Comics

INTERVIEW: Nick Abadzis, artist of The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe

Written by Fred McNamara

Nick Abadzis is an artist/writer who recently provided the artwork for the stunning The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe. We had a chat with Nick about working on the comic and discussed the golden age of Hollywood, Doctor Who, and plenty of smoke…

AP2HYC: Can you tell us what The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe is about?

Nick Abadzis: It’s about a box of cigars that are given to Orson Welles to celebrate the release of his movie, The Lady From Shanghai, that he directed and starred in with his then-wife, Rita Hayworth. It’s also about the Cuban cigar-roller who made them, Conchita Marquez. It’s a hard story to describe exactly, which I think is a huge part of its appeal, but I’d say it was a kind of romantic fantasy – with a lot of smoke.

AP2HYC: How did you join the project? What made you want to provide the artwork?

Nick: David Camus was looking for an artist. He and I share a co-agent, who said to me that he thought he had “my next project”. He knew that I write all my own material, as well as writing scripts for other artists, and that I hadn’t illustrated something by another writer for many, many years, but he felt that it would be a good fit. I was intrigued enough to read the script, which was for a European-style 48-page bande dessinee album. I loved it, so I emailed David. I wasn’t sure at that point if I’d do it, but we really hit it off – and began conversing regularly. We became good friends really, and that’s always the basis for the best kinds of collaboration, because then things flow naturally, organically.

AP2HYC: What was your initial reaction on reading the story for the first time?

Nick: I thought it was an incredibly original piece of writing. Most comics are genre-based and here was something that didn’t easily fit into any particular category. It’s essentially a love story, sure, but it also co-opts stars of Hollywood’s golden age as characters and it’s about, well, ephemeral, smoky stuff, things that are hard to get a good grasp on. It was deft and funny but also very poignant in places – a good balance of drama to humour. I could imagine some of the sequences being quite beautiful and dreamlike and that also drew me to it.

I loved the idea of Orson Welles telling the story of this Cuban cigar roller, who in reality was probably the last kind of woman that you think a man like Orson would worship. It was an offbeat, crazy kind of contrast, but I loved how David had worked it, like it was someone telling a story in a bar. All of the characters are perceived as if through a smoky haze, via myth rather than reality.  I did worry that Conchita didn’t get much of a break after being exploited her whole life, but that also seemed true to life. And, on the other hand, I wanted to show that she was happy in herself, being herself, and even though circumstances contrived to make her otherwise, ultimately they just couldn’t kill her spirit.

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AP2HYC: What was it like working with David Camus? Can you give us a bit of an insight into the collaborative process of writer and artist?

Nick: At the beginning, when we and our agents were approaching publishers, there was some discussion as to what the eventual format of the book should be, and that informed the creative process to some extent. We’d approached a few imprints, but I’d been wanting to work with Self-Made Hero for some time, and they offered us both the best deal and the best format – Emma Hayley at SMH stipulated that she needed a book of around 128 pages in length rather than 48 pages, which actually gave us a lot of creative freedom. I asked David if I could adapt the existing script and flesh it out a little further, which I did by doing a first thumbnail draft that ran to about 110 pages. I added a few scenes and some dialogue, and the coda. It was important that I got David’s blessing to do that – it was his story!

But then we went over the thumbnails together, adding little bits and pieces, tweaking dialogue and generally doing an editorial process on ourselves. It really was very collaborative; we had a real creative synergy working in that way. Once we were both happy with the thumbnail draft, I went away and did the finished art, and that’s what you see in the book.

AP2HYC: David pays particular thanks to you with the final line from Casablanca – ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship’. Can we expect to see more collaborative work between you two?

Nick: We’ve been talking about other projects all along, throughout the making of this one, so, yeah, that’s a distinct possibility. I don’t know when it’ll happen, as we both have numerous other projects to finish, and these days I seem to be in demand more as a writer than as an artist! But, we are friends, and all sorts of ideas come up, so, eventually, yes.

AP2HYC: Have you any other projects you’re working on at the moment?

Nick: I recently finished a script for a new YA graphic novel for First Second, the publishers of LAIKA . I’m working with an incredible artist called Jerel Dye on that. I can’t say much about it at the moment, but I am very, very happy with how that’s turning out. I am also writing Doctor Who comics for Titan, the first issue of which should be out this July – we’re debuting a line of tenth and eleventh Doctor comics at the San Diego Comicon (I’m writing the first and third arc of the tenth Doctor series). That’s extremely exciting, a hell of a lot of fun and I’m very happy to be doing it. Got big plans in store for the Doctor! I’m also working on the second volume of a kid’s GN called Cora’s Breakfast and have a bunch of other irons in the fire, as always. Stay tuned.

Get your copy of The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe from SelfMadeHero!

About the author

Fred McNamara