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The Future on Ice

Faith Erin Hicks fascinated many of us with her Demonology 101 but lately she's turned her talents to the bleak future of Ice.

I know you've graduated Sheridan College to learn animation, and worked other jobs to pay for it. What's something we don't know about you that you feel comfortable giving out?

I have webbed toes... no, just kidding. My toes are completely ordinary. I'm probably one of the most boring adults you'll ever meet.

One thing I think is interesting is that I came to drawing pretty late in life. I work in animation now, and a common factor most of the people in the industry share is that they all knew from childhood that they wanted to draw for a living. Only some of them wanted to be animators, but they all showed artistic promise practically from birth, and grew up knowing that they absolutely were going to be artists when they reached the workforce. I wanted to be a vet. I didn't start drawing until I was in my first year of university (I would have been 19; we still had grade 13 then), and the art was to go with the stories I wrote. (I'd decided then that being a vet wasn't for me, and wanted to be a writer.)

Art people drive me crazy sometimes, because most of them did start drawing very young, and that ability made them stand out. A lot of the people I knew at Sheridan had been raised thinking that they were special because of their abilities, so I've seen a lot of egoism in my short time in the art industry. I don't like the mysticism associated with art: it's a learnable skill, much like playing chess or ping-pong. Who was it that said that art is 99% hard work, 1% talent? I completely forget, although I want to say something like Da Vinci. (Knowing my memory, it was probably that "Painter of Light" guy. Ew!) The one percent does make a difference: I've seen people who are obviously naturally talented at art, and don't have to work on it like I have to work on it. But those people are few and far between.

I stumbled on a sketchbook I had for an art class I took in high school, so I would have been around 16 then. Most people, if they're going to grow up and be artists, are going to show some sort of talent at that age. I was pretty intreged by the sketchbook, because my work was uproariously bad. There was nothing in that sketchbook to indicate I'd end up working in animation. It made Scott Adams (Dilbert guy) look like a genius. I have no idea why I decided that I wanted to learn how to draw, at the ancient age of 19. I wasn't encouraged by a great art teacher, or told I was gifted. I think I just enjoy torturing myself, or something.

So anyway. Long and short of it: Art. It's skill. Like ping-pong. You too can learn art, for a small fee.

Send unmarked bills to Faith Hicks, Apt 42, ... etc.

 

How did the idea for Ice come about?

Originally it was very different. For some reason, most of the stories I do start out with a joke, and then I find some kind of deeper meaning behind the joke, and the joke gets tossed. So with Ice, originally I wanted to set it in a giant shopping mall, where you had rival gangs fighting it out over brand names, and there were consumer riots over goods and such. I thought it was pretty hilarious, and would've maybe made a decent story, but then I started getting interested in the characters, and they became the focus of the story, not the satire of consumer behavior. Eventually the giant mall and the brand name stuff faded away, and what was left over was basically Ice.

In fact, pretty much every comic I've done has been because I thought something was funny. Teenagers as demonic hellspawns? Hilarious! Surviving a zombie attack by following zombie movie cliches? Even more hilarious!

I'm weird that way. So probably rabid shoppers at Christmas inspired Ice, if you can believe that.

 

Though set in the future, Ice has a very 19th century feel, with horses for transportation and clear upper/lower class conflicts. Why did you pick that sort of future to depict? Do you think given the collapse of fossil fuels -- that such a future is likely?

It seems more than likely. It seems pretty assured, especially at the rate we're going. You've got every brain who has a background remotely related to enviromental science screaming at the public that there just isn't enough energy/oil/what have you to go around, and that we're hocking our future in exchange for SUVs and the comfort they provide.

I've always looked down my nose at futuristic fiction that portrays the future as devastated by some giant cataclysm, not because that kind of fiction is pessimistic (we will destroy ourselves, yadda yadda), but because it isn't pessimistic enough. A big giant atomic war is scary, but what's even scarier is the thought that a horrible future may result simply because of how we live now. No war, no nothing, just specialty coffees and a dependence on oil.

With Ice, I wanted the kind of future that is the direct result of how we live today: nothing particularly dramatic has occurred to make the future cold, powerless and dreary, no atomic wars, no metorites, it just is that way because we kept on living the way we do. Everything in Ice is ground down and exhausted. There's no trees, grass or naturalness. And I think that's pretty much where we're headed.

I think the problem with the way humans think is not that we're particularly short-sighted, it's that we all have a perfectly legimate reason for doing what we do. Nobody ever thinks they're actually destroying the world. And one single person probably isn't. But there's a few billion of us, so it adds up. And it sucks.

Wow, that's depressing. Look, over there! Something shiny!

 

What writing/storytelling influenced you on Ice?

William Gibson, mostly. He only writes one book, over and over again, so I'm not a big fan, but I like the basics of his work. His plot is always that one person, usually an innocent who has no connection to the problems around him/her, comes into possession of an item of great power, usually some kind of information device that will shape the future or whatever, and gets chased by various baddies. I think I wanted to do a Gibson-esque story, but have it more as dressing for a character piece. There just isn't enough character-driven science fiction out there. Somebody needs to give Joss Whedon more money.... although Lost (lovely show! So much like crack!) will do in a pinch.

 

Hunter seems a very different character than Raven, your main character in Demonology 101. (For one thing, she's introduced already in the middle of a relationship.) What attracts you to such a character?

