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Our Man in Hicksville
For this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek and Andy W. are pleased to have as their guest the man behind Hicksville, Dylan Horrocks. His new book, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen, has recently been released by Fantagraphics, and on the show the guys talk with Dylan about his experiences writing the book and the philosophy underlying its creation. They begin by discussing its initial black-and-white serialization in Atlas (which lasted for only three issues between 2001 and 2006), and then was slowly released in color as an online comic beginning in early 2009. Indeed, as of the time of this interview, Dylan is still publishing the final pages of Sam Zabel on his website, so that the entire story will eventually be available digitally. However, readers will want to get the new hardbound copy in order to experience a full story immersion with its larger size format and its richness of color. The guys also ask Dylan about the narrative links between the new book and his other stories, most notably Hicksville, as well as any possible autobiographic significance in the character Sam. This leads to an in-depth discussion on the function of comics, the dynamics between fiction and autobiographic representation, and the moral implications of fantasy and self-censorship. In fact, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen is predicated on these dynamics, with its characters posing multiple positions or viewpoints that are never truly resolved. Instead of being a polemic or a didactic on the ethical responsibilities of the artist — as some readers have interpreted it — Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen is more an exercise in romantic irony, proposing conflicting and at times contradictory arguments that refuse any easy resolution, and instead, resides in an uneasy state of productive indeterminacy. In other words, the book’s resonance rests more in the questions it raises than in any possible answers. Andy and Derek also talk with Dylan about the publishing history of Pickle, his work for DC — specifically, his writing on Batgirl — the Vertigo series Hunter: The Age of Magic, and, of course, his efforts championing New Zealand comics and underscoring its rich history. Much of the conversation revolved around the New Zealand comics scene, past and present, with Dylan demonstrating himself to be one of its most ardent enthusiasts. (Indeed, you can find his directory of New Zealand cartoonists and comics creators on his website.) Even though this was a substantive interview, Derek and Andy didn’t get around to asking many of the questions that they had wanted to pose — e.g., Will you ever return to the unfinished “Atlas” storyline?, Will “Café Underground” ever be collected?, and When can we expect to see more Moxie and Toxie? — but what they came away with was a truly engaging conversation with one of the most exciting, and one of the most underappreciate, creators in comics today.