Written & Illustrated by Dylan Horrocks
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
For its tenth anniversary edition, Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville gets a new edition with an all-new comic-style introduction by Horrocks. It may not sound like much, but Hicksville doesn’t need much dressing up; it’s an amazing comic by most standards. And Horrocks’ new introduction shows how the dreams of comic book success depicted in Hicksville can affect a creator and that creator’s love of his chosen form.
Hicksville chronicles the intersection of several lives in the titular village, somewhere in remotest New Zealand. Leonard, a lifelong comic book fan, reporter for ComicsWorld Magazine and author of a biography on legendary comics artist Jack Kirby, travels to Hicksville pursuing background information on Dick Burger, the most famous and successful creator in comics history. Burger revitalized old characters, creating multimedia franchises, buying his own publisher and becoming the greatest overnight success story in comics history. Sam Zabel writes and draws unnoticed autobiographical comics and humor strips, and many years ago, Sam and Dick were best friends. LUCY, onetime friend of Sam and Dick and lover of PETER, left Hicksville years ago to find herself, and now she’s come home.
Although the book is ostensibly about Leonard discovering Dick Burger’s great, dark secret, the real journey is Leonard and LUCY finding themselves and where they belong in the world. Horrocks, hopping from one character’s perspective to another’s with each chapter, weaves in involving tapestry. Each character’s arc evolves specifically and carefully, mixing their internal journey with an entertaining and often humorous surface plot.
Seeing the all-new introduction gives readers a new appreciation for Horrocks’ artistic skills. To be frank, Hicksville doesn’t look very good. Though the character designs are strong, the thin lines don’t offer any weight to the images, and the figures are stiff as boards. The backgrounds are detailed, but sloppy. In short, Hicksville’s script and characters drive it, not the artistry. Horrocks’ introduction, however, displays vastly more developed skills, showcasing effective anatomy, an ability to play with style, and strong eye for shadow and layout.
Hicksville is about the history of comics, and how creators haven’t always been valued throughout that history. But mostly, Hicksville tells of several people finding out who they are and where they want to be. It’s a story for geeks and outcasts, and it’s a story about belonging and self-worth. And it’s really good.