Wizard of Hicksville: Horrocks talks 'Hunter: Age of Magic'

[Hunter: Age of Magic #16]While DC's Vertigo imprint, where more of it's "mature" literature can be found, has been known for it's dark and brooding series, there's one rising star that isn't afraid to break the mold. Building upon the work by previous writers Neil Gaiman and John Ney Reiber on "The Books of Magic," writer Dylan Horrocks has created a high-adventure series that stands out amid the rest with "Hunter."

"'Hunter' is about a teenage working class boy from North London who's destined to become the most powerful mage in history," Horrocks told CBR News. "Which is kind of cool, since it means he gets to travel to various weird and wonderful worlds and explore the hidden magical subculture of our own. He goes to wild parties full of Neo-Pagan Shaman chicks and sinister immortal Faerie; he goes on quests to find ancient Kabbalist manuscripts and he gets to hang out on the Gemworld with women who turn into dragons (or is it the other way around?). On the other hand, he's also being pursued by deadly mystical cults (like the Order of the Golden Lotus, who want to take us back to the Garden of Eden), Neo-Nazi occultists (the Triskelle) and a growing number of actual and potential girlfriends (which isn't as much fun as it might sound - at least for Tim). Not to mention the same problems we all have to contend with when we're 18 - acne, hangovers, wondering how to pay the bills...

"The character Tim Hunter was first introduced over ten years ago in Neil Gaiman's miniseries 'The Books of Magic' and then had his own series (also called the 'Books of Magic') for 75 issues. Back then, he was a lot younger (12-14) and a lot of his problems revolved around trying to find his place in things (his family, his heritage and his destiny). With 'Hunter,' we've jumped forward a few years, so that he's now a bit more grown up. He's spent the last few years studying magic in a mysterious place called the White School (which sprawls across countless worlds and dimensions) and now he's back on Earth, establishing a new life for himself. If only his enemies (and would-be lovers) would let him...! I've heard Hunter described as 'Harry Potter grown up.' Of course, Tim Hunter predates Harry Potter by a few years, but what the hell - if it makes people pick the book up, I don't mind!"

If your interest is piqued, then Horrocks is glad to bring you up to speed on current events and also tell you where the series is going. "Well, issues 1-6 formed a complete story-arc ('The Lake of Fire,' set during Tim's last weeks at the White School and revolving around a girl he meets on the Gemworld). Then issue 7 was a bridging issue drawn by guest artist Chris McLoughlin, describing Tim's journey back to Earth. Issue 8 began the next story arc ('The Evil Gene,' which ran till issue 11), which established Tim's new situation in London and pitted him against a genetically-engineered virus designed to destroy the gene for human evil. Then issue 12 was consciously designed as a jumping-on point - with a light one-issue storyline (involving an Information Elemental which messes up Tim's attempt to mind a bookstore for a day) but also setting up elements that introduce the next story-arc. The next several issues form an overarching story-arc ('The Codex Raziel'), but are also designed to be easy going for new readers. Issues 13-16 focus on the sudden eruption of War into Tim's life; he and his friends face attacks by the Lotus, the Triskelle and a necromancer in love with the Goddess of Death. Then issue 17 serves for me as a turning point, even though on one level it simply continues the Codex Raziel story-arc. It focuses on the Faerie exile Iolanthe and for me, it's a real turning point in style and substance. I feel much happier with it than anything else I've written for Vertigo and I'm keen for people to try that issue, even if they've had no interest in Hunter to date. So if people want to try back-issues, I recommend issues 1, 7, 8, 12 or 13 as particulary good jumping-on points. And any new issue is hopefully not too incomprehensible for new readers. And as I said, 17 is one I'm especially recommending to people."

