Today’s new comic book day featured a 2000 AD story written by University of Dundee Comics PhD student (and friend of the DCCS and SCCS), Olivia Hicks! We caught up with her about how she got this amazing opportunity.
- When did you attend the University of Dundee for your Masters?
I attended the masters course way back when in 2014. I started doing the PhD in 2016.
- What is your PhD topic?
My PhD topic is on Super Teen Heroines (or Super-Girls) in British and American girls’ comics. I spend a lot of time thinking about Supergirl, who’s one of the most fascinating and overlooked comics characters, and also writing about relatively forgotten British characters like Valda and the Supercats. #Girlpower
- How do you think either of these courses impacted your view of comics/ writing process?
Oh man, well, I don’t think I was super fluent in writing comics before I came, and through working on a comic for my masters dissertation I kind of hit upon a way of writing comics that works for me (which is to work out the story and dialogue exclusively through thumbnails and then write up the script if someone else needs to see it, which was how the Terror Tale got written). I also didn’t know like… anything about comics history before doing the Masters. I had seen British girls’ comics before the Masters, but I didn’t know what they were, because British annuals don’t look like American comics, and that was how I thought of comics. So I kind of learned that comics were a medium that were much more generically and aesthetically diverse than the rather narrow batch of comics I was used to. And I also learned about Western comics history; stuff like the Comics Scare and E.C. Comics’ role within that. I’m mentioning this because these are all things I drew on hard when I was writing this script for 2000AD. Putting it mildly, if I hadn’t done the Masters/wasn’t doing the PhD, I have no idea what I would have written, because the script is so steeped in British comics heritage and history. I guess I would have just given Tharg some blank pages with a ‘SORRY L’ scrawled on them.
- Did you work for the SCCS? If so when?
I did! I was the Doctoral Fellow for the SCCS last year. I used my power to organise a girls’ comics symposium, and we had leading British girls’ comics scholars come up… it was seriously one of the best days ever.
- Can you give me an overview of how you came to get published in a 2000AD special issue?
Sure. So basically back when I was an undergraduate I knew I wanted to work with comics/wanted to do the Masters, and I had to organise work experience as a part of the Creative Writing course I was on (I was down at Manchester Metropolitan at the time). I wrote a very nice letter to a bunch of different publishers, and Matt Smith, the editor of 2000AD, very kindly let me do two weeks of work experience. So they knew me from then, and then over this last Winter I was interviewing Ben Smith, the head of Rebellion Publishing for another project, so I knew I was vaguely on their radar as like, a speck or an ant, but it turns out that somehow they were aware that I had been creating indie comics. I don’t know how they knew this. I don’t know how it came to their attention. But Matt reached out and asked me if I wanted to write a Terror Tale script and I jumped up and screamed in the office I was working in EXACTLY LIKE JOAN CUSACK AT THE END OF WORKING GIRL. So I started working on a script and after a couple of weeks Matt was like ‘…. Hello? Is everything ok?’ and I was like ‘I CAN’T THINK OF AN ENDING!’ and he came up with some really helpful suggestions and was super supportive and then the script got finished and sent off to Abby (the artist). SO TALK TO YOUR EDITORS. They are the best humans.
- How has the reception of your work been? (Have you had any early reception/ honours/ accolades?)
The Terror Tale is currently tightly under lock and key and no reviews have hit the internet yet, so I don’t know yet if people will hate it or love it. Abigail Bulmer (http://www.dumpylittlerobot.com/), the amazing artist, liked it, and Matt thought it was fun, and that’s pretty important. I would like it if other people enjoyed it, but at least Abby didn’t feel like she was wasting her time drawing it. Its Abby’s first time drawing for 2000AD, so I wanted her to have as much fun as possible. It’s important to me that artists enjoy working on my scripts because I’ve drawn stuff in the past that I wasn’t really feeling AND IT WAS TORTURE.
I don’t often get lots of feedback on my comics work, but one time I edited a Commando that Phil Vaughan described as ‘memorable’ and I’m still dining out on that.
- What were your inspirations for your story?
Enid Blyton meets E.C. Comics. British meets American. Girls comics meet 2000AD. When you’re working for a company, it’s important to read their output to try and situate your work appropriately. I was pretty familiar with 2000AD, but I had never read a Terror Tale, so I bought a volume of it, and I basically took my cues from Gordon Rennie. Full credit to him. He writes Terror Tales which are parodies of mid twentieth century American morality scares and this kind of moralising appeared in Boys’ and Girls’ media so that was a good way in for me, because I very much wanted to bring lots of Girls’ Comics influence to the table. It’s an All-Female Special, and I love girls’ comics, so I wanted draw on my own influences.
- Have you had any other comics published? That you wrote or drew?
I co-edited and published an anthology comic, Wilma, with the University of Dundee, which was a homage to British girls’ comics, and I wrote a story for it called ‘Bend it like Becket’ which was drawn by Katie Quinn, a brilliant artist based in Edinburgh. I’ve also contributed to Fred Egg Comics, and Love Bites zine, which is published by my friend Zuzanna Dominiak, and I’ve got a short story in BHP’s Full Colour Anthology. I drew a comic about the Legal Deposit for the British Library and I’ve also self-published a 24 hour comic and a Fifth Harmony mini fanzine; you’ll have to find these at a local Scottish comic con because I don’t have an online store, unfortunately!
- What other comics projects are you working on at the moment?
I have an ongoing weekly webcomic called ‘Sarararara: All American Girl’ which is about a 1950s alien who is attending high school. It’s a loving parody of and homage to American teen comics like Archie and Patsy Walker. You can read that over here: https://sararararawebcomic.tumblr.com/
Other than that, I’m working on a couple of projects with friends, but they’re all in early stages. But you can keep up with my comics antics on my Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/lassomagicarescarte/
- I know you’re also an artist, but how was the collaborative process as a writer with another artist?
Well because of my experience working on comics editing, I know that it’s easy to change writing, but relatively hard to change art. So I’m super easy going with artists; they know what they’re doing and they’re good at it, and once the script goes to them, other than making sure the right characters are drawn in each panel, I basically let go. Because I draw a little I know how hard it is and I appreciate how much better these artists are than me at page layouts/communicating things. I think I requested a change to a character design, and that was it. Everything else Abby did was phenomenal, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Once the script goes to the artist I basically become a cheerleader!
- Is there anything you’d like to add?
Check out the story when it comes out and let me know what you think! You can get in touch on twitter: @missoliviahicks.
Please enjoy this page 1 preview!