Słowem wstępu
Joe Hill to amerykański pisarz, którego proza oscyluje wokół grozy, horroru i obyczaju. Początek jego kariery datuje się na rok 1997, kiedy to debiutował opowiadaniem 'The Lady Rests'. Od tego czasu pisał i publikował w magazynach kolejne teksty.

W roku 2005 ukazała się pierwsza książka Hilla, zbiór opowiadań 'Upiory XX wieku'. Książka zyskała bardzo dobre opinie wśród krytyków i czytelników, zdobyła też prestiżowe nagrody Bram Stoker Award czy British Fantasy Award. O tym jakie wrażenie wywarł na odbiorcach debiut Joe'ego może świadczyć fakt, iż zaraz po informacji, że pisarz pracuje nad swoją pierwszą powieścią, wytwórnia filmowa Warner Bros. nabyła prawa do ekranizacji książki. 'Pudełko w kształcie serca' trafiło do księgarni w roku 2007.

Wtedy też okazało się, iż Joe Hill to syn Stephena i Tabithy King.
Interview with Gabriel Rodriguez for JoeHill.pl
by Michał Ratajczak

Tell us how have you ended in comics world. What projects did you do before "Locke & Key"?

It all started back in '98, when I was finishing my Architecture studies.
I decided to give a try to my interest in comic books, so I became involved in a couple projects here in Chile. As we don't have a formal comic industry with an established readers community, none of those projects get completed and published, but I ended with enough material samples to start showing outside.
With those samples, I was invited to participate in the "email casting process" to select a graphic team to handle the artwork for a comic adaptation of the TV series "CSI" into comic book format, to be published by IDW Publishing. After a series of tests, and a process that took about 5 weeks, I finally won the job, and then I get my very first professional work in comics, back in 2002.
Then started my non stop editorial relationship with IDW Publishing.
Starting with 5 CSI miniseries and a double 48 page special issue ( I was almost 3 years working in CSI), then I moved to other projects. The comic book adaptation of George Romero's "Land Of The Dead", the adaptation of Clive Barker's fantastic novel "The Great And Secret Show" (which was the first time I had complete freedom in the visual development of a comic series), another movie adaptation of Robert Zemeckis' "Beowulf" based on the Neil Gaiman - Roger Avary script, and another shot, original comic book project with Clive Barker and Christopher Monfette named "Seduth".
And then... "Locke & Key".

How have you become an artist of "Locke & Key"? Was it a Joe Hill's idea, who was under impression of your earlier works, or maybe you've been choose by yours editor, Chris Ryall?

IDW originally contacted Joe to work on a series of comic adaptations of some of his short stories from his book "20th Century Ghosts". But guess what! Turned out that Joe was really enthusiast about comics, and had a very interesting idea for an original comics series. He pitched the idea to the IDW editorial staff, who was immediately interested in the project. I think it was then Chris Ryall, who gets involved as editor of the series, who suggested Joe to work with me, and showed him what I did before, specially for "The Great and Secret Show". I guess he liked what he saw, and then we get introduced, and we started discussing his idea for the series, while working int he design of the main characters based on short three line descriptions he had on a list...
The process flowed incredibly well and naturally, and Joe, being a unique, amazing, generous partner to work with, invited me to jump in this saga as co creator of the series, and I immediately told him I Chris I wanted to be involved for the whole run of the saga, because as soon as I read the script of the first issue of the series, I noticed that this was going to be a unique, VERY special and fantastic creative journey...

Comics you worked on earlier are all movies or books adaptations. Does the work on "Locke & Key" differ than work on other projects?

The closest experience was the development of "The Great And Secret Show". In that one, both Clive Barker and Chris Ryall gave me absolute freedom to do whatever I want visually. With that experience on my back, the scope of things I'm trying to do in "Locke & Key" is both deeper and broader. The almost symbiotic job we've been developing with Joe is constantly having stages of re thinking and deepening in both the characters and plot elements, which was different in the other project in which we started working with a completely previously defined story. So, in this case, the development of the story consist in a constant creative process in which you're polishing almost every narrative and design element along the way, and is sustained in an amazing synchronization between all the ones participating in this book, including also the colors and the text and design job provided by our talented collaborators Jay Fotos and Robbie Robbins...

