Many people dream of becoming a published author and having their books read by thousands of people across the world.
And for the most part, that’s as far as it goes. But Caerphilly Borough cartoonist Josh Hicks was able to make it a reality seven years after he started creating storyboards from his tiny bedroom at home.
The 30-year-old Maesycwmmer was selling his self-published Glorious Wrestling Alliance comic primarily at art fairs, comic book conventions and independent comic shops in Wales and England.
But after being spotted by Minneapolis-based publisher Graphic Universe, the series hit the top rope with a definitive, full-color collection of comics released across the globe.
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Josh said it was a huge boost in getting his work recognized, validating all of his words and sketches from the past few years. He started creating comics after graduating from college at the Atrium, University of South Wales, in 2014.
He said: “I’ve always been in comics. As a child, I remember going to the Blackwood library and seeing comics in the teenage section. I’ve always loved them as a reader and have always loved drawing and telling stories, but I didn’t do any real comic book work until I graduated from college in my early twenties.
“I shot at university so I was doing short films. I was doing live action movies in college, but always got a better storyboard response than the movie itself. Around the same time, I was getting into the alternative comics that you would see from Canada or the United States. I was watching artists like Michael Deforge that I had never met while in college and it blew me away.
Josh, who works as a freelance animation director, said it was around this time that he discovered a community of freelance cartoonists in the UK. He saw that some would see their work published in specialty comic book stores like Forbidden Planet in Cardiff and Gosh! Comics in London, as well as works presented in specialized magazines.
“I saw magazines like Offlife in Bristol and the idea became more feasible,” he said.
“I thought if I made comics and sent them to people, someone could read them. So I started drawing them in my bedroom around 2014 and sent them out. The first thing I did was a little story and I sent it to Offlife Magazine and they published it, which gave me a boost.
“I don’t know if I would have continued doing this for so long without it. This comic was about going to clubs in Cardiff. I was excited then, because I got to see it in a magazine and learn about all these other cartoonists who were also in the magazine.
Josh said that while the idea of doing comics full-time seemed incredible to him, it would be financially impossible to support himself by doing it – especially since he was self-publishing. This meant that he would work during the day as an animator, then work on his comics in his bedroom at night.
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Josh said he would and publish a 24-page comic each year to showcase on comic book shows across the UK.
“That’s when I started this Glorious Wrestling Alliance book,” he said. “It’s basically a book about wrestlers with various issues. There is a lot of quarreling, but there is not a lot of wrestling in there, they are mostly arguing with each other.
He said good comments in response to his work gave him the confidence to continue.
Josh said, “Because the comics are so specialized, it just takes five people to tell you something is right for you to keep going, but they would do well. It was cool to have done this with no end goal or audience in mind and people said they liked it, it made me think I was at least on the right track.
Josh continued to do this over the following years until he decided to collect all of his wrestling books ready to self-publish one book. Then around the same time, he said he was contacted by US publisher Graphic Universe to his disbelief. But after taking the time to watch his comics, Josh said he learned in 2019 that the Graphic Universe would be releasing his work in America and the UK.
“It was nice to be validated,” he said. “It takes a lot of time and work to create a page compared to the time it takes to read a page. I can take eight hours to make a page and it can take 10 seconds to read it. It can be hard to keep flaking no matter how much you love it. But it’s great to have this praise from someone you trust.
Josh said having a professional editor on board made a huge difference to the end product. Before, he said it was a very small operation with books published in one color from his house with only a few copies around.
With professional publishing, this meant that the book could have a better finish and be in color.
It also means that it could now be distributed correctly. The book is currently sold on Amazon, Walmart, and comic book stores in the US and UK – such as Forbidden Planet – subject to availability. Josh has said he hopes it will appear in more traditional UK stores, such as Waterstones, by February 2022.
Although Josh doesn’t have a target audience in mind for the Glorious Wrestling Alliance, Graphic Universe specializes in books for children and young adults. Josh said it was nice to think that young people could appreciate his work.
He said: “It’s good to think that other people who are not in my sphere will be able to read it too. I was told it would be in school libraries and places like that. It’s cool because I thought if I was in school around 17, I would have liked to read something like that.
Josh said he was excited about the future. He is currently working on another book, but hopes to create more installments of the Glorious Wrestling Alliance.
He said, “I still want to work on a follow-up to this. But I’m currently working on a sci-fi comedy about a giant robot that’s also a hotel and gets lost in space. I just handed in the final script for this and will hopefully start drawing for it over the next couple of weeks.
“The dream would be to do comics every day without having to worry about money. But I’m really happy with the way it’s going and I love the animation as well, so it’s a good balance at the moment because I can do a bit of whatever I love. I would love to do more of these Glorious Wrestling Alliance comics at some point and I would even love to animate them too.
“Together with card game company Caerphilly Tinkerbot Games, we are creating a comic book-based card game that will hopefully be released in the middle of next year.”
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