CCI: Joe Hill

A small cadre of devoted fans gathered in the intimate Room 10 of the San Diego Convention Center for a Comic-Con panel devoted to Joe Hill, the writer of the acclaimed IDW Publishing series "Locke and Key." Hill and IDW's Chris Ryall hosted the panel. Hill showed slides from the book, discussing the critically acclaimed series and his future plans.

Hill began by summarizing the story of "Locke and Key," which is about a family who moves to Lovecraft, Massachusetts. After the move, one of the members of the family finds a key that can open a variety of doors to the supernatural, inciting an epic story of horror and suspense.

"Generally, if you want to rebuild your life in a horror story, you shouldn't move to a town called Lovecraft," Hill joked. "But like all characters in horror stories, they don't really know they're in a horror story."

Hill then addressed what the format of his panel might be. "I like to ask you the questions. So you'll say - where do I get my ideas and I'll ask you where do you think I get my ideas? Then you'll say 'Cleveland' and I'll say 'wrong.'" This drew laughs from the crowds.

Ryall then had a surprise for the fans. "We actually have keys for you," he said. The keys were sculpted based on designs from series artist Gabriel Rodriguez.

"So let's talk about the Eisners for a second," Hill announced suddenly. The Eisner Award ceremonies were held the previous night and, though nominated, Hill did not win any awards. "I don't write for awards and I didn't really want an Eisner award. It's a stupid-looking award, I don't know what I'd do with it if I had it, except... make sweet love to it, treat it like a member of the family..."

At this point, both Ryall and Hill took time to praise "Locke and Key" series artist Gabriel Rodriguez. The two pointed out that his designs were so detailed, not only could you actually build the keys from "Locke and Key," you could build the house itself.

The two then teased the new volume in the series, "Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows." "What I like about this new series is this is the first time I've written the full series before Gabe started drawing. So he was just able to jump in and get to work," Hill said.

They also showed slides of new keys to be seen in the series, including the Medicine Key and the Giant Key. "I get the feeling that people like the keys and want to see more of them. So we'll see three new keys," Hill said.

Ryall then pointed out that Hill writes full issues in their entirety without a structured plan and that this resulted in parts of "Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows" being written for the previous series and then moved ahead to this one.

"I have this almost religious belief that outlines are the tools of the devil," Hill said. "So I go to great lengths to avoid them. That way it's surprising to me as well as the reader."

Hill then commented that this was the one thing he always wondered about his favorite writer, Alan Moore - does Moore in fact know the ending of his stories when he starts? "His answer was, more or less, and I'm paraphrasing, that only a total dipshit would go into this without knowing the ending. So I actually do know the ending now. I had to get my shit together. But I have no idea how I'm going to get there."

Ryall and Hill then teased a variety of upcoming projects from Hill beyond the "Locke and Key" series. The first of these is a series known as "Freddy Wertham Goes to Hell" with art by Seth Fisher. Hill explained the genesis of the project, which was spawned when Hill worked with artist Fisher on a "Spider-Man Unlimited" story. "I wanted to kind of redeem myself for the bad Spider-Man story," Hill said.

Unfortunately, Fisher was three pages from finishing the book when he died in Tokyo. Fisher's best friend Langden Foss eventually finished the art. Fisher was also the artist on Marvel's "Fantastic Four: Big in Japan" which features Hill's "Spider-Man Unlimited" story, drawn by Fisher.

The next project is "Frank Frazetta's Kodiak" with art by Nick Stakal, currently slated for 2010. "Frank Frazetta is similar to the way I feel about Ray Bradbury. If you have a chance to work with one of your influences, pay tribute to them, you have to take it."

The final is a series of novellas called "Gunpowder," Hill's first long-form foray into science fiction.

Hill ended the panel by opening himself to questions from the audience. One man asked what "Locke and Key" would cross over with, if Hill could do anything he wanted. Hill had the perfect answer. "They find the key to the Fortress of Solitude. Wouldn't that be awesome?"

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