|DF INTERVIEW: TROY HICKMAN
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By Beth Delaney
DF Staffer Beth Delaney stumbled upon Troy Hickman during her City of Heroes “research.” After taking two years to finally get her hero to level 50, she finally began chatting with comic book author, Eisner Award winner and all around good guy, Hickman.
BD: Is it safe to say that you have psychic super powers because as soon someone posts anything about you online, you’re able to respond immediately?
TH: Let me tell ya, I know less about computers than pretty much anyone, and that includes guys named “Ezekial.” However, I seem to have what some folks consider an almost savant-like ability to ferret out info off the internet. So yeah, if you talk about my stuff, chances are I’m going to read it (and thank you for doing so) within short order. This has led to what folks over on the City of Heroes boards refer to as “activating the Hickman-Signal.”
BD: What outlet is your favorite way to connect with fans and other creators?
TH: My favorite way would be through conventions and shop appearances. Those are ABSOLUTELY my favorite places to be in the world. If I could do a con every weekend, I probably would. The internet has also been a plus, and I always encourage folks to email me with questions, comments, whatever. One great thing about the comics community is its accessibility, and I try to do my best to keep that true to form.
BD: Why are you known as The Writer With No Pants?
TH: I’m guessing it’s my lack of pants. No, that originally started at the aforementioned City of Heroes boards. I’m not sure how, but references to my pants (or sometimes my lack of them) became commonplace. I’ve been losing a lot of weight lately, and I’ve considered maybe auctioning off a pair of my old humongo-pants on Ebay and giving any proceeds to my favorite comic-related charity, the Hero Initiative.
BD: How did you come up the main character called Twilight Guardian? Is she based on a person or a set of intangible ideas?
TH: Twilight Guardian is based on the feelings I’ve had while spending thousands of hours walking around in the middle of the night. She’s equal parts loneliness, yearning, OCD, voyeurism, and a sense of justice. If she’s based on anyone, it’s probably me.
BD: Have you ever patrolled your own neighborhood in search of crime?
TH: I guess that depends how you define it. No, I’ve never put on a hoodie and a domino mask and hit the streets. But I certainly have spent a great deal of time walking around sleepy neighborhoods at night. And yeah, I guess I’ve occasionally helped folks in the process, as Twilight Guardian does in the story. But no, I’ve never thwarted the schemes of Baron Existence while I was wearing out shoe leather in some cul de sac.
BD: One of your most popular works is the six-issue series, Common Grounds, which featured a handful of the industry’s top artists. How did you come up with the idea of a coffee shop with great donuts where heroes and villains can agree to behave?
TH: Some of my favorite comics have always been the ones where the characters gabbed with each other in addition to the fisticuffs. I loved that one page in the old JLA/JSA team-ups where everyone would shake hands in a meet-and-greet, and I always wondered what their full conversations would sound like. And there was a truly wonderful issue of Marvel Two-in-One where the Sandman and the Thing just talk the entire issue (and it eventually turns Sandman around). I really dig the all-out slugfests, but I’m even more affected by characterization, and I wanted to see if I could sustain a comic that did ONLY that. A donut shop seemed like a good choice.
BD: Of all the Common Grounds short stories, which one is your favorite?
TH: I’m very proud of the fact that every single one of the thirteen stories in the CG trade paperback is SOMEONE’S favorite. I love ‘em all, but I guess among my faves would be “Glory Days” because it allowed me to see my work drawn by George Perez (a lifelong fantasy), and “Where Monsters Dine” because it garnered me one of the two Eisner nominations which CG received (that one was for Best Short Story).
BD: Do you get mistaken for the other comic writer, Jonathan Hickman?
TH: I hadn't until we were both made part of the Pilot Season voting. This may be confusing, but since he has a bigger fanbase than me, maybe the confusion will help me out. No, I'm more often confused with fantasy author Tracy Hickman. And never with "Dobie Gillis" star Dwayne Hickman...
BD: What’s your history as a City of Heroes/Villains (CoX) player? Are you a hero or a villain? Do you have a server you consider home? Is your identity a secret or can you share it?
TH: I’ve been playing CoH for almost as long as it has been around, and I’ve been lucky enough to write an arc for the CoH comic (which has now been turned into part of the game, which I also scripted). I have somewhere around 100 active characters at the moment, and they’re divided between all the servers. I’ve never quite understood the concept of having a “favorite” server. I tend to play mainly heroes, though I do have a dozen or so villains, as well. Among my more well-known characters are Disturbing Grandma, Blastafarian, Macin’ Dixon, Shock Cousteau, Clawed Reigns, Crystal Blue Abrasion, Bananas Froster, Amperage Alaska, Hickmanimal, ad infinitum. If anyone wants to contact me in game, my global is CommonGrounds.
BD: Copyright issues are something you’ve always written about with great fervor. How do you feel about players who clone copyrighted characters with the CoX character creation generator? Is it possible to accept that they are fans paying homage to characters they love or is it simply black and white that it’s a violation?
TH: I have no problem with players doing characters in tribute to pre-existing heroes, as long as they evoke merely the “feel” of the original and not the actual name and image. For example, if someone is a fan of the Shadow and does a character dressed in black with a pistol and calls him “Nightspectre” or something, that’s ok by me. But when you dress a character exactly like Wolverine, call him “LoganX,” and include stuff about “the Professor” and “Jean” in his bio, then yeah, you’re getting on the fightin’ side of me. It’s one thing when an eight year-old does it, but a forty-year old man should know better (and hopefully have more creativity).
BD: What are you currently working on? I’ve got a ton of proposals I’m working on. For the past three or four years, I’ve really just kind of sat back and let offers come to me. While that’s been cool, it’s not enabling me to do this as a full-time job, which is what I’m shooting for. So I’ve decided to just bite the bullet and do something that doesn’t come naturally to me: networking. I don’t have an agent, so it’s really up to me to get out there and sell myself and my work (and if any editors happen to be reading this…).
BD: What convention/event appearances do you have scheduled?
TH: None for the next few months, but I’m hoping to hit the con trail fairly hard next year (and let’s hope I have something out to promote by then…like maybe the ongoing Twilight Guardian series!). I’m always willing to show up for appearances, by the way, provided it’s either close enough to drive, or the organizers have some way of getting me there (and with this weight loss, they won’t have to airlift me in!).
On the net:Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/troyhickman
Troy’s active blog - www.thetwilightguardian.blogspot.com
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