In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, cartoonist Josh Hicks talks about Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit (Graphic Universe). Find out what happens inside the worst job at the finest hospitality craft equipped with jet feet, a hyperspace engine, and and adjoining rooms. 

THE PLOT: “When a giant alien attacks the ship, Hotelitor’s surviving guests and staff find themselves stranded in deep space, where 18-year-old intern Anna Greene must take charge. Alongside her fellow entry-level service workers, she’ll try to control the chaos while rival factions emerge, wealthy VIPs seize hotel resources, and the musician-in-residence develops a literal cult following. As Anna and her friends search for a way home, shocking discoveries about Hotelitor’s owners await them—that is, if another giant alien doesn’t smash the crew first.”

Before its release on May 7, 2024, writer/artist Josh Hicks opens up about how the catchy title came about, the narrative’s satire of late-stage capitalism, and what readers should come away with. Join us as we head on over to the writer’s studio and discuss the craft of storytelling.

VILLAIN MEDIA: I’m impressed with how movies and TV shows are able to draw audiences with single titles, like Skywalker, Equalizer, and Airwolf. Tell me how just the word ‘Hotelitor’ popped into your head?

JOSH HICKS: Hotelitor is about a giant robot hotel that gets trapped in deep space, and it just felt like the most natural name for the book itself, as well as the eponymous mech. The name’s kind of punchy. It’s pretty dumb. It feels mech-y…I’d like to imagine it came in a moment of pure inspiration, but I think in reality I just stuck bits of the word ‘Hotel’ and ‘Gigantor’ together and put an ‘I’ in the middle. Hard work.

VM: Tell me how the story of a hospitality craft in hyperspace came about.

JH: It started as a quick illustration I made years ago – it was a picture of a big mech with a cutaway element that reveals that there’s a hotel operating in its innards. I love giant robots and maps and diagrams, so it was just a fun thing to draw and a silly visual gag. The more I thought about it, though, the more that ideas for stories and characters came about, and I got super into the idea of tackling my version of a big mecha/kaiju action comic while also tracking the trials and tribulations of these weirdos that are stuck in a hotel that they don’t really want to be in.

VM: Tell me what interested you about the character of intern Anna Greene.

JH: I guess I wanted to write a little bit about that period when you might have graduated from school, and you’re trying to decide what you’re going to do next, and trying to come to terms with how work is going to figure into your life…I remember that being very stressful and anxiety-inducing, and Anna’s the same way. 

I worked odd temp jobs and did some unpaid work placements in college and that felt like a good starting point. My experience is that the lower down the ladder you are, the more weird tasks you tend to have to do, and Anna kind of runs the gamut. 

She has to deal with bad managers, difficult customers, giant aliens and trans-galactic conspiracy. The verdict is out on which of those is worst.

VM: Tell me about your social commentary about the haves and the have-nots.

JH: You have entry- level service workers up against wealthy VIPs in your narrative. A lot of the book has to do with work, and so I think I had to interface with that stuff on some level. I really love stories where groups of people are trapped in one setting and a new ersatz society emerges – Lord of the Flies, A Drifting Classroom – and that’s where Hotelitor naturally started to go.

I think at that point I couldn’t really help but look at elements of greed and power and exploitation and whatnot. I wanted to do it in a way that never felt like it was at the expense of fun, though. The book’s not quite Animal Farm – but it does feature a journalist that’s also a dog.

VM: What do you hope readers come away with after reading Hotelitor?

JH: Whenever I do anything, I tend to just consider it a victory if readers a) actually read the book b)identify with any of the characters in any way whatsoever and c) laugh. I would be more than happy with any combination of those three things. All of them at once is the jackpot.

VM:How did Hotelitor change you as a storyteller?

JH: I’d never drawn this much action before and that was a really big part of why I wanted to do this specific book. I wanted to stretch myself as an artist and try to pull off something more visually ambitious than the work I’d done before. I’d also never dealt with this much plot – this is a big sci-fi/action/comedy. So a lot of it is about pace and timing, and that felt like a really fun challenge, too.

VM: What are you working on now?

JH: I’m working on some projects for what might be a bit of a younger audience – one is a licensed comic, another has an interactive element, but details on both of those are secret at the minute. Hopefully something will be announced soon!

Hotelitor arrives in stores on May 7th, 2024.

By Jorge Solis