EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW: LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #6 Plus an Interview with Artist Gabriel Rodriguez

IDW's Locke & Key horror franchise debuted in 2008 with the six-part "Welcome to Lovecraft" mini-series. In it, the surviving members of the all but broken Locke family moved to Lovecraft, Massachusetts in the wake of father Rendell Locke's death. Here, in Keyhouse, Rendell's ancestral home, Tyler, Kinsey, Bode and their mother Nina unearth a trove of dark secrets as well as a number of mystical keys which often open doors better left unlocked. Living among them is a seemingly charming teen boy named Zack. But Zack's been a teen before. And he's also been a raven-haired woman trapped in a well. But more importantly, he is and has always been a sinister presence in Lovecraft. He wants those keys and he even has some of them to aid in his murderous quest. But in his bid for the pivotal Omega Key, his dealings with the Lockes have grown increasingly tense in the course of four volumes. Here we are now at the end of that fourth chapter. The secrets are unraveling. 

Presented here is an exclusive preview of the final installment in this latest chapter of Locke & Key, known as Keys to the Kingdom. I also had the distinct pleasure of interviewing series artist Gabriel Rodriguez about his career, his work with writer Joe Hill on this terrific series, and on its forthcoming television adaptation at Fox. 



iFanboy:  Tell me about your start in comics. How does the young rapscallion from Chile end up drawing Locke & Key and doing covers with Ghostbusters on them? Did you receive any formal art training?

Gabriel Rodriguez:  Starting with the last part, no, I never had any formal training. I've been drawing since I remember. My first images of myself are sitting in front of a sheet of paper, drawing and, until today, I've been working in a self teaching process. Constantly trying to learn new tools, and surpass my own limits…

And how did I get here? Well, I almost don't know… Has been a long and strange process, mixing some lucky chances and lots of effort… After a couple failed attempts of publishing some stuff in Chile, I reached a contact via email that oriented me to the casting process to select an artist for the comic book adaptation for the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. After several weeks of sending test pages, I finally got the job, which led me to a non stop working relationship with IDW Publishing for more than 8 years so far…

What we have done so far? Five CSI miniseries, comic adaptation of films (George Romero's Land Of The Dead and Beowulf), the comic version of Clive Barker's The Great And Secret Show novel, an original project with Clive Barker (Seduth 3D), and finally my first project as an author in partnership with the superbly talented Joe Hill, Locke & Key.

Also, I've done covers and illustrations for other series, such as Astroboy, Transformers, Angel and Infestation….

iFanboy:  What writers or artists influenced you in the development of your storytelling style?

GR:  I'm obsessed with storytelling from several sources. from comics, I've studied a lot the work of classics, like Alan Moore, Hergé and Otomo, but also from people from other mediums, like the film work of Stanley Kubrick and Hayao Miyazaki. From both storytelling and design point of view…

As from drawing and design references, I'm constantly checking the work of other comic authors, such as Oliver Coipel, Sean Gordon Murphy, Travis Charest, Otomo (again), Ryan Ottley, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Frank Quitely, Alan Robinson, Gonzalo Martínez, Mike Mignola, Jim Steranko, Zach Howard, and so on…

There's always something to learn from other artists work, If you keep your eyes open, and if you're aware of your own limits and about the things you need to keep improving. And also, there's always the reference that comes from artists in another fields, people like TV art director Dan Bishop, architect and painter Lebbeus Woods, Russian designer 600v, or even the music from bands like Pink Floyd, Riverside or Rush. All those sources, in way way or another, play a key part in the developing ('cause I like to think it's always is in development) of my visual storytelling skills…

iFanboy:  What is your working relationship like with Joe Hill? For one thing, it's long distance, right?

GR:  Joe described it superbly when he defined our creative work as if the result of sharing one creative brain. We've had incredibly creepy synchronicities while developing the plot and characters of Locke & Key. We share creative interests and sense of humor, which I think is the key to build a strong and constructive partnership.

Has been tremendously gratifying and easy, as aside from similar creative concerns, we share the same approach about building characters, we are interested by the same kind of stories, and also complementing each other from our respective fields of expertise…

We're also equally obsessive about details and consistency, we are so into delivering the best possible story…

And we both love comics SO much…

For both of us, it's pretty surprising to have achieved such integrity as a team having only meeting in person three times, for about five days if you count them all, in about 4 years of working together…




iFanboy:  The countdown to the finale has already begun. How much do you know about the conclusion of Locke & Key, and did you know where it would go from the start?

GR:  We've been talking about where we were going since the beginning of the series, but during "Welcome To Lovecraft" it was mostly intuition. While working in "Head Games," Joe wrote the basis for the overall mythology of the series and its complete back story (as we needed to prevent stepping into our own tails). And since the end of "Crown Of Shadows," and during "Keys To The Kingdom," we've been discussing the structure and details for the end of the saga. I would say that while we were working on "Sparrow", we defined the broader lines of the story's ending, and when we met in Pittsburgh last February, we defined the key details that will shape up our two last books, "Clockworks" and Ω ("Omega"). We've always considered Locke & Key one big story, with a three act structure, and wanted to work towards giving it an ending worthy of the whole reading…

iFanboy:  A lot of comic artists need to conform to the style of the artist who preceded them, or to some general house style. But you created this book with Hill. Talk a little bit about your goals for the overall look of the series.

