Hic & Hoc Publications is a new independent alternative comic publisher based in New Jersey.
My friend Matt did it.
I am not a comic book person at all. Once, I had to meet up with Matt and his lovely wife and children at an independent comic book convention in Brooklyn (I needed a ride). Let’s just say the experience reaffirmed certain stereotypes.
Growing up, several of my close friends urged me to read comics with them but I just could never abase myself in that way. I mean, I was already an uncool nerd hunting down X-Files paraphernalia based on Usenet murmurings –did I really need to up the ante with comics?
But then Hic & Hoc happened, and I finally decided to check out this graphic novel business by reading the company’s first four published works, or as Matt calls them, “transcendental joke books.”
I liked them! I found all four works to be transcendentally ticklish.
So I got Matt to talk to me about the four comics I read, and Hic & Hoc in general.
RM: I might re-arrange this interview to make you sound like a weirdo.
Matt: That would be great.
RM: You have a full time day job in addition to H&H. I imagine you and your family scrawled across the family room or kitchen table, stuffing envelopes and matching receipts with orders. Is that what it’s like?
Matt: I do this stuff late at night as a way to wind down and avoid exercise. My wife Piper is basically an unpaid consultant slash therapist who keeps my act together, so she’s much more high level than an envelope stuffer. But my kids are really shitty bookkeepers so I don’t get much out of them.
RM: Do your daughters read Hic & Hoc’s publications?
Matt: Not yet, too much cursing, but they’re starting to get into some kid-friendly comics, like Luke Pearson, Anouk Ricard, and Laura Knetzger, who is a very promising SVA (School of Visual Arts) student who has been self-publishing a series called “Bug Boys” that my kids love. I’m trying to get them hooked now when they’re still malleable. And after I failed miserably at getting them into music.
Matt: Can I tell you something about Bowman 2016?
Matt: We are going to be putting out a graphic novel edition of Bowman. With a chronology and maps and all that. We are trying to find an intern to translate the alien language.
RM: What the hell, the code is on the back!
Matt: Yeah but Pat Aulisio, the artist, forgot what he wrote. And can’t be bothered to go back and figure it out.
RM: The artist couldn’t be bothered??
Matt: He’s a busy guy. My favorite symbol in the alien language is the one that stands for “every derogatory/racist/sexist swear word combined.” So expressive.
RM: That symbol was what caught my eye in the decoder legend thing on the backpage and I was like, “Well let’s see if this symbol is really used in the story.” And by jove, it was! And then I slowly realized that all of the symbols did translate into real words. And then I realized it was the worst thing I had ever done.
Matt: You were really mad when you found out you didn’t need to bother translating the alien language.
RM: DON’T REMIND ME.
Matt: I love Pat because he really went to pains to make the alien language make sense, and then forgot it.
RM: That’s true. That is lovable.
Matt: That’s the sort of person I both want to publish and be friends with.
RM: I thought I was a perv because I kept looking at the genitalia of the main characters in Talamaroo.
Matt: Ha. Yeah there’s a lot of genetalia in Talamaroo. I bought three incredible handmade issues of the original minicomic from Alabaster, who is a mononymed SVA (School of Visual Arts) grad, at a New York comic convention last year. I think she had made an edition of like 18 or something. And somehow I talked her into doing an edition of 200 handmade collections of the Talamaroo stories.
Matt: Handmade. She silkscreened those covers by hand and then bound the damn things.
RM: Ahhhh! That is amazing. It felt like I was opening a present.
Matt: It’s a sort of strike you in your eye kind of book, no? Like blind you. Like that’s the last thing you’ll ever see.
RM: It was a visual treat. If Alabaster had a boyfriend, would he be Alabastard?
Matt: As it turns out, Alabaster has a boyfriend named Bort who is also a very talented comic artist. He has a comic called “Television Tub Things” that I am distributing that has one of the dirtiest pages I’ve ever seen ever, hands down. I spend most of my time at conventions warning parents not to let their kids look at his work.
