Interview with Matt Moses of Hic & Hoc

I met Matt Moses, the brains behind Hic & Hoc Publications, in Boston a few years ago for a Lauren Barnett and Alabaster book signing. Since then, he’s become a small-press comicon staple and has not only put out comics by new and up-and-coming artists, but eclectic anthologies as well.

I have been following the New Jersey-based Hic & Hoc since its 2012 inception and have found that Moses’ “type” is incredibly hard to pin down. After talking with Matt further, I realized that he may not even have one, which is actually quite fantastic. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me…

Matt  deeply ponders the current state of the comic book industry. 
Panel Patter: Before we get to the publishing business…how did you become a comics fan?

Matt Moses: I grew up on old funny animal comics, Tintin, Asterix and Mad.  I used to go to tag sales with my dad and pick up stacks of Harvey and Dell comics for pennies.  I even had a bunch of Herbies that I stupidly gave to a cousin when I was in college and have not been able to reclaim.  I also loved the comics section of the newspaper.  Our local paper, The New Haven Register, had a really crummy selection, but my grandparents in Cleveland would dutifully gather and send me the robust three-page section from The Plain Dealer.  

Panel Patter: So why then did you decide to become a publisher?

Moses: I was tired of just being a fan.  I wanted to hang out with all these cool comics folks.  It worked!

Panel Patter: And as for the name? Is this some obscure pirate reference that I don’t get?

Moses: I have two daughters who make ridiculous demands on me, including regular bedtime stories.  I started making up an ongoing tale with a whole mess of characters, including a few that they came up with -- a pirate, Mr. Don Duck, and his incompetent mateys, Hic and Hoc.  So I spent a lot of time thinking about these stupid pirates and when it came time to name my imprint, they seemed to have very good potential for logos.  Mr. Don Duck was not in the running, for obvious reasons.

Panel Patter: Ok, so you’re the new guy in town…how did you get "buy in" when starting Hic & Hoc, meaning how did you recruit your first batch of cartoonists to work with?

Moses: I knew Lauren Barnett and Pat Aulisio from buying their stuff at comic conventions, and had commissioned some small pieces from them, so they already knew me as this nutty comics fanatic.  They were the first two people I approached and they said OK.  Then I just started reaching out to people like Alabaster and Neil Fitzpatrick, asking them to take a leap of faith and work with some dude who was g-chatting with them at 2:00 AM on a Thursday.  It worked!

The Merch

Panel Patter: What has been the most significant lesson you've learned as a publisher? In retrospect, if you could start up Hic & Hoc again, would you take a different approach?

Moses: I really regret publishing that one book that really sucked.

Panel Patter: If we’re going to get all negative Matt, what's the best way NOT to get published (for new/aspiring cartoonists)?

Moses: It's hard to answer this without sounding a little mean.  Fortunately I am a little mean so here goes.  Don't send a submission via email open cc'ing every other micropublisher.   Don't oversell yourself.  Don't undersell yourself.  Don't pitch incomplete work, unless you've completed a significant enough piece that you can send along to show what you're capable of.  Most importantly, if the basis of your pitch is "It's like pop culture reference A meets pop culture reference B in a blender," I'm not interested.  No one is. 

Panel Patter: So, what are your thoughts on reading comics online? And what of digital platforms such as Comixology?

Moses: I don't read comics on the computer at all.  This is entirely out of habit, and is not a value judgment in any way.  It's just that for me reading comics on a computer feels a lot like work.  I think there's something there, and that it may wind up being a great way to distribute work efficiently.  But it's just not my area of expertise.  When this topic comes up, I always feel a little bit like a butcher being asked about my opinions on the raw food movement.  Except that maybe the butcher owns better knives than I do.

Panel Patter: What could "indie" comics learn from the "mainstream" comics world?

Moses: Mainstream comics scare me.  I don't know anything about them.  I understand that there are two big companies that produce content that appears to me to be very similar and that a lot of people spend a lot of time arguing about which of those companies is superior. 

Panel Patter: You’re a con fixture these days. Tell me a ridiculous con story that will not get you into too much trouble.

Moses: So many to choose from but I'm going to go with the guy who played "Across the Universe" on his ukulele, humming the melody, while he waited for someone to sign the book he bought. I also wrote a piece for Rob Kirby's Tablegeddon anthology that the amazing Jess Worby very kindly agreed to draw for me that accounts the time that Pat Aulisio, Lauren Barnett and me thought we were going to be stabbed to death by a library patron at TCAF. 

Panel Patter: What is one thing you want the comics world to know about you that is completely unnecessary to share?

Moses: I have listened to and logged almost 20,000 records -- 19,459, to be precise, as of the time of this interview.

Panel Patter: So Daniel Clowes and Shia LaBeouf walk into a bar...

Moses: … and join Mannie Garcia and Shepard Fairey for a round of drinks and have a grand old time.

Panel Patter: Thanks for taking the time to do this, Matt! 

For more info on Hic & Hoc check out their Tumblr.