When watching Netflix’s newest addictive adventure series, Locke and Key, there’s one name that you’ll notice more than others in the credits: Joe Hill. Hill is the show’s creator and executive producer, but is also the writer of the comic series on which the show is based (which has since been compiled into six graphic novel volumes). If he seems like a natural horror storyteller, well, it might just be in his blood—his dad is Stephen King, after all.
Outside of Locke and Key, though, Hill is also an extremely accomplished writer, having written acclaimed novels, short story collections, and comics since his breakthrough in the mid-2000s, and he achieved it all without the assistance of anyone knowing who his super-famous father is.
Joe Hill is, indeed, the son of horror legend Stephen King.
At the start of his writing career, in 1997, Hill decided to use the pen name ‘Joe Hill’ (his birth name is Joseph Hillstrom King) in an attempt to build a career under his own merits and achievements, rather than be compared with his father, who wrote Carrie, The Shining, It, and countless other classics. By 2007, Hill publicly confirmed that he was, indeed, King’s son; there had already been significant online and industry speculation at that point, and his identity had been outed by a Variety blurb a year earlier.
“I lacked a lot of self-confidence as a teenager,” Hill told The Telegraph in 2016. “When I went into writing, I had to know that if someone bought one of my stories they’d bought it for the right reasons–that it is a good story–and not because of who my dad is.”
According to the same story, he got his book publishing deals entirely without the association of his father. This included the publication of 20+ short stories, and his first novel, Heart Shaped Box.
“I once had a friend who said it would be a grave mistake to go into writing as I would never be able to escape my dad’s shadow.” Hill said in the same Telegraph piece. “I’ve always been glad I never listened.”
He’s written four novels and four short story collections in addition to Locke & Key.
While much of Hill’s work has come in the form of graphic novels and comics—Locke & Key was originally a six-part graphic novel series that ran between 2008 and 2013—he’s also been a fairly prolific writer of both his own original novels and short story collections.
His first novel, Heart Shaped Box was released in 2007, and won him the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel. In subsequent years, he released Horns (2010), NOS4A2 (2013), and The Fireman (2013). He’s also released four short story collections: 20th Century Ghosts (2005), A Little Silver Book of Sharp Shiny Slivers (2017), Strange Weather (2017), and Full Throttle (2019).
Hill has his own DC Comics line, called Hill House Comics
While Hill has leaned toward novels and short stories in recent years, he’s said that his favorite form remains comic writing. In late 2019, he started running a line of horror comics for DC, which started with five series, two of which (Basketful of Heads and Plunge) arewritten by him.
He explained to EW last summer:
His work has been adapted before.
While Locke and Key has had a long road to finally actually being released (it was previously a pilot at FOX and Hulu before landing at Netflix), Hill’s work has been adapted a few times before. NOS4A2 is currently a series on AMC, entering its second season, starring Zachary Quinto. Horns was adapted into a film starring Daniel Racliffe in 2013, and his novella In The Tall Grass was adapted into a Netflix original film (starring Patrick Wilson) last year.
The King family is full of writers.
Even aside from Dad, Hill isn’t the only writer in the family. He has a brother, Owen, who is also a horror writer (he wrote Sleeping Beauty with Stephen), and their mother, Tabitha, has also written eight novels and six short stories of her own.
His father dedicated It and The Shining to him.
While It was dedicated to all three King children (Owen and Naomi, along with Joe), The Shining was just for Joe. “For Joe Hill King, who shines on,” the opening page from Stephen King reads.
He makes a cameo in Netflix’s Locke and Key.
[Not really a spoiler, but if you don’t want to know anything at all, you don’t have to read this one]
In the 10th episode, a pair of local cops are helping load an ambulance. One of these cops (surprise!) is Joe Hill himself. Take a look below:
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