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Capital Times is "spellbound" by Dylan Horrocks

Updated August 25, 2011


When your first words were "Donald Duck," a career in comics is undoubtedly a fair choice.
Dylan Horrocks, prolific Auckland-born graphic novelist, has read and drawn comics his whole life. Firm in the belief that cartoons can be enjoyed by young and old, he is bringing his talents to the Wellington free family day of the 18th annual Storylines Festival of New Zealand children's writers and illustrators.
Describing himself as "obsessed with comics," the Hicksville author and illustrator says although he writes for adults too, children's writing is enormously satisfying.
"Kids have less assumptions and rules about stories."
He believes adults often use the inner critic as they read, asking themselves if it is a book they want to be seen reading.
"Kids are much less constrained by that. They respond to stories directly and engage with art very actively and creatively."
Horrocks is well aware that books with pictures disappear from bookshelves as children get older.
"There's an expectation that words will eventually drive the pictures out. Comics reject that notion. To cartoonists, words and pictures are equally expressive and complex and important."
He is happy to see graphic novels are creeping up the bestseller lists.
These books can be life-changing, according to Horrocks.
"Writing a book is like casting a spell. It can change how people feel and how we see the world."

Horrocks will be looking forward to casting his spell when he talks and draws at the festival.

Storylines Festival, Wellington town hall and Capital E, 10am-3pm, August 21
 
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



  Multiversity Comics reviews HICKSVILLE by DYLAN HORROCKS

Updated August 4, 2011


While Artist August takes up the majority of our space here on the site for the coming month, we still want you to be able to enjoy your regular features. With that in mind, this week's Off The Cape is a special pick with Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks. It's a comic that should be considerably more famous than it already is, and one that certainly deserves to be in every comic lover's collection.

For some thoughts on the book, check behind the cut.

Hicksville tells the story of a successful journalist Leonard Batts, who is attempting to write a book based around successful comic book writer Dick Burger. Travelling to the tiny barely-on-the-map town of Hicksville, New Zealand, Batts sets out to get the untold story of Burger's success. Burger is most famous for having fully reinvented a classic hero for a modern day and age and riding that success into the mainstream media. But as much as he may be a big shot in the states, he is rather loathed in his home town - and now it's up to Batts to discover why, and what exactly that means for the comic book beloved by audiences around the globe.

What Hicksville is, more than anything else, is a thought piece on the very nature of comics. It's not exactly the biggest secret in the world that comics as we know and love them today were made on the blood, sweat and tears of talented men. These were men working in a time where it was the simplest line in a contract which allowed them to be taken advantage of, and while they are the most revered creators today and honored by just about every comic creator under the sun, there's no changing the quiet and dirty history of our valued medium. It's not a pleasant one, but it's the only one we've got.

The book opens with the perfect quote from Jack Kirby that sums up the whole idea behind it: "Comics will break your heart." It's all right there in the introduction. While our book centers around Batts and his search for the story of Dick Burger, we are also given somewhat a retelling of the sad truth behind comics. Obviously it's a competitive industry today, but the book's greatest question for the reader is "what exactly did Dick do to make an enemy of an entire town?" We as readers follow Batts and his exploration of the medium and the town, told both through Batts interaction with the towns people and his uncovered research that intertwines with the main story. The book lives and breathes comic as it's very essence; this is a town full of people who worship the medium, all with a story to tell and all of whom are experts. This isn't just a comic about comics; it's a comic about people who love comics, and in the most untraditional way.

Horrock's storytelling throughout the book is simply beautiful. He not only manages to weave in this heartbreaking tale of vanity of men, but as he both illustrates and writes the book Horrocks creates a book that's very human. The entire book feels real, as if Horrock was writing his memoirs and simply changing names and faces to avoid being sued. The book even manages to weave it's own "comic in a comic" story that thematically illuminates the story in a similar fashion to Moore and Gibbon's Black Freighter tale, although it has a strikingly different ending. The book is Horrock, though. From the new introduction from the 2010 edition of the book, it becomes much more clear how much of his own life Horrock puts into the story, as well as his own thoughts and opinions on mainstream comics and creator-owned work. Horrock isn't being shy or coy for anyone willing to look past the surface, and his rather blatant stabs at Marvel, DC, and even the 90s comic book stylized by Image are apparent from the get-go in this 239 page advocation for creating your own comics.

Horrock also wears his artistic influence on his sleeve. He's quite obviously influenced by Herge, writer/artist of the massively popular Tintin series, and Horrock isn't shy about showing this - even to the point that Captain Haddock gets a "cameo" of sorts. One could even go so far as to say that Horrock's work is quite similar to popular writer/artist Jeff Lemire, in his ability to offer up stylistic characters that also breathe and revile in the tragedy of the human condition at all times. While Horrock's main style is his own version of Herge, Horrock also shows that he is a rather capable artist, both in his abilities to offer up chameleon interpretations of style (the book was originally written in 1998 and, as I mentioned, takes quite a few stabs at the popular 90s-style of superheroes) as well as illustrating the plot through emotionally rendered imagery. While the book is fairly dense in its dialogue and story, Horrock takes the time to fully breathe life into the world visually, giving lush landscapes and powerful scenery that bring the tiny town of Hicksville to life while it rests out in the middle of nowhere. Quite simply put, this is a beautiful and often times heartbreaking book.

Suffice it to say, Hicksville is just one of those comics that everyone should have read by now. I'm honestly disappointed with myself in how long it took me to read it (considering I had bought it for at least half a year before finally picking it up). Hicksville is a book that echoes a lot of sentiments that older comic readers feel and have felt, and that newer comic readers will quickly grow into it. This is not to offer up a complete damning of modern comics, but obviously there still are good comics being published every week by publishers big and small. However, it never fails to meditate on the ideas present in Hicksville - both what they mean to us personally as fans and what they mean to us as theoretical historians of comic books.

---

As a complete side note, humorously enough Hicksville in the modern context is almost like a biography of Mark Millar - at least, according to some rumors/stories/perceptions. But that's a happy accident to discuss on another day.
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Dylan Horrocks

          



HICKSVILLE listed in the PopMatters Best Books of 2010!

Updated February 18, 2011


In 1998, comic artist Dylan Horrocks drew the definitive account of where comics had been and where it had gone. The new edition of Hicksville, complete with a newly drawn introduction, continues to be an angry little beauty of a book that takes the comics industry to task for its tendency toward simplistic tales, its corporate sensibilities masked as hipster entrepreneurism, and its almost unerring ability to damage the artists who contribute the most to its evolving form. Horrock’s accomplishes all this by telling the story of a fictitious comics historian named Leonard Batts who makes a trek to a small rural town in New Zealand known as Hicksville. This is the hometown of “Dick Burger”, the perfectly named comic book creator who has transformed his company into a billion-dollar multi-media enterprise. Each section of Hicksville opens with a quote from a major comics artist. Section one opens with a quote from Jack Kirby: “Comics will break your heart.” The new edition of Hicksville makes me hope that Horrocks will let comics keep breaking his heart for a long time to come.
 
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



  Library Journal reviews HICKSVILLE and THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN

Updated November 16, 2010


Graphic Novels

By Martha Cornog & Steve Raiteri
Library Journal

Horrocks, Dylan. Hicksville. Drawn & Quarterly. 2010. 250p. ISBN 978-1-77046-002-7. pap. $19.95. f

Researching a biography of Dick Burger, the world's most successful comics creator, Leonard Batts visits Burger's hometown, tiny Hicksville, New Zealand. He finds a community where everyone is a comics expert - and the library circulates original copies of Action Comics #1 - but Burger is persona non grata. Only unemployed cartoonist Sam, Burger's childhood friend, shares information, but even he won't explain what Burger did to earn the town's censure. This reissue of a modern classic, originally published in 1998 and nominated for a Harvey Award, features a new introduction in comics form by Horrocks. VERDICT Referencing figures from Rodolphe T'ffer to Todd McFarlane, Horrocks displays a deep knowledge of comics history and a commitment to the art form's power, but also sadness at how comics creators (and characters) have been treated in the name of commercial interest. The moving stories of Sam and also Grace, a Hicksville expatriate returning to pick up the threads of a complicated life, provide indie credibility, but the book's focus on comics (superhero comics in particular) will appeal to some who would normally shun indie work.

Stanley, John (text & illus.) & Tony Tallarico (illus.). Thirteen Going on Eighteen. Vol. 1. Drawn & Quarterly. 2009. 336p. ISBN 978-1-897299-88-3. $39.95. f

This volume of D&Q's John Stanley Library (which collects 1960s comics by Little Lulu writer Stanley) reprints the first nine issues of an undeservedly neglected teen humor series starring two boy-fixated best friends, Val and Judy. Over the course of the jealousies, misunderstandings, and misadventures, Val's childhood-friend-but-not-quite-boyfriend, neighbor Billy, is supplanted in her affections by dreamy new kid Paul Vayne. Meanwhile, Judy dates the nerdy Wilbur but would dump him in a second if any other boy showed interest. VERDICT The artwork becomes more attractive when Stanley takes over from Tallarico with issue three, but it's Stanley's writing that gives the series appeal beyond the young girls it was likely targeting. Val's showy hysterics, her banter with older sister Evie, and Stanley's fine gags are a delight. Because of the unexpectedly opulent hardcover presentation, including excellent design by cartoonist Seth, who also contributes an introduction, and thick pages tinted to look like weathered old comics, the absence of the original cover illustrations (often good gags in themselves) is a surprising disappointment. Still, this is fun for tweens and older collectors alike.
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Featured artists

Dylan Horrocks
John Stanley

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Thirteen Going on Eighteen
Hicksville




Part two of Sequential's interview with DYLAN HORROCKS

Updated November 11, 2010


In Part 1 of our interview with Dylan Horrocks, we discussed his connections with Canada by way of Guelph’s Black Eye Comics and later, Drawn and Quarterly. At the end of that part, we started to discuss his journey into the world of superhero comics and how he suddenly felt lost artistically within the corporate structure of DC.