How does the process of making "Locke & Key" look like?

Like a titanic, merciless effort of double checking everything you're doing, spending hours and hours and hours and hours of HARD work, to keep pushing the level up, to give your very best, to turn it into the best possible comic book... With Joe, we're constantly thinking in how to squeeze the format and its tool to use them in the wiser possible way. We're constantly adding plot elements, and designing new characters, environments and magic gadgets, so it's constantly evolving as creative process, trying all the time to avoid a formula of extending or repeating previous narrative tools. It's specially amazing how Joe has taken this concept, that could have easily led to a procedural series structure, and has constantly take the story to unexpected turns, giving not only each arc, but also each issue, a particular voice in the complete scheme...

We are after 22 issues and I haven't seen any even average review of this title. How do you think, what's so special about this comic? Why the readers and critics like it so much?

I think the magic lies in having an honest story, with very lovely, believable characters... but I wish I could tell you a formula for making it successful with readers and critics. The amazing feedback we've been receiving, specially from our readers, is something that you must humbly receive as a gift, and take a serious commitment in keep giving your own best for what you think and feel is the best for the story...

With "Crown of Shadows" #3 the way you and Joe are marked inside the comic has changed. So far you were traditionally marked as a writer and an artist. Now you are both storytellers. Whose idea was it?

It was Joe's move, which I understand and support. We share the same view about comics, as a storytelling discipline in which building up the characters and telling events properly is the ultimate goal. This is not about turning words into images, is about developing a complex language in which you create several layers of reading if you play with your tools in an intelligent and creative way. It's not that he's writing something for me to draw... we're both putting our best efforts and creative tools to the service of the story. And I think that's what's behind this credit decision. the story told, and the characters that drive it are the focal point here, and I think that's what we're trying to remark as both an ethic an aesthetic approach to our work...

At the begininig of this project Joe practically had no experience in writing comics. Did you help him in any way? Maybe you suggested him how to locate the drawings on the page to better tell a story?

It is SO hard to believe that Joe doesn't have years of comic writing expertise before jumping into a story that complex as it is to tell in comic format as it is "Locke & Key"... but that's 100% his talent shining here.
He THINKS in comic book language as he writes the story. Not much in terms of design, composition or shots. He opened that door to me to propose freely alternatives to develop our visual language... Many times, he even suggest that if I have better ideas for certain sequences, I'm free to change some things or to suggest solutions. From that point of view, we have a very symbiotic relationship...
But what amazes me, and makes him a titanic talent in this field, is his awareness of what comics can offer you as an author to tell a story. His sense of pacing and structure is superb. He writes, I think, some of the best dialogues ever written in comics, and manages to create certain narrative sequences that work properly just in comic format, that would be impossible to translate literally for example, into a novel or a movie.

Did you suggest him any idea for a key? Did you tell him that it would be fun if there was a key that…?

I used to be very shy and insecure about suggesting things at the beginning, as I use to think that my ideas are always mediocre or plain bad, but Joe is such a generous partner that he opened the door to me to propose stuff from day 1 almost...
We've been talking about how the way I draw characters or scenes sometimes has influenced the way he sees certain characters, or even develop certain events... He asked me once about ideas for keys and plot points, and I've suggesting several here and there. He took some of them, and some others he used them as basis to create much more interesting concepts than the ones I originally had... And we're both constantly discussing and working on how to make every step of the story more interesting, more intense, and more consistent.
We're both unnaturally obsessive and workaholics... not sure if that's good for us, but I think that has been a benefit for the series...
And he is the most generous and daring partner you could wish to work with. His ideas are constantly challenging both my drawing and storytelling skills, and at least to me, "Locke & Key" has evolved to something deeper, richer and more complex that I could have ever dream for it to be.

