An Exclusive Interview with Cartoonist Josh Hicks on HOTELITOR

An Exclusive Interview with Cartoonist Josh Hicks on HOTELITOR

Are you ready for a journey into the absurd and the hilarious? Look no further than Josh Hicks‘ latest creation, HOTELITOR: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit. Hicks, a Welsh cartoonist celebrated for his wit and storytelling prowess, invites readers on a sci-fi adventure like no other. Set aboard the finest hotel in space, HOTELITOR promises a wild ride with giant robots, a satire of late-stage capitalism, and twists at every turn.

As HOTELITOR’s release date draws near, anticipation builds for this exciting addition to graphic novels. In this exclusive interview, we explore Hicks’ inspiration, creative process, and what awaits readers in this intergalactic romp.

Get ready to journey through hyperspace, where laughter meets social commentary. Join us as we uncover the secrets of HOTELITOR and delve into the galaxy with Hicks’ imaginative characters. Let’s dive deep into the interview.

An Exclusive Interview with Cartoonist Josh Hicks on HOTELITOR

Toons Mag: What inspired you to create HOTELITOR and its unique concept of a giant robot hotel in space?

Josh Hicks: I drew this illustration of a giant robot hotel in 2018 and kept looking at it and imagining stories that could fit around it. I do not remember where that initial drawing came from – it was organic. I love big ensemble character pieces, so I got obsessed with the idea of this giant hotel mech getting lost in space and its staff and guests having to survive long enough to figure out a way to get back home. I’ve always wanted to play with mechs, giant aliens, corporate conspiracy, and stuff, and it all came together from there.

Toons Mag: How did your personal experiences with lousy temp jobs and student work placements influence the development of HOTELITOR?

Josh Hicks: I did have some lousy temp jobs, and they all influenced the comic somehow. I worked at a video game store, where I was a terrible and nervous employee, and I did many different odd jobs that were all a bad fit. Anna, our main character, is on an unpaid college work placement onboard Hotelitor, and I did one of those for a reality TV show in college. Going into it, I thought there’d be a Hollywood vibe, but they just got me to sneak bags of all the excess trash they were producing into a nearby hotel trash compactor so that the production offices didn’t stink. It might have been character-building, but I wish it had been paid.

An Exclusive Interview with Cartoonist Josh Hicks on HOTELITOR
HOTELITOR by Josh Hicks

Toons Mag: Can you tell us more about the social commentary embedded within the storyline of HOTELITOR, particularly regarding late-stage capitalism?

Josh Hicks: I wanted to write a little about that late teen, early adult period of my life where I was trying to figure out where I fit into the adult working world. I don’t think you can do that without addressing late capitalism, even in a book where the core conceit is that a hotel can punch things. It’s a comedy, but the book does get into stuff like greed, resource-hoarding, and corporate brutality, and I think all of that just emerged naturally in the writing. It’s not a didactic book, and hopefully, it’s just a fun read, but it’s got my perspective on that stuff built into it. 

Toons Mag: What challenges did you face while blending elements of classic mecha manga and tokusatsu media into the narrative of HOTELITOR?

Josh Hicks: The main challenge is that if you ask me to draw something, I will naturally draw a midshot of a character talking to somebody else. So, all of the action stuff, the mech stuff, the tokusatsu-inspired stuff was a realm I wanted to play in, but it was not my comfort zone as an artist. So, I had to stretch out my skills and figure out how to approach it. I wanted to pay homage to the classic mech manga and tokusatsu shows I loved while weaving in my natural cartooning style and my work with diagrams, maps, and charts. The hope was that I could blend it all into one cohesive whole to make something that challenged me and felt fresh.

HOTELITOR by Josh Hicks
HOTELITOR by Josh Hicks

Toons Mag: HOTELITOR features a diverse cast of characters. How did you approach character development to ensure each character felt distinct and memorable?

Josh Hicks: On a writing level, I just tried to feel the vibes and give them all a distinct voice. Some of them are amalgamations of people I know or have known. I felt I had a good handle on what they wanted in the story’s context, and I just leaned into that. Regarding cartooning, the sci-fi setting helped: I tried to balance relatable human characters and more out-there designs. Part of the joy of the book for me is that you get to imagine the hotel as a bustling place with all these characters living and moving around within it, and I wanted to give each of them a good, distinctive look to make that as fun as possible.

Toons Mag: Could you elaborate on the role of Anna Greene, the 18-year-old intern, as the protagonist of HOTELITOR?

Josh Hicks: Anna is basically who I was at work at age eighteen– nervous, stressed, uncertain, and potentially not fully competent at the job she’s being asked to do. She’s trying to figure out who she is and will be. When crisis strikes, she does unexpectedly come into her own. She finds something she might be good at leading Hotelitor’s cast of misfits as they try to get to the bottom of this catastrophe and return home. But she soon finds that it’s not as easy as it seems and that she’s got a fair amount to overcome – internally and externally – if she can save the day.

Toons Mag: HOTELITOR focuses on the relationship between labor and power. How did you navigate this theme within the context of a comedic sci-fi adventure?

Josh Hicks: As the book’s premise might suggest, I am an idiot who can draw a little bit. I would never claim to have all – or any – of the answers to this stuff, but I have my strong feelings, and it probably helps that I’m Welsh. Wales is a country that has seen powerful labor movements and has a history of subjugation by the ruling class, and that all fed into the way I approached this stuff in the book. Regarding capitalism, I can’t think of a better foe to pit a giant robot against.

HOTELITOR by Josh Hicks
HOTELITOR by Josh Hicks

Toons Mag: The reviews mention HOTELITOR’s tackling of social issues. How did you balance humor with addressing these severe topics?

Josh Hicks: In life, you find humor in even the darkest situations, and it’s only suitable for art to reflect that. I think being able to laugh and experience joy in the face of what might be an absolute hellscape is a great thing. I also cannot make anything without at least attempting to be funny. It’s probably a character flaw.

Toons Mag: What do you hope readers will take away from the themes explored in HOTELITOR?

Josh Hicks: I try to write and draw with empathy and optimism; hopefully, that comes across. It’d be nice if there were readers who feel a little bit seen by the book or empowered to actualize in some way, but I’d be more than happy to learn that someone just got a few laughs from reading it on a lunch break.

Toons Mag: Can you share any specific influences from mecha manga or tokusatsu media that directly inspired elements of HOTELITOR?

Josh Hicks: Mazinger Z, the original Gundam series, Tetsujin 28-go, and Getter Robo are big mecha manga staples and influenced how I approached design in the book. I watched a lot of Ultraman and Ultraseven around the time of Hotelitor’s writing, which bled into it a lot, too. Just the sense of creativity, of fun, the idea of these characters teaming up to solve problems and save the day… that was essential to the whole thing. One of the things I like about tokusatsu is that you can feel the work that goes into it – that these artists had what might be a somewhat silly idea and then really committed to making it happen. I spent years making a book about a giant hotel robot, so I relate.

Are you ready to experience the absurdity of HOTELITOR for yourself? Mark your calendars for May 7, 2024, when this exhilarating graphic novel hits stores near you. In the meantime, watch the YouTube trailer and stay tuned for more updates from Graphic Universe™, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to join Anna Greene and her eclectic crew as they navigate the chaos of deep space in the wildest adventure of the year!

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Written by Sondre Borg

I'm Sondre Borg, but you can call me Sondre. I'm a cheerful Norwegian Digital Nomad and writer, ready to embark on exciting adventures through words and pixels! 🌍✍️

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