In part two, Horrocks expands on his sentiments and we focus on the development of his ideas regarding copyright and intellectual property. This is closely related to his DC experience, about which he is quite open and honest.

The time at DC for Horrocks comes across as one that provided opportunities for learning and introspection, and we explore the copyright side of that here.

So the intersection between art and commerce complicated your artistic vision?

Yeah. Suddenly it was a job, and it was a job that I wasn’t as good at as I thought I might have been (chuckles). So that was difficult, I found that difficult. That affected the comic I was doing for Drawn and Quarterly, which was Atlas. It was probably the main reason there was a three year gap between issues one and two. Then another couple of years before the third issue of Atlas. It was partly because I was spending so much time writing for DC, but it was also because I was becoming increasingly lost.

That kind of ties into your views on copyright and intellectual property. And that for you, you shouldn’t be doing art for commercial reasons, that it’s about self-expression rather than trying to pad the bank account?

It’s not that I think people shouldn’t be doing art for commercial reasons, I think that’s absolutely fine- a lot of art I personally like is done for commercial reasons, and I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with that at all. But I think I learned that I shouldn’t do it for commercial reasons, that it’s not healthy for me.

So there’s that. Writing for vertigo, I had a lot of trouble trying to get on top of writing a comic that worked in that setting. Once I was writing Batgirl, that became much more difficult. I had never been a superheroes comics enthusiast. I had an appreciation for superhero comics, but they were not like the Batman comics being published under the umbrella at the time. If I had been a different kind of writer, I’d have gone into Batgirl saying, “OK, this is how I’m going to do it”, and if they don’t like it, fine I’ll quit. And a lot of writers go into it that way and it works and it sells comics. So I’m thinking Alan Moore, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, guys like that. They shake it up, and they do it their way. But I’m not that kind of person. Still, I went into it thinking that it was just a day job, let’s try and work at it and do these things, and that was a terrible mistake as well.

So really, the Batgirl stuff was a low point for me personally as a writer and there’s some things about those stories I’m fond of too, but overall I think it was a mistake for me to do it the way I did.

The thing I learnt writing Batgirl particularly that even applies to Vertigo—a lot of people think Vertigo comics are much more like indie comice, but they’re kind of not. Vertigo comics are still part of the corporate structure. And though there are some lovely editors there, and a lot of creative stuff goes on, there are still corporate pressures as to what the corporation wants to get out of the comics.

Writing for DC, what I learned is that DC really doesn’t exist anymore to create great comics. It doesn’t even really exist to sell comics. The primary existence of DC now is to serve as an intellectual property platform for Time Warner. That’s why the movies are such a big deal. The movies make money. And the movies make the brands massive. So the comic books aren’t just there to provide product for the movies either, they are the origin of the brands. Batman is a brand. Superman is a brand. Wonder Woman is a brand. Sandman is a brand, and so on. The comic books provide new brands but most importantly they maintain existing brands.
 
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

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Hicksville




  Sequential interview with DYLAN HORROCKS

Updated October 28, 2010


INTERVIEW WITH DYLAN HORROCKS

Over the past few days, New Zealand’s Dylan Horrocks has been participating in the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. On Saturday he was part of a panel of three cartoonists that included Seth and Charles Burns and he did another panel last night. He’ll be making his way to Montreal to give a talk at Drawn and Quarterly’s Bernard St. Store Tuesday night, ostensibly to promote Hicksville.

Earlier this year D+Q published a new edition of Horrocks’ acclaimed series. Hicksville is centred on the titular town in rural New Zealand, (or to paraphrase Horrocks’ interview on Inkstuds, it’s centred on the fringe of the fringe). So naturally this would be a place for a comics utopia where the town acts like it’s Angouleme Comics Festival every day.

While this place sounds ideal, Horrocks uses it to localize ambivalent sentiments about comics. Hicksville sets the tone for this immediately when the book opens with a quotation from the king of comics, Jack Kirby, “Comics…they’ll break your heart”.

In a wide-ranging and lengthy interview before Canzine, Horrocks spoke with Sequential about his varying relationships with comics, his connection to Canada, his anxiety about art and commerce, shared thoughts on copyright and why he thinks Batman should be considered folklore.

This interview will be released in parts.

So you’re here for the International Festival of Authors, but it’s not your first time to Toronto, is it?

That’s right. My Mom’s from Buffalo, so we would come over on occasion. When I was 7, we lived there (Buffalo) for a year, so we’d make some trips. I remember going to the Science Museum (Ontario Science Centre). But since then, my first publisher in North America was Michel Vrana who had a company called Black Eye and he was based in Guelph, so I did a couple of visits to Guelph and Toronto when he was publishing Pickle and then when the collection came out. I was here ten years ago when the first Atlas came out.

And you had a show back at The Beguiling in the nineties as well?

Actually that was 10 years ago, I think it was 2001, and the first issue of Atlas had come out. Also at the same time I started writing for Vertigo, a series called Hunter although at the time it was probably The Books of Magic miniseries that led to Hunter.

I gave a talk at The Beguiling which was a really strange talk. I decided to give a history of comics… in Cornucopia. Which is the fictional country where Atlas takes place. And I presented it completely as if it were a non-fictional talk. So it was a straight lecture about how comics had developed in Cornucopia over the past 100 or so years.

I’m sure Seth would approve.

Yeah (laughter). Well, he didn’t say anything rude about it. At no point did I give any hint that it was in any way not real. Dave Sim asked a question that was somewhat probing, but a couple people in the audience left there completely convinced for sure.

And you’re very into that world-building.

Yeah, partly it’s because growing up my obsession apart from comics was fantasy. In particular, role-playing games.

I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons when I was 13 or so. I remember being at a friend’s house and ringing my mother and begging to be allowed to sleep over at my friend’s so we could continue playing. And I said to her, “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before. It’s like I’m inside a novel”. And that was what really grabbed me about it, that you actually travel to another reality and live inside it. I was completely hooked. From then on, that’s been my other big creative passion- gaming. I’ve been running games since I was 13 and the biggest pleasure for me is constructing a whole world, a whole alternative reality.

Which brings us back to Hicksville too.

Yeah, very much. In fact, Hicksville the place is older than the story. I started making up Hicksville as a place, as a town, when I was still living in England. So this was about a couple years before I started doing the story. It was partly because I was very homesick for New Zealand. I had started doing minicomics again and I wanted to publish them under an imaginary imprint, pretending there was a publisher behind them. You know, just for fun. I made up a publisher named Hicksville Press which was run by this old lady Mrs Hicks. I started to develop a backstory, that it was in this old store in this tiny town in Nowhere, New Zealand. And this old lady ran this press where she turned out strange comics and it really expanded from there.

When I got back to New Zealand I started the story but I had very little sense of where it was going to go when I started it. Partly because the first issue of the comic Pickle, the comic I was doing at the time – because by then Michel had contacted me about doing a comic series he would publish. So, the first issue of Pickle, the main serialized story, was called Graphic Underground. It was a graphic novel I had written a few years before. Fully scripted it, thumbnails, everything. Now what I was doing was just working… chapter by chapter… but somehow that process seemed a little boring, you know. I’d already made up the story, I already invented everything, I’d already told the story to myself in every detail. So I just had to get the illustrations on paper.

And it felt like transcription rather than creation?

Yeah. And I was enjoying it, and I’m still fond of the story, but I thought I’d start another little story on the side where I didn’t what was going to happen, that I would do just to relax and have fun when I wasn’t working on Underground. I thought I would… I thought ‘what do I want to play with in this story’. Well, I want to draw beaches, sitting by there, all these New Zealand memories of mine. And it would be about comics too. I already had a lot of stories about Sam Zabel from previous comics. And so I started a story about a guy traveling to Hicksville and I didn’t know what he was going to find when he got there and that’s how it kind of started.

Now what’s the story about how this came to be re-printed? There’s a big gap between when you started work on Hicksville and this new edition that recently came out from Drawn and Quarterly.

Well the first collection of it was in 1998. And that was from Black Eye. It was the last thing Michel published I think. You know, publishing alternative comics is not…. (joint nervous laughter) is not an easy way to make a living.

It’s a passion.

Yeah, it’s ruined many people’s savings. I think Michel was finding it very hard. He published some very good comics: really good comics from Nick Crain who was based in Guelph at the time, Jay Stephens, who is a fabulous cartoonist who did some great work in a comic called Sin and is now drawing a newspaper strip and also did some animation. Jay’s great- I think he was based in Toronto at the time. There are so many great Canadian cartoonists.

Anyway, he did the first collection. I remember him saying, ‘look, I’m going to get out of publishing but I’d like to do one more thing. Do you want me to print the last issue of Pickle or should we do the collection of Hicksville?’ I think the last chapter of Hicksville hadn’t actually been published so I felt a bit bad about choosing the collection, but I thought it might be my only chance to get it published. So we went with doing the book. It struck a chord with people, I guess, because it was about comics and it was about what we love about comics. But also the ambivalent feelings we have towards comics.

They’ll break your heart, apparently.

Oh, they’ll break your heart.

And it struck a chord with comics people so I then got quite a bit of publishers and editors contacting me about doing my next thing. And one of them was Chris (Oliveros) from Drawn and Quarterly.

And that was lovely. I mean if I had my pick, my dream publisher would be Drawn and Quarterly. So I was very excited about that. Initially the arrangement was that he would take over selling Hicksville because Michel was getting out of the business and also I would do a new series for him, which was Atlas. I did three issues of Atlas. For a little while [Oliveros] was re-printing the Black Eye edition of Hicksville.