But as excited as Horrocks is about issue #17, he isn't as forward when it comes to explaining what he thinks makes "Hunter" such a unique series. "Oh, I don't know if I can answer that, myself. As far as its role in the Vertigo line goes, it has always sat on the border between Vertigo's 'mature readers' label and the more 'general readers' DCU approach - if only because the youthful character always attracted some younger readers. So we avoid graphic swearing, violence and sex. Which is not to say that sex and violence aren't in there - it's just that they're not played for shock value; they're there as a natural part of the story. As anyone who's been reading it to date can confirm, Tim's relationship with women is one of the core themes of the book…" Horrocks laughs and adds, "But more generally, I don't know. Mainstream comics are all over the place at the moment - with everything from Frank Miller's 'DK2' and Mark Millar's apocalyptic 'Authority' to Alan Moore's mystical 'Promethea' and child-like (albeit in a post-modern way) 'Tom Strong.' I'd hesitate to try and characterize current mainstream comics as any one thing; I think they're more diverse than ever (and with Marvel's recent run of fascinating titles like the Milligan-Allred 'X-Force' and Gerber's 'Howard the Duck', it's kinda like the 1970s all over again!). In 'Hunter,' I suppose I'm just trying to quietly get on with building up a good group of characters, a fully realized and interesting world (or worlds) and a story that's gripping, fun and sincere. Maybe sincere is the key word there; I've got no interest in using gimmicks or shock tactics to grab attention - I just want to make a genuinely good comic."

"Mind you, as I keep saying, #17 feels like a bit of a new direction for me, and I think is the first issue that's written in my own distinctive, fully-realized voice. I think in my own solo work ('Pickle,' 'Hicksville,' 'ATLAS,' etc) a key part of my style has always been a kind of 'lyricism' - if that doesn't sound too pretentious. It's taken a while to really synthesize that 'lyricism' with the Vertigo work (though there have definitely been moments of it in Hunter - especially in 'The Lake of Fire'). Now, I finally feel like I've found the way to do it and I think #17 is the first fully realized outcome of that. I'm feeling a whole new burst of energy and enthusiasm as a result..."

[Hunter: Age of Magic #15]This "fully realized" style, which Horrocks refers to constantly, is the result of a lot of hard work and a passion that began decades ago in New Zealand. "Well, I've been doing comics all my life - ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. My first paid work was doing a monthly strip for a kids' magazine when I was 14 - $7 a strip! Over the years - while at high school and university, I contributed stories to NZ comics' zines and even helped set up a magazine or two. Then I began doing stories for Australia's fondly-remembered 'Fox Comics' (which was distributed in North America by Fantagraphics for a while), which was my first step into the international comics scene."

"In 1989 I moved to England for a few years, where I met such UK comics luminaries as Paul Gravett (of 'Escape' magazine fame), Ed Pinsent, Glenn Dakin, Chris Reynolds, Carol Swain and other heroes of mine. It was Paul who introduced me to two visiting Canadian cartoonists, Nick Craine and Michel Vrana, who were in the process of setting up a new publisher, Tragedy Strikes Press. We exchanged mini-comics (as you do) and chatted over a pint about this and that. I'd just about forgotten that charming evening when, several months later, Michel faxed me to ask if I'd be interested in doing an ongoing solo comic for 'Tragedy Strikes.' Was I!!! So I put together the first issue of Pickle, which came out at the end of 1992 (or was it the beginning of '93?). By the time issue 2 came out, 'Tragedy Strikes' had lived up to its name and gone bust. But Michel Vrana went off on his own to set up 'Black Eye' and 'Pickle' continued under that imprint."

"Through all of this time, I still had a day job (working in bookshops), which carried on until 1995, after the first few 'Pickle.' By then, 'Pickle' was still earning next to nothing, but when our first child was born, my wife persuaded me to give up the day job and go freelance - which was very scary, but paid off in the end. Within a few months, I had scored a regular gig drawing a weekly strip for a big-circulation NZ magazine (the NZ Listener) called 'Milo's Week,' which was mostly political satire. That kept the wolves from the door for a year and a half, while I slowly built up more freelance illustration clients and also drew the bulk of 'Hicksville' (as serialised in 'Pickle'). The turning point came with the publication of the 'Hicksville' graphic novel in 1998. I travelled to America for the launch (at SPX), which was fantastic. I went on a signing tour for a week in a van with Tom Hart, Megan Kelso, James Kochalka and Tom Devlin, which was just incredible fun. It was like one of those road movies about a band on tour - we'd pull up in a new town in the afternoon, unload the boxes of books at whatever venue was on our itinerary, do the signing (some days there'd be no-one, other times we were swamped with eager fans), then find some lively Mexican restaurant in which to blow whatever we'd earned. Then we'd sleep on someone's floor until it was time to get up and hit the road again. If the signing was slow, James would take his shirt off and go out onto the pavement to sing a tune from his new CD to drum up business. And in the van, we'd all get into long in-depth debates about comics syntax, art theory, etc etc. It was one of the best weeks of my cartooning life."

