The 13th Floor

How LOCKE & KEY Could Be The Next STRANGER THINGS

Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS took the world by storm. For a few weeks, you couldn’t read a story that didn’t somehow try to connect to the series – I’m honestly shocked that neither Clinton or Trump have made references to the show in their speeches – and now we’re coming out of it. The show has a strong following, and has been hit with some fair and unfair backlash. One thing everyone seems to agree on though is that the idea is sound – kids fighting monsters and creepy beepies all around.

Which is why I’m honestly shocked we haven’t gotten word on a LOCKE & KEY series yet.

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I have to admit it right here and right now, I’m super late to the LOCKE & KEY party. I just started reading the series a two months ago, but I quickly ate it all up. I even mixed it into another article back when I was just one trade in because I was so enamored with it.

The story, told through multiple comic book miniseries, focuses on the Locke family, namely the three children, Ty, Kinsey, and Bode. The family has suffered a major tragedy – Rendell Locke, the patriarch, was murdered in a home invasion –  and so they move away from the bad memories and into the Keyhouse, which has been in the Locke family for generations. The mother, Nina, develops a hell of a drinking problem, leaving her unable to care for her kids.

The Locke kids, forced to raise themselves, come to find that the Keyhouse is filled with crazy supernatural goings on. All over the house are hidden keys that open them up to new, exciting, and scary revelations about the world they live in. Sure enough there’s also an evil force looking to gain control of these keys, and it is up to the Locke kids to keep the evil at bay.

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The most important thing about LOCKE & KEY, the thing that I think was missing from STRANGER THINGS, is a deeper concept – overall, LOCKE & KEY is about how we deal with tragedy. Each of the main characters in the story, and plenty of the secondary characters, has a past that they need to make peace with in order to move forward in their lives. Each of the Locke kids and their mom deal with the death of their father in vastly different ways, but overall they count on each other to work through it. This, more than any of the supernatural aspects, is what makes LOCKE & KEY work so well.

The series never shoves the underlying concept in the reader’s face, but it is clearly there. Also mixed into the story is consistent character growth, sometimes carefully placed through the backgrounds of issues. The overarching story of Nina, the mother, happens so slowly and without the spotlight ever being put on it that the reader can easily miss it.

The series, written by Joe Hill with art by Gabriel Rodríguez was previously made into a pilot for Fox, but it didn’t get picked up. I haven’t seen the pilot, but I don’t blame Fox – this isn’t a story that will appeal to the numbers of people Fox needs in order for it to be a success. This is a story that hits with a specific group, the kind of people who spend hours looking up STRANGER THINGS theories, the kind of people who argue about which of the eleven Doctors is the best Doctor. The kind of people who understand what that Doctor sentence is referencing. This isn’t to say that LOCKE & KEY couldn’t connect with ten million viewers, but the chances of that are slim. The paranormal aspects of the series get real weird real fast, and the brutality of some moments – I’m not talking physical brutality (though there is plenty of that), I’m talking emotional – could be too much for many viewers.

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LOCKE & KEY is perfect for Netflix (or Hulu, or Shudder) in that it is a story that is formulated into a series of binges – each miniseries works as a full story, or season, that combines into a full epic. The only aspect that would, in theory, need to be changed is how much time the story takes place in. In the comics, everything happens in a year, but for a series that will film over the course of years (if successful) the actors will be noticeably older than when things began. If you broke it into five seasons, following the five collected editions of the series, we’d be looking at a show that starts with 10 year old Bode and ends with 15 year old Bode, which would certainly mean a serious reworking of his character.

Still, the overall story of LOCKE & KEY, I think, can handle that change. Again, this is a story more about characters than it is about the overarching supernatural stuff. Hell, maybe having the story take place over years could even improve on it – a lot of the stuff that happens in the comics happens real fast. Like, super fast. Reading it, you accept it because the pace of the books is fast, but it may not work as well in a show format.

Back to the point – The aspects of STRANGER THINGS that worked, that really worked – the kids, the unknowable fear, the sense of small town isolation, is all present in LOCKE & KEY, with the added bonus of fully fleshed out characters and an underlying concept that everyone can, in some way, relate to.

Also like STRANGER THINGS, there are plenty of references to the stories and artists that inspired the story. Some, like the name of the fictional town the series takes place in being Lovecraft, are dead on obvious, but never feel like they are being shoved in the reader’s face. Others, like a neat cameo by Stephen King, are fun but have no lasting effect on the story. People who got upset by posters and songs in STRANGER THINGS may have issues with these little bits, but they really need to relax.

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If you haven’t read LOCKE & KEY, I can’t recommend it enough. Hill and Rodríguez have crafted a hell of a tale, and I hope to one day see it in live action. Until then, we can all read up, get online, and discuss our own little theories. Then, when it comes to Netflix or Hulu or Shudder, we can snicker at the losers who didn’t read the comics.

*All Images: LOCKE & KEY: IDW Publishing

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