First of all, if you read my former history of SPX attendance, this review will explain my creepy, obsessive idolization of Dylan Horrocks. I hope. If you haven’t already read it, it might be a good idea.
I’ve been putting off this review mostly because I think Hicksville is one of best comics ever created. It has all information of McCloud’s Understanding Comics but with showing, not telling and all the technique of Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen without the superheroes or vague use of a comic within a comic. It is easily superior to either of those seminal comic books. It does all its work within a narrative that contains six other comics: a superhero “graphic novel”, a magic realist history of New Zealand, a gag strip, an autobio comic, an untranslated foreign comic, and a golden age superhero comic. None of these works are just thrown in for the hell of it, they advance and contain crucial parts of the narrative. The different styles and formats all go to illustrate the book’s main theme, which con be summed up in two of the quotes that open the book:
The comic is a lament about the superhero ghetto that comic books has become. It is also a celebration of everything comics could be. The reader is not just told this, they follow the journey of discovery of a reporter for superhero-centric comics magazine. Here he is discovery a page of some unknown comic that draws him further into the revelation:
In order to get his scoop, the reporter character has traveled to the home town of the creator of one of the world’s best selling comic franchises, Captain Tomorrow. The town is Hicksvillle and everyone there lives and breathes comics. The cafe even has a copy of Action Comics #1 sitting in its reading library. Here’s an example of a typical Hicksville conversation:
One of the other protagonists is a comic artist from Hicksville that tried to make in the conventional comic industry. He drew a gag strip called Moxie and Toxie. Here’s an example:
He also writes the autobio comic included in the pages, which is called Pickle. This is also the name of the Horrocks’ book the story was originally serialized in. This kind of labyrinth is a minor example of the depth of the story and skillful use of comics withing comics within comics. The reader is allowed to discover themselves the kind of things the medium is capable of instead of just being told. A further example of this are the foreign comics that are included, which are untranslated:
Eventually, the story starts to merge the real world and comics, as can easily happen where the barrier between the two worlds is as thin as Hicksville:
I really don’t want to say much more, since there is so much detail and wonder for the reader to discover in the pages of this book. If you decide not to read it, though, here is one of the few didactic exchanges which I hope will change your mind: