Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hang Dai Studios at Baltimore Comic-Con: Dean Haspiel speaks (UPDATED!)

by Mike Rhode

Baltimore Comic-Con is one of the best and friendliest of the mid-size superhero focused cons. Under the leadership of Marc Nathan and Brad Tree, it's grown quite a bit in a decade and a half, but still remains enjoyable for all ages and interests. Hang Dai Studios is based in Brooklyn, but as usual will have a big presence at Baltimore. My friend Dean Haspiel (and Hang Dai Studios founder) will be there with the whole studio, a week after he, Christa Cassano and Gregory Benton attended the Small Press Expo. We hope to have interviews with everyone in the studio throughout the week. Our fifth interview is with Dean Haspiel.

Where did "Hang Dai" come from? 

 "Hang Dai" was derived from HBO's "Deadwood." Whenever Al Swearengen and Mr. Wu would curse their way through a private deal and come to an agreement, Wu would cross his fingers and say "Hang Dai." Or, something that sounded like that and which meant "Brotherhood." Or, as my studio mate Christa Cassano likes to say, "Sisterhood."

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I hopscotch between superhero and memoir and psychedelic romance comix. My recent effort is called Beef With Tomato, co-published by Alternative Comics and Hang Dai Editions. It's about my escape from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Blue pencil, occasional brush pen and Micron pens + digital shading/coloring.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

1967. New York Hospital.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

The comic book rack on the newsstand at the corner of 79th street and Broadway in NYC was my comix kindergarten. Later on I discovered a steady flow of pop art pulp treasures at West Side Comics, opened a weekly account at Funny Business, and discovered American Splendor and Yummy Fur at Soho Zat. After that, any inklings of pursuing a normal life went out the window when dreams of drawing comix for a living took over and held my sway. I never learned how to draw comix in school because school didn't teach comix. School shunned comix. Comix taught me how to make comix. And, I'm still learning how, one panel at a time.

Who are your influences?

Ron Wilson, Jim Aparo, Jack Kirby, C.C. Beck, John Byrne, Steve Ditko, Alex Toth, Will Eisner, Frank Robbins, Jim Starlin, Michael Golden, Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Zeck, Frank Miller, Katsuhiro Otomo, John Romita Jr., Frank Quitely, Goran Parlov, Darwyn Cooke, Marcos Martin, Chris Samnee, Gregory Benton, Josh Bayer, Stan Lee, Warren Ellis, Jason Aaron, Brian K Vaughan, Joe R. Lansdale, Jonathan Ames, Mickey Spillane, and Richard S. Prather.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

The Thing: Night Falls On Yancy Street. I wasn't ready. I would ask to change the dark ending, too, so me and Evan Dorkin could make it Marvel canon rather than Marvel folklore.

What work are you best-known for?

I believe I'm best known for my collaboration with Harvey Pekar on The Quitter. Possibly, the ten-issues of The Fox I recently co-wrote and drew for Archie Comics. Maybe, some Billy Dogma.

What work are you most proud of?

Billy Dogma in Fear, My Dear. And, Heart-Shaped Hole.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I aim to focus on creator-owned comix but, given the opportunity, I'd like to write and draw The Fantastic Four, Captain Marvel (Shazam), O.M.A.C., Deathlok, and bring back Marvel Two-In-One, featuring The Thing. I also have a great Batman & Superman story that features cameos of the JLA, done in the spirit of a cross between Sullivan's Travels and On The Road.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

Wash dishes. Work on something wholly different. Mix it up. Your mind is always working. Let it work by letting it relax and think different.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 

Patronized digital comix produced one panel at a time; published one per day, delivered directly to your phone, and story arcs get collected into print (if necessary).\

Why are you at the Baltimore Comic-Con this year?

Baltimore Comic-Con is my favorite show, bar none. A perfect combo of rookie and veteran cartoonists among old and new comic books and just the right amount of cosplay. I've also been a regular guest for almost 15 years.

What other cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Besides BCC, I usually attend SPX, NYCC, MoCCA, CAB, and Locust Moon Comics Festival. I was a guest of Wizard World six times this year. They treat me very well.

What's your favorite thing about Baltimore?

Marc Nathan and Brad Tree.

Least favorite?

I've yet to encounter anything in Baltimore to make me dislike its innate charm.

What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?


One day I plan to stay an extra day or two so I can personally visit Baltimore's culture.

How about a favorite local restaurant?


Out of pure proximity and laziness, I tend to grab dinner at the M&S Grill on E Pratt Street and soak in the Inner Harbor sights.

Do you have a website or blog?

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