Andrew Villone hails from Seattle and lives in Koper. He has his own tour company, branded under Adventures With Sarah, and has spent the last 18 years running boutique tours around Croatia, Slovenia and SE Europe. Last December, he published the first issue of his comic, Dazzle.
From tour operator to comic book creator, I’ve heard that one so many times….
I have a great gig running my own tours but coming out of the pandemic it became quite clear that there needed to more to my life than just travel and business. And when you get to a certain age, you want to do more with your life, not less. I had this idea for a film the past 25 years, just buried away in my brain. At some point I knew I didn’t want to take it to the grave with me so I unpacked it and realized there was much more there than just the original idea.
Since I started down this path about 15 months ago, it continues to snowball, in a very good way. It’s taking on a life of its own. Only two issues into it and I have come to the most obvious and irrefutable conclusion: anything is possible, if you want it.
What is the overall idea of Dazzle?
Here’s what we call the elevator pitch: A young girl in search of her identity runs away to a globe-trotting circus fuelled by magic. There she will need to find both her dysfunctional family and her true self under this strange big top filled with outcasts, dreamers, assassins, charlatans, monsters and angels. When the circus lights dim, the real magic begins. This is the world of Dazzle.
Pitch aside, I believe Dazzle is more of a love story or a series of love stories with a healthy dose of fantasy elements and some bat-shit-crazy, audacious set pieces. That’s what you get by watching a myriad of cult classics and Hong Kong films for the past 40 years. It’s definitely a character-driven story, not aplot-driven one.
What’s the storyline of this issue and how did it come about?
Oh, you know, just your typical garden-variety scenario: human cannonball ball performer from the circus sees beautiful girl flying stunt plane, they fall in love, bura wind hits, tragedy strikes, girl decides to change her destiny and be part of a traveling circus where you never die.
When I started writing it last August I didn’t know exactly which storyline would follow this one. Everything is much more clear now that I have all 30 synopses written. But at the time, I needed to have more a self-contained story with this issue. And since the first issue was quite vague and mysterious, I decided to do something more straightforward and try my hand at a love story. I also wanted to focus on a few characters and since we jump between different time periods it acts a bit like an origins story without actually being one.
Why did you set the new issue in Dubrovnik?
I’ve seen a fair number of places in the world and Dubrovnik has got to be one of the Top 5 most beautiful cities. The main character in the new issue, Raga, was inspired by someone from there that I met. We had a chat about films and it just struck me at that moment how much I missed this part of me, which used to be terribly integral to my identity. It was definitely the kick in the pants I needed. So you can say some of the seeds of Dazzle were born right here.
Why did you set it in the past (1920’s)?
Since the comic is set in various time periods and we jump around in history, I needed part of this story to be set in an earlier time. Someone who would love to fly could be a biplane pilot from this era and then later transition into being the human cannonball performer at the circus. When I was designing the character of Raga, I thought about the character of Rachael in Blade Runner who has that gorgeous 1940’s noir vibe. I didn’t want to copy that so 1920’s era art nouveau wasn’t such a bad second choice.
How did Dubrovnik inspire you?
It’s always the walls, right? First thing that jumps out to anyone visiting here. I needed a set piece for one of the main characters and jumping off the walls into the Adriatic, well, how could I resist? Also, seeing Rector’s Palace I’ve imagined it as a fab set for some sort of gala or ball so we used it as a setting for a Gatsby-esque party.
What are your connections with Croatia (and between your comic and Croatia)?
I started traveling here 23 years ago. The city walls had more seagulls than tourists on them back in January 2000. And there’s definitely a love affair with me and the atmosphere & settings of so many cities. Did I mention the wine and food? Igor, the artist who did many of the character designs and pencilled the first issue, is a good friend of mine from Istria. The whole Dazzle as an ‘epic comic book story’ started one night by getting drunk with him on some Teran. I suppose I could get into trouble with some of my Slovenian friends with that last comment…
You work in tourism, can you recommend some of your favorite spots in or near Dubrovnik?
Kopun (Dubrovnik) — That’s where I always eat. Pašticada or Dubrovnik capon – cannot go wrong. Wine selection here is tops.
Bartulović (Peljesac) — Organic wines and goulash with freshly killed wild boar (shot in the vineyards too I might add) – yes please!
Križ wines (Peljesac) — I loved their macerated Grk so much that they are in both issues of the comic.
M’arden wine bar (Dubrovnik) — will be ‘top shit’ as we say in Slovenia. LINKS
Dazzle FB link — www.facebook.com/Dazzlecircus
Dazzle IG link — www.instagram.com/dazzle_circus_comic/
AWS link — https://adventureswithsarah.net/