels, let’s turn our attention to Bode’s very own comic art from the second issue of Welcome to Lovecraft. Here, he retells the story of how he and his family came back to Lovecraft. And his eye for details is extraordinary. I mentioned the potential “page 4” spoiler earlier, well Bode could spoil it here too, so I’d better hurry. This page is an amazing work of “meta”; a simultaneous full page single panel and five panel page, an amazing second issue recap, a wonderful insight into Bode and a highly effective push the plot along device. In addition to all that brilliance – what’s in the last panel???? We could easily believe it shows Bode being a ghost with his ghost dad, I believe that’s the surest bet, but if there is an answer, I’d love to know it.
|[C'mon Bode, show us what's in the box - ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez]|
IS THAT JUST ANY OLD LOCK HARLAND IS WORKING ON IN OPEN THE MOON?
In a scene not quite identical to Miranda and Benjamin Locke living in the Well House, in Open the Moon we see Harland and Chamberlain discussing poor Ian Locke, with Harland hard at work on, what else, a lock. But is this a simple everyday common lock? Well, it could be . . . sorry but it could, I don’t really know . . . however we know Harland is one of the most talented creators of the keys there is, making truly gorgeous keys and usually quite exquisite items to be used with those keys. So there is a good chance this is something beyond a normal lock.
WHAT IS DUNCAN’S HISTORY WITH THE KEYS?
Clockworks shows us all about Rendell and his gang and how they used the keys – often and extravagantly! But what about poor little brother Duncan? He obviously got to use the Gender Key, almost exclusively it would seem, and he shares his memories with Nina, of playing games with Rendell that seemed magical in retrospect, because of course they were! But after the terrible events new readers will have to read about, the keys are dispersed and I for one wonder what effect this had on Duncan who would still be of age unaffected by the Hannes Riffel rule for a few more years. Did he have trouble adjusting without these keys? Were there still other ones at his use? Did he ever use the Echo Key like Rendell did? Some interesting wonders and what ifs.
|[If only Rendell lived that to be that old - ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez]|
WHAT DOES THE “AGE KEY” LOOK LIKE AND HOW IS IT USED?
What is (to my thinking, please let me know if you think there are others) the only key USED in Locke & Key but neither shown nor named? For instance, there could be a key that was “named” and used, but not shown, that is assuming that the Hannes Riffel rule was created by the use of a key, we would assume that’s its name and we know it has been used, because the rule is in effect. Well, since it wasn’t named, I have to call it the Age Key, though it might be the Grown-Up Key. The Girl in the Well mentions it to Bode right before describing the Gender Key and naming the Anywhere Key, “Want to be a grown-up? There’s one that will turn you into an old person when you walk through it.” When was it used? At the same time as no less than five (I’m cheating a bit) other keys, maybe more, during the performance of The Tempest. That’s not makeup on “Prospero”, that’s an old Rendell, sadly, older than he would ever actually get to be (Do any of the keys have side effects?). So what does it look like? Has it actually been shown, thus ruining my little trivia question? And how is it used – when you walk through it – a door, a mirror, a gate, a hall? I do suppose we will be shown this one, one day. I think (hope) Joe and Gabriel have a surprise for us.
WHAT OTHER MENACES HAVE THERE BEEN?
Most of the keys were born in war. Most of them are, quite literally, weapons, and even some of the ones that aren’t, can be “weaponised”. The generations of the Lockes have had their fair share of enemies and it was very kind of the Locke & Key team to interrupt their story of adventure and terror to give us a sweet interlude called Open the Moon (Yes I cried and so did you!) and introduce us to Chamberlain Locke, a delightful man whose only enemy seemed to be life. I was thrilled to see Chamberlain’s name on the IMDb cast list for Netflix’s show and I am excited and anxious to see how the writers are going to use him so early in their narrative. Quick Side Note: If IMDb information is correct, the cast list shows the writers have made some very interesting changes for the television show and this is quite exciting. We are definitely getting a somewhat different story from the books and I look forward to seeing it. And what a treat anyone has in store if they see the show first and then read the books! Any way – I really like Chamberlain but I suspect he has his secrets and dark sides, too. He also had his enemies as indicated in his entry to the Guide to the Known Keys for the Chain Key and the Great Lock. I would be glad to see more of his story but I am also glad to imagine my own.
IS ANYTHING ELSE MADE FROM WHISPERING IRON?
