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Common Grounds’ Troy Hickman: Q&A

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2004
Posted By: Tim O'Shea

As SBC detailed in late June:
“Troy Hickman is proud to announce that all six issues of his critically-acclaimed superhero series Common Grounds, published by Top Cow, are now available in one low-priced package.

Common Grounds deals with a chain of coffee & donut shops whose customers are mainly superheroes and supervillains. Each issue consists of (at least) two stories, written by Hickman and drawn by a legendary list of illustrators, including Dan Jurgens, George Perez, Sam Kieth, Chris Bachalo, Carlos Pacheco, Mike Oeming, Angel Medina, and Ethan Van Sciver.

The Common Grounds package is available in the July Previews catalog for $14.99, and ships in September.”

With this announcement, I decided to track Hickman down and get an update from the interview he and I did awhile back.

Tim O’Shea: 2004 marks the 10th year of creating the Common Grounds universe (dating back to the 1994 launch of Holey Crullers). Some creators can't stick with a set of characters for 10 issues, much less 10 years. What keeps you interested?

Troy Hickman: Well, Holey Crullers, and now Common Grounds, is one of the things I've always wanted to do in comics: tell a superhero story that focuses on the humanity of the characters. Given the format of the book, I can tell just about any kind of story I choose. Because it tends to be all characterization and dialogue, I can do comedy, drama, suspense, pathos, just about anything. So it never gets boring. And because I have to keep the book interesting within that ostensibly static format, it remains fun, and a challenge, for me.

O’Shea: I was curious, was Mark Millar being slightly sarcastic when he said of your work: "Troy is dangerously good for a new guy" or is it still true to a certain extent that as an independent creator you aren't considered to have "arrived" until you hit the mainstream?

Hickman: Well, you have to realize that Mark almost certainly had never heard of me before Common Grounds. Remember that my mini-comics, even something with a cult following like Holey Crullers, never had more than several hundred readers on any given issue. I think there are plenty of people in the comics biz who will respect your work even before you've done mainstream stuff, but in most cases they will never have had the chance to see your comics before then.

O’Shea: Also, in terms of blurbs, how did you garner the praise from Stan the Man?

Hickman: Well, I have the benefit of having Jim McLauchlin in my corner, and Jim knows everyone who's ever so much as said the word "comics." So he was able to get my stuff into the hands of all sorts of folks who, I'm so proud to say, have sung its praises, including Stan, Mark Waid, Alex Ross, Guillermo Del Toro, Joe Quesada, and numerous others. You can imagine how that makes me feel...top of the world, ma...

O’Shea: When we talked back in November, you said: "Selling the property to Top Cow, however, will get these stories to a much broader audience (thousands instead of hundreds), and that's what I'm shooting for. Luckily, I haven't had to relinquish much, if any, creative control." Have you broadened your audience as much as you'd hoped?

Hickman: Well, yeah, I have an audience now in the tens of thousands as opposed to just tens. As much as I'd hoped? Considering that I wanted every man, woman, and literate child in the free world to read Common Grounds, no, I guess not. But the work is out there, as it some tremendous word of mouth, so I'm hoping the CG audience will just keep multiplying.

O’Shea: How hard is it to shift from a personal project like CG (and the creative control afforded you) to the editorial limitations inherent in writing an arc of a book like Top Cow's Witchblade?

Hickman: Actually, the only real limitations I had while writing Witchblade were self-imposed. I found myself trying to write the comic the way I thought Top Cow probably wanted it written, and that held me back. Jim was, once again, my guardian angel here, and told me to write it Troy Hickman style, because that's why they were having me do it. Once I was able to get beyond that self-restriction, it started coming together for me. I was (hopefully) able to bring the same elements of humanity and quirkiness to it that I guess have become my trademark, while still staying true to the characters.

O’Shea: In looking over these six issues, is there one story in particular that you've grown to be more proud of, more than the others?

Hickman: Oh, that's like choosing a favorite child, of course. There are things I dig about all of them. The minimalist beauty of Mike Oeming's Head Games, the suspense of Ethan Van Sciver's Roles, Chris Bachalo's incredible depiction of the Acidic Jew, the facial expressions of Carlos Pacheco, Where Monsters Dine with Angel Medina's fantastic rendering, Sam Kieth depicting American Pi in such a wonderful stylish fashion, each and every story by the great Dan Jurgens, and on and on. If I had to pick one, I guess it might be CG #4's Glory Days as it gave me the opportunity to have my work brought to life by the one and only Mr. George Perez, and that's something I've been waiting to see for three decades. And I'd remiss if I didn't mention Rodolfo Migliari's covers. Never thought I'd see my characters appear in a full-sized comic, let alone painted version of 'em!

O’Shea: Where do you go from here with Common Grounds?

Hickman: Well, now that the series is over, Top Cow is offering all six issues as a package deal for a special price. Hopefully that'll allow everyone who missed it the first time to join in on the fun. After that, we'll have to see. I'd love to have it as an ongoing series, or at the very least another mini-series. I have so many more stories I'd like to tell. Whether CG continues or not, though, I'll keep telling this kind of story. There's a real audience out there for comics with heart and soul, and I'd like to think I have something unique to say.


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