At a certain point he said, ‘hey, let’s do a new edition of Hicksville’ because we had almost sold out of the reprints. But rather than just reprinting it, he asked me if I’d like to do a re-design of the book with a new cover and introduction. I said ‘OK, that’d be great’. But by then- this was seven years later- I was having a very difficult relationship with comics. Which was partly but not entirely due to the fact that I had been working with DC for a while. And that was partly a consequence of Hicksville striking a chord with a lot of people in the comics industry, and that included editors at DC.

So the first thing I did for them was with Vertigo, and that was with Heidi MacDonald who now does The Beat online. I knew Heidi already, vaguely, because she has a lot to do with the alternative comics scene (writing for The Comics Journal and so on). I thought this was great. This can be my day job, doing fantasy comics for Vertigo and then doing my own comics for Drawn and Quarterly.

What I didn’t realize was that I’m not really that kind of writer. I’m not the kind of writer who can just treat something as a day job. I really do… whatever it is I’m doing, I wind up pouring myself into it. But working with Heidi was great, I really enjoyed working with Heidi. And I really enjoyed working with Richard Casey who drew the comic I wrote for Vertigo, he’s a lovely lovely guy. And he pulled out all the stops on that comic. But I think what happened was I was writing a commercial genre comic, a monthly series, and there were a lot of pressures and requirements around that that just don’t suit me as a writer. So I just tried to do by adopting a different way of writing. And along the way I lost my own voice as a writer and became this rather strange, hesitant and uncertain genre writer who was… a bit lost.

So then the intersection between art and commerce complicated your artistic vision?

Yeah. Suddenly it was a job, and it was a job that I wasn’t as good at as I thought I might have been (chuckles). So that was difficult, I found that difficult. That affected the comic I was doing for Drawn and Quarterly, which was Atlas. It was probably the main reason there was a three year gap between issues one and two. Then another couple of years before the third issue of Atlas. It was partly because I was spending so much time writing for DC, but it was also because I was becoming increasingly lost.
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

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Hicksville




The Excerpt reports on the CHARLES BURNS, DYLAN HORROCKS and SETH round table at the 2010 IFOA

Updated October 27, 2010


I’m happy to report the IFOA roundtable of Canadian cartoonist Seth (George Sprott 1894-1975, Palookaville), New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks (Hicksville), and American cartoonist Charles Burns (Black Hole, X’d Out) Saturday afternoon lived up to the high expectations.
Getting three master cartoonists at the height of their respective careers together in one room (the Brigadier Room to be exact) to discuss the past, present, and future of their craft with an experienced and entertaining interviewer such as CBC Radio 2 personality Bob Mackowycz, created a wonderfully warm and familiar, at times almost confessional atmosphere. It felt at times as if a few old friends were getting together again to get reacquainted in someone’s living room rather than professionals on a stage sitting in front of a packed house of admirers.
Over the course of the hour the artists spoke about the struggles of balancing their commercial and paid work, ; issues around adopting comics to the screen; the different approaches to being a painter and cartoonist; and what may be in store for the next generation of cartoonists.
The artists also spoke about the fact that, because North American comics have only grown into a truly adult medium in our life time, almost all mature comics artists hail from a background in which the comic medium was expected to be written for kids. This transformation means that there is often a residual of that child-based tradition lingering in even the most adult work. The work of younger and upcoming cartoonists will not necessarily be steeped in work for children, a change that should make for new and interesting comic-art forms.
I think the most startling revelation during the afternoon was made by Dylan Horrocks. He did a four year stint working for DC (the company that owns Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman), writing stories for Batgirl, in order to make ends meet. He made the observation that today’s superhero comics have moved away from a younger readership to those in their mid- to late- teens, with the story lines becoming quite dark, narrow, brutal, and depressing. So much so, he said, that he had to give up working in that sub-genre.
 
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Featured artists

Dylan Horrocks
Seth
Charles Burns

          



  The Montreal Mirror interviews DYLAN HORROCKS

Updated October 21, 2010


Marginal benefits:
New Zealand comic artist Dylan Horrocks revisits his strange little town, Hicksville

by Rupert Bottenberg
October 21, 2010

Originally serialized in the late ’90s by Montreal’s Black Eye Books, New Zealand comic artist Dylan Horrocks’s excellent Hicksville—part small-town mystery, part fragmented history of comics, part philosophical reflection—is being reissued in collected form by Drawn & Quarterly. The Mirror reached Horrocks by e-mail in anticipation of the book’s launch this week.

Mirror: A core emotional facet of Hicksville is that of returning to a place rife with memories, good and bad. Was revisiting it for the reissue comparable?

Dylan Horrocks: Yes, it was. For me, the bad memories were to do with what came after Hicksville. When the first edition came out, it was much more successful than I’d expected, and I found myself getting offers of work in the mainstream comics industry. I then spent several years writing for DC Comics—superhero comics like Batgirl and Legends of the Dark Knight. It was fascinating, but very bad for me as a writer and cartoonist, and by the end of it I’d pretty much lost the ability to write or draw at all.

The weird thing is how much of my own later experience was foreshadowed in Hicksville. There’s a character in Hicksville, a cartoonist called Sam Zabel, who wrestles with the conflicting desires to sell out and to preserve his integrity. I won’t say what happens to Sam, but you’d think the person who wrote that story would be a bit wiser in how he approached that same industry in real life. So when it came to revisiting Hicksville, I felt all kinds of trepidation. But in fact, it was really healthy. It was like going back home.

MAP TIME

M: I’m struck again, re-reading Hicksville, by the correlation you have a character draw between comics and cartography. I get the feeling that principle, maps and the act of mapping, informed the creation of Hicksville to a degree.

DH: I’ve always loved maps, but above all, imaginary maps. I grew up obsessed with fantasy novels and loved to study the maps. Then I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy role-playing games. To run an RPG, you need to create a whole world.

In the 1990s, when I was writing Hicksville, I was reading a lot of philosophy and theory, and thinking about the structure not only of comics but of narrative. And I was reading plenty of history and geography too. I was interested in the notion that history mapped time, and geography mapped space—when it seemed clear that it’s more complicated than that, of course. Stories are usual ly seen as a temporal form, compared with visual art, which is supposedly spatial. But then there were books like Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual and some of Juan Goytisolo’s novels.

Comics, of course, are both visual art and stories. I guess that’s why I was so obsessed with teasing out the complexities and weaknesses in distinctions like that. At some point, maps came to seem like one of the most satisfying ways to explore all that.

M: Hicksville is also a meditation on the history of comics, or rather creating comics, which is often a very sad one—great talents overlooked and short-changed, great ideas left unful filled and garbage celebrated. In making art, across the spectrum, despair often outweighs elation. Do you think the comics medium is a particularly blighted one in that respect?

DH: The more I see of the fine art and literary worlds, the more I realize there’s plenty of tragedy and bathos there too. And lord knows the film industry is a particularly dangerous place to try to pursue a personal vision. Having said that, one thing about the history of comics that I was interested in is how marginal it is. That’s especially interesting for me, because I come from New Zealand, a tiny country at the bottom of the world. So being a New Zealand cartoonist is kind of like being at the margins of the margins. With Hicksville, I was keen to find what connections and echoes I could between those two ways of being marginal, and tease out what’s beautiful and powerful about it.

HICKSVILLE LAUNCHES WITH A PRESENTATION AT DRAWN & QUARTERLY BOOKSTORE (211 BERNARD) ON WEDNESDAY, OCT. 27, 7 P.M., FREE
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Dylan Horrocks

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Hicksville




DYLAN HORROCKS of HICKSVILLE at the IFOA 10/23 & 10/26

Updated October 20, 2010


HICKSVILLE cartoonist Dylan Horrocks visits Canada all the way from New Zealand with two events at the International festival of Authors.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23rd 3:00 PM
Brigantine Room
GRAPHIC DETAIL: Since 2005, the IFOA has showcased the work of cartoonists, illustrators and graphic novelists. At this event, artists Charles Burns, Dylan Horrocks and Seth share their latest works and participate in a round table discussion moderated by the CBC’s Bob Mackowycz.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26th 8:00 PM
Studio Theater
Myla Goldberg, Paul Harding, Dylan Horrocks, and Eshkol Nevo discuss the building blocks of novel writing at this round table discussion moderated by Siri Agrell.
 
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Dylan Horrocks

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Hicksville




  Bleeding Cool's 3 Questions for Dylan Horrocks

Updated October 5, 2010


All Is Full Of Linky-Love: 3 Questions With Dylan Horrocks

by Dale Lazarov
Bleeding Cool

His bio: Dylan Horrocks lives in New Zealand and is the author of the graphic novel Hicksville (recently re-released in a new edition by Drawn and Quarterly) and the comic books Pickle and Atlas. He has also written for DC Comics, including Hunter: the Age of Magic and Batgirl. His current work can be seen at http://hicksvillecomics.com.

First question: Storming The Tower says “Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen feels like a very personal story, one in which the artist has laid himself bare on the page.” Is there any particular set of influences or aspirations that guide your sensibility and style?

Well, yes, The Magic Pen is a very personal story — though it is fiction rather than autobio. I started working on The Magic Pen some years ago, when I was writing Batgirl for DC and struggling to get my own comics done. I was kind of losing my faith in comics — or perhaps, more precisely, in stories. So The Magic Pen was a way to process all of this. But for me, the most effective way to process things isn’t simply to tell the story of what I’m going through — it’s to construct an imaginary daydream that allows me to explore ideas and feelings pretty freely. Which is what I’m doing with this story. As for influences, The Magic Pen is feeding off a lot of different things, but one that springs to mind is the sheer enthusiasm and freedom I enjoy in the work of Joann Sfar and many other European cartoonists at the moment: Dupuy & Berberian, Stanislas, Trondheim, etc. Come to think of it, I guess The Magic Pen is taking me back to that whole tradition of French & Belgian cartooning that so inspired me when I was still at school — Yves Chaland, Serge Clerc — cartoonists who turned up in 80s magazines like (À Suivre) and Metal Hurlant. And then further back to, of course, Hergé – who’s always been one of the biggest sources of inspiration for me. Maybe in order to find my love for comics again, I had to go right back to a time when that love was pure and simple.

