ComicBuzz Chats With Josh Hicks

With the release of Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit from Graphic Universe on May 7th, we are delighted to be joined by cartoonist and filmmaker Josh Hicks.


Hi, Josh; it’s so nice to have you here with us.

Thanks, it’s lovely to be here.


Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Josh Hicks, and I’m a cartoonist and filmmaker based in Wales. I work in comics and animation, and my new graphic novel, Hotelitor, is out May 7th from Graphic Universe. It’s a sci-fi action comedy about a giant robot that is also a hotel.


Can you tell us about the origins of Hotelitor?

It started out as a silly illustration I made to entertain myself. I drew a print of this big hotel robot a few years ago, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I have no memory of where the idea for that initial drawing came from, which is usually how things go for me. One flash of momentary inspiration, followed by years of hard work to bring to fruition this story of a giant mechanical workplace that gets trapped in deep space.


How would you describe Hotelitor?

It’s inspired by a bunch of things I love. I’ve always loved big mechs, giant monsters and space-opera-type stuff, and all of that got rolled into Hotelitor. The book starts with our titular bipedal hotel getting attacked by a mysterious space entity and finding itself adrift in some unknown corner of the universe. A group of low-level service workers then have to band together to try to save the day and get back home. Along the way, they have to battle bad bosses, music-themed cults, existential alien threats and shadowy corporate conspiracy, while also navigating the pitfalls of late capitalism and fighting over who gets the biggest room.


What can you tell us about Anna Greene?

Anna is a student on an unpaid work placement onboard Hotelitor. At the start of the book, she’s out of her element and not really suited to the jobs she’s being asked to do, but when crisis hits she becomes the only thing that’s stopping the entire hotel from falling apart. I wanted to use the book to write a little bit about my work experiences in my late teens and early twenties, and Anna kind of represents that time in my life: she’s got no real idea what she wants to do or the kind of person she’s going to be, and she’s very nervous and stressed out and trying her best to survive it all minute-to-minute. She’s probably better at piloting a giant robot than I would be, though.


How long have you been working on the Hotelitor graphic novel?

I drew that initial illustration in 2018, I think, and I pitched the book at the tail end of 2020. I started writing the script and penciling the book in 2021 and it took me around two years to finish it around other projects. It’s been a year since I finished the book. I am a big proponent of having a really stupid idea and then committing the maximum amount of effort to making it happen, and Hotelitor is definitely a product of that way of working.


What has it been like working with Graphic Universe?

I love working with Graphic Universe. They were really supportive of everything I wanted to do. My editor, Greg Hunter, and Graphic Universe’s designer, Mary Ross, were super integral to the making of the book, and it’s been great to work with their current graphic novel editor, Sean Tulien, on the release, too. A great bunch of people working really hard to make good books.


Is there a particular character from Hotelitor that you enjoy illustrating?

I love drawing Hotelitor itself. Part of the reason I wanted to make the comic in the first place was to be able to play in the world of mechs for a bit, and I really wanted to channel my love for 70s and 80s mech manga into Hotelitor’s design. I’m also a sucker for a good map or a diagram, and getting to lay out the interior of the mech and figuring out how it would work as both a character and as an environment was a really fun challenge. There’s also a disgruntled dog/journalist character that I love to draw, but I think that’s because I just really enjoy frowning.


How did Graphic Universe get involved with Hotelitor?

Graphic Universe put out my last book, Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition, and so it felt like a no-brainer when it came time to pitch Hotelitor. I can’t stress enough how much of a good time I had working with them on that book, and Hotelitor was no different. I also knew I wanted to draw on some of my teenage work experiences, and they’ve got priors in that world, so it was a good fit.


As a creator, do you prefer writing or creating art?

I love them both. Drawing is definitely harder on a physical level. I drew a few sample pages first, but I then wrote a full script for Hotelitor before drawing anything else, and I think that process took me a few months. The drawing, on the other hand, took years. But a lot of the fun lies in the drawing: problem-solving, getting to actually bring this stuff to life… the two processes are really entwined in my mind. I’m always tweaking and editing the writing as I work on the art. I can’t really imagine drawing somebody else’s graphic novel, but maybe I would write something for somebody else to draw. So there’s that.


We did check out the trailer for Hotelitor; could you tell us about the trailer?

Games are a part of my DNA at this point, and whenever I work on a book I tend to think about it in those terms quite a lot. I think that’s helpful in visualizing what kind of experience I’d like readers to have. I co-designed a card game based on Glorious Wrestling Alliance, and the two book projects I’m working on at the moment are game-related in different ways. Here, I got obsessed with making a trailer for a Hotelitor game that never existed. I was thinking a lot about SNES RPGs while making the book, and I think animating this trailer might be the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything – it was especially nice to get my go-to collaborator, Ioan Morris, to do some original music for it. There may also be a minor interactive element to the book itself, but you’ll have to read it til the end to find out.


With Hotelitor releasing on May 7th, how do you feel?

I hope people take a chance on Hotelitor, and I’m excited to get to talk to them about it at comic shows and conventions and stuff. It’s been a long time coming, so at this point I can’t wait to get it out in the world. I’m mainly just looking forward to getting to share this weird thing with as many people as possible.

Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?

If you’ve got any tolerance at all for sci-fi, comedy and giant robots, please check out Hotelitor at a book shop, comic store or library near you. I am 85% sure you’ll have a good time. 90% if you’ve ever worked in the service industry. There’s always a margin of error. Failing that, maybe watch the trailer on loop and have fun imagining your own version of what the book might be. Oh, and you can find me at @ajoshhicks on all the social media platforms if you want to find out more about my work.

We would like to say thank you to Josh for chatting with us and wish him the best of luck for the release of Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit.

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