Depending on how widely read you are with Joe Hill’s stories, the mostly unspoilery answer to this is yes and there is photographic evidence. There, I’ve said too much and have said nothing at all. But the point I am making is that while reading Locke & Key I always wondered if ONLY a key was made from the Iron and not the object or part of the object keys are sometimes used with. The Anywhere Key needs nothing else except one’s mind to work. The Ghost, Animal, and Gender Keys all have corresponding doors to function properly, and those doors are merely plain doors without the Keys. The Timeshift, Music, and Mending Keys need their corresponding Clock, Music Box, and Cabinet to perform their magic. I had wondered if there was any Iron in these items. I don’t think so, after all the magic is in the Keys and the Keys do what they are designed to do. But why always keys? Surely someone else made something else from Whispering Iron. Which of course leads us neatly to . . .
ARE THERE OTHER PORTALS THAN KEY HOUSE, LOVECRAFT?
Well, I mean, really, just think about it . . . wow! From here questions, like the keys in the final panel of Welcome to Lovecraft, just spiral out of control. HOW MANY KEYS ARE THERE? We’re told a hundred, but, I mean, really, just think about it . . . WHO MADE THE KEYS? Or more accurately WHAT KEYMAKERS (or lockEsmiths!) HAVE WE YET TO MEET? Really, just think about it . . . wow . . . I mean HOW DID THEY GET THEIR IRON? HOW MUCH IRON WAS THERE? HOW MUCH IRON IS THERE? HOW MUCH IRON WILL THERE BE? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Well, I mean, really, just think about it . . . this is up to the Locke & Key team and wow! . . . we can’t wait to see what they do next!
|[We've got 9 of the 14! - ©IDW, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez & Shane Leonard & Skelton Crew]|
There are many more questions, some of them sheer speculation and curiosity like wouldn’t it be great to see some of the Lockes from the Swingin’ 60s but many others of them with MASSIVE spoilers –
!!!IF YOU HAVE NOT READ LOCKE & KEY SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!!! !!!IF YOU HAVE NOT READ LOCKE & KEY SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!!! !!!IF YOU HAVE NOT READ LOCKE & KEY SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!!! like these two questions which I will still ask as sparsely as possible – Has Rendell knowledgeably / subconsciously / unknowingly “armed” at least two of his children? and Is the “Whispering Iron” able to communicate with Rendell on any level? Perhaps there is some place safe to discuss these meatier topics but definitely not here.
!!!IF YOU HAVE NOT READ LOCKE & KEY SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!!! !!!IF YOU HAVE NOT READ LOCKE & KEY SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!!! !!!IF YOU HAVE NOT READ LOCKE & KEY SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!!!
Okay! Safe to pick-up reading from here:
As the title clearly shows, Locke & Key is the story of the family and the keys – the story of the keys IS the story of the family, a point made, it should be noted, by the villain in volume six. And the key to the future? Well, the Netflix series hopefully airs in February 2020 and we sincerely hope more new comics are to follow! I hope if you’re already a fan, you’re ready to read it all again and if you are new to the title, oh yes, please, please read it.
I thought discovering exciting reads had left me after childhood, the joy of meeting new things to love like Narnia, Doctor Who, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was gone. The last true love of mine was a trilogy of strips that all folded by the mid-90’s, Bloom County, The Far Side and of course Calvin & Hobbes. So to find over a decade later something that lit the same fire in me all of those titles did was truly joyous and obviously I love it.
Thank you Joe, Gabriel, Robbie, Jay and Chris, thank you! To those of you bringing the Netflix show to us, wow, we can’t wait. (And the fact that Rodriguez’s Key House *might* now exist as a built set is beyond my excitement threshold – skuh-rooo Disney World, I want to go to Key House!) Oh, Kathryn and Israel and the gang of Skelton Crew, thank you! To be 50 years old and playing with keys from comic books is great!! I’m still working on the new display for the keys we have so far (and the ones we yet to have!) but pictures will go up on Twitter as soon as it is finished. I’m still worried I stole the idea for the display from someone else but I have searched and can’t find where anyone else shared it, so hopefully not but just in case, my apologies to you if we stole this display idea from you – except for Joe and Gabriel, oh yeah, we totally stole this idea from you guys – lump it!
To all of you going, have a great and safe 50th anniversary SDCC 2019! Celebrate your favourite titles and may you find some new ones. I hope Locke & Key is one of them. Now . . . where did I put the Anywhere Key and that picture of Hall H . . .