February 21, 2010

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Hicksville

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.