Question no. 2: Other than its purpose as a slice-of-life comic about making comics, what do you want people to take from Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen?

God knows. To be honest, I’m drawing The Magic Pen for me, first and foremost. I mean, obviously, I hope other people get something out of it, but ultimately my priority when I began was to try and find my way back to loving comics — and more generally, stories, daydreaming, fantasy. The slice of life stuff lasts the first few chapters and then things take quite a different turn — which is where other themes really come to the foreground. One of the things I’m wrestling with in The Magic Pen is what happens when my own private daydreams start to be eclipsed or infected by fantasies that don’t come from me: commercially driven products, or even someone else’s personal fantasies. On one level, it’s about the fragility of our internal mental ecosystems — but also their richness and fertility. And, speaking of fertility, there’s a fair bit about erotic fantasy in there too — especially in upcoming chapters. Partly because that seems to me one of the most powerful and potentially dangerous forms of fantasy, but also — well — because it’s a hell of a lot of fun to draw!

Question The Third: What appeals to you about publishing Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen online after serializing parts of it in print in Atlas?

I’m a big fan of the interwebs and their potential to transform the way art is spread and shared. I love the way it enables me to publish each page as it’s completed (which helps keep me on track, thanks to twice-weekly deadlines!), and also the way people all over the world can read my work, even if they live miles away from a comic shop or have no money. So long as they can access the internet, they can read it. I love that! Plus I get a lot of inspiration from many of the prolific, talented, young cartoonists active in the webcomics scene – they inspire me to just draw the damn thing and get it out there. I can remember being a teenager in the early 80s in New Zealand, when just finding out about comics — any comics! — took enormous effort (and often money). Now I meet kids who are unbelievably well-informed and well-read, and whose comics are already online for all to see. It’s wonderful!

I know some authors and publishers are confused and alarmed at the way the internet is changing publishing, but I really don’t find it frightening at all. For one thing, the amazing possibilities and benefits dwarf the perceived downside, IMHO, and for another, I think there’s a lot of misinformation and hysteria about piracy and e-books and so on. There’s lots of great new stuff happening thanks to the internet — and I get a huge amount of pleasure and creative inspiration by being part of that.

Of course, I fully intend for The Magic Pen to be published on paper once it’s finished (by my calculations, the first volume should be ready for next year), because paper books are still totally awesome. Paper, pixels, whatever — it’s all just comics!
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

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Hicksville




Graphic Novel Reporter reviews HICKSVILLE

Updated September 15, 2010


Hicksville

by Peter Gutiérrez

First published in 1998, Hicksville has earned a quite a reputation among serious readers of graphic novels (even though it calls itself, significantly, a “comic book”) and right away it’s easy to see why: It’s a dark, knowing celebration of the medium, past, present and (probably) future. Recently reissued by Drawn and Quarterly, Hicksville now includes an inspired new introduction in comics format by Dylan Horrocks in which he recounts the work he undertook for “big American comics companies” in the wake of the book’s initial success. While hardly bitter about the experience he does confess that “[for] the first time in my life I was making comics I couldn’t respect.” And when juxtaposed with earlier pages concerning his childhood love affair with comics, this passage effectively previews the book’s compelling themes of corruption and innocence, making the entire section feel more like a prologue than an intro.

Focusing on the rise to fame of comics superstar Dick Burger, who left his titular hometown in New Zealand to find fortune and fanboy adulation in the U.S., much of Hicksville reads like a pointedly satirical look at comics culture from the inside-out. As a cynical view of that world via a portrait of one its more unscrupulous operators, the story recalls classic Hollywood tales of megalomaniacal opportunism such as What Makes Sammy Run? and The Bad and the Beautiful, especially given how Burger is approached as the subject of others’ testimony.

But part of what’s so remarkable about Horrocks’s achievement is that he doesn’t dwell too long in pure cynicism. In stark counterpoint to the corporatist mentality that Burger exemplifies, there’s the remote town of Hicksville, a kind of comics Shangri-La. There everyone takes comics seriously as an art form, as creators, readers, or both. In fact, Sam Zabel, one of the main characters, finds it easier to say, “Here, read my minicomic,” than actually speak about certain episodes of his life. In addition, the local lending library stocks early issues of Action Comics among many other rarities, a fact that all but knocks down visiting comics journalist Leonard Batts. (Batts, by the way, is the author of a biography of Jack Kirby, whose quote “Comics will break your heart” Hicksville takes as its epigraph). With Batts as the ostensible point-of-view character (“ostensible” because he’s off-stage for large stretches), the core narrative takes on the classic lines of an investigative reporter researching the humble—yet mysterious—origins of an eminent personage. Think of it as Citizen Kane except here Kane isn’t dead but rubbing shoulders with Stan Lee and a (thinly-veiled and off-panel) Todd McFarlane… and, oh yeah, those he grew up with now hate his guts.

When Batts—and the reader—finally discover the nature of Burger’s long-ago crime, the revelation provides a satisfactory resolution, not just dramatically, but thematically. Don’t expect a murder or something equally lurid: the mystery here is far more low-key… and haunting. Moreover, there’s a complexity to the narrative that makes it hard to reduce to Batts’s quest, as other intriguing characters roam Hicksville’s pages also looking to regain something of the past. And that keynote of nostalgia runs moodily, and powerfully, through the book, as Horrocks references Tintin and other emblematic texts/characters of youth. Along the way he deftly presents a variety of comics genres and sensibilities, so that when Sam Zabel off-handedly remarks that he “can do many styles,” he’s clearly a Horrocks surrogate. Employing devices and storytelling techniques that recall everything from woodcut prints to goofy gag cartoons to Kirbyesque cosmic superheroes, Horrocks implicitly makes a case for the cultural legitimacy of comics even as he laments the damage that the subculture itself has wrought on its true heroes.


Smart and cerebral, but never less than engaging, Hicksville is the rare work that manages to be both brainy and silly with equal credibility. When combined with its deeply felt exploration of what it means to be a cartoonist, the result is the perfect graphic novel to give to your intellectual friends who don’t quite understand why you’re into graphic novels. In fact, it’s actually the kind of book that comics creators and fans should gift to each other—a touchstone to remind them of the transcendent promises and dangerous temptations of their beloved medium.
 
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

           Featured product

Hicksville




  PopMatters reviews HICKSVILLE

Updated April 6, 2010


Dylan Horrocks lets comics break his heart

by W. Scott Poole

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, friends and random people in comic stores recommended books by a new artist by simply saying, “Its really dark.” It was a phrase that, along with “mature” and “adult”, became our favorite adjectives for the comic stories we loved.

This was a new way of doing comics. The post-Watchmen, post-Dark Knight Returns world featured reimagined heroes in gritty, postmodern landscapes. That was great in 1991.

Almost 20 years later, its unfortunate how little mainstream comics have changed. The major companies still produce primarily tights and capes books, pages splashed with gushing disembowelments and gravity-defying tits. The problem is neither the violence nor the sexuality since some of the most violent, and most sexually adventurous, books are also some of the best (think anything written by Ed Brubaker). The problem has been that every artist who uses the word “fuck” thinks they are Alan Moore and that their latest epic is a new Watchmen.

In 1998, comic artist Dylan Horrocks drew the definitive account of where comics had been and where it had gone. The new edition of Hicksville, complete with a newly drawn introduction, continues to be an angry little beauty of a book that takes the comics industry to task for its tendency toward simplistic tales, its corporate sensibilities masked as hipster entrepreneurism, and its almost unerring ability to damage the artists who contribute the most to its evolving form.

Horrock’s accomplishes all this by telling the story of a fictitious comics historian named Leonard Batts who makes a trek to a small rural town in New Zealand known as Hicksville. This is the hometown of “Dick Burger”, the perfectly named comic book creator who has transformed his company into a billion-dollar multi-media enterprise.

Batts finds everyone in the town strangely unwilling to talk to him. In his interview with Dick Burger, the comic robber baron refuses to talk about his hometown, as well.

Batts discovers that Hicksville is not only a town of secrets, but also a place where people are obsessed with comic books, especially obsessed with independent comics from all parts of the world. This improbable conceit works perfectly, transforming the places and characters of Hicksville into a formal investigation of the meaning of comic art and narrative. It also becomes a standing critique of most of what passes for the comics industry.

Horrocks tantalizes us throughout the novel with the story of the town secret, the hidden mystery of Hicksville. This is no phony narrative hook that only rewards us with a needlessly gothic denouement. The revelation of the secret is not simply a narrative turn but a meditation on the nature of art and the inherent difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of truly fulfilling creative visions.

When Hicksville first appeared reviewers, frequently described it as a “love letter” to the world of comics. It feels more like hate mail to the industry that betrayed its original vision.

Horrocks shows us part of his story through the eyes of Sam, a childhood friend of Dick Burger’s. Sam’s efforts to produce minicomics that have meaning earn him no money and little respect from his editors who feel his work is too existential (meaning, to borrow a Kevin Smithism, not enough “dick and fart jokes”). Sam’s visit to America includes a behind the scenes look at Dick Burger’s world, a visit that allows Horrocks to create one of the most scathing portraits of the corporate comics factory in print.

The new introduction adds much to the book. Rather than simply writing an essay remembering and reflecting on his work’s tenth anniversary, Horrocks drew 14 new pages of panels. This is brave work, in which Horrocks opens up to us some incredibly beautiful memories of what it means to love comics.

