Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez are responsible for the horror comic Locke & Key, one of the most celebrated horror comics of recent years. The plot involves parts of horrible horror and an emotional tale of sadness. It is also a story that went through several attempts to adapt to the screen before finally reaching the Netflix.
Now that the program has been launched, fans of the comic are realizing that, even though the program captures the essence of the original, it presents some substantial changes in the source material. Check out the main differences below.
Death of Rendell Locke
Both versions of the story begin with the death of Rendell Locke at the hands of his former student Sam Lesser. After his death, the rest of the Locke family suffers and they move to Rendell's ancestral home in Massachusetts.
But while the Netflix version shows a quick confrontation in which Sam kills Rendell in the stomach and is quickly knocked out by Rendell's wife, the comic is much more violent. The comic has another guy named Al joining Sam, who shoots Rendell in the head while Al attacks Nina Locke, who then kills Al by pushing an ax over his head.
Nina takes the spotlight
While Duncan was demoted in the adaptation process, Nina Locke received a much greater prominence in the series than in the HQ. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez used Locke & Key to explore sadness and trauma through the lens of a horror / fantasy story, but sometimes it happened at the expense of Nina's character. After it is implied that she was raped by the people who killed her husband, she spends most of the comics as a disabling alcoholic, unable to perceive the danger her children were in, unable to help them and only suffering insults from Kinsey who feels angry when dealing with the situation. It is not until almost the end of the story that she overcomes her trauma and joins the fight against Dodge, but until then she is mainly “the crying mother” of many of the characters in the story.
The series ends the rape subplot and begins the story with Nina being a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for six years. Her children already know the pain of watching her suffer from addiction, so when she faces Sam Lesser again and starts drinking, that's an understandable but emotionally devastating relapse, both for the audience and for the characters.
Ellie and Rufus Whedon become tragic heroes
One of the first people Nina Locke befriends when she moves to Keyhouse is Ellie Whedon, a childhood friend of Rendell and one of the few people who knew the keys. In the original comic, Dodge (taking the form of Ellie's ex-boyfriend, Lucas) rapes Ellie and keeps her scared, forcing her to comply with Dodge's orders.
Ellie's son, Rufus, is a boy with an unspecified mental disorder. He is often overlooked for Zack and Ellie's abusive grandmother, but sometimes she goes out with Goat. Although he is one of the first to discover that Dodge can change form, he is powerless to help.
New and changed magic keys
The Netflix program adds an entirely new prologue to the first episode. After hearing about the death of Rendell, one of his childhood friends, Mark Cho, take a new “matchstick wrench” and stab yourself with it. The key then causes Cho to immolate, burning the entire house with him.
Later in the episode, Bode Locke discovers the “key to the mirror”, which apparently opens a pocket dimension inside one of Keyhouse's mirrors, arresting anyone who dares to enter. This key was never part of the source material, but it serves as a first introduction to magic for Nina Locke. Additional keys include the "key to the flower" or the "key to memory" that accesses a garden at Keyhouse Cemetery, where a giant tree that stores souvenirs in jars appears.
Other keys are changed. The head key, which is an important plot device in both the comic book and the series, allows the user to literally open the head as if with a lid, while a ghostly double of himself appears to peek inside. The show changes that and instead adds a full-body double that can move freely, and instead of opening a head, the show adds a door that magically appears, allowing the user to enter the head and wander through different places that represent your mental space.
Likewise, the “skin key” and the “gender key” are combined in a new “identity key” that allows the user to change his image to any other human form he wishes.
Adults not aware of magic
In the comics, it takes some time to realize that no adult seems to know about the magic keys or any of the strange things that happen at the Keyhouse. We have seen that Nina Locke doesn't pay attention when her son's head is open, thanks to the key to the head, and Duncan Locke seems to have a very confused memory of his childhood. But it is only at the end that we get confirmation that a family member in the 1940s created a special key that prevented any adult who entered the house from remembering magic.
The series puts a greater focus on this, since from the first episode the children realize that their mother does not remember or recognize the strange things that happen. In episode 2, Bode Locke, suggests that adults simply cannot remember. The only exception, which is entirely absent from the comics, is Ellie Whedon. We learn that Rendell and his friends have found a way to remember the keys and the magic, although we don't know exactly how.
