Your enjoyment of The Cigar That Fell in Love with a Pipe will be coloured by what you think of the story so let’s start there. This is the story of Conchita Marquez, the most famous cigar roller in Cuba. Okay, you might think. A graphic novel about a legendary Cuban cigar roll. I’m interested. Go on. Well, Conchita Marquez’s cigars were celebrated. She rolled them on her fat sweaty thighs and the perspiration gave her cigars a taste unlike any other. Orson Welles was a fan. In fact on the eve of the release of The Lady from Shanghai (a film these days regarded as ‘the weirdest great movie ever made’) he was gifted the very last box of Conchita Marquez cigars. The last box ever? you cry. Why? What happened to Conchita Marquez? Well, The Cigar That Fell in Love with a Pipe will tell you.
Exploited by her boss and worked like a dog, Conchita eventually became ill and was sent to Europe for a cure. En route, aboard an ocean going liner, she became infatuated with a sailor who liked to smoke tobacco in a pipe. The sailor was also a fan of carving the odd pipe or two. But he wasn’t interested in Conchita and, despite flamboyantly professing her love, she ends up expiring in a train carriage. Her soul passed into the last box of cigars she ever crafted. Her soul passed into – Yes. That’s right. Her soul passed into the last box of cigars that she ever crafted. Meanwhile her unrequited sailor love is struck by lightning and – I can see where you’re going with this – HIS SOUL passed into the pipe he was carving. Yes. Meanwhile Orson, who is busy smoking up a storm in his study to the chagrin of his wife, the beautiful actress Rita Hayworth (who he became estranged from during the shooting of The Lady from Shanghai), gradually absorbing the history of Conchita through the fug.
Welles, it turns out, is also a bit of a pipe enthusiast and it probably isn’t too much of a spoiler to learn that eventually pipe and cigar are reunited and this time around, bereft of their corporeal form, the souls are temporarily happy to see one another. But disaster lurks around the corner. Didn’t you just know it?
Now, if you’ve arrived at this point in the review thinking that sounds AWESOME, then The Cigar That Fell in Love with a Pipe is for you. The art does the job of supporting the fantastical story. If you think it sounds a bit daft (as, I have to admit, I kind of did when I got to grips with the book) then it’s quite possible that the book won’t be for you. I thought it was alright. A bit daft. Enough fun to while away a couple of hours. Not good enough to warrant repeated revisits (which is kind of what I want from a graphic novel, if I’m being honest). There is something attractive about the figure of Conchita – and the way her soul soars is affecting (reminding this reader of the wilder flights of fancy of Alan Moore’s Promethea) – and it may be that the graphic novel I wanted focused solely on her to the exclusion of Welles but – that’s a different book entirely.
Any Cop?: A curious occasionally phantasmagoric diversion from Camus and Abadzis that certainly pushes at the boundaries of biographical graphic novels in a way that is both humorous and sweet. Best approached as an amusing footnote for fans of Orson Welles.