GR:  I was very aware of several goals I wanted to achieve. First of all, I immediately noticed how important it was for the story and the characters to be emotionally appealing. I chose to design them in this expressive, almost cartoony way, to emphasize that… at the beginning was a bit over exaggerated, I guess, and with time I've been softening their features, but it is also part of the way in which the characters have been growing and evolving themselves…

GR:  Another point that was very important to me was the consistency in both design element and space context. I want a very "grounded to earth" environment for the characters and action, always wanting to make the magic element feel real and with a familiar appeal… I think it both enhances the visual impact of the shocking moment and made it all more accessible for the reader…

Most of all, I wanted to develop a unique look for Locke & Key, that would become part of its identity and that would involve all the narrative and descriptive tools needed to tell the story properly. Probably, anything I may do after Lock & Key will look completely different.

The best compliment I've received from a reader, was that at some point, he forgot he was watching drawings while reading. That is the best confirmation  that you're moving in the right direction, I think.

iFanboy:  And you've drawn every single centimeter of this series. That has to feel good. It's sort of a rarity. Do you find yourself enjoying a long-term project like this? When it ends, would you want to do other ongoing books or smaller projects?

GR:  For me the art integrity of the story is the key. I know this is rare in comics currently, so I'm–and I know Joe is too–tremendously thankful of how IDW has been working with us, designing a special publishing strategy for this series. To be working in this big scale epic has been absolutely awesome. At some points very exhausting and demanding, but I think the virtues of this project worth it. What comes later, I hope them to be self contained stories, not specially worried if they are short or long. I haven't thought too much about that, anyway. There's a lot of work to do for Locke & Key yet, and I want to focus in it to do it properly.

iFanboy:  In recent story lines it's clear that you guys have been having fun, especially with those special, stylized issues with homages to Calvin & Hobbes or even with a book consisting entirely of splash pages. What visual experiments have been the most satisfying to you? What were the biggest challenges?

GR:  What's most satisfying for me, as a storyteller, is that Joe has been able to write this insane, experimental chapters, but always using the resources of the format as tools to tell the story. We´ve been playing with the comic language, but always in the service of a narrative idea. And that's really thrilling. We're so aware that, due to how slow is the process to construct a comic book, and how tight is the space to develop your ideas, the effort has been to be as concise as expressive as we could. And the challenge, from the visual point of view, is to stand at the level of what that demands from you. For example, the two part ending of "Keys To The Kingdom," "Detectives" Parts 1 and 2, is the most complex series of sequences I've done so far, as the characters move in a lot of subtle situations in very few scenarios that need to remain consistent, while the action is built in a sort of crescendo that must be solved with the proper pacing. I had to be thinking in about three or four different levels while solving the pages, and design some shots in the book that need to work with different characters in different parts of the book, which is far more complex than it seems…

iFanboy:  Can I ask about the upcoming FOX television adaptation of the series? How much are you involved with its production? Are you excited?

GR:  Of course we're excited! With Joe we were like two kids in Disneyland during the set visit we attended, along with some friends from IDW, last February in Pittsburgh, while Josh Friedman, Mark Romanek and the rest of the team were working on the pilot. They gathered such an amazingly talented crew. All we saw there was incredibly beautiful, and certainly rooted in the comic book source. We've been asked about details of our work as reference, but we know they're doing their own thing, and for what we've seen, it's all fantastic.

As Joe said once, while inspired in the comic, it's going to have a life of it's own, as the storytelling space and language of the TV series format is quite different from comics. The core mythology will be there, certain main events will be there, the appeal and essence of the characters will be there, certain design flavor will be noticed… but the show will have its own voice, and for what we have seen, it's going to be as frightening as beautiful… Classy stuff.

iFanboy:  What's next?

GR:  So far, a year and a half until finishing Locke & Key, and after that, we'll see. With Joe we have a couple ideas, but we're both reluctant to speak about future plans, since there's still a long road ahead, and life is filled with unexpected events. But if I remain just half as blessed and lucky as I've been with my career so far, and still in the company of such incredible partners, it's going to be amazing!


Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #6 hits shelves this week. Next up, Locke & Key: Clockworks!


  1. First Paul hits it out of the park and now an interview with one of the best in the business?  What a Monday!!!

  2. To bad it wasn’t audio interview

  3. I read this in hardcovers. Stellar.

  4. I hate so bad that he has no official art training lol if I could only be so good at something.

  5. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @OnASunday  Haha, that’s not to say he doesn’t work very hard at what he does. I’m sure it doesn’t come easily, even as talented as he is. And as he said, we should always keep our eyes open and be conscious of what we would like to improve upon in our craft. 

  6. This series is one I have grown to love more and more every week. I will be sad to see it go as Joe Hill and Gabe have showed themselves to be some of the best in the biz!

  7. I read this in hardcovers. One of the best books on the stands. Nice to see Rodriguez get some attention. His layouts and storytelling are amazing. The only other working artist in comics who does it as well is Darwyn Cooke. Hopefully the tv show will shine some more light on the series and get more people reading it. It’s a series that deserves to be top of the sales charts.