He also tells of his experiences in the comics industry since 1998. Ironically, Horrock’s spent some of that time working for DC comics. In yet another courageous creative move, one panel specifically references his time at DC as “making comics I couldn’t respect.” Its worth noting that he currently publishes most of his work through his amazing website at Hicksville Comics.com.

Horrocks’ doesn’t take this opportunity to point out that the precise thing he lampooned and satired in 1998 has lived up (or down) to the parody he created. It’s important to remember that Horrocks drew Hicksville before the emergence of Marvel Studios and the Spider-Man movie franchise, a sea change in the comics world that turned multi-million dollar licensed characters into multi-billion-dollar characters. He certainly wrote well before Disney became the owner of Marvel Comics, the Mouse that ate the world swallowing the company whose founder, Martin Goodman, said in 1939 that he couldn’t “keep putting this crap out much for very long” (a line Horrock’s uses in the book to great effect).

Although it seems like the comics world has gone from bad to worse over the last decade, surely there is reason to be optimistic when artists like Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine and Alison Bechdel find a large audience, an audience not made up of traditional comic lovers. Even more mainstream comic artists like Gail Simone have been able to reimagine traditional characters like Wonder Woman in an interesting, non-exploitative, fashion. Grant Morrison’s take of Superman managed to make some of the most uninteresting characters and plot point in comics into a perfect combination of campy beauty, yearning and regret.

Each section of Hicksville opens with a quote from a major comics artist. Section one opens with a quote from Jack Kirby: ”Comics will break your heart.” The new edition of Hicksville makes me hope that Horrocks will let comics keep breaking his heart for a long time to come.
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



The A.V. Club gives HICKSVILLE an "A"

Updated March 23, 2010


Comics Panel: March 12, 2010

Re-released in an expanded softcover edition with introductory notes by the author, Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville (Drawn & Quarterly) is hoping to find a new audience 12 years after it was originally published. Horrocks is a singular talent, and Hicksville is his masterpiece. It follows reporter Leonard Batts as he visits a small town in New Zealand to research the life of Dick Burger, the world’s most popular comic-book artist, but while its putative narrative is plenty strong, the hidden layers of the book—one of the most touching, profound meditations on the comics medium ever written—are what make it truly worthwhile. Those who have read it before will find new, overlooked wonders in its complexity and depth, and new readers will be amazed by Horrocks’ ability to ape the style of various eras and artists while still retaining his own sensibility. This is a must-have, and one of the best comics of its time… A
 
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



  Stuff interviews DYLAN HORROCKS

Updated March 23, 2010


Comic genius returns home

by Tom Cardy

Dylan Horrocks' first words were apparently "Donald Duck". Little did his parents know that their son had also uttered a clue to his future career.

Horrocks didn't end up making animated cartoons, but on the world stage Horrocks has become one of New Zealand's most admired and successful comic artists and writers.

Several Kiwi comic artists have made it big overseas, including Colin Wilson and Roger Langridge, who both worked on British comic 2000 AD. But Horrocks is unique. Not only has he written for American company DC - home to Batman and Superman - but he is the author of our most acclaimed graphic novel, Hicksville.

First published in 1998, Hicksville features an American reporter who visits a small town on the East Cape looking for the inside story on Dick Burger, who years earlier had moved to the United States to become a megastar comic book creator. Other than references to Burger's creations, the 240-page story is superhero-free. Instead, it's an enchanting mystery-drama, and a meditation on several subjects, including the lot of a comic artist.

For all its New Zealand references, Hicksville was first produced by a Canadian publisher and immediately garnered praise in North America and Europe, including from Village Voice and the influential Comics Journal. French, Italian and Spanish editions followed. A new edition by Victoria University Press in Wellington, released this month, is the first time it's been published in New Zealand.

Horrocks says: "I always felt like it would be fantastic to have a New Zealand edition because when the first edition came out it was really hard to get here. I would bring copies over and then sell them through a book shop in Auckland who sold a whole lot of copies to libraries and all sorts of places.

"The comic shops put in huge amounts of effort to try to keep it in stock, but even then it wasn't that easy. New Zealand is kind of the arse end of the world as far as they [comic book distributors] are concerned. Most of them probably have no idea where we are.

"I kept getting invited to literary festivals and things and no one had actually read Hicksville; [although] they were all like 'it's great for New Zealand - a graphic novel'. After a while it felt like I was getting this reputation back home, but it was all second hand. So it's such a thrill to have it properly available in New Zealand now."

Like many comic artists and writers, Horrocks, 43, is largely self-taught. He studied art at school growing up in Titirangi and would create comics in his spare time - he had a comic strip published in children's magazine Jabberwocky when he was 15. He didn't have high enough grades to go to art school, so instead studied English at university.

He became a name in New Zealand's underground comic scene in the 80s when he did strips for Auckland University's student newspaper Craccum and co-founded the comic Razor. His work was then published overseas by Australia's Fox Comics and pioneering Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books, home to the cult series Love & Rockets. .

Horrocks was mixing with the big guns, but wasn't sure if he'd hit the big time. "What I had was a series of moments when I felt like, 'this is it, this is my big break'. When I first got a story published by Fox Comics it was, 'wow, this is where it all starts, this will be my job now. Then, 10 minutes later it dawned on me - hang on, there aren't really any more people reading Fox than there are reading Razor'."

It was the same with Fantagraphics, when he was based in Britain in the early 90s. Comics Journal, which was interviewing Horrocks, took him to Fantagraphics' offices in Seattle. "It's this really run down old suburban house on the outskirts of Seattle, with a rusting van that doesn't go anymore sitting out the front, covered in weeds. Inside the house there's half a dozen people sitting at these desks piled high with papers and comics and really old computers. This is it. The nerve centre of Fantagraphics and most of them are earning below minimum wage."

Horrocks carried on regardless. Back in New Zealand he had a strip from 1995 to 1997 in The Listener called Milo's Week. Some instalments poked fun at the free market orthodoxy being championed by the National government. One of Horrocks' proudest moments was learning that then-finance minister Ruth Richardson had turned down an interview with The Listener after reading a Milo's Week.

Horrocks also created a new comic book series, Pickle, published by Black Eye Comics in Canada. Instalments of Hicksville originally appeared in Pickle and that led to Black Eye publishing the graphic novel.

Praise for Hicksville led to Horrocks writing for DC imprint Vertigo - best known for Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and Hollywood adaptations, including V for Vendetta and A History of Violence. Horrocks wrote for Hunter: The Age of Magic, as well as DC icon Batgirl.

While Horrocks saw fellow alternative comics creators thrive at DC and Marvel, he decided it wasn't for him. He could have fought for storylines he was happy with, "but I'm not really a very confrontational person. I'm not very good at fighting for my vision".

Instead, he returned to his own comics, with the series Atlas published by highly regarded Canadian publishers Drawn and Quarterly. Atlas expanded on references in Hicksville to the fictional Baltic country of Cornucopia.

Horrocks is well aware of what's happened to graphic novels and, despite some reservations, believes we're living in a golden age for the medium. But whether Hicksville will be adapted to the big screen is another matter.

He comes from a film family. His father, Roger Horrocks, who showered him with comics while he was growing up, is a semi-retired film academic. His father's second wife, Shirley Horrocks, is a film-maker, who made a documentary about comics, while his sister, Simone, has just finished making her first feature film, After the Waterfall.

He says "a number of people" in the US and New Zealand had tried to buy the film options for Hicksville, including a recent offer. "I have always been a little hesitant, partly because so much of my family have been involved in film that I know film can actually be a nightmare to work in. But it also meant I have got a lot of appreciation for film. I just thought the story would not convert very well to film. I even said to one of the film-makers once, 'Why don't you take the basic story, but just make the story about the film instead of the comic?' "

He does, however, harbour plans to one day finish a screenplay himself. "I've decided now, with the kind of person I am, that I'm better off trying to find someone whose work I like and letting them do it. I don't want to work in film. Enough of my family work in film."
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



HICKSVILLE is "required reading for anyone who loves comics" says Las Vegas Weekly

Updated March 23, 2010


“Hicksville”

by J. Caleb Mozzocco

An American journalist trying to write a biography of Dick Burger, the world’s most successful comic-book artist, journeys to Burger’s hometown, the mysterious little New Zealand village of Hicksville. What he finds there is an entire populace of comics aficionados … none of whom are willing to talk about the local boy who made good.
And that is perhaps the least mysterious thing about Hicksville, a town with a fantastic secret.
Writer/artist Dylan Horrocks uses the intriguing setup not only to tell a charming drama about the journalist, the cartoonist and several of Hicksville’s inhabitants, but to also tell a sideways history of comics … the less-than-perfect way it was and a suggestion of the way it should have been.
Originally published in 1998, prior to the current graphic-novel boom in publishing, Horrocks’ Hicksville is just as potent today, and even more relevant. In fact, it now seems remarkably prescient. It’s required reading for anyone who loves comics.
 
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



  Andrew Wheeler reviews HICKSVILLE

Updated March 16, 2010


Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks

by Andrew Wheeler

Modern comics are a deeply incestuous artform, possibly the only one ever devoured and subsumed by its own fandom. The continuing subgenre of comics about comics -- typically about the failed promise of comics, as if Major Wheeler-Nicholson personally kneecapped the 20th century's Rembrandt -- would be deeply depressing if it weren't so often so much better than the alternatives. The subgenre goes back more than twenty years, to Alan Moore and Don Simpson's 1986 story "In Pictopia!" if not earlier, but there have been a thousand versions since then, all focusing on shady business deals, lost chances and artistic self-sabotage. Hicksville is one of that legion; the story of a hidden New Zealand town where everyone loves comics, originally published in ten issues between 1991-97 and collected in 1998. It was a major work that made the career of its creator, Dylan Horrocks -- though, in his new introduction here, he says that what it really did was to turn him into a faceless cog scriptwriter in the corporate-comics machine -- an object lesson in the story he already told.

