Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hicksville

This week Drawn and Quarterly released Dylan Horrocks revised edition of Hicksville. Hicksville originally appeared in comic form by Horrocks in his comic Pickle in the mid-to-late 1990's and is about a fictional small town in New Zealand where everyone loves comics as being the ultimate art platform (sigh - if only that was such a place). This new edition of Hicksville has a new twelve page comic strip introduction by Dylan Horrocks about his life-long love of the comic book medium and he touches on his bouts with cartooning block (more on this later).

Hicksville opens with comic journalist, Leonard Batts, going to New Zealand to search for the legendary cartoonist, Dick Burger. I loved Pickle / Hicksville when it originally came out, but when I first started re-reading Hicksville, other than the new introduction, I was thinking that it wasn't as great as I'd remembered it being. For some reason, it took me a little longer to get into what Horrocks was doing with Hicksville this time around and it wasn't until about page 13 (of the main narrative of Hicksville - I'm thinking maybe after the excellent new twelve page intro that the very beginning is too offsetting) that I once again fell in love with Hicksville. The cartoonist, Dick Burger, whom Leonard Batts is searching for, is as fictitious as this New Zealand comic book loving town (Hicksville), but throughout Hicksville there are factual not-so-thinly veiled odes to comic creators of yesteryear and the mediums history somewhat akin to what Michael Chabon did in his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

At the beginning of each of the ten chapters of Hicksville, Dylan Horrocks uses quotes of things people / creators within the comic book industry have said throughout history. A couple of examples: "Comics will break your heart." Jack Kirby, "From now on, I do not want progress." Stan Lee (from 1973), "We can't keep putting out this crap for much longer." Martin Goodman (founder of Marvel Comics, from 1939 when they were called Timely Comics), and "The medium of exchange in the comics business is guilt; it's not money." Steve Englehart. I'll let potential readers of Hicksville to discover the rest of them for themselves, but I just wanted to share some of these, as they speak volumes. These quotes are interesting unto themselves, but they are also integral to the mystery that underlines Hicksville, only part of which is the search for cartoonist Dick Burger.

The other mystery at the heart of Hicksville is that of the cartoonist of Hicksville, Dylan Horrocks, aforementioned bouts with cartooning block, which he mentions in his introduction to this new edition, but is also evident in the narrative of Hicksville. Horrocks did some other comic books post Hicksville for companies such as DC / Vertigo (which he admits weren't that note-worthy), but other than a much lamented short-lived attempt at starting a new comic, Atlas, he had ran into a creative wall.

It wasn't until this morning when I was searching for a cover image online to use with this entry that I discovered that Dylan Horrocks has a website, http://hicksvillecomics.com, upon which he has some pages for some comics he has been working on such as Sam Zebal and the Magic Pen and The American Dream (both in color). Most of the themes of the comics that Horrocks has on his site have as a recurring theme the existential issues he is wrestling with and his attempts at overcoming the dreaded cartooning block that he also wrestles with. I highly recommend checking out Dylan Horrocks' site in addition to Hicksville and reading these comics (many of which sadly don't have that many pages), with my favorite being The American Dream, which looks to be the making of his opus upon completion (no pressure Dylan, but seriously after reading those sixteen pages, I can't wait to see where this is going!).

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