"When we finally reached SPX, I was utterly stunned by the reception 'Hicksville' received. We sold out before the Expo was over and all my favorite publishers asked me about doing something for them next ('Hicksville' turned out to be the last thing 'Black Eye' published, so I was definitely looking for a new publisher). I signed up to do 'ATLAS' for Drawn & Quarterly and a graphic novel for Top Shelf. Over the next few months, 'Hicksville' was named a book of the year by the Comics Journal and nominated for Ignatz and Harvey Awards. I was walking on air."

"Of course, getting a nice write-up in the Comics Journal and actually earning a living are two very different things. And the next year or so was one of the hardest years I'd ever had, financially. At several points, I came very close to giving up on the freelance thing and going back to a day-job. Again, my wife talked me out of it. Now, little did I know at the time, but 'Hicksville' was beginning to be noticed in the 'mainstream' comics industry, too. Frank Miller and Diana Schutz were both at that SPX and picked up 'Hicksville' and both went on to push it to all and sundry. Others were starting to give it plugs too - people like Kurt Busiek, Scott McCloud and Jeff Smith. Another person who liked 'Hicksville' was editor Heidi MacDonald, who was just in the process of shifting from 'Disney Adventures' to DC and then Vertigo. At Vertigo, Heidi was determined to bring in some new talent, especially from the indie and alternative comics worlds. So one day she gave me a call and asked if I'd like to pitch anything to her at Vertigo. I demured (I was pretty engrossed in 'ATLAS' at the time), until she mentioned that they were looking for a new writer on a 'Books of Magic' relaunch. Although I hadn't read much of the 'BoM,' the basic concept was just my kind of thing and something clicked. After putting down the phone, I couldn't stop thinking about it and so I got back to Heidi and asked if I could try out for the gig. I went out and bought every back issue and tpb I could find and researched the background and came up with pages of plans and outlines for my own take on the character."

Two years later, here I am, writing the second year of Hunter."

"The funny thing is that some people reacted to my Vertigo work as if I had finally broken into the comics industry, after all those years of trying. I don't feel that way at all. To me, I broke into the comics industry when I was 14, with that strip in Jabberwocky. Even if I hadn't been paid for that strip, the point for me was that it was actually being published - and someone out there was reading it. I really like Scott McCloud's answer to the oft-asked question of how to break into the comics industry. He tells people to take a piece of paper and fold it in half. Draw a comic on both sides of the paper, make a few photocopies of it and then give it to your friends. Congratulations! You've just broken into the comics industry!"

[Hunter: Age of Magic #14]As Horrocks mentioned, there was just something about Tim Hunter that captivated his imagination and as he explains, the concept snagged his mind completely. "The idea of fantasy stories that use real-world characters has always appealed to me. My favourite writers as a kid included Alan Garner, Susan Cooper and others from that British genre of real-world fantasy. Again, part of what appealed to me about those writers was their lyricism (especially Garner). And I love writing about teenagers and all that stuff you grapple with when you're 18 - love, lust, freedom vs. responsibility, etc etc. I'm hugely enjoying writing about Tim's love-life (artist Richard Case and I both secretly admit to wanting to do a romance comic one day)."

Even with all that passion, Horrocks admits that it hasn't always been a smooth ride, saying that, "At first, it took a while to get used to collaborating (it was the first time I'd seriously collaborated with an artist). But Richard was very patient and now we have a really good working relationship. We swap ideas and music and rave about Miyazaki films to each other - it's a real pleasure. I also took a while to overcome my own in-built hangups about the fact that I was writing for Vertigo; I think the early issues (at least 'Names of Magic') suffered a bit from my own doubts about what kind of writer's voice was appropriate. That's why I'm feeling really good now about having overcome those hangups and begun writing in a more personal voice. The easiest parts - well, everything else! Tim is a great character and I'm having a ball exploring him and his friends and his world(s)!"

In fact, it is the addition of Richard Case as a creative collaborator that really takes "Hunter" to the next level creatively admits Horrocks. "I think Richard and I have become very comfortable working with each other - I think we've found a shared 'groove' that works well. I get a lot of inspiration from his character designs - so much that I've now started giving him only very sparse descriptions of a character and letting him loose. When I see the designs he comes up with, that goes a long way towards firming up my sense of the character's personality and background. I really enjoy being surprised by the artist. And Richard gives it a really nice teenage playfulness - he loves the romance elements as much as I do.

