I read Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville last night. It’s a comic book about a comic book author from a town of comic book enthusiasts. It’s been described as “a love letter to the medium” – but it felt to me more complex than that.
It’s about someone exploring their culture, their heritage and their inheritance – the thing that has both provided both the context and connecting thread for their whole lives, but with which they have an uncomfortable and uncertain relationship.
It’s a homecoming after some time in the wilderness – but with a sense of inevitability and resignation about it. Your community is not the people you choose, the people who like you – or even the people who are like you. They are the people you have ended up with.
I haven’t read a comic book (or graphic novel, if you prefer) for a long time, but I’m a fan of the medium and its rich possibilities for narratives using image as well as text. I have enough of a passing understanding of them to recognise a few of the references. I also know about some of the exploitation in the industry, as well as the mythologising and hero creation (of the artists themselves – not just of their flying crime fighters) that goes on.
It reminded me of the music industry – and my own uncomfortable relationship with it. It’s different in many ways, of course – but everything is similarly complex, fraught and mythological. The love for music and the conditions of its production, the dedication that people have for it despite its challenges as a way of life, and the idea of a canon of work that transcends time – and from which people draw inspiration, meaning and worth.
In Hicksville, there’s a troubled artist. There’s a naive enthusiast. There’s a person who ran away. There’s a keeper of the archives. There’s an entire nation literally adrift. There’s a cartoon manifestation of a subconscious torn between enthusiasm and fatalism… and there are love affairs that are lost and broken – as well as an unbreakable connection with the people and places who go to make up a life.
Hicksville made me feel a couple of things quite strongly: we do this (whatever ‘this’ might happen to be) because it helps express who we are and how we are. And that the important bit is the people, whoever they might happen to be.
Oh – and one third thing: that I’d love to write something that caused someone to feel, rather than just to think.
I already own an original Dylan Horrocks sketch. I knew that Hicksville would be good. It was better than I anticipated. I’ll be going back to it again to get more from it – and I’ll be buying his new one, Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen next…