Writer/artist/storyteller of many mediums Dean Haspiel is easily the busiest creator I know. I relish any chance I get to interview him. As always, we had multiple projects to discuss, some of which are allowing him to flex his writing muscles increasingly more (with work like his first prose novel, Post-Disaster Adventure Chronicles), much to his delight. Haspiel is welcome to share his great level of candor any time he can spare a moment, as he always is an easy (and enjoyable) interview subject for me. Just to create a level of suspense, I chose not to ask who the nude centerfold is the upcoming DEAN HASPIEL: The Early Years.
Tim O’Shea: Would you agree that to a certain extent, in addition to being a collaborator with long-time family friend and CUBA: MY Revolution author Inverna Lockpez, that you were almost a pseudo-therapist for her. What I mean is, this is clearly a painful story for her to tell and by sharing it with you and getting in on paper/published, there’s some level of catharsis.
Dean Haspiel: Besides the possibility of providing entertainment value, art is therapy with the hope that the brave act of artistic expression yields emotional catharsis. I think CUBA: MY REVOLUTION was a major purge for Inverna Lockpez; a way for her to scrutinize and understand what happened to her years ago. And, in fictionalizing and sharing her story, I think it can allow for her to let go of some of her real pain. Whenever I artistically scrutinize the horrors and beauty of the truth, my goal is to entertain yet disperse the results upon others so that the many can share the burden of the one. Some things are just too difficult to handle on your own.
O’Shea: How long has POST-DISASTER ADVENTURE CHRONICLES been rolling around in your head and how did it work it’s way to Tim Hall’s Undie Press? Was it a story idea you once considered for comics but realized it would work more effectively as prose?
Haspiel: Post-Disaster Adventure Chronicles is a self-imposed writing exercise I started three-years ago during a summer in the Catskill mountains. I woke up every morning and typed for an hour. I had just read Warren Ellis’ novel, CROOKED LITTLE VEIN, and enjoyed his format of rapid-fire, albeit, intense chapters and I decided each chapter of my project would end in a cliffhanger. And, because I was writing a serialized yet undetermined story, I wanted to keep the narrative pace fresh and alive. Soon, the story became about the day money stopped and how that impacts people. A modern day apocalypse. Every time I revisited the story I would pick up where I left off. Kind of like a narrative corpse only I was challenging myself. This kind of writing worked well for me in my BILLY DOGMA comix for ACT-I-VATE, where I drew weekly episodes not knowing where the story was going next. After writing a bunch of chapters, the summer was over and I put my book in a drawer. It wasn’t until author, Tim Hall, invited me to Undie Press that I dusted off the experiment and will continue to play my self-imposed writing game — in public. I met Tim during the heyday of The NY Hangover, an east village literary newspaper that published my very first BILLY DOGMA comix in the mid-90s. There was a grassroots nature to the newspaper that inspired me to spark ACT-I-VATE, a decade later.
O’Shea: How has STREET CODE weathered the transition from Zuda to DC Digital, do you feel like ultimately you’re reaching a larger audience with the new platform?
Haspiel: Only time will tell if my semi-autobiographical effort makes the digital grade. My goal is to get STREET CODE collected into print so I can go on a signing tour and read some of my New York City stories abroad, but I have to respect that new delivery methods are currently at play and that STREET CODE is surfing the wave of a massive paradigm shift in modern comics distribution.
O’Shea: In the new season of BORED TO DEATH, you are drawing the art “done by” Ray Hueston (Zack Galifianakis’ character)–does the writing team come to you to draw certain pieces, or are you allowed to draw whatever you want and they make it work for their needs?
Haspiel: Jonathan Ames writes every drawing I create for BORED TO DEATH. Sometimes I make a suggestion when Jonathan tasks me but that makes for good collaboration. A lot of preparation goes into the show’s narrative and is tightly weaved before a single frame is shot. However, I design the gag humor to be understood within seconds because of the limited screen time my art gets.
O’Shea: DEAN HASPIEL: The Early Years is set to be released in October, how many hours did Chris Irving end up interviewing you for the book?
Haspiel: Over four years ago, Chris Irving crashed my home and interviewed me for a couple of days for an aborted effort at Two Morrows Publications. A couple of years later, Chris launched Graphic NYC online with photographer, Seth Kushner, and we revisited the content he had culled and sat down for an update so as to flesh out the revamped book for Desperado/IDW. Chris devised a brilliant way to transition the essay-written interview in conjunction with my early art and comics work as one seamless experience. There are some original pieces in the 240pp tome, including thoughts and memories from my friends and peers, and a nude centerfold.
O’Shea: How did you and Irving decide what of your early work to include in the book? Was it hard to track down some of the early work for inclusion?
Haspiel: I own all my original art, so tracking down the comics weren’t hard. I cringe at most of my early work and that’s why we subtitled the book, “The Early Years,” to act as an apology of sorts. And, even though the book covers current events, my early works is the era we largely discuss. The book is equally a retrospective and introspection. An entertaining document for comix historians.
O’Shea: People seem really enthused about your upcoming WOODGOD story for STRANGE TALES (which you describe as your Marvel Two-in-One homage). Not to be greedy but I’d love to see your take on Wundarr, were there other Marvel Two-in -One characters you would have tried to work into the story or was WOODGOD always the focus? Hell, now that I think of it (and remembering my own affinity for Marvel Two-in -One, do you miss the days where a Thing adventure was partially framed around a poker game?
Haspiel: Next to FF, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE was my favorite comic series growing up and I would love to pioneer a relaunch if Marvel was ever interested. As for writing WOODGOD into my homage, I was looking for a character who had the latitude to befit an idea I already had and Woodgod was perfect. I tend to be attracted to tragic monsters and I wanted to bring a certain sense of macabre honor to Marvel’s worst idea ever.
O’Shea: Did Paul Tobin give you some fun nuances to work with in the back-up tale for Spider-Girl 1 (coming out November 10)? You think Marvel editors will block you from using Ben Grimm again any time soon after he’s appeared in two of your most recent Marvel assignments?
Haspiel: Paul Tobin wrote an early Spider-Girl story for me to draw as the back-up feature to SPIDER-GIRL #1. It features a very young Anya before she became Spider-Girl and her first visit with superheroes, featuring The Fantastic Four, before Sue Storm married Reed Richards. I get to draw the “lumpy” Thing before his signature hard-rock look came into fashion. Back when Jack Kirby was still drawing science fiction, Twilite Zone-esque, romance monster comics and making the transition to developing Marvel Comics’ “House of Ideas” with Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, et al.
O’Shea: The September 15 book signing as well as a performance by Jen Ferguson’s band, COWS LIKE SHRIMP–How hard was it to arrange the two events on the same day? What other signings/events do you have lined up in the near to long term?
Haspiel: My Midtown Comics book signing for CUBA: MY REVOLUTION, and Jen Ferguson’s band, COWS LIKE SHRIMP, playing the same night as her birthday was just a mere coincidence. So, I did what I do best and employed our social networking platforms to help arrange and promote all three events. We had a great night of comix, cake, and music, that got friends and fans hanging out and wearing animal hats made from balloons by a guy who lives in Red Hook.