Duncan is basically a non-character
With Rendell gone, the only person with a connection to Keyhouse is Duncan, Rendell's younger brother, with Bode, Kinsey and Tyler. In the comics, Duncan's past is a big part of the mystery of the keys and the Keyhouse itself. Duncan doesn't really remember his childhood, but he sometimes catches a glimpse of memories and instantly feels something familiar about Tyler's friend, Zack Wells. In the comics, he is accidentally responsible for a demon infecting a friend, and is often seen at Keyhouse offering words of wisdom or comfort to Locke's children.
In the adaptation, Lucas ends up being infected when they open the omega door and we see more of Ellie's story from her perspective. In the end, she is convinced by Rufus to help the Locke family fight back, and even tries to shoot Lucas, which she never gets a chance to do in the comics.
Rufus also gains more agility in adapting Netflix. Now a much older boy, and also adopted for some reason, he works at Keyhouse as a gardener and offers advice to Bode to take care of enemies. Rufus also doesn't hesitate to tell Bode about the strange guy who lives with him and Ellie, and offers to help when Body concludes that Lucas is Dodge.
Chamberlain Locke, welcome to the resistance
When Bode plays with the “ghost key” for the first time, he passes by the Keyhouse cemetery, where he meets a man named Chamberlain Locke, who tells Bode that he is his great-great-grandfather. Although Chamberlain does not appear in the main comics of Locke & Key, it appears in the standalone edition Open the Moon, in which Chamberlain has a key made that allows his sick son Ian to move gently into the afterlife as if he were walking through a door.
Dodge has a new ace under its sleeve
The biggest changes in TV production have to do with Lucas “Dodge” Caravaggio. In the comics, we know Dodge as the Lady of Good, an evil entity committed to obtaining the keys for no specific reason. There are not many scenes alone with Dodge, unless one of the main characters is around. Dodge's plan is to transform his previous form, Lucas's, befriend Tyler Locke and find the "omega key".
On the TV show, Dodge never turns into Lucas / Zack in front of the Lockes. Instead, we have extensive scenes of her just walking around and enjoying life, while trying to intimidate Bode into giving him the keys. It turns out that in a new twist on the show, Dodge cannot physically take the keys from the Locke family, and she apparently cannot touch them, forcing her to threaten others. Another big change is that, as there is no Zack, Dodge tries to seduce Tyler in his feminine form.
The other big change is that, although the show skips Zack Wells, Dodge changes gender and tries to befriend a boy from Locke. We found out that the new kid at school, Gabe, a movie fan who starts dating Kinsey, is actually Dodge using the “identity key” to change his whole appearance.
The guardians of the past and the future of the keys
The story of what happened to Rendell's friends in the 1980s is the central mystery of Locke & Key. Slowly, we started to discover parts about his life at Keyhouse and about his friends, seeing bits of flashbacks throughout history. So, when we finally see the tragedy of how Lucas became Dodge, and how his friends Mark Cho and Kim Topher were killed, it becomes an emotionally devastating flashback, because we saw the repercussions of that moment in time.
In the comics, flashes Rendell and his friend show them as members of the theater club, while they set up a production of The Tempest of Shakespeare. After graduation, Rendell suggests that they go to the omega door and release a demon so they can make a key for them to remember everything about magic. But when they fall, Lucas realizes that Duncan is there with them and, in an attempt to drive him away, he is mesmerized by the power of the door and then infected by a demon. Lucas convinces them that everything is fine, but a few days later he surrenders after threatening to kill Rendell if he doesn't get the "omega key". The others lock up all Lucas / Dodge memories, but after Ellie visits Wellhouse and calls Lucas, Dodge finds her, realizes what happened, knocks her out and starts killing her ex-friends to get the key and open the door . The scene plays out much longer in the comics, as we see Dodge use his friends' memories against them, using personal attacks on them before brutally killing them. Lucas dies by accident after the cave system collapses on top of him.
See too: Criticism | Locke & Key- Season 1