There are excerpts from the diary of Benjamin Pierce Locke from XVIII century in the hardcover editions. Will the comic take us back so far, or is this only a bonus material for fans?

Ben Locke's diary started as an idea I suggest to have this Known Keys section of the books presented in a more creative, entertaining way, and Joe took it and turned into a tool to develop the Locke & Key Mythos depth in a unique way. Has become a vehicle to tell important parts of this story in a parallel, complementary way... This is not bonus material exactly, 'cause some stuff that happened in Ben Locke times will be very relevant for the current Locke kids... but that's something I'm not going to spoil now, so you'll have to wait to see how that stuff will come to life in the comic...

There are only 14 issues left. Did you talk with Joe about the possibility of working together again? Maybe there's a germ of an idea for a new project?

Yes, we've been talking, and we're both very enthusiast about the idea of more collaborations... But we're still a year and a half (at least), to finish "Locke & Key", so right now our efforts are on keeping the focus in making it the best possible story, and to give it the end that deserves...

There were two issues with unusual covers. I'm speaking about a cover in EC Comics' tradition and the one in the super heroes comics' style. Where the idea came from? Are you planning another surprises like that in the future?

That's just a testimony for our love for comics tradition... we're always trying to find a way to introduce modest tributes to classic authors or magazines, but always if they become a tool to develop the plot of the story. The covers are part of the information that construct the narrative of the story, but I have to be honest and also admit that that kind of choices are also exercises of geekness relief...

Whose idea was to do an issue dedicated to Bill Watterson? How hard was it to you, as an artist, to do it?

It was Joe's idea, and according to him, it just flowed naturally that way when he imagined the nature of that episode. He's a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan, and told me that that script practically wrote itself... And when I read it, I couldn't but just agree that it was an amazing way to told that episode. The interesting thing was that the change of graphic styles is a key language element to drive the emotional content of that chapter, so it was easier that I originally imagined to draw it. Of course, to avoid a schizophrenic breakdown while drawing it, I divided the pages in groups, so I did almost all the Wattersonesque pages first, and then the grittier, darkly realistic ones next...
That's one of our very favorite chapters in the run of "Locke & Key" so far...

There's going to be made at least a pilot to the tv series based on "Locke & Key". What are your expectations of it? Do you think that it's a good idea to do these series in a nationwide station and not in some cable station? Do you think that it can stay on the air at least for a season?

My expectations are high considering the unbelievable mount of talent gathered to develop this project... Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks TV developing? Kurtzman and Orci producing? Josh Friedman writing? Mark Romaneck directing? Miranda Otto, Nick Stahl and Sarah Bolger (so far) starring? Dan Bishop as art director? I mean, DREAMCAST of talent....
About the nationwide broadcasting, it's all about the proper focus and doing things well. There are good and bad broadcast shows, and good and bad cable series... As a fan, I only expect it to be a good series, cause the drama and the appeal, to me, are independent of the format. What you choose is a language, and the duty is to tell a good story with it...
About its endurance, it will all depend on the quality of the staff producing, which is granted in this case, and the other factor is the audience response, which is, partly, unpredictable. Hope it will do well. So far, after reading the script, I can tell you that at least the pilot is going to be one hell of a wonderful piece of TV entertaining, and can't wait to see it through Mark Romanek's amazing visual eye...

Here in Poland we still don't have our edition of "Locke & Key". Tell our editors why they should change this situation.

Because it's a work of love from all the creators behind, putting our very best efforts in it.
Because it's an amazing story with delightfully appealing characters.
Because it's filled with magic, mystery and horror, but wrapped up in a beautiful emotional support.
Because it's a story about the magic battle between good and evil, but also the story of a broken family trying to fix their wound, about teenagers shaping their identity and about the painful process of leaving childhood behind.
The last word is upon you all, the readers, but I'm pretty sure that most of you will enjoy the ride with the Locke family...

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