Hicksville starts off as the story of Leonard Batts, a journalist and author of a book on Jack Kirby, who has traveled to Hicksville to investigate the early life of the subject of his next book, Dick Burger. And it's Batts and Berger that place Hicksville so thoroughly in its time; Hicksville is a deeply early-'90s comic, one of the many that didn't see the crash coming. Batts is a feature writer for Comics World, a periodical that combines the rigor of The Comics Journal, the ubiquity of Comics Buyer's Guide, and the budget of Wizard. And Burger is even more a product of the time -- he's the Image creators as they appeared to themselves, world-devouring and all-encompassing, with a huge mansion filled with young hacks to do the real work and movie money flowing in like water.

Burger is seen at first only in the distance; he left Hicksville almost a decade before, has never been back, and the locals sneer at his name. Batts is rude and pushy -- Horrocks makes the point over and over about how "American" he is, even as Batts insists that he's really Canadian -- but only finds out pieces of the puzzle. At the same time, Horrocks also introduces two locals who've just returned to Hicksville after years away: tough girl Grace and semi-failed comics creator Sam. Grace never quite comes into focus in the story -- perhaps because she has no real connection to comics. She's there to be the moody lost love, or to look like a potential love interest, or just to keep Hicksville from being an entirely a book about boys obsessing about their ink-slinging penis substitutes. So she runs around being rude and angry, without having any solid explanation for her behavior. She doesn't create comics, or even care all that much about them, so her story stays untold. (Maybe that's why she's so angry; she's pissed at Horrocks for exploiting her.)

Sam, on the other hand, is fully explained -- though his own minicomics, of course, which also detail his eventful trip to America to almost work for Burger -- as are the minor characters, who have less definition to begin with. Eventually, Batts learns the truth about Burger's great transgression -- what he did to be shunned by all right-thinking Hicksvillians forevermore -- and, along the way, the great secrets of Hicksville.

They're very comic-booky secrets, I'm afraid, and presented in a doubly comic-booky way. There's no conceivable mechanism by which this town could have the things it's supposed to have; the reader must fall back on metaphor and magical thinking to explain it. It is an appealing secret, one with a powerful laser-lock on the dreams and aspirations of a myriad comics-reading introverts, and Horrocks sells it as well as he can. But it's still pure wish-fulfillment, as much of a dream as the rest of Hicksville.

Horrocks's art got somewhat stronger as Hicksville went along, but it had odd jumps along the way -- Batts started out much cartoonier than the other main characters, and some other minor figures stayed cartoony all the way through. His writing was compelling from the beginning -- more compelling, of course, the more that a reader buys into the Great Myth of Comics. In the end, Hicksville turns out to be much more a book of its time than anyone could have anticipated then. It is a solid graphic novel with a the structure of a real book -- complete with an ending -- which was rare then and is only slightly more common now. But I'd love to see more work by Horrocks that's neither mythologizing about the power of his medium nor bill-paying work-for-hire. Luckily, his introduction here seems to promise such work will be forthcoming. (I only hope I don't have to travel to a town in rural New Zealand to read it!)
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



HICKSVILLE is a hit with Boing Boing

Updated March 16, 2010


Hicksville, a graphic novel mystery set in a New Zealand coastal village

by Mark Frauenfelder

Dick Burger has been hailed by fandom as the greatest comic book creator since Jack Kirby. Unlike Kirby, however, Burger retained ownership of his characters and became a media tycoon, complete with a private jet furnished with a hot tub and a mansion in Los Angeles. He is also an insufferable bastard.

Leonard Bates is a North American journalist who is conducting research for a biography of Burger. When he travels to Hicksville, New Zealand to visit Burger's childhood home, he discovers that no one in the village wants to talk to him about Burger. For reasons unknown to Bates, they are downright angry at him for even mentioning his name. They are delighted, however, to give Bates access to the town library, which contains the greatest comic book collection on the face of the earth (including several copies of Action #1 which they casually pull from the shelves). It turns out that everyone in the village is connoisseur of comics and they'd all read Bates' earlier biography of Kirby. What is going in here? wonders Bates, and what's the big mystery about Burger?

That's the setup for Hicksville, an absorbing 250-page graphic novel by Dylan Horrocks, and republished Drawn & Quarterly with a new introduction. Horrocks does a fine job of weaving the medium of comics into the comic without making it obviously self-referential. I grew up reading Kirby and later was involved in the minicomics scene, and this book resonated with me. Hicksville was awarded "Book of the Year" by The Comics Journal, which described it as "a sweetly told love letter to the comics medium." It was also was nominated for two Ignatz Awards, a Harvey Award, and two Alph'Art Awards.
 
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Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



  HICKSVILLE is a hit with Boing Boing

Updated March 16, 2010


Hicksville, a graphic novel mystery set in a New Zealand coastal village

by Mark Frauenfelder

Dick Burger has been hailed by fandom as the greatest comic book creator since Jack Kirby. Unlike Kirby, however, Burger retained ownership of his characters and became a media tycoon, complete with a private jet furnished with a hot tub and a mansion in Los Angeles. He is also an insufferable bastard.

Leonard Bates is a North American journalist who is conducting research for a biography of Burger. When he travels to Hicksville, New Zealand to visit Burger's childhood home, he discovers that no one in the village wants to talk to him about Burger. For reasons unknown to Bates, they are downright angry at him for even mentioning his name. They are delighted, however, to give Bates access to the town library, which contains the greatest comic book collection on the face of the earth (including several copies of Action #1 which they casually pull from the shelves). It turns out that everyone in the village is connoisseur of comics and they'd all read Bates' earlier biography of Kirby. What is going in here? wonders Bates, and what's the big mystery about Burger?

That's the setup for Hicksville, an absorbing 250-page graphic novel by Dylan Horrocks, and republished Drawn & Quarterly with a new introduction. Horrocks does a fine job of weaving the medium of comics into the comic without making it obviously self-referential. I grew up reading Kirby and later was involved in the minicomics scene, and this book resonated with me. Hicksville was awarded "Book of the Year" by The Comics Journal, which described it as "a sweetly told love letter to the comics medium." It was also was nominated for two Ignatz Awards, a Harvey Award, and two Alph'Art Awards.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Dylan Horrocks

          



DYLAN HORROCKS interviewed by Newsarama

Updated March 9, 2010


Dylan Horrocks Welcomes Readers Back to HICKSVILLE

by Michael C. Lorah

Dylan Horrocks has been keeping a fairly low profile on the print-end of the comics’ world lately. His work continues to appear HicksvilleComics.com, with an eye toward print in the near future.

To whet readers’ appetites for his new comics and to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Horrocks and Drawn & Quarterly are bringing out a new, expanded “definitive” edition of Horrocks’ most famous and acclaimed work, Hicksville.

Newsarama discussed revisiting his classic work with him.

Newsarama: Dylan, Hicksville was a huge moment for you in comics. What do you feel when you look back on it now?

Dylan Horrocks: Hicksville first came out in 1998, after being serialized in my comic book Pickle (both published by Michel Vrana's Black Eye Books). I really had no idea it would find an audience, outside the handful of people I already knew were following Pickle. To launch it, I flew to America and did a two week signing tour starting in Boston and ending at SPX. There were a bunch of us in a van - Tom Hart, James Kochalka, Megan Kelso and me - all with books to launch, with Tom Devlin as our driver and wrangler (back then he was running Highwater Books; these days he’s at D&Q). It was an amazing experience - really lovely people, all passionate about comics and art, all with a small but growing audience, driving across the states with boxes of books in the back of the van. We'd pull up in a town outside some great little alternative bookstore or comic shop, unload our books, do a signing, then go out to dinner and sleep on some friendly local’s floor; in the morning, we’d have breakfast and hit the road again.

Then finally we were at SPX and to my astonishment Hicksville went like hotcakes. It was a weird and exhausting weekend, and the first time I experienced being at the centre of a “buzz” - people I admired were seeking me out, some wanted to buy artwork from me, publishers wanted to talk to me - it was overwhelming. I remember coming home from that trip in a really strange state of mind, feeling for the first time that maybe my lifelong dream of being a full-time cartoonist had come true.

But the nicest and most precious part of the experience for me was the time spent on tour with friends. I’m so happy to have been able to share that crazy time with such great people. And when I think back on the launch of Hicksville now, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t the career breakthrough or whatever; it’s the pleasure of that road trip. Sometimes I wish I lived closer to America, just so I could see them more often ...

Nrama: The new introduction, done in comics form, is terrific. You’re very candid about burning out creatively; does coming back to where it all started remind you why you started in comics?

Horrocks: Thanks! It was actually pretty hard to do that introduction. When Chris Oliveros first suggested I do it for the new edition, I really hesitated. This was, I’m embarrassed to admit, a few years ago now - and at the time I was still deep in the slump I describe (briefly) in the introduction (and at more length in my current serial “Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen”). Hicksville was my breakthrough book - the one that really made comics my career, rather than a vocation. And there I was flailing around feeling like that career was eating me up, poisoning not only my love of comics, but my love of art and stories and life itself. That sounds awfully melodramatic, but at the darkest moments, that's how it felt ...

So I found it very hard to go back to Hicksville and revisit the whole thing. It took me a few years to get around to doing the new cover, and I initially told Chris I couldn’t do an introduction; someone else would have to. But by the beginning of last year, I guess I’d mostly climbed out of that dark hole, and one morning I found myself lying in bed one morning thinking about Hicksville - and I suddenly realized how I wanted to do the introduction. That day I jotted it down in my notebook, and in the end I didn’t change very much at all.

