Tuesday, September 09, 2014

"I would not pursue comix as a career": An Interview with Dean Haspiel

Rhode and Dean Haspiel
My friend Dean Haspiel just attended the Baltimore Comic-Con last weekend and is returning to the area for this weekend's Small Press Expo. Dean's had a good year resurrecting The Fox as a well-received superhero comic from Archie, while also putting out a hardcover collection of his Billy Dogma webcomics. I first interviewed Dean years ago as part of a Harvey Pekar panel that ended up as the foundation for a book. From working with Harvey and being an icon of alternative comics, Dean has built quite a resume with comics as varied as Mo and Jo from Toon Books to Inverna Lockpez's autobio Cuba: My Revolution. Dean kindly answered the usual questions for me today hopefully without any such expectations.

Mike Rhode: What type of comic work or cartooning did you do?
Dean Haspiel: My comix run the gamut between semi-autobiographical to superhero to psychedelic romance. I hopscotch between mainstream and alternative comix. I've collaborated with Harvey Pekar, Jonathan Ames, Inverna Lockpez, Jonathan Lethem, Stan Lee, Mark Waid, J.M. DeMatteis, Gabe Soria, and lots of other writers. I also write some of the stuff I draw.

How did you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?  
I draw traditional pencil, ink and erasers. LOTS of erasers. Recently, I've been digitally inking my pencils and I sometimes color and letter digitally, too.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?  
I was born in 1967 at New York Hospital. I grew up in Manhattan and moved to Brooklyn over 17 years ago.

What was your training and/or education in drawing? Do you have fine art training?  
I went to Music & Art High School. In my senior year (1985), M&A married Performing Arts and became La Guardia High School. I went to SUNY Purchase a couple of years later where I studied art and film. I also assisted cartoonists Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, and Walter Simonson in 1985, which helped me train for making comix. 

Who are your influences? 
 Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, Jack Kirby, Alex Toth, Will Eisner, C.C. Beck, Steve Ditko, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Byrne, Mike Zeck, Ron Wilson, Chester Brown, Mike Mignola, John Romita Jr., Frank Quitely, Baru...

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change? 
I would not pursue comix as a career. I would write and draw comix on the side - for the fun of it. My day job would be a mail man, cook, and/or paramedic.

What work are you best-known for? 
Harvey Pekar's The Quitter, The Fox, and Billy Dogma

What work are you most proud of?
Fear, My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience.

What would you like to do or work on in the future? 
I would like to pursue creator-owned comix, including more Billy Dogma, The Red Hook, and semi-autobio comix. I would also like to draw more Fantastic Four; especially The Thing (and bring back Marvel Two-In-One), and I'd like to tackle Jack Kirby's O.M.A.C.
What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block? 
I type. I read. I watch movies and TV. I take showers. Lots of showers where my mind wanders.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 
While franchise companies continue to Maim, Rape, Murder, Die, Resurrect, Rinse & Repeat 75-year old icons on a quarterly basis, creator-owned comix will yield more original ideas and characters for other mediums to exploit. No longer will the question be "What if we made this comic into a movie" but more "When will this comic be made into a movie." It's cheaper to beta-test new intellectual property via comix before producing it as something served over easy for lazy readers who don't have the attention span or the imagination to actually read and fill in the gaps between the panels. Meanwhile, rebellious creators will continue to explore the virtues and innovate the art of comix despite competing with the more popular story delivery systems. 

Do you have a website or blog? 

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