The inspiration for Horrocks' stories in "Hunter" comes from a very personal place- his heart. "All kinds of stuff. The current story-arc (the Codex Raziel) grows partly out of my interest in language and semiotics, but it's a lot less tedious than that sounds (I hope!). All my stories end up being about morality, too - not in a preachy way, but at that deep personal level where we grapple with what it means to be a 'good' or 'bad' person. That was at the heart of 'Hicksville' and has turned out to be central to 'Hunter,' too. 'The Lake of Fire' was about Tim learning that he can be a good person - even a hero. At the same time, people he cares about have taken a different path, taking incremental steps that lead them into a kind of moral trap - until they're too far gone to do anything but 'evil'. 'The Evil Gene' was even more explicitly about this, asking what makes us evil and what we can do about it. In that story-arc, Tim managed to finally get some resolution on an issue that has plagued him since the very first Gaiman miniseries (is he good or evil?). As for the current story-arc - well, a lot of it's about love and how that motivates us for good and ill. Or something..."

One of the most consistently praised aspects of Horrocks' work is his ability to masterfully covey the complexities of teenage life, from the angst-ridden lows to the happy highs, without his work ringing as false as others. "I like teenagers!" exclaims Horrocks. "And I think our angst and confusion when we're young is more than just a hormone rush (though one should never underestimate the power of hormones!) - we're grappling with really fundamental questions about being human; issues which older people often ignore more out of moral and emotional cowardice than because we've found the answers (because rest assured - we haven't). Mind you, one thing I can't stand is whining. Who can?"

Horrocks says that part of the problem with writing teenage characters comes with the serial format. "Oh, there are other good teenage characters around, but sure - there are a lot of fake ones, too. It's very hard when writing a regular series, especially when it's essentially work-for-hire as part of a corporate media structure, to avoid falling into formula and cliché. It's happened to me... You see it very clearly in many modern Disney films (actually, in most Hollywood films, full stop). So I don't think it's caused by people being 'bad' writers - often the same people can write wonderful stuff in a different context. I think it actually requires great effort to evade those traps - and I'm enormously impressed by people like Alan Moore who've been nimbly dancing around them for years, consistently producing fresh, personal, honest and beautiful work in the most extraordinary contexts."

While writing "real" teenage characters can be quite hard, so is juggling the complex and beloved back-story of Tim Hunter, admits Horrocks. "I think I made some mistakes in this regard in 'Names of Magic' - so that it reads more like a bridge between the old 'BoM' and the new 'Hunter' than like the launch of a new series. But with 'Hunter' I've consciously set out to treat that continuity as back-story which the reader should never need to research if they don't want to. So even the return of Molly (Tim's main love-interest in the old series) is being handled as if we'd never seen her before. I should stress, though, that any such mistakes were mine to make alone; neither Heidi nor anyone else at Vertigo have ever pressured me to be bound by continuity - in fact, I was the one who kept arguing that we need to remain faithful to the earlier saga, even as we took it in a new and independent direction."

And what of Molly, the girl who it has been hinted at many times is destined for Tim? "Well, I'm not going to give anything away," says Horrocks, as a sly grin emerges on his face. "Suffice to say that Tim's feelings for Molly remain much stronger than he'd like to admit"

[Hunter: Age of Magic #12]But Tim's fate with, or without as Horrocks reminds us, Molly isn't the only part of his destiny that is a huge part of the core plot in "Hunter." Since the original mini-series, we've known that Tim is heading towards a great war and Horrocks says that he doesn't find this eventual confrontation to be creatively restraining at all. "It's not restricting at all - it provides a nice forwards momentum to the saga. And no, the climax of that war doesn't mean the end of Tim's story at all. First off, we're talking about a War here - not just a single conflict. Wars can go on for many, many years - flaring up and then waning again over time. There can be many different enemies involved - and allies, too. It's not something that needs to build up to a single climax and then it's all over. It's the eternal struggle between light and dark, music and silence, magic and its destruction, etc etc. It's never actually over, whoever might win the odd battle here and there. Secondly, I really like the idea of comics that can follow a character for years and years, through high points and low points in their life, from story to story. Hunter is a series centred on character, rather than plot."

