I think I’ve said it before, but Nick Abadzis’ Hugo Tate – about to come back into print in a new collection from Blank Slate books – is one of those treasured, classic comic texts for me, a comic that changed the way I thought about comics in general and remains one of my favorite books of all time. It’s particularly interesting/sad in a what-could’ve-been way, then, to read the wonderful interview Abadzis did with Tom Spurgeon and see this:
It was always my intention to give each of Hugo’s three sidekicks in Book 1 (A London Sequence) some stories of their own. Thanks to contractual disagreements at the time with Deadline, I managed one each for Stan and Dorinda but not Jason so I added a few pages between Books 1 and 2 to address that.
Looking back over all my old notes for Hugo III I don’t think I had the same clarity of purpose that I did for Book 2 (O, America). I was ambitious but I’d fulfilled a certain amount of what I’d wanted to do and I think I was afraid that I might not be doing Hugo III for the right reasons. Plus I was going through a divorce — I’d got married very young and extricating myself from that took up a lot of my emotional energy.
I do remember being amazed that publishers couldn’t see the potential in it, though (I’m talking British publishers in the early ’90s here), in comics generally. Everyone was talking about the “coming of the graphic novel” but what they were really talking about was Batman reprints or new spins on the superhero. No one could see the talent that was right in front of them, being published regularly in Deadline and elsewhere or doing their own mini-comics across the country. In that sense I was disappointed that it didn’t go anywhere.
I do find myself wondering sometimes what would’ve happened if I’d continued to just build a whole world around those characters, post-Deadline. My career’s been jury-rigged around lots of different aspects of publishing, both behind and in front of the editorial desk and I don’t regret anything as such. But sometimes I do find myself wishing that I’d found a publisher, early on, who’d believed in me and allowed me the sort of creative freedom that I saw other cartoonists abroad getting. But it didn’t happen that way, and I’m a practical sort of bloke, so I just worked bloody hard and hoped that eventually something would occur, which it did.
If you consider that the late ’80s/early ’90s anthology Deadline regularly had new work in it from Abadzis, Philip Bond, Jamie Hewlett, Brendan McCarthy, Peter Milligan and Steve Dillon (amongst many others, including as time went on, Evan Dorkin and more), it really is somewhat heartbreaking to consider what a graphic novel-based publishing line from those creators would’ve been like back then…
(Also: Everyone search out Hugo Tate when it’s released.)