She kicks ass, for one thing. I was a huge tomboy when I was a kid, and I love action movies. It always disappointed me there was no female Indiana Jones to look up to, at least in movies (I found a few in books). It's a rule I've always set for myself: any kind of artistic project, written or drawn, there's got to be at least one strong female character in there. Doesn't have to be the lead, but there has to be one.

With the whole 'middle of the relationship' thing, it was something I hadn't really seen in comics before. Or in a lot of media. Mostly movies and books are about a couple meeting, not about them trying to deal with living together two years after they meet. I think I just wanted to try something different. A lot of Ice is based on 'oh, well, I did THIS in D101, so let's do something completely different in Ice! Yay!" ... which is also why there's so much swearing in Ice.

 

I know you like the artist Jeff Smith. Which artists have been most influential in the sprawling urban decay of Ice's future?

Photography has been Ice's greatest influence, not artists. That probably sounds dopey, but I'm intrigued by urban decay, and ages before Ice I'd started collecting pictures and books of cluttered cities, mostly older European cities. I think there's a sadness about a broken down city, and I'd say my collection of London picture books probably inspired most of Ice.

 

I love the dog in Ice, even in a future where he seems in danger of being eaten. Are you a dog person? Is the dog based on any dog you've had particularly?

Actually, yeah, it is. I took care of these friends of my mom's dogs once, a pair of dachshunds, and they were pretty much the creepiest things ever. They'd be treated like babies all their lives, so they expected to be held and coddled every minute I was around. They weren't dogs, they were practically kids, and they kept following me around staring at me with their beady eyes. It was very unnerving. They used to try and climb in the shower with me too.

I used to have a dog, but she died a couple years ago. Now I have a cat named Clarice "Squinty" Starling the Second. I call her Starling for short. She's nice. I've never had a cat before, so I'm relieved that she's actually, well, nice. I've met too many asshole cats.  Oh, and the whole "we eat dogs n' cats" thing was inspired by reading books about wartimes. I mean, c'mon, meat is meat. I'd eat a cat. Not mine, of course ... unless I was really hungry. Kidding!

 

Other than Hunter, who's your favorite character so far?

I like to joke that Cirr is my imaginary boyfriend. :D

Ummmm.... well, I guess I like them all, actually. Characters are like kids: you can't really pick your favourite. And if you do, you're a terrible mother.

 

What's the best thing and the most frustrating thing about putting this on the Internet as opposed to print?

The best thing about the Internet will always be its accessibility. There's no money involved so you don't have people breathing down your neck, telling you to draw something a certain way. Everything is on you, and you are the supreme puppet master. That's what's great about the net. The unlimited possibilities.

What sucks about comics on the net is that I have a hard time looking at it as a legitimate artform. The majority of online comics are pretty shitty, and the few that are good usually move into print eventually. Once someone I worked with asked me if I did comics and, despite the fact that I'd spent the last five years of my life working on Demonology 101, and had drawn more comic pages than some published authors, I answered "no." Mostly because I didn't want to explain that yes, I did comics, but no, they weren't published. They were "only online."

This is probably my hang up and I totally need to get over it and spank my internal moppet or something. I know there are good folk out there doing fantastic work online, and are content to stay there, and do not have print as their ultimate goal. A few years ago I was very content with just doing D101 and other comics online, I didn't want to do anything else, but now, for whatever reason, I have a hard time looking back on my online work with a sense of accomplishment.

I think permanence is what I'm missing, and I don't feel online work has that. It has incredible freedom and control for the artist, but it's not something that you can hold in your hand. Unless you have some sort of incredibly tiny computer.

 

Will Ice have a definite ending, as Demonology 101 did?

Ayup. It's a one shot dealie, with an absolute ending. And, unlike D101, I don't think I'll feel the tug to go back to it. With D101, it was this big constant thing, like a sibling or something, along side me for five years or so, but Ice has never really dominated my thoughts like D101 did. I'm not quite sure how many more pages Ice will end up being (another nice thing about online comics: you decide when things end, not an editor), but we're getting more into the meat of the story now. It'll take an interesting twist soon. Hopefully the readers will come along for the ride.

Cheers!

Webcomics as a valid medium

Girl Genius, Alpha Shade, and PvP might all be on her "sucky comic list" though, and mentioning them will only make her respect the artform less!

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

Webcomics as a valid medium

I've mentioned this to Faith before on her LJ, but I'm always left wondering if she ever notices my comments, seeing that I always catch things at the tail end. *chuckle* However, I do see Webcomics as a valid and viable medium from which people can sell print comics and be published.

One of the greatest examples of this is Studio Foglio's work with Girl Genius. This fantastic comic started out as a comic book... but because of poor sales and the realization that things weren't going to get any better... the Foglios moved to the internet. Girl Genius went on-line, and sales jumped, readership climbed, and fans went wild. Indeed, even critics (such as myself and Eric Burns) talked about this strip and what it may very well mean for the print world in general.

Alpha Shade is another example, though going from the opposite side of the spectrum. AS started as a webcomic, but has graphic novels for those who enjoy print medium. The web comic exists as a means to gain readership and advertise, while advertising in the comic and print sales work to let the Brudlos bros. make a living doing this.

Indeed, PvP Comics has long done this as well, though I'm not sure when PvP Comics started their print run. CRFH has a print comic run with stories never seen on the web. CotC is in the midst of a truly epic story, and plans on putting out graphic novels of that story when all is said and done. And of course we've Sluggy Freelance and its books.

Webcomics are the future, the launchboard from which print comics will flourish. So I truly hope I'll see more of your works on-line, Faith. And good luck to you in all your endeavours.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews
http://www.tangents.us