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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 63: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft #2

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft #2, which was published by IDW and is cover dated March 2008. Enjoy!

Cheery!

I own this trade, so I’m not 100% positive this is the first page of issue #2. If anyone can tell me it’s not, I’d appreciate it. I opened the trade randomly and then moved forward, and I’m fairly certain this is the first page, because the page before is a pretty strong cliffhanger. Oh well – I’m treating it like the first page, mainly because it recaps the first issue! Locke & Key is written by Joe Hill, drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, colored by Jay Fotos, and lettered by Robbie Robbins, in case you’re wondering.

The first thing that struck me when I re-read this page is the way Hill and the gang write from Bode’s point of view. Bode, the main character of this mini-series, is a kid whose age remains unknown – at least I think it does, because I looked through this for any clues and didn’t find them. He appears to be about 6-8 years old, with eight being kind of on the old side. So this first page was curious. On the one hand, Bode should have a better grasp of spelling and handwriting. If he’s been in school for longer than a year (and I don’t think he’s in kindergarten), his spelling ought to be better. “What” is a foundation word, and kids learn it very quickly in school. His handwriting isn’t great, but it’s not too bad – in my daughter’s first-grade class, maybe 2 or 3 kids have as bad or worse handwriting than Bode does. Bode doesn’t know how to spell “bought” or “broke,” which seems fair, but he also doesn’t know how to spell “house,” “some,” or “time,” which doesn’t seem logical (that he would know “secret” has one “e” after the “s” but not know how to distinguish between “be” and “bee” is also curious). He also capitalizes the second “d” in “did” but not the first. Overall, this is not the worst attempt to show how kids write, but it’s not the best, either. What makes it curious is that Bode’s drawing skills seem much more advanced than his writing skills. My daughter can draw fairly well, but she can’t do sequential storytelling like Bode does here. If Bode is older and has learned that, his writing skills shouldn’t be that poor. If he’s six years old, I doubt if his storytelling skills would be that advanced (it looks like he’s using watercolors, which is almost as impressive as staying within the lines!). Plus, my daughter hasn’t done stick figures in probably two or three years, yet in panel three, Bode uses them. It’s very difficult for adults to write from a child’s point of view, but Hill, Rodriguez, and Robbins (I assume Robbins is responsible for the lettering on this page and not Rodriguez) do a decent job. (For what it’s worth, here’s a scan of how my daughter wrote the first part of the page, which I asked her to do just for comparison’s sake.) (Also, I’m not sure if Hill has established that Bode has any learning disabilities – it’s been a while since I’ve read this and I’ve never read the sequels. That could factor into this, too, of course.)

Hill and Rodriguez do a nice job recapping the events of the first issue and showing us how it’s affected Bode. It’s a clever way to get us into the story without resorting to a basic recap page. It also shows that the adults, at least, are going to have a hard time with believing Bode – he really did turn into a ghost, after all, as readers saw in issue #1, and as it’s a comic book, even if we missed the first issue we, as readers, will believe him. It’s a horror comic, after all!

This page doesn’t really show Rodriguez’s skills too much, except that he’s able to draw in a very simplistic manner. The page is laid out in a very standard way, and our eye has no trouble moving over it. Mrs. Locke is holding the page in a weird way, but that’s because we need to be able to see the entire page, and it’s fine. I’m really curious what’s in that last panel. What else did Bode write about?!?!?!?

I think this is a good page to draw people in. It’s clever and it promises a creepy horror story in a weird house. It gets us caught up very quickly, so if we missed issue #1, we don’t feel like we’re lost. There are worse ways to introduce an issue!

Remember: You can still give me candidates for next month’s theme, which will focus on writers. I got a lot of good suggestions yesterday, and I’ll keep the voting open for a few days in case you miss a day.

Next: One of the best single issues from a few years ago. But how does its first page work? Also, you know you want to check out the archives!

9 Comments

Man, I looked through some of my old writing assignments from 1st grade, and was somewhat amazed that my teacher had any idea what the hippity hell I was talking about. My penmenship was so bad they were a little concerned about my fine motor skills; good thing I could bust out some awesome dinosaur pictures.

So yeah, that Bode piece was pretty much where I was at age 7.

Steven Caplan

March 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Locke & Key should be in Comics You Should Own. It just keeps getting better and better, steaming towards its conclusion. Great art, original story – get it!

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I’ve been reading the LOCKE & KEY tpbs from my local library, and damn, is it ever good.

This is the type of series, I wish I’d been reading from the beginning.

Great story.
Great art.
Great characterization.
Great pacing.
Too bad, it’s all gonna end with vol. 6.
Too bad, the tv series fell through.

Can’t get a better horror series than this in this day and age!

I passed on this because, for no particular reason, I was afraid Joe Hill was possibly trying to ride his father’s horror-fic coattails.

STUPID STUPID STUPID!

I will have to start picking up the trades. For all the flaws you point out, that’s an intriguing first page.

@joshschr
Why would you think that? He changed his name, and didn’t tell anyone about the relationship until after the publication of his first novel. He’s a good writer in his own right.

Travis Pelkie

March 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Yeah, I wouldn’t buy this as a real kid’s drawing. But then, I also don’t hang out with kids either.

Joe Hill is a pretty good writer. I’ve read a few of his books, and they’ve been pretty good. I think Horns was the first one out after the revelation of who his dad was, and to me it was the one most like a Stephen King book.

Locke and Key, though, I’ve only read the FCBD from last year, and… it didn’t do much for me. I dunno, maybe if I can read a run from the start, it’d work better, but it just didn’t do anything for me.

I’ve also seen the King/Hill houses in Bangor Maine in person, and that was pretty neat. Shoutout to my sweetie!

Agreed that it’s doubtful any kids draw like that (use of colours and the human figures on panel one opposed to panel three are the most obvious signs), or do sequential storytelling in that way (some artists have posted examples of their childhood comics in the net and while showing some understanding of medium, that sort of panel layout looks too sophisticated). Of spelling I can’t argue, because I don’t know how small kids spell in English, but some of those errors do look suspicious.
Then again, I do like the idea and this probably serves the point better than completely authentic-looking pic…and I must say this does push my interest to take a look at the book, so it works, even if I am suspicious of how well the creators express the psychology of the characters…

@Ziah

I know, it was dumb to prejudge without reading any of Joe Hill’s fiction. The only defenses I can offer is that the family relation was mentioned in some of the previews and there was some speculation that the first issue would be a collectors item, partly due to Joe Hill being Stephen King’s progeny.

I could have read the first issue and judged myself, but that’s not the judgement I made at the time. Looking forward to correcting my misjudgement.

” and didn’t tell anyone about the relationship until after the publication of his first novel”

Well, he didn’t talk about it publicly, but it’s hard to believe that people in the publishing world didn’t know. First off, King certainly helped him, even if just tacitly — the people in the publishing world that Hill met over the years didn’t suddenly close their doors just because he showed up with a novel. And also anybody who saw a picture of Hill could not possibly not know. I mean, King was able to get his wife’s fiction published, so it’s not too hard to believe that he helped Joe get started.

That said, Joe has certainly earned his place at the table. Everything he writes is entertaining and well-written, and ‘Locke and Key’ takes better advantage of the comic book format than most comic writers are capable of.

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