Welcome back, gals and pals, to another Comic Book Wednesday! I haven't done a spotlight since the one on Emma Rios, so I thought this week would be a good time to take a look at another awesome female creator. This week, I wanted to focus on someone who doesn't do a lot of superhero work, since I know that superheroes aren't exactly everyone's cup of tea. There are a lot of fantastic ladies to choose from, but today I wanted to shine the spotlight on someone who I think deserves a lot more attention! Let's take a look at the extremely talented and extremely wonderful Faith Erin Hicks!
What has she done?
Faith Erin Hicks is a Canadian animator, cartoonist, and comic artist. Originally from British Columbia, Hicks grew up in Ontario and attended Sheridan College, where she studied animation. She currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
She first showed up on the comics scene with her webcomic, Demonology 101, a webcomic about a high schooler who also happens to be a demon, which ran from 1999 to 2004. This was Hicks' first major comics project and where she really came into her own as an artist. She even says on her website that she was more interested in writing when she started Demonology 101, but really learned how to draw while working on it. It's really easy to see Hicks' personal style evolve just from clicking around the site.
Demonology 101 won several Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards. In 2003, Hicks won awards for "Outstanding Writing" and "Outstanding Black and White Art". In 2004, she won awards for "Outstanding Dramatic Comic" and "Outstanding Long Form Comic." That's a lot of Outstandings!
Hicks continued to do webcomic projects after the end of Demonology 101, including ICE (a class-based conspiracy story set in a future England where winter never ends) and The Adventures of Superhero Girl (one of my favorite love letters to the superhero genre). She also posts a lot of random comics to her website. She also has done a fair amount of published work, including Zombies Calling (winner of a Joe Shuster award), The War at Ellesmere, Brain Camp, Friends With Boys (one of my favorite YA comics ever), Bigfoot Boy, Nothing Possibly Can Go Wrong, and The Last of Us: American Dreams.
Let's take a look at some of her art!
Why should I love her?
There's a lot of reasons to love Faith Erin Hicks. The first is that her art is just a lot of fun. There's something so incredibly playful and lovely about her art that makes it such a joy to look at. She can be so damn funny, not only with the text she writes (when she writes) but in the style itself. She can also be so damn serious, if that's what the story requires. The characters don't just have facial expressions, they have full body expressions that makes the emotion so genuine, despite her cartoony style. Hicks is proof that you don't have to be hyper realistic in order to be a great comics artist.
That's not to say that Hicks doesn't pay great attention to detail. One of my favorite things about her is how much effort she puts into every panel. Her art may look simple on the surface, but take another look. Every last element has rich detail, from the clothes her characters are wearing to the backgrounds. Every bit of cloth has texture, every piece of wood feels real, every bowl and cup looks like it's really been used.
Besides her overall art style, Hicks is also very talented when it comes to timing and pacing. When you're reading one of her comics, each page and panel slides neatly into the next one. It never feels disjointed or forced. You can certainly see Hicks' animation background in this skill. She's aware of exactly how something has to flow to feel kinetic. Some artists are incredibly talented but are also incredibly static. Hicks never has that problem. She knows exactly how many panels each scene needs, and she knows exactly what to draw to move a page along when it has no text.
Hicks' does great 'silent' comics. In March 2012, Comics Alliance released a fan-comic Hicks had done of The Hunger Games. It's the beginning of the novel, all of five-pages, totally silent, and completely brilliant. I posted one of the pages above, and here is another one. You can read the all of the comic here. I really wish someone had given her money to do a full adaptation. It would have been great.
In the interview with Comics Alliance, Hicks talks about how she hates to see comic adaptations of novels that are just walls of texts. She says:
First of all, comics are a visual medium. Kind of obvious, right? But that's a huge issue I have with poor comic adaptations of prose novels: They drown in text. Often when I pick up an adaptation, I am confronted by a huge wall of words plastered all over the pages of the comic, and usually lifted straight from the prose novel. It seems that's what people think a comic of a prose novel should be: an illustration with text slapped all over it. ...
Comics are visual. If you are a cartoonist translating a novel to comics, it is your job to take the words the author has written, and draw them. It is your challenge to make those drawings as evocative and moving as the prose.
While Hicks is specifically talking about adaptations here, I think this says volumes about her sensibilities as an artist. She knows when exactly text is needed, and when it is not. She's a very good writer (my favorite work of hers is when she writes and draws), but she's able to use her skills as a storyteller completely visually if she wants to. Clearly, she's a very well rounded comics creator.
For those of you with teenagers/pre-teens/middle-grade readers, the majority of Hicks' work is kid friendly and really worth reading. See what's available at your Local Comic Shop today!
Hicks also makes her work really accessible. All of her webcomics are available online, and she often puts up long previews of her published work, like the first twenty pages of my favorite Hicks graphic novel Friends With Boys. She's also all over the place on the interwebs. Here are links to her Tumblr, Twitter, Deviantart, Facebook, and her own website.
All images here are by Faith Erin Hicks. According to her website, stealing results in your nose being pecked off by a duck.
It should also be noted that some of Hicks work are collaborations with other creators. Brain Camp is written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, Bigfoot Boy is written by J Torres, and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is written by Prudence Shen.
So, are any of you familiar with Faith Erin Hicks? Anyone going to check her out? What other artists do you think deserve a spotlight?