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Hickee #2
posted October 18, 2004

imageCreators: Derek Sakai, Razmig Mavilia, Vamberto Maduro, Nathan Stapley, Scott Campbell, Paul Brown, David Bogan, Joe White, Marc Overney, Graham Annable
Publishing Info: Self-Published, $4.95, 48 pages, 2004
Ordering Numbers: None

The second issue of the second volume of the anthology Hickee slipped out via the milky sac of self-publishing in the shadow of Alternative Comics' inability to fund its full slate of planned 2004 books. Copies were available in San Diego, one of which was pressed into this reviewer's hand by a participant as kind of an afterthought, complete with apology. This suits the curious non-reception given the first issue of Hickee, and in a way, its best-known contributor, Graham Annable. Annable may be the most talented discovery Jeff Mason's Florida-based comics company has made in its roughly ten-year history to date, and he was certainly the first out-of-left-field, never-heard-of-him talent to be sprung by Alternative on the comics market. Yet very few people seem as taken with Annable, or this anthology of fellow animators oriented towards gag cartoons, as one might have thought if one were to read a list of his attributes before his debut.

The problem may be that gag work of a certain kind hardly inspires passion; silent tableaus that lead to ruminative moments bring out the kindly, chortling professor in many us, not the busted-gut college student. Even in the realm of alternative comics, cartoonists like Sam Henderson or Johnny Ryan get an extra push by conspiring with the audience in a way that acknowledges we are working together on a humorous undertaking of some sort. In contrast, the better stories in something like Hickee #2 are unadorned, somewhat old-fashioned. Derek Sakai and Graham Annable provide bookends where the jokes are basically that death overtakes the well intentioned and the causes of misfortune may profit -- humor at the injustice of everyday life, the thwarting of romantic expectations, and not something that bears describing to your pals via an e-mail. It's no surprise that the most memorable strip ends up being from the talent most likely to break out and follow Annable into a name-above-the-title effort, Joe White, who works against the much of this silent-movie downbeat humor by providing a joyous ending after a fatalistic tease.

Much time spent reading Hickee #2 breaks down to a restless sorting between joke strips that really don't work and appreciating various appealing visual styles. The tattered abstraction in Scott Campbell's "Henry James Meets Up With His Doggies" lingers far after the content of the story fades. Ditto Ramzig Mavilian's figure work in "The Bean," although there the punchline is memorable as well. Nathan Stapley's work basically stays in the high-concept camp, presenting a character like "Insensitive Bartender" and then wringing humor from following them through some absurd permutation of their rigid behavior. It's not badly done, but doesn't vary in an imaginative enough way to transcend predictability. What Hickee #2 really reminds me of is a too-short collection of pretty good strips that now lack the context of a magazine in which they were originally published. Hopefully, any future issues will expand on the obvious skill of its creators with work that challenges and surprises the readership.

Creators (Sakai, Mavilia, Maduro, Stapley, Campbell, Brown, Bogan, White, Overney, Annable)