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Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Creating Comics: Nick Abadzis
Born in Sweden to Greek and English parents, writer, artist and editorial consultant Nick Abadzis was brought up in Switzerland and England. He writes and draws comics and graphic novels for both adults and children and his stories have been published all over the world.
Since his early days at Marvel UK Nick, whose perhaps best-known graphic novel to date is Laika, the story of the first dog in space, has helped set up several best-selling and innovative children’s magazines, including most recently, The DFC for David Fickling Books.
His storytelling contribution, Cora’s Breakfast, was featured in The Guardian and his work has also appeared in various British publications such as The Times and The Independent on Sunday.
One of his earliest comics works was the hugely popular Hugo Tate, published in the ground-breaking 1980s comic magazine Deadline. Now, at last, British publisher Blank Slate Books have collected the strips into one gorgeous-looking new book, and I caught up with Nick to ask him about the project.
For the full interview with Nick, you'll have to grab a copy of STRIP Magazine Issue 5 from your nearest comic shop, on sale later this month.
DownTheTubes: Hugo Tate. What's it all about?
Nick Abadzis: It’s a rites-of-passage story about a young man who is, initially at least, represented as a stick man in a figurative world. He’s simultaneously an everyman and he changes and becomes more “real” as the story progresses – his story is not by any means universal in the way in which he experiences it, but hopefully it’s universally understandable.
DownTheTubes: It's a welcome collection that's a long time coming - how will it be pitched to people who haven't heard of it?
Nick: A road trip. The second part of it anyway. I’ve heard it described as “a road movie from Hell”!
DownTheTubes: Hugo Tate was one of Deadline's most popular strips - is that a period in your career you remember fondly?
Nick: Mostly, yes. There were some hard lessons to learn – such as, don’t ever sign a contract without reading it first. Tom Astor (Deadline’s funder) chained all of the early Deadline cartoonists to these draconian agreements that I spent a lot of time and most of the money I’d earned (which was a pittance, let me tell you) trying to extricate us all from, which is why there was a break between the first series of Hugo and the second.
Eventually we agreed terms but it was an experience that’s made me cagey about contracts and what rights you sign away ever since. I’m an advocate of creator’s rights in comics and I’d advise all young cartoonists to watch what they sign.
That said, the creative aspects of it were incredible – it really was an amazing opportunity to be given – to be allowed to develop your own comic characters via a regularly published forum with national distribution. I’m very grateful for it and although I think Tom could’ve been smarter in the way he developed his relationship with the magazine’s contributors, I thank Steve Dillon and Brett Ewins for getting me on board. My career might’ve been very different without their championing the likes of us snot-nosed brats.
It was a kind of a shambolic university of comics, very experimental and energetic with some incredibly inventive talent from the start. You had Steve and Brett around and other greats like Brendan McCarthy, Pete Milligan and Tom Frame who you could learn from if you paid attention, but also carte blanche to do your own thing. And I did.
DownTheTubes: Do you have a favourite Hugo Tate moment?