Hicklenton first came to public view as a comic artist on AD , where after a couple of shorter tales, he got his shot at the Big Time with a run on the strip Nemesis The Warlock. His work is disturbing and dark and grim, but also has a twist of pitch black humour running below it. Compromise did not come into it. I shall give you a clue as to which side of the fence I sit on by telling you that the page below is one of my favourite comic pages ever. On 19th March this year Johnny took his own life at the Dignatas clinic in Switzerland.
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Because of his indirect approach, the disease itself is mostly presented via allegory. His prior works, such as AD and Judge Dredd , captured a different audience. Each time we draw a gag, a panel, a strip, a spread, a graphic novel, we chip away at the half-life of our true visual style. There are pages without any words, pages with seemingly orphaned words, and pages with a few poetic lines where periods abruptly appear, suddenly changing our very reading tempo to experience this shift, read the book aloud.
His pencil, pen and brush include hard thin lines, then widths and swatches of watercolor blurs; some of his figures are alien and hermaphroditic, partially cooked creatures that do much less to entertain than to very skillfully. I, myself, work on both paper and digital canvases and I tell my students and patients that draw, that every pixel and every turn of the letterform and shape must carry meaning for the communication to succeed.
The experience of pain does not require eyes, and in Months there are few well defined eyes or fully developed faces. Mostly we watch the sides or backs of heads as characters lumber, or flee, from where we sit holding the book.
We see three-quarter views, all a consistent mix of his remarkable pencil lines and watercolor puddles. The faces and bodies and body parts seem a Hicklenton-unique combination of the vague and the concrete, motion well beyond any caped action hero.
Maybe Hicklenton is teaching us that suffering is the best possible example of a human gestalt I might vote for love, as the other. For Hicklenton, his depiction is scalable and animalistic, drawings of the Pig, the Piglet and the Wild Boar all appear many times on the pages. The Boar in particular is never shy to show its massive tusks and to exert its heavy hooves. There are also moments when a character threatens to cross the fourth wall. That said, I kept flipping back to earlier pages [panels], looking again at the Beast or the Boar, seeing it as nothing less concrete than the signs and symptoms and MS diagnosis itself; perhaps Hicklenton did too.
While Months is about living and dying and even salvation, I cannot see Hicklenton producing it if were not for his terminal diagnosis.
In his own MS, the bodies pile up and life is purposely twisted out of him; every movement of his brush seems to signify one less inhale, the loss of mind and truly, brain. Unlike the unwitting demise of a frog in boiling water, every page offers this hurt, this depression, this loss of control.
Finishing the book one day before his planned death, Hincklenton took his own life in with the assistance of Zurich-based Dignitas. For graphic pathographies subjective as they should be , he helps us to clarify our own perceptions of illness, what signs and symptoms to look for or ignore , how to behave or react , even how to be sick e. If you decide to read up on Hincklenton e. There are many stories out there about his comic nature, his outrageous sense of humor, his knee-slapping laugh-out-loud style.
People really liked him. Of course, pain and comedy are yin and yang and Hincklenton understood the serious underbelly of genuine humor, and successfully delivers on it.
You might find it to be a statement about religion, blasphemy, atheism, existentialism, Christ or the Anti-Christ. It may be about a shared journey through birth and death, sex and love, sadness and suicide, a personal statement on right and wrong. Here are a thousand paper cuts, embossed one at a time, thin pencil drawn strands of flesh outlined against wide arcs of energy, the severing of body parts, and the loss of function.
Hicklenton may have had much more to say but no time left to say it. A cartoonist and comic with a lifelong interest in visual vocabularies, you can read his other Graphic Medicine Book Reviews The Infinite Wait, by Julia Wertz, on this website as well.
Find him on the web at www. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. The visual and the textual Each time we draw a gag, a panel, a strip, a spread, a graphic novel, we chip away at the half-life of our true visual style.
Pain or suffering?
100 Months: The End of All Things
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100 Months by John Hicklenton
He recently died aged 42 after suffering from Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis for 10 years. This a brutal, relentlessly violent epic placing Mara as an antichrist intent on unleashing Armageddon. The artistry on display here is truly breathtaking. Almost disturbingly beautiful, it is often difficult to look at such macabre imagery knowing it came from the mind and imagination of a dying man.