A Comic-Creating Superhero: An Interview With Faith Erin Hicks

The Adventures of Superhero GirlFaith Erin Hicks is one of the hardest working women in the comics business right now, or at least it seems that way looking at her output. Along with a number of graphic novels coming out this year – including Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong (written by Cecil Castellucci) – she recently released the graphic novel The Adventures of Superhero Girl ($16.99, 978-1-61655-084-4) through Dark Horse Comics and is currently working on the publisher's series The Last Of Us, which acts as the prequel to the new video game from Naughty Dog Studios, creators of the hit game Uncharted (the graphic novel collection of The Last of Us is due in November).

The Adventures of Superhero Girl collects Hicks’ comic strip which was originally run in the Halifax weekly newspaper the Coast as well as online. The strip follows the misadventures of a young woman who acts as the guardian of her city – unfortunately, it’s a small town with a low crime rate. In her travails, Superhero Girl deals with embarrassing job interviews (where she loses a job to a supervillain), lives in the shadow of her well-respected crimefighting brother, and searches for the one thing that will make her a real hero – a nemesis.

BookShelf spoke with Hicks about the Superhero Girl strip, her work on The Last of Us, how she finds the time to fit in all that work, and the importance of comics in libraries.  

What was the inspiration for Superhero Girl?

Superhero Girl's inspiration came from pretty much all super-heroines, especially ones like Supergirl. I really like the idea of superhero comics, and there are some good ones out there (I'm particularly fond of Batgirl:Year One and Nextwave), but there isn't a lot that I find appealing. I wanted to do a goofy, lighthearted comic about a young girl with superpowers, finding her way in the world. Basically, my dream superhero comic.

What was the reception for the strip in the Coast, and what made you decide to put the strip online?

Honestly, I put the comic online because I wasn't getting any feedback from readers in the Coast. I guess readers of physical newspapers aren't much for writing in and giving their opinions on the comics. I really had no idea what anyone's opinion on Superhero Girl was, so I figured online I'd at least get some kind of response. Luckily people really liked it.

How did you decide to go with Dark Horse for this release?

I really like a lot of what Dark Horse publishes (I'm a huge fan of BPRD), and I would have chosen them anyway as a publisher, but they actually chose me! It was really exciting to get a random email from my editor Rachel, asking if I was interested in publishing Superhero Girl with them.

Superhero Girl parodies a number of superhero tropes, but in a far more fun way than many superhero deconstruction books of late. Are you a fan of superhero comics, and do you read them now?

I don't read as many superhero comics as I'd like; I love the idea of superheroes but I can't find many that seem written with me as a reader in mind. I'm really enjoying the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye comic. I recently read the new reissue of Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen's Secret Identity Superman comic, which was fantastic.

How did you get involved with the Last of Us series?

The Last of Us #1Much to my surprise, I was asked to pitch for the series by Naughty Dog, maker of the game. Apparently Neil Druckman, the creative director on the game and who I'm co-writing the comic with, had seen my work previously and thought I might be a good fit for the Last of Us comic. I'm really glad he thought so, the experience working on the comic has been kind of amazing.

Did you get any advance access to the game?

I did! I got to read the story script and got lots of access to the concept art and game reference. I haven't gotten to play the game or anything, but I feel very privileged to have a peek at its inner-workings.

You’ve been involved with quite a few titles in the last few years. How are you able to keep up with it all?

I don't sleep, ever! Haha, no, sleep is very important. Don't ever skimp on sleep, kids. I don't know, I just work a ton. Working in comics is my dream job, it's what I want to do forever and ever, and being in demand and getting lots of work is a rare experience. I want to draw as many comics as I can while I have the chance to!

In an interview you mentioned reading comics from the library while growing up. What do you think is comics' role in the library?

I think it's incredibly important to have comics and graphic novels in libraries, and I think libraries have played a very important role in attracting young readers to comics. Accessibility is always such a huge issue in comics; where can new readers gain access to the kind of comics they want to read? Really good comic shops are unfortunately not as common as I wish they were (I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which has an excellent local comic shop, Strange Adventures, but before I moved here, I had no access to a good local store), and libraries can bridge that gap, providing easy access to many readers, and all for free. Through my local library I was able to try comic series I wouldn't have normally tried if I'd had to pay for them, and discovered some really good books that way. I'm a huge fan of libraries.