If Dean Haspiel isn’t New York City’s most interesting artist, he certainly deserves to be mentioned in the conversation. We’ve enjoyed his creations in DC, Marvel, SPIN, Playboy, High Times, and the dude even won an Emmy award! That’s clout!
Our hero Josh “J-Man” Shaffer recently caught up with Dean Haspiel, and let’s roll the tape!
Q: How did the collaboration with Shame Itself come to pass?
A: Marvel editor, Tom Brennan, contacted me and asked if I would like to draw a short parody featuring Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, and Dr. Doom, written by Elliott Kalan, an Emmy Award winning writer for THE DAILY SHOW. How could I say no?
Q: What’s your most memorable experience with Harvey Pekar?
A: The first time Harvey Pekar called me up to offer me work, I didn’t believe it was him. He told me to “Fuck off!” and hung up the phone. The only place we could go together after that was up!
Q: What are your favored tools of the trade? Brush, fine tip or both?
A: When I ink, I like to use a Japanese brush pen and a couple of Micron pens. These days, I prefer to just pencil tight and tweak them digitally for color.
Q: The Last Mortician bears a slight resemblance to The Thing. Was this intentional, since the ever lovin’ blue-eyed Ben Grimm is a favorite of yours?