Written by: Matt Molgaard
There’s absolutely no question that Joe Hill isn’t anywhere near as prolific as his father, the living legend, Stephen King. At the age of 40, Hill’s released a pair of novels, a collection of short stories and transformed his IDW comic effort Locke & Key into a bona fide sensation: the man is certainly doing well for himself, there’s no denying that. However, at 40, Stephen King had crafted 23 novels, three original collections and yes: even a comic: Creepshow, of course.
In that stretch King accumulated enormous accolades, including countless award nominations and a hefty load of trophies to take home. The man won four British Fantasy Awards, two American Library Association Awards, A Bram Stoker nod, a Hugo Award, two Locus Awards, a nod from New York Public Library Books, two World Fantasy Awards, a Spokane Public Library Golden Pen Award, an Alumni Career Award from the University of Maine and had been recognized by Us Magazine as the Best Fiction Writer of 1982. Talk about near-unrivaled acknowledgement.
But King’s accomplishments stemmed further than awards: the man saw a great many of his efforts transferred to screen. By the time 1987 (when King was 40) had closed, Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Firestarter, Cujo, The Running Man, two Creepshow pictures, Christine, and Cycle of the Werewolf (as Silver Bullet) had all earned screen adaptations. King’s name had expanded far beyond the world of paper: he’d taken over cinema and pop culture as well.
While Joe hasn’t quite kept pace, he’s begun to crank up the output in recent years, and his talents are not going unrecognized. Mr. Hill has won quite a few awards himself in fact, including three Bram Stoker Awards, two British Fantasy Awards, a World Fantasy Award and a nod from the International Thriller Writers Inc. for Best First Novel (Heart-Shaped Box). When you take the direct comparison to King from the table, you’ve got yourself a young author who’s already gained more avowal than a vast majority of his contemporaries.
Hill will see his third novel, NOS4A2 (Nosferatu) released next year, and his Locke & Key series continues to pull major attention and respectable numbers for IDW (the first issue released sold out in 24 hours). But, like his father, print seems to be only a single avenue in which Hill will travel. The man has already begun to flirt with television as well as the big screen. In 2011 DreamWorks crafted a made-for-television transfer of Locke & Key, which was initially picked up by Dimension before rights were relinquished and 20th Century Fox Television stepped in to help save the day. At this point, we haven’t heard much word on whether or not the one-off might be picked up as a recurring television series, although initially, that was the plan. Where Locke & Key goes in regards to the small screen remains a mystery, but given the loyal fan base who clamor for every issue, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an official series launch in the not too distant future.
But the shift from author to cultural king has only just begun. Hill’s slowly become somewhat of a sensation, placing his name and face in the spotlight of modern pop culture. You cannot be a fan of horror and be foreign to the name Joe Hill, it’s just not happening. If by some strange reason the man’s work is indeed still a mystery to you, that’s likely to change in the next year or so, as Joe’s got more business to juggle than NOS4A2 and Locke & Key alone.
Mandalay and Red Granite Pictures are hard at work crafting another Hill adaptation: the big screen release of the immensely popular Horns. According to imdb.com, the film is currently in the pre-production phase, which means we’ll be lucky to see this one arrive theatrically in 2013, but with the talent already affixed, I think the wait may just pay off. Award winning filmmaker Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D) has been tapped to helm Horns, while Daniel Radcliffe – of Harry Potter fame – will portray Ig Perrish, the story’s lead. Juno Temple and Joe Anderson, two highly underrated performers are also attached, only helping to lend to the potential blockbuster status the film could reach.
With four decades in the history books, Joe Hill certainly hasn’t eclipsed the exploits of his father. He has however, carved his own path in the annals of history, and his future seems to become brighter with each passing day. Will he someday be regarded as an equal to King? It’s very possible, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it. In terms of pure talent however, I believe Joe Hill boasts the skills required to be just as great as Stephen King. Let’s hope Joe’s career trajectory remains unobstructed: I’d love to see the man carry the torch once his father’s time as an active contributor to the horror genre has reached its expiration date.