In Clerks., Dante is 22, works at the Quick Stop Market in Leonardo, New Jersey, and still lives with his parents. He feels that because he runs the store, he is independent and in control of his life, and yet, he is a push-over who often agrees to work when he doesn't have to (hence his catch phrase, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"). He frequently gets into debates ranging from philosophy to Star Wars with his best friend, fellow clerk Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), who works at the adjacent RST Video Store.
The film centers around the chaotic events of a day at the Quick Stop that Dante must deal with. Among other problems, Dante becomes the target of an anti-smoking mob who pelt him with cigarettes, and he is issued a summons and fined for selling cigarettes to a four-year-old, a crime Randal had in fact committed. In addition, he is continually harassed by Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), two drug dealers who loiter in front of the store all day and often like to go inside and steal.The film also deals with Dante's problematic romantic relationships. He has difficulty dealing with his girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), especially her extensive history of performing fellatio (on 37 different men, including him) — even though she seems to genuinely care for him, going so far as to bring him lasagna at work and help him fix a tire. At the same time, Dante is infatuated with ex-girlfriend Caitlin Bree (Lisa Spoonhauer) and seems intent on rekindling that relationship. In the end, Dante ends up with neither woman; Randal ends the relationship by telling Veronica that Dante never got over Caitlin, and Caitlin is hospitalized after accidentally having sex in a dark bathroom with a corpse, whom she had believed to be Dante.
Toward the end of the film, Dante laments his lot in life, only to be left speechless when Randal explodes at him, accusing him of blaming everyone else for his lack of initiative. They get into a brief fight, but they reconcile immediately afterwards. In the final scene, he tells Randal that he is going to try and work things out with Veronica. It is implied that he will try to find direction in his life.
In the beginning of Clerks II, Dante is now 31. Despite the epiphany at the end the first film, Dante still works at the Quick Stop, until Randal accidentally burns it down by forgetting to turn off a coffeepot. The two then get jobs at Mooby's, a fast food joint.
Clerks II follows Dante during his last day at work at Mooby's. Dante is engaged to Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), a domineering woman who makes all his decisions for him. They are set to leave New Jersey the next day and move to Florida, where Dante has been offered a job running one of his future father in law's carwashes.
As his last day at work unfolds, it is revealed that he had a drunken one night stand with his boss, Becky (Rosario Dawson), who claims not to believe in romantic love. As the day progresses, he comes to the realization that he is in love with Becky and, in an unguarded moment, confesses his feelings to her. In turn, she reveals to him that that she got pregnant as a result of their fling.
After Dante confides in Randal about his problem, Randal predictably confronts Becky about the situation, causing her to storm off in her car. Randal encourages Dante to try and find her, but to come back an hour later to help him close up the place. While driving around alone, Dante has time to think and decides that he wants a family with Becky.
As he comes back to work, Dante sees smoke coming from inside the Mooby's and dials 9-1-1 for help. Inside, instead of a fire, he finds his friends waiting for him for a surprise farewell party, as Randal had secretly booked a donkey show as Dante's going away surprise. During the party, Becky returns, and finally admits to Dante that she loves him. They start kissing passionately, only to be surprised by Emma. She knees him in the groin, throws the cake she had prepared for him in his face, and leaves after throwing her engagement ring at Becky. Immediately following this, the police and fire department show up to respond to the phone call Dante made but never canceled, and the entire group, save Becky who escapes out the back door, is taken to the police station's drunk tank for the night.
Dante says he wants to go back to Emma and move to Florida as planned. He then blames Randal for his predicament, and angrily renounces their friendship. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Randal tearfully tells his best friend that he loves him ("in a completely heterosexual way"), and convinces him to stay in New Jersey, buy the Quick Stop and re-open it. After his release, Dante pulls up to the drive through window where Becky works and offers her an engagement ring. She enthusiastically accepts. He and Randal buy the building where the Quick Stop and RST Video store used to be (with financial assistance from Jay and Silent Bob) and re-open them.
A Clerks live action TV pilot was made, without Smith's permission, by Disney. O' Halloran originally auditioned for his role, but was eventually portrayed by Andrew Lowery. O'Halloran later said he was glad not to get the part, as the pilot was not of great quality. As revealed on the Clerks. X DVD, Jeff Anderson, who has played Randal since the original Clerks, auditioned for the role of Dante as well, due to Jim Bruer securing the role of Randal in the show. Like O'Halloran, Anderson was happy to not obtain the role, and referred to the pilot as looking "like Saved By The Bell.
Dante also appears in the three Clerks comic books Smith has written: Clerks: The Comic Book, Clerks: Holiday Special and Clerks: The Lost Scene, as well as a comic strip, "On the Perils of Cinema", that appeared in the November 1999 issue of Talk magazine. He makes very brief appearances in Smith's other comic book serials, Chasing Dogma, Bluntman and Chronic and Walt Flanagan's Dog.
He has a cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in which Randal loses his temper with the title characters and banishes them from the Quick Stop, where he still works. Later, when the pair are described as terrorists on the news, Randal acknowledges that the restraining order. He is among the various Askewniverse characters seen exiting the premiere of Bluntman and Chronic at the end of the film, incredulous that his character in the film was played by Judi Dench. In a scene in which Jay raves about super monkeys taking over the world, Dante is seen having his brain taken out by monkeys exclaiming, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"
He appears in animated form in Clerks: The Animated Series, of which 6 episodes were produced (with only two airing on ABC before the series was cancelled). Still employed at the Quick Stop, his adventures throughout the series' short existence include managing a Junior Little League baseball team, being sued by Jay for $10 million, and being forced to admit he is gay on national television in order to save Leonardo. The animated Dante Hicks was voiced by Brian O'Halloran.
He also appears in the 2002 short film The Flying Car, in which he's asked by Randal what he would sacrifice for marketing rights to the eponymous technology.
Dante is featured in Clerks: The Lost Scene, a short animated in the style of the TV series, which, like the comic book of the same name, depicts the events at Julie Dwyer's wake that were cut from the film.
- In the original ending of Clerks., Dante is shot and killed by an armed robber after Randal leaves. Smith admits he was going to use this ending because he "didn't know how to end a film." The scene was cut before the film screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994, but it appears on the Clerks special edition DVD.
- Subsequent Askewniverse films feature characters named Hicks who are played by O'Halloran; all are said to be cousins of Dante, including Gill Hicks, a university scholar who appeared in Mallrats on the TV show Truth or Date; Grant Hicks, a news reporter seen in Dogma, and Jim Hicks, a television producer seen in Chasing Amy,