Matt: I want to talk to you about Lauren Barnett’s comic, Me Likes You Very Much, and here’s why.
RM: Talk to me.
Matt: I have a list of the top 8 funniest people I know, which is, in no particular order, me, my wife, Lauren Barnett, four people you don’t know, and you.
Matt: And yet as funny as you and Lauren both are, it’s a very different kind of funny. Like you have richly crafted jokes that you work into conversation. Whereas a Lauren Barnett joke will be like a squirrel getting dirt in its salad and saying “fuck.” Which I find hysterical. Do you find that kind of thing hysterical?
RM: Astounding yes! It wasn’t immediately hysterical to me, because her humor is not only different, but kind of unique. But after a few pages, I was really, really in the zone and I enjoyed everything immensely.
Matt: Once one clicks…
RM: Exactly! I am glad you published a thick book of it, because it gives you a chance to really be immersed in her funny world.
Matt: Lauren has published almost 1,000 comics now. I’ve been following her stuff on a daily basis for years but it’s also great to read about 20 of her comics in a row and really get into her head.
RM: You know what I loved: sometimes there would be really cute bird characters, but then the very next page is this totally scary looking squirrel or rooster or whatever, looking at you and saying something provocative.
Matt: Yeah, Lauren’s stuff doesn’t let you kick back in cutesville for too long.
RM: Thank god! I love cute things but I hate twee stuff.
Matt: Neil Fitzpatrick’s comic that I put out also walks the cutesville line. With the big eyes.
RM: You think big black disks in the eye area are cute?? They gave me an empty, existential feeling
Matt: Well yeah. The comic is called “Everythingness” for goodness sake. But there’s more than a hint of cuteness there. Or deceptive cuteness.
RM: You’re crazy.
Matt: It’s totally cute. There are those cute little critters who are hopping around happy as can be until God brings them the truth and they all die.
RM: It’s cute compared to Bowman 2016, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
Matt: Like Bowman, I think Everythingness is a fantastic psychedelic jokebook. I don’t know how either Pat or Neil would feel about me calling it that but that’s what I love about it.
RM: I think maybe that’s why I felt a little resistance to them at first, because I didn’t want to go on the trip. But I see what you mean by “psychedelic jokebook” –it’s not about the plot.
Matt: I tried to explain it to you by referencing it to the Grateful Dead, but then I thought of a more universal symbol. It’s like this: sometimes when you get a pizza, every part of it is essential to the pizza. And that’s great. But then sometimes the pizza is just an excuse to hold up a bunch of amazing melted cheese. And that’s great too.
RM: That is a great analogy because I eat a lot of pizza, and I totally get that!
Matt: It’s my dad’s.
RM: Ha! Really?
Matt: Yeah but not about comics. Just about pizza.
RM: I went to H&H’s online store and there’s two more books! Prolific!
Matt: I’m distributing self-published books by Philippa Rice, who is a mind-bendingly talented UK-based artist. I’m publishing a comic book of hers later this year that looks amazing.
(I’m going to send you a picture now for your consideration to run with the article.)
RM: SEND IT.
RM: Oooh! How do you find these artists?
Matt: I’m just an obsessive fan of self-published comics. Neil (Everythingess), for example, has been self-publishing for ages and has a fantastic body of work out there that more people need to be aware of. And then Philippa does a great daily webcomic called My Cardboard Life which is almost entirely hand-cut collage work, and is very funny to boot.
RM: And you help their work get out there by publishing and/or distributing it at conventions and via your online store?
Matt: Yeah, that’s part of the idea, especially with someone like Philippa whose stuff doesn’t really make it over to the US except for through her direct sales. More people need to see these things. I’m getting a little misty-eyed and can’t really put my words together but we’re at the dawn of a new era in the world of self-published alternative comics and more people need to get on the fucking train.
RM: You mean more people need to see it, people who aren’t already obsessive fans, people who don’t go to conventions. People like… me?
Matt: People like you.