Admittedly, I wasn’t a reader of acclaimed horror writer Joe Hill’s and dark fantasy illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key comic book series when it was first published in early 2008. I know many readers (and writers) of this site were. I should have been, too.
The series is world-building horror-fantasy with a fascinating hook: diabolical and fascinating keys that allow their users to traverse worlds.
At the time, Joe Hill was an award-winning short story writer, coming off his first novel, the Bram Stoker Award winning, Heart-Shaped Box. Enter IDW Publishing and the beginning of a series that would capture the minds of a horror-thirsty audience.
Stories in the Locke & Key series have been published ever since, and they’ve deliciously meandered through various settings and time periods while expanding on a thematic story of black magic, human frailty and, of course, demons. So successful, it’s made the leap to other media, with a second season of the television adaptation set to air on Netflix later this year.
Back to its four-colour roots, today, the Locke & Key story weaves itself into the dreamlike fabric of the high fantasy horror series from Neil Gaiman and DC Comics, The Sandman.
Locke & Key/The Sandman Universe: Hell and Gone tells the story of Mary Locke during the early part of the twentieth century, out to save her damned brother Jack from the shackles of Hell. The series is a direct sequel to the L&K World War I-era mini-series “…In Pale Battalions Go..”, published by IDW last year.
But it’s been a story over thirty years in the making.
In the first issue of The Sandman, published by DC Comics in 1988, we learned that the King of Dreams was imprisoned by an evil man dabbling in dark arts, who was seeking to capture Dream’s older sister, Death. That tale set The Sandman into motion where it became the hallmark of DC Comics’ offerings of strange and dark fantasy titles, giving rise to Vertigo Comics and changing the course of the comic book publishing world – for the better – at the same time.
The Sandman brought in a whole generation of new readers and, one could argue, that Locke & Key was published as long-term result of the success of The Sandman.
Locke & Key/The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone sees Mary visit the avaricious warden of Dream, Roderick Burgess, in her quest to free her brother. She’ll have to not only outsmart the wicked man, but also some of Dreams most mysterious and terrifying creations throughout his disintegrating Kingdom, including the denizens of the House of Mystery and the serial killer called The Corinthian.
Past all that horror is the Key to Hell and Hell itself. Could a meeting with the First of The Fallen be far off?
Make the run to your local comic book shop today and pick up Locke & Key/The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone #1 and read why lovers of fantasy and horror are lucky to have both universes, finally, in a shared tale!