Three Questions for Dean Haspiel

Few storytellers have as rich a career as Dean Haspiel has experienced before his 40s. As unique as his career may be, his current creative efforts are even more intense and busy. How busy? The guy has five different links for his myriad projects. Here’s his offical bio at present (I’m sure he’ll add another project sometime soon, though…in addition to the Marvel upcoming work he discusses in this interview): “Dean Haspiel is the creator of the Eisner Award nominated, BILLY DOGMA, and the webcomix collective, ACT-I-VATE, and the editor of Smith Magazine’s NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR anthology. He has drawn superheroes for Marvel and DC Comics and Pulitzer Prize winning, Michael Chabon’s THE ESCAPIST. Best known for his collaborations with Harvey Pekar on AMERICAN SPLENDOR and THE QUITTER, this Fall will see the release of THE ALCOHOLIC [Vertigo] {To be exact, THE ALCOHOLIC goes on sale this Wednesday, September 24}, his original graphic novel collaboration with author Jonathan Ames, and MO & JO, a children’s comic book collaboration with underground legend, Jay Lynch, for Francoise Mouly’s TOON BOOKS series from Raw Jr. This summer Dean launched STREET CODE, a new webcomic series for Zuda.

Dean is a founding member of DEEP6 Studios in Gowanus, Brooklyn.”

I have had the good fortune to interview Haspiel in the past. And, over the years, I’ve seen Haspiel’s popularity substantially grow (as well it should) . As I already stressed, he’s a busy man–and always highly in demand on various fronts. So, when I contacted him recently for an email interview, I was grateful for any time he could spare. I could honestly get a one-question interview with Haspiel and be happy. Fortunately, he spared the time to answer three questions. And we covered a lot of ground with those three questions.

Tim O’Shea: How many days were there where you found yourself working on The Alcoholic at one point in the day and then jumping into some completely opposite project like Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever?

Dean Haspiel: Like a true creator and hungry freelancer, I juggle various projects during the day. Sometimes it gets hectic and I’ll be drawing a story for four year olds in the early part of the day while laying out a comic for 30-year olds the latter half of the day. Often, I’ll be writing one comic while drawing another. It keeps my plates spinning while making the work alive and fresh and, sometimes, they curiously inform each other. When I took a hiatus from BILLY DOGMA to focus on THE ALCOHOLIC with only MO & JO to balance me out, I was afraid my work would become stale. Luckily, there was enough insanity mixed with domesticity in Jonathan Ames’ script for THE ALCOHOLIC, that I never fell into that hack hole. Plus, I was learning how to manage a 4-color palette when I came to digitally color MO & JO, during that time. I may be a 20-year veteran [my first professional comic, THE VERDICT, was published in 1987] but I learn something new about making comix, everyday.

O’Shea: How much do you think your work with Act-i-vate has helped raise your profile in the comics industry?

Haspiel: Putting out BILLY DOGMA, my weekly webcomic at ACT-I-VATE, raises my profile immensely. Not only has ACT-I-VATE become synonymous with free daily webcomix but it’s become a critically acclaimed destination hub for great comix despite the digital format. Just last week an editor at Marvel contacted and hired me to write and draw an 8pp FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER vs WEREWOLF BY NIGHT story based on the style I flex in BILLY DOGMA. As much as I work hard for ACT-I-VATE, ACT-I-VATE works hard for me. By making your sensibility available online, you’re self-promoting 24/7. Couple that with STREET CODE, my bi-weekly webcomic at Zuda, and NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR, the bi-weekly webcomic anthology I edit for SMITH Magazine, and my current print works with THE ALCOHOLIC for Vertigo, and MO & JO for Toon Books, and you can’t get rid of me.

O’Shea: How did the gig editing Smith magazine’s Next-Door Neighbor webcomix come about?

Haspiel: Sometimes an idea smashes you in the head and you think to yourself, “Of course, it’s been done.” Then you try to confirm that it has been done on Google and you discover, “It hasn’t been done — yet.” NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR was a no-brainer. We all have next-door neighbors and we all have next-door neighbor stories. I liked Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman’s balls-to-the-wall, SHOOTING WAR, and Josh Neufeld’s unprecedented, A.D. – NEW ORLEANS AFTER THE DELUGE. Both were bi-weekly webcomix and I liked what Larry Smith and Jeff Newelt were doing for comix at SMITH Magazine. One email later and I was editing a new webcomix anthology for SMITH. So far, eleven original stories have aired every two-weeks with some of the best works by great writers and cartoonists, and we plan to end NDN sometime March 2009.