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By Ernie Estrella

SAN DIEGO -- Joe Hill talked about his Locke & Key series from IDW Publishing and other projects at his recent panel at Comic-Con International.

Following is a rundown of highlights:

* Hill summarized that while the inaugural series, Welcome to Lovecraft, was about an attack on a family and Bode Locke, the youngest child in the family opens up mysterious doors in their new house in Lovecraft, Mass. In the sequel, Head Games, collected in hardcover this September, Bode opens up a secret world inside his head by finding more keys that open even more hidden doors setting up.

* This fall, Crown of Shadows, the third Locke & Key series, will introduce three more keys: Medicine Key, Gian't Key (Made of wood, and 6 feet tall) and a Shadow Key. While Hill normally keeps one issue ahead of artist, Gabe Rodriguez, Crown of Shadows is complete and ready for the art.

* The long-term plan for Locke & Key is to be a series of six-issue mini-series and be a total of 36 in all, give or take six. The reason for this format is that Hill had seen so many questions raised in the Lost and X-Files TV series, which he enjoyed early, but said did not deliver satisfactory answers because they got so big in scope, "So I wanted to keep a small focus on the kids and the home invasion."

* In the back of the trades and hardcover collections, are guides to the known keys.

* In September, IDW will be re-releasing Welcome to Lovecracft #1 Special Edition that's a 32-page story, full script, and the bonus story, Freddy Wertham Goes to Hell, written by Hill, art by Langdon Foss and the late Seth Fisher, and colors by Jay Fotos. This was Fisher's last work before his untimely passing in 2006 and was originally published in a horror anthology called Grave Tales published by Cemetery Dance.

* Hill gave an anecdote about an exchange he had with Alan Moore, who he said is his "favorite writer who's not blood." He had told Moore that he writes Locke & Key with no long-term plan and did not know the ending. Moore replied, "Only a total dipshit would go into this without knowing the ending." After laughter subsided, Hill said, "Now there's an ending, but I still don't know how I'm going to get there."

Hill then revealed that there will be no dialogue in the last four pages.

* Hill announced that his next novel will be different from Heart-Shaped Box. "It's about a middle-aged guy, gone through divorce, at loose ends, and a distant relative dies and leaves him an abused pet shelter [long silence], god, wouldn't that be awful? No. It's about the devil and is called, Horns."

Horns came out of the frustration of writing the novel, Surrealist Glass but Hill described it "was like making bread that just wouldn't rise." In a rush to make his deadline, Hill just couldn't make Surrealist Glass work and in a valiant effort put some ideas together in a few months and came up with Horns. Hill compared to the odd occurrences in twin embryos where one eats the other one. "This is the embryo that survives." Horns is scheduled for a February 9, 2010.

* Hill will contribute to an Image Comics' Frank Frazetta project in 2010. The rules for the project are to look at a Frazetta painting and do a whole story about it. Hill will join artist, Nick Stakal, to depict Frazetta's Kodiak.

* The New Dead is a zombie anthology book where Hill will write a short story that is a actually a series of Twitter entries.

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