At C2E2 2013, IDW Publishing announced that Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s “Locke & Key: Omega” isn’t quite the final chapter in the long-running series. Hill and Rodriguez will take on the Locke family and Keyhouse one last time in “Locke & Key: Alpha,” a two-issue miniseries that serves as the big finale of the entire series with major answers to mysteries begun in the very first “Locke & Key” miniseries.
CBR spoke with series artist Gabriel Rodriguez about the upcoming finale, the challenges he faces in developing and drawing “Alpha,” how he’s grown as an artist and what fans can expect from the long-anticipated final chapter.
CBR News: Gabe, what’s the general idea behind “Alpha” as a wrap-up series? How will it bring everything to a close after over five years of “Locke & Key?”
Gabriel Rodriguez: If “Omega” is the final chapter of the “Locke & Key” saga, “Alpha” is its Big Finale. Since the very beginning of the series, we’ve been discussing with Joe in which terms we wanted the ending of the series to be. We’ve been working to develop the structure of the story in a way that allows us to give proper room to the ending, to let it be an integral piece of the puzzle, and “Alpha” was conceived to be the final piece. All the major answers about the mysteries of the story were answered during “Keys To The Kingdom” and “Clockworks,” the development of all the major characters was solved during “Omega,” and in “Alpha” we’ll get the final clash, the last stand between the major conflicting forces of Light and Darkness.
It seems as though with every “Locke & Key” series, you’ve had the opportunity to stretch a different artistic muscle. What artistic techniques or styles will you get the chance to show off for “Locke & Key: Alpha?”
I think, visually, there are two major challenges to face in “Omega” and “Alpha.” As the series evolved, I tried to reflect the maturing process of the main characters, from late childhood to early adulthood, by turning the visuals from more expressionist and exaggerated to more realistic and contained. This was a subtle development from volume to volume, but if you compare the fist book with the last one, it’s easier to notice it. I tried it to be part of the development of the story and characters. The other major challenge is the way in which the narrative works. This last part will involve extremely complex action sequences, choreographies and display of almost every character and location previously introduced in the story. We have to make them interplay in a way that feels natural despite its complexity, and also setting a sense of closure for the story. So we’re trying to make room for several signature narrative resources we’ve been using in previous books, to make the narrative language that has set the voice of the story the vehicle to properly drive this complex dance. In a way, I think we both as authors are trying to take a step back, to let the story and characters show off themselves, to give them and the readers the space to share more intimately this final act.
Were you able to do any new character designs for “Locke & Key: Alpha?” If so, what can you tease about them?
There’s a sort of “yes and no” answer for this question, which I can’t explain without entering into “spoilers ground.” But what I think I can reveal is that aside some few but quite relevant new surprises, “Alpha” will confront us with a different way to look into already familiar elements of the saga. We’ll see unexpected edges of this complex prism, that we hope will still surprise the reader despite how natural the outcome of the plot resolution might apparently seem. To cross the final door will have a high price to pay, and will demand an extra quote of cunning, determination and courage.
You’ve also shown a knack for design with full maps of Keyhouse and unique designs for each of the keys. What new designs did you get to develop for “Alpha?” As you wrap up the series, has it been especially hard to say goodbye to any character in particular?
At this point of the story, we wanted to have all our stuff previously designed, as the whole story before works as a set up for this final moment. Our original idea was to built a scenario that will leave room for our characters and world to shine properly during the ending. No rushed climax, no crumpled outro, we wanted to build an ending in the proper size for a epic saga. That why all the major answers (but one or two) were answer at the end of volume 5, “Clockworks.”
But we wanted to give volume 6 its own twist also, so what you’ll see through the final arc will be change, evolution, and unexpected twists in familiar elements. There’s just one new key element (pun intended) designed and introduced, plus a very conscious change of scale in several relationships and characters. An effort to take advantage of all the narrative elements and tools we’ve been using throughout the series, and even a twist in the format for the final issues (just announced by IDW in C2E2). So there’s going to be a final effort to deliver what we think that the ending deserves through design, form, narrative and content.
But for us all, the most important thing is the path that the main characters will have to take to cross the final door. There will be a price to pay, and not everyone will be able to pay it and remain safe.
Looking back over “Locke & Key” as a whole, how do you feel you’ve evolved and changed as an artist as a result of working on the series?
Just pick volume 1 and 6 and put them side-by-side. When I started working on this, as I was aware that if everything worked as we planned (and thank God everything went on even better that our wildest dreams) I knew that as a long-term project my artwork will inevitably (and desirably so) evolve. So I wanted to take that as an advantage for the story itself. When I started “Locke & Key,” I had the feeling that I was mature enough in my storytelling skills to tell this story properly, but felt (and still feel) that my drawing skills could improve a lot. So I tried to make it part of the development of the story. Being a story about the path from childhood to adulthood, I started working with the characters with a more exaggerated, expressive, child like approach. Facial features were enhanced, and expressions and body language a bit more extreme. And as the story developed, and characters matures and evolved, the formal language became more realistic, more contained and subtle. All of that, trying to keep a sense of continuity and formal consistency. So even if I still think that my drawing skills have a lot of room to keep evolving and getting better, at least I tried to use it in a creative way.
What was an unexpected process through the series, on the other hand, was the evolution of the storytelling in “Locke & Key.” When I was starting the series, having read a couple of his books, I was aware that Joe Hill was a great writer. But I didn’t know that he would be a genius as a comic writer. His awareness of the medium possibilities, and his control of the story pace and dramatic pulse, has challenged me driving our narratives challenges to a level of ambition absolutely unimaginable at the beginning. Several times I read scripts thinking, “There’s no way to put this into paper,” but then realizing that Joe was not just conscious of what we could achieve, but also of the effect an impact that it would contribute to the dramatic content of the story. So despite having used certain spectacular narrative tools, it always with the purpose of enriching the world, the characters and the story we were creating.
And as was with Joe, the collaboration of each member of the team working on “Locke & Key” became a magic experience regarding what the books became. All of them, Jay Fotos with the colors and atmospheres, Robbie Robbing with the lettering and beautiful book design, and Chris Ryall as editor and guiding hand and supported, contributed to make this book as unique as it could. So we all hope to be giving our best and the end, to say thanks to our faithful readers with the best saga ending we could possibly try.