Sunday, July 13, 2008

Troy Hickman on Twilight Guardian

Thanks to Troy for taking time out to answer my questions. Having been conducting these interviews for almost a year now I have to say that I continue to enjoy the opportunity to converse with various comic creators. I am constantly amazed at how nice everyone is. Troy's current project, Twilight Guardian, is a great read and I encourage everyone to give it a shot (and vote for TG if you like what you see!).

Gwen: Tell us a little about yourself (or a lot about yourself if you'd like ;) ).

Troy: Let's see. I am a lifelong Hoosier and live in Lafayette, Indiana where I teach creative writing and English at a college. For a number of years, though, I've been writing comic books when someone will give me the chance, and eventually I'm dying to do it full-time (hey, you editors out there---). I'm primarily known for my mini-series Common Grounds, which was nominated for a couple of Eisner Awards (Best Short Story and Best Anthology), and featured artwork by Dan Jurgens, George Perez, Mike Oeming, Chris Bachalo, Ethan Van Sciver, Carlos Pacheco, Sam Kieth, Angel Medina, and Rodolfo Migliari. I've also written an arc for Top Cow's City of Heroes comic which was popular enough that they turned it into a story arc in the game itself (which I also scripted), as well as a couple issues of Witchblade, a Turok one-shot, a Hulk story in ACTOR Comics Presents, and tons of indies and mini-comics.

Gwen: What are some of your favorite stories?

Troy: In general, or are we talking comics? In text fiction, I love a ton of short stories. A great example is Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find." What a perfect little story. In comics, wow, I wouldn't know where to begin. I guess my all-time favorite story is probably Steve Gerber's "The Kid's Night Out" from Giant-Sized Man-Thing #4 (gotta love that title). I also adored the original Doom Patrol series from the 60s. And Watchmen is great. And Alex Toth did an amazing story for Bop Comics #1 called "Taps" and...well, let's just say that I like any comics story that's good, and that's a LOT of comics. I tend to gravitate toward the more upbeat stuff, though; I'm not a great fan of dark and cynical stories or characters. I know they sell, but just not my thing.

Gwen: In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of telling a good story in the comic book medium?

Troy: If I had to pick one, I'd say characterization. You can shoehorn all the plot in the world into your comics (and some writers certainly do), but if you don't give the readers a reason to care about the characters living out that plot, what's the point? If you want your audience to come back month after month to find out whether our heroes were able to travel to Alpha Centuri and retrieve the Cosmic Waffle Iron that will enable them to eventually defeat Red Death & his Death Squad, you have to make your heroes (and your villains) more than action figures being placed in cool poses.

Gwen: Why do you like "A Good Man is Hard to Find"? Are you a fan of the modern movement in literature? I find it strange that you chose this as one of your favorite stories as you feel that characterization is so important. In so much modern writing the reader is left with distinct feelings of distance from the characters - I've always found it difficult to identify with O'Conner's characters.

Troy: That's a valid question, and the only answer I can give is "nothing succeeds like success." I sometimes find myself drawn to works that are nothing like what I myself would write, simply because they work on other levels besides characterization. Heck, as I mentioned, I'm not fond of the dark grittiness that has overtaken too many comics, and yet I enjoy Sin City. Or consider that Mark Millar's work is about as far from mine as you could imagine, and yet he referred to me as "dangerously good." It's probably a good thing that we're sometimes attracted to our opposites; I'd hate for my girlfriend to have to grow a beard.

Gwen: What exactly is Pilot Season? How will readers be able to vote for Twilight Guardian?

Troy: The premise of Pilot Season is simple: Top Cow publishes six different one-shots by six different creative teams. In August, after all six have been released, there will be voting at various online sources (the Top Cow site, Newsarama, etc.), and the top two vote-getters will receive at least a mini-series. I think at the moment the plans are to make voting possible once per day per person (so if you dig TG, keep at it!).

The competition is absolutely fierce, because the other folks involved are some of the most talented people in comics, and have already developed their own core group of fans. I'm hoping that something in Twilight Guardian will resonate with the readers enough to make up the difference.

Gwen: If Twilight Guardian is a Pilot Season winner (which I hope it is!) what do you have in store for TG?

Troy: Boy, I hope it wins, too, because I've got big plans for a mini-series (and an ongoing series if it came to it). I can't give anything away, but I guarantee you that if it gets picked up, you're going to see some stuff you haven't seen in comics before. I'd really like to continue what I've started with this one-shot, and see how unlike a superhero book I can make this superhero book while still keeping it a superhero book! All I can promise is that it will be funny and touching and entirely its own "thing," whatever that is.

Gwen: Where did you get the idea for the character of TG?

Troy: There's a lot of autobiography in it, actually. While I haven't put on a domino mask and a hoodie, I've certainly spent thousands of hours walking around in the hours between dusk and dawn. When you do that, there's a certain feeling that you get, almost as though the night itself becomes personified (and it's certainly a character in the comic). Also, the book is about loneliness (among other things), and I spent a great deal of my life being lonely, feeling like I was searching for something, just like Twilight Guardian. And I understand obsessive-compulsive ways of thinking. TG originally appeared in my Tales of the Pathetic Club trilogy, about folks with OCD. It's something I've dealt with to one degree or another for many years, so I guess I've got an inside track on that.

Gwen: How closely do you work with the rest of the creative team?

Troy: I was lucky enough to get a lot of creative input this time out. I was able to see the pencils, inks, colors, and lettering at each stage of development and toss in my two cents. That's a luxury I've rarely had in the past, and it really makes me less of a basket case. It's tough sometimes when you just turn in the script, which has become like one of your kids, and then sit back and wait and see what hits the stands.

Gwen: I was entertained by your reference to Quincy on the pilot issue of TG, do you like the show?

Troy: I enjoy any show where I learn new stuff. If allowed, I will incessantly watch the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the Food Channel, the Scotch Tape Channel, you name it. Jack Klugman is always fun to watch. My favorite part of the show would be when he'd turn to his assistant Sam and say "Sam, I don't know what caused this...but I'm gonna find out!" Quincy was doing the forensic mambo when William Peterson was still peeling spuds in Boise.

Gwen: What have you enjoyed the most about your work on TG to date?

Troy: Two things: (1) "updating" the material from my original early-90s minicomic version of Twilight Guardian (including the "insert" pages of the Golden and Silver Age comics that TG reads before she goes on her nightly patrols), and (2) seeing the reaction of my audience. I've known for a long time that my work is not standard punch-kick superhero stuff, or gritty, nihilistic stories where the characters all strive to be more "bad-ass" than the next. I try to write dramadies about people who are like the folks you know, and hopefully love, even if they shoot bio-electric blasts out of their nostrils, or walk the streets at night looking for justice. So when I read reviews from folks who really "get it," or hear fans say "this is the kind of book I've been waiting years to read," it really buoys my spirit.

Gwen: If you could have any superpower what would it be?

Troy: The eerie power to cloud men's minds, so that I could make them all choose Twilight Guardian when Pilot Season voting starts in August. Bwahahaha!

Good luck to Troy and Twilight Guardian - make sure to cast your Pilot Season vote in August. I'll put up a link on the website when the polls open!


  1. This year I have been reading more of the pilot season episodes and everyone I know who read Twilight Guardian liked it.

    It was never their favorite book of the moment, but it is a book that stays with you and makes you think and ultimately becomes better over time (if that makes any sense).

    Anyway, bottom line it has my vote.

  2. Oh boy I sure hope we get to read that Twilight Guardian mini! It's so stressful to have to wait until after august to find out what happens!