I’ve considered reviewing this one before, but held off because it was out-of-print. “Hey, you guys would love this comic. Too bad you can’t actually get it. Ha ha!” Well, no longer. They’ve got a new edition for sale, so here we go.
“Hicksville” was created by New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks back in 1998. It focuses on a comics journalist named Leonard Batts who is writing a book about a guy named Dick Burger — the most acclaimed creator in comics, whose “Captain Tomorrow” series is a colossal industry all on its own, spawning insanely popular movies, winning the absolute devotion of every fanboy around, and financing a life of incredible luxury for Burger. Batts wants to find out more about how Burger’s youth influenced him, so he travels to the tiny New Zealand hamlet of Hicksville, where Burger grew up.
Hicksville is a… different kind of town. The local library has multiple copies of Action Comics #1, all original, all in mint condition. Everyone in town, from the postman to the farmers to the cafe owner to the little old lady down the lane is a comics afficionado, knowledgeable in everything from American superhero comics to obscure Hungarian mini-comics. And everyone in the village hates Dick Burger.
It’s hardly a perfect comic — for my money, there are too many characters who all look more or less the same, which makes it hard to keep track of which ones are important and which aren’t so important. On the other hand, this is really good for fleshing out people who live in and around Hicksville. There are a few tangents that, while interesting, ended up distracting me from the main story.
But even then, it’s an amazing piece of work, with lots of depth and personality, and an absolutely brilliant hook. What’s the secret behind Hicksville? Why is everyone there so mad for comics? What did Burger do to make everyone there hate him so much? What’s being hidden inside the lighthouse? Why does Leonard keep finding mysterious comics pages about three strange men lost in a land that cannot be mapped? Is Hicksville just a normal (but eccentric) town, or is there something else going on?
And it’s a great little valentine to the comics world, too. Horrocks loves indie and small-press comics a lot, but he loves superhero comics, too. And while the early superstar days of Image Comics get a thorough thrashing, mostly through the excesses of Dick Burger, Horrocks shows a great deal of love for comics creators in general, especially the old guys who never made a dime in comics, but kept doing it because they enjoyed it. By the time you’re done, you’ll end up wishing there really were a town like Hicksville out there somewhere, so you could move all your stuff out there and just check out comic after comic after comic from the lending library and attend the town’s awesome costume parties.
I loved this comic, and I think you will, too. Go pick it up.