Maybe it does help remind me of what brought me to comics; I suppose that’s partly why I wrote it - to work some of that stuff out for myself. But it couldn’t bring me back to where I was when I was in my twenties. I guess the introduction is about love: my love for my family (the family I came from, and the family I’ve made with my wife and kids), my love for comics, and more generally for stories and art. And also for the places I’ve lived and dreamed.

But the point is that love isn’t always easy. And it always brings with it pain and loss. Hicksville opens with a quote from Jack Kirby: “Comics will break your heart.” When I first read that quote (in one of the author bio’s in Seven Miles a Second, by David Wojnarowicz and James Roberger, published by Vertigo in 1996; Romberger says he was told that by Kirby at a convention once), I immediately knew I’d found the epigraph for Hicksville. But I didn’t realize how those words would haunt me for the next 10 years ...

Anyway, in the end, I loved putting together the new edition - introduction and all. It was good for me ... like an act of reconciliation ...

Nrama: Despite all the mystery of the plot, the core of the story is in many ways Leonard’s search for himself, which contrasts against Dick fleeing from himself. How did you develop Leonard?

Horrocks: There are certainly thousands of sources to draw from! Leonard includes elements of a number of people I know, including myself. But then, most of the characters have parts of me in them (and bits of friends too). Leonard is the geek of the story, and seeing as how I’d spent a lot of time in comics’ shops, I guess I had plenty of inspiration. But he’s more than that too. His biography of Kirby is, after all, a substantial book. And so it’s not like he’s just a superficial comics geek who finds his way to the truth; as you say, he’s also finding another side of himself. I have a lot of affection for Leonard ...

Dick is another character I really like. And you’re right – he’s fleeing from himself. I’m totally uninterested in villains and good guys. I’m far more interested in ambivalence and inconsistency. The way we all make moral choices throughout our lives, some of which shape who we become, and some of which contradict everything we think we are. People are messy and complicated, imperfect and flawed, and yet that doesn’t absolve us from trying to be moral - at least when it matters.

Grace, too, is confronting choices she made; but to continue your analogy, she’s trying to find her way back to herself. She ran away, and now she’s come home. But the wreckage of her earlier decisions has to be dealt with.

It’s been more than 10 years since I finished that book, and going back to it again has been a bit like Grace’s journey - being reunited with old friends and lovers, and discovering that even though there’s pain and awkwardness at first, in the end there’s still mostly love.

Nrama: I love the quotes that open each chapter, particularly the Kirk Alyn line. Did you have a lot of those quotes rattling around, waiting for the right opening?

Horrocks: Oh yeah. I started collecting quotes like that back in the early 90s, when I was teaching a night class on comics at Auckland University. A lot of the reading and thinking I did then ended up shaping Hicksville. And whenever I came across a really pungent quote from some cartoonist or other, I’d jot it down in my notebook. I then used them in Pickle; each issue had an epigraph at the beginning, and all were quotations from cartoonists. When I put together the graphic novel in 1998, I decided to open each chapter with one of those quotes.

The only thing I wish I’d done was reference them properly. Many of my original notes are lost somewhere in 10 years worth of lecture notes and journals (this is all pre-laptops and netbooks, of course). And although I can remember where some of them came from, there are others that are hard to track down - and every so often someone writes and asks me where something came from so they can use it in their PhD thesis on Carl Barks or whatever. I might try and set aside some time this month to locate them all and post it on my website, so that when the new book comes out, the references are there for anyone who wants them.

Just an aside about the Kirby quote: turns out Charles Schulz said something very similar in one of his later interviews. I don’t know whether James Romberger was getting mixed up in his memory, or whether both Kirby and Schulz said it. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised: both of them had their hearts broken by comics, again and again ...

Nrama: You cite an incredible number of comic book references, from Winsor McCay’s Rarebit Fiends being the name of the tea shop to the obvious superhero references. You even managed a nod to Pablo Picasso’s “The Dream and Lie of Franco.” Although the plot revolves around superhero creator Dick Burger’s secret, did you really want to reference the full range of comics?

Horrocks: It’s not that I set out to reference all of comics (if I had, I would have mentioned a lot more than I did). Those are just the things that came up. They reflect the stuff I was thinking about and reading at the time, I guess. These days, I’d probably put more manga in there.

One chapter that always gets the comics nerds going is the one that takes place at the Hogan’s Alley Day party on the beach - because everyone’s dressed up as a character from some comic or another. When that chapter appeared in Pickle, I held a contest, inviting readers to identify as many of the costumes as they could. It was a lot of fun. But no-one got them all.

Nrama: Hicksville is reminiscent of Lucien’s library of unrealized stories from Sandman. Did you model the idea on Gaiman’s series?

Horrocks: It seems somehow fitting, considering how comics’ creative history is the backdrop for the entire series. I have a confession to make: I’ve never actually read Sandman. I mean, I’ve dipped into it here and there, but I’ve never actually read the whole thing. And back when I was working on Hicksville, I don't think I’d read more than a few pages of some random issue (the one about Shakespeare, if memory serves, which I picked up in a comic shop). So the short answer is no.

But Borges had already done it long before either of us - and other people have played with the idea too. I describe in the introduction what the real origin of the idea was: a recurring dream in which I would find a stack of previously unread Tintin books.

Nrama: How do you feel that Hicksville relates to the comics industry today as compared to 1998?

Horrocks: Well ... truth be told, I don’t have much to do with “the industry” at the moment. I try to focus on doing my own thing and avoid reading blogs or news sites or visiting comic shops. Hell, for most of the last few years, I haven’t even been reading other people’s comics, unless they were by friends of mine. After finishing the new edition, though, I found myself suddenly reading comics again. The local public libraries have really jumped onto the graphic novel bandwagon with a vengeance, so I’ve been able to catch up on the last several years of comics just by taking stuff out of the library. They even have Kramer's Ergot #7 (that amazing huge newspaper-size thing!). I somehow feel freer now - like I can read comics just for the sake of reading them, and there’s no need to keep up with things professionally.

Sooo ... I don’t really feel qualified to answer the question any more. With one exception: these days, the mainstream comics industry seems far less important to me - for the form, I mean. I was never that into superhero comics or anything anyway, but DC and Marvel cast a deep shadow over comics that is now finally fading away, as manga and (what used to be called “alternative”) graphic novels are becoming steadily more and more important. Cartoonists like Chris Ware, Joe Sacco or Marjane Satrapi seem far more important now than anything DC or Marvel publish - not just artistically, but in terms of impact in the wider culture. Sure, everyone’s heard of Spider-Man, but I’ll bet more people have read Jimmy Corrigan than have read the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I think a lot of comics people’s picture of the comics industry is skewed by the fact that they look at Diamond sales and hang around in comic shops, rather than looking at bookstore sales or reading The New Yorker or The Guardian. In that wider world, things have changed immensely since 1998.

Nrama: There’s a prescient quality to Hicksville. You have an older character, Captain Tomorrow, who is updated in “Captain Tomorrow: Rebirth” as a more violent, but not necessarily more mature, version of himself. I know you were thinking of certain things that were happening in the industry in 1996, but does it surprise you that it’s truer than ever today?

Horrocks: Is it? Dear lord ... I love how you put that, by the way: “more violent, but not necessarily more mature.” I sometimes think the label “mature readers” should really be rethought ...

Even though I haven’t written anything for them for a few years, DC keep sending me their monthly comps box. I remember a while back, I got sick of them piling up downstairs and decided to donate them to the local children’s hospital. But first I had to go through box after box, checking that they were - er - suitable for kids. After a few hours, I began to feel hardly any of them were; most of them (and I’m not just talking about Vertigo titles here) were full of really dark, nasty, sadistic violence and ugly porno-chic - I seriously considered putting them all in the paper recycling, for fear of poisoning those poor, sick kids.

Of course, I quickly came to my senses and remembered that a 40-year-old vegetarian pacifist isn’t really the best judge of what’s good reading for children - and you’ll be happy to hear most of them reached the hospital in the end. But it did shake me ...

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some kind of toy-gun-banning censor. Quite the contrary! Lost Girls in every school library – that’s what I say! No, it was just the sheer nastiness of those comics that disturbed me. Like Milton Caniff is quoted in Hicksville: “Good is better than evil because it’s nicer.” Not anymore, apparently ...

By the way, there's a great interview with Alan Moore floating around from the early 1990s, in which he basically apologizes for the influence Watchmen had on mainstream comics: the torture scenes, the sadism, the graphic violence and dark cynicism that took over from the late 80s onwards. When I was writing Hunter: the Age of Magic for Vertigo, I did a story arc set partly in Gemworld, and got hold of a bunch of the old Amethyst comics from the 80s (remember that?). It was fascinating to see how that series changed around the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths. What had been a sweet, rather inane fantasy comic for girls suddenly turned into a really horrible, dark horror story, with characters dying, parents having affairs and betraying their kids - it was all corruption and darkness. Not to mention, really, really bad. I’m probably totally wrong (I haven’t checked the chronology or anything), but I suspect that was around the time Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was at its peak, and the impact of his and Frank Miller’s comics was nearing its apogee. Now, I admired both those guys a lot at the time (and for the most part I still do) - but it was a weird feeling to look back 20 years later and see the dark side of their influence, when jaded editors and hacks took the superficial aspects of Moore’s stories, ignoring (or maybe even failing to notice?) their profoundly moral core.

But, I guess the same process was going on across our culture at that time - with the raw, harsh openness of 1970s cinema morphing into the sheer nasty brutality of many a Hollywood movie in the 80s and 90s ...

And, again, I would reiterate that however nasty and commercially cynical mainstream comics may have become, these days they are only a small part of what comics are. It’s easy now to read a lot of comics without ever touching a superhero book - or even a Vertigo title, for that matter. I can’t really be bothered railing against anything going on in Batman or whatever; I mean, these days, who cares?
 