As Horrocks has said, "Hunter" isn't a series about magic as much as it is about Tim Hunter and all the aspects of his life, which does lend itself to some very serious issues. In a mere twelve issues, "Hunter" has dealt with discrimination, homosexuality and the black arts, all of which are controversial subjects and which Horrocks works hard to balance with the high adventure of magic. "Well, I never set out to 'deal' with these as issues - it's just that they're part of Tim's world, same as they're part of everyone's world. God help us if we had to get serious every time we talked about teenage sex or homosexuality! Sure - there are aspects to these things which are serious, but man - from what I remember, teenage sex was pretty damn fun! My approach to balancing the tone of Hunter is the same as in all my stories: it's just like life - there's light and dark, silliness and grief, adult issues and childish fun, etc etc. Life doesn't hesitate to mix all these things up without considering what's 'appropriate' - so why should our stories?"

Horrocks also says that he works hard to make sure these elements are organic to the story and don't feel like his own politics being inserted into the story. "Well, you can only go on your own instincts with these things. As a rule, I prefer to just let this stuff emerge organically into the story by itself, rather than building the story around an ideological agenda. Likeable and believable characters who just happen to be gay seems much more meaningful to me than long speeches about homosexuality. I have no intention to change anyone's mind about homosexuality - it's just that so many people I know are gay, it's impossible to write stories in which nobody is. It's always seemed to me that in stories with no visibly gay characters, there are still gay characters in there - it's just that it's not actually stated. You can't assume everyone's straight just because we haven't seen them french kissing someone of the same sex (or wearing a 'Queer and Proud' t-shirt or whatever). There are a couple of characters in 'Hicksville,' actually, who I know are gay but it just never came up in the story. Now that I'm telling more of those characters' backgrounds in 'ATLAS' and elsewhere, I have got some stories planned where those aspects of their lives are discussed. In 'Hunter,' it's been spelled out that Nick Bearclaw is gay, simply because he's got a new boyfriend, but that doesn't mean he's necessarily the only gay character - it's just that we know about it."

Fans may also be surprised to know that Horrocks isn't intimidated by the fact that he's playing with a creation of the legendary Neil Gaiman. "Well, I have to nervously confess here that I've never actually read a lot of Gaiman's stuff. I really liked his 'Violent Cases' (with Dave McKean), which I read when it first came out in the 1980s. But the Sandman etc almost entirely passed me by. I've read a lot more of his stuff recently, of course, as research for Hunter (seeing as how it's in continuity). So I admit that I didn't really think about it much. One thing I will say is that Gaiman's original BoM miniseries has ended up being the one Tim Hunter book I've referred to most often, while writing Names and Hunter. It's such a rich source for material - it sets Tim up in a way, which is so pregnant with potential, it's like a gift to all of us who've written the character since. But I have no desire whatsoever to write like Gaiman. If anything, the one writer I've had to consciously avoid being overly influenced by is Alan Moore, who's been a hero of mine since he worked for 2000AD. But then, we're all working in the shadow of Alan Moore (anyone who's written mainstream comics since the mid-80s)!"

As previously mentioned, "Hunter" and it's title character are often compared to Harry Potter, but Horrocks himself has no problem with the comparison. "I like 'Harry Potter' a lot. When I took over writing Tim's adventures, I deliberately avoided reading 'Harry Potter,' because I didn't want to be affected by it at all. But now my kids are old enough that they've been bitten by the 'HP' bug and so I've been reading them the books and we saw the movie, etc. I think it's wonderful stuff! But it's very, very different to what I've been trying to do with 'Hunter,' which actually came as a relief when I finally read 'Harry Potter.' Of course, the superficial similarities are striking - but no more so than any number of other stories in the genre. As Gaiman has repeatedly said, he and Rowling were merely drinking from the same well. In fact, there was even a story in '2000AD' (called the Journals of Luke Kirby) which came out a few years before the 'Books of Magic,' which was extremely similar to both the 'BoM' and 'Harry Potter.' This is a genre - and Gaiman and Rowling are both playing with the conventions of the genre, to different ends. Besides, if 'Harry Potter' makes more people pick up 'Hunter,' I'm very happy with that. I'd be very happy if it worked the other way, too, of course, but y'know - it's not like Harry needs the extra readers!"

[Hicksville]If you're a die-hard fan of "Hunter" then this is the part of the interview that you've been waiting for- Horrocks has some teasers regarding the future of the series. "So here's a few little bits and bobs (without giving too much away): There's a bit of a bloodbath coming up, as a consequence of issue 13's declaration of war. People will die in reasonable quantities, including people we know. Tim faces up against a Necromancer called Arawn Kruder, who's desperately in love with the Goddess of Death. His ultimate mission in life is to consumate that love and he's slaughtered tens of thousands over the years in an effort to catch her attention... He's a pretty dangerous fellow - made more so by something Lily gives him when the latter hires Kruder to deal with our very own boy wizard. The outcome of this confrontation has - as they say in the press releases - 'long-reaching consequences' for our hero. We'll see a bit more of Iolanthe in upcoming issues, too - especially, as I mentioned, in issue 17, which I want everyone to read! Richard and I both adore Iolanthe, and this is the issue when she really comes into her own - as something very fey and otherworldly. And sexy too."

"What else? Tim will be briefly returning to the Gemworld soon (anyone who's lived in London knows that you have to take a holiday from that wonderful, horrible city now and then if you don't want to go bonkers). Which means we'll be seeing Kalesh (the girl from 'The Lake of Fire') again - and not for the last time... Tim's quest for the Codex Raziel will reveal the truth about Lily's plans, which involve the 'Logos' - the word that created the universe. And, of course, Tim's love life will continue to enthrall, entertain and amuse everyone except Tim... Ain't that always the way...? I'd also like to tell some more stories one day about the White School. The White School is a setting with infinite potential - some of which it'd be fun to explore. And I have storylines lined up in year three which involve artists, dragons, encyclopedias, other worlds, parties, magic, love and - well, all the usual suspects."

Before getting back to work, Horrocks also offers his thoughts on the industry, having worked on both the indie side and now being somewhat of a mainstream success story. "Oh boy, I could go on for hours about that, and I really should get back to work. But in short, I'm very optimistic about comics right now. The comics market has been shrinking since the 1950s (with occasional blips like the 1990-2 speculative boom). But the 'alternative' (or 'literary') comics market has been climbing steadily for at least 10 years. I see the bright future for comics as heralded by things like Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan,' Dan Clowes' 'Ghost World,' Joe Sacco's 'Safe Area: Gorazde,' Art Spiegelman's 'Maus' etc. These are very good graphic novels which have sold well in bookstores - often to people unfamiliar with the 'comics scene.' Maybe in twenty years (or sooner?) there won't be any more flimsy monthly mainstream comics 'pamphlets' - but every bookstore will have a decent range of graphic novels and comics will be simply a subset of the book publishing world? My ideal model for the future of comics is a variation on the Japanese Manga model or the European industry's model. Both these markets thrive by being part of the mainstream publishing world, rather than limiting themselves to a specialist ghetto. And they're much more sensible about formats. I applaud CrossGen's recent experiment in publishing fat anthology titles as substitutes for a range of monthly titles; I reckon that instead of publishing 6 different X-Men titles a month (all at 24 pages for $2.50), Marvel should be publishing one big fat cheap X-Men magazine, which contains 6 serialized stories and loads of advertising and is sold primarily through newsstands. The same goes for Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics et al. As serials are concluded in the magazine, they'd be collected as books (with much more lavish production values) and sold in bookstores. That's my dream of where the American industry should go. But how it can get from here to there, I have no idea..."

Regardless of the industry's future, Horrocks' career looks bright: "Hunter" is gaining acclaim and the scribe has just won the "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" category at the prestigious Eisner Awards (For Horrocks thoughts on being nominated, click here.). "Well, Hunter is ongoing, of course," says Horrocks of his plans for future comic work. "And I'm working on developing another ongoing series for Vertigo, which may be announced soon. There are other things in the works, but nothing that's announceable yet. As for my own stuff, 'ATLAS' is ongoing (issue 1 came out last year and I hope to get issue 2 out before the end of this year). And the Top Shelf book is also in progress (current working titles include 'DIRTY COMICS' or 'THE ISLAND OF VENUS'). This is a very challenging book to be working on - it's a kind of long erotic love story, which explores issues around love, sexuality, pornography, growing up and - of course - comics. I'm also putting together a collection of my shorter comics work (from 'Pickle' and various anthologies) for Drawn & Quarterly, which will probably be called 'INCOMPLETE WORKS.'"

As he leaves to fantasize about the further adventures of Tim Hunter, Horrocks has one final message for fans of his work and comic book readers in general:

"Even if you haven't read (or liked) 'Hunter' to date, read issue 17. It's the best thing I've written for Vertigo yet - and for me represents a turning point. Hopefully you'll see what I mean."

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