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  HICKSVILLE is critiqued on Panel Patter

Updated February 24, 2010


Hicksville

by Rob

Written by Dylan Horrocks
Illustrated by Dylan Horrocks
Drawn & Quarterly

[This was recently reprinted, so I thought my thoughts on it from when I read it might be interesting to some.]

A comic indirectly about the business of comics, staged in a mysterious town that seems to have every comic book ever written--and some that weren't! A comic news writer comes to Hicksville to interview the townsfolk about their most famous son, Dick Burger. However, there's more to the story than a fluff piece on a hot creator turned company man.

Mystery abounds in this one, as our protagonist can't get the populace to talk. As he draws their ire over and over again, we learn bits and pieces of the past, sometimes by reading comics within the comic. It's a neat trick and fits in well with the storyline.

In the end, we learn just what Hicksville is and why Burger is so hated. What will our hero do, and how will his decision affect Hicksville, a tiny town with a lot of 4-color funnies?

Dick is based on a number of figures but it seems to me like Joe Quesada is the most likely candidate as a primary source. Even though he's shown to have taken over an Image-like company, not Marvel, he seems to be the best fit. I'm basing this on several references within the text but maybe it's just that Quesada shows the same flaws as the character in the narrative?

There's a lot to like about this one as a comics fan and a student of comics history. Horrocks has one main problem, however, and that's his slavish devotion to Jack Kirby. I realize there are a lot of people who worship Kirby, but the man wasn't perfect. I take issue with the fact that Horrocks tees off on Stan Lee at every opportunity, including alleging he did not create any of the characters he created. That's being overly harsh, in my opinion. I don't disagree that Kirby was a magical man and one of the best of all time (or for that matter, that Stan Lee deserves criticism for building himself up on a daily basis), but this is going too far.

I also am disappointed that Steve Ditko is completely ignored here, and for that matter, so are any of the DC creators. This story benefits Kirby at the expense of all the others (Eisner, Cole, Kane, and Wood, just to name a few) and that hurts my enjoyment of what is otherwise a wonderful book.

Overall, however, I really liked Hicksville. The swipes at the modern comics industry are biting and relevant and the characters here are well written and well used. This is a must-read for any fan of comic books.
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Publishers Weekly interviews DYLAN HORROCKS

Updated February 24, 2010


Hicksville Returns in New EditionDylan Horrock's classic grahpic novel is back in print

by PW staff

Long, long ago in the early 1990's, Dylan Horrocks began to work on Hicksville, his graphic novel tale of a New Zealand town utterly devoted to comics. To a certain kind of comics fan, the setting is paradise. In Hicksville, little old ladies collect mini-comics from Finland and Mongolia, and multiple copies of all the issues of Action Comics are available at the lending library. Into this world steps an American journalist, Leonard Batts, who, having recently completed a biography of Jack Kirby, is now turning his attention to Dick Burger, Hicksville's native son, and a world-famous cartoonist.

Hicksville earned widespread adoration from fans, as well as both Harvey and Eisner Awards, when it was released, and now Drawn+Quarterly has brought it back, with a new introduction by Horrocks. He took some time to talk to PWCW about Hicksville, then and now.

PWCW: How did it feel to return to Hicksville after ten years away?

DH: It is kind of funny coming back to it after a decade or so. That book was a big part of my life, but since then a lot has happened. When Chris Oliveros at Drawn+Quarterly first asked me to draw a new introduction for it, I hesitated for a long time-it felt like going back to the past.

PWCW: What made you hesitate?

DH: Well, Hicksville was a big deal for me in a number of ways. It took me six years to write and draw, it was my 'breakthrough' work, and it received a response from readers way beyond anything I'd imagined while working on it. But it was ten years ago-and since then comics have gone from a passion to a career for me, which has meant some good things and some not so good.

PWCW: So what's happened in the intervening years?

DH: A year or so after Hicksville came out, I started getting work from DC Comics. First I wrote a series called Hunter: The Age of Magic for Vertigo for a couple of years, and then I wrote the monthly Batgirl title for a year and a half. It was fascinating being inside the mainstream comics industry, and I worked with some really great people. But it proved to be unhealthy for me as a writer and artist, and for a long time I found it very hard to write or draw anything much at all. For a few years, I was pretty depressed-something I touch on in the introduction. When I finally climbed out of the pit, I was really focused on my rebirth, and on my new work. The thought of going back to Hicksville and the past wasn't easy. So after a while, I told Chris I thought someone else should do the introduction, and we started throwing around ideas of who we could ask.

PWCW: But you did end up writing it.

DH: Yes, one morning, lying in bed before anyone else was awake, I found myself thinking about why I'd been so reluctant, and suddenly the whole introduction opened up in my mind. I think I used the introduction to reconnect the cartoonist I am today with the lover of comics who wrote Hicksville. It's one of the most frank and personal things I've ever drawn.

PWCW: What was your life like when you were writing Hicksville?

DH: I moved to the UK in 1989 with dreams of breaking into the European comics industry, and when I came back to New Zealand in 1992 it was for love. I was really torn between the two countries, though, so I went back and forwards a couple of times before finally making up my mind. Some of Hicksville was conceived during that very uncertain time.

PWCW: Those sound like difficult conditions for writing a book!

DH: Hicksville first began forming in my mind during all that uncertainty, partly as an imaginary private utopia I could visit in my head, and partly as a nostalgic dream of New Zealand-the beach, the hills, the small-town quirkiness.

PWCW: What would you say the book's really about for you?

DH: Well, as my life settled down and I rebuilt my New Zealand roots, and as Hicksville also evolved, it became a story about what Maori call 'turangawaewae'-which means 'a place to stand'-something like a spiritual home, the place where your roots are buried deep in the earth. I was very aware that New Zealand is at the very margins of the world, just as comics are at the margins of the literary and art worlds. But both New Zealand and comics are, for me, home. They're where I come from, and where I've always chosen to return. Hicksville is about making the edge into the centre-and then seeing how the world looks.

PWCW: You've said that you wrote the book in a spontaneous and unplanned way. How did that work?

DH: Well, I suppose allowing myself to treat Hicksville as a venue in which I could relax and just play meant that I let my guard down. The story that then emerged was much less deliberately or artificially constructed, but ended up exploring some very personal material. Instead of using the story to 'say something,' I was using it to try and make sense of things for my own sake-relationships, my own sense of place, my feelings about comics and art and places and nationhood. In the end, I guess it meant I went on a journey myself, rather than just trying to take the characters on a journey.
 
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  DYLAN HORROCKS appointed Literary Fellow

Updated February 3, 2006


The University of Auckland - Faculty of Fine Arts

Media release
26 January 2006


Award-winning graphic novelist appointed University of Auckland Literary Fellow

Dylan Horrocks, award-winning graphic novelist and comic artist, has been appointed University of Auckland / Creative New Zealand Literary Fellow 2006.

Mr Horrocks is the author of “Hicksville”, an award-winning graphic novel, and many shorter works in comic form that have been published around the world. He has lectured on writing, art and the history of comics, has presented papers at academic conferences around the world, and has written extensively on graphic novels, comics, art and literature for magazines and journals in New Zealand the US.

“In recent decades, the graphic novel has become an increasingly important literary form,” says Mr Horrocks.

“Many writers and artists are now choosing comics as a means to create serious fiction, autobiography, history and even journalism, and the distinction between the graphic novel and the traditional prose novel is becoming increasingly blurred. Comics are now widely studied in universities around the world.”

“This appointment is an exciting opportunity for me to focus on writing and drawing new work, as well as engaging with fellow writers at the University. It’s also very gratifying that the University recognises the growing literary role of the graphic novel.”

Head of the Department of English, Professor Peter Simpson, says that Dylan Horrocks has achieved international standing as a comic artist and graphic novelist.

“The English Department and the Faculty of Arts are delighted to have such an innovative and ground-breaking writer and artist as our Literary Fellow for 2006.”

“Hicksville”, which explores geographical and cultural colonisation in New Zealand, was named one of the best five books of the year by the USA’s leading magazine of comics criticism, The Comics Journal. It won an Eisner Award (USA) in 2002 and was nominated for five further awards in the USA and Europe. As well as being translated into three foreign languages, it has been included in a number of university courses in the US and Europe, including courses on ‘Comics as Literature’ at Yale University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dylan Horrocks has contributed short stories in comics form to many anthology books and comics around the world. He has been a scriptwriter for commercial comics such as “Batgirl” in the USA, has drawn regular comic strips for New Zealand Listener and Investigate magazine, and has contributed cartoons and illustrations to numerous New Zealand magazines and newspapers, including New Zealand Listener, New Zealand Herald and New Zealand Political Review.

Mr Horrocks has been involved in the New Zealand comics scene since the early 1980s, setting up magazines, organising exhibitions and writing about local cartoonists in books and journals both here and overseas.

His work has appeared in exhibitions in New Zealand, Europe and Canada, and he has taught classes on graphic novels, comics, writing and art at The University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, Unitec and Massey University.

While at The University of Auckland Mr Horrocks intends to work on two new graphic novels, “Atlas” and “Venus: the Secret Comics of Arthur Holly,” as well as a number of shorter comics that explore the politics of superhero comics and the meaning of America since 9/11. He will also be preparing a collection of his comics stories from the past 20 years for publishers overseas.

Dylan Horrocks will be speaking at the NZ International Arts Festival’s Writers and Readers Week in March.


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Atlas #1




New pix from long-awaited Atlas2!

Updated April 23, 2003


Dylan Horrocks, author of Hicksville and the series, Atlas (does it count as a series yet, there's only been 1 issue?) recently gave us some sketches from the new Atlas which he promises he'll deliver for ComiCon 2003. Go to Dylan's artist page for the rest of the pix.

(I may start using this one as my new
calling card. I'm a dead ringer, right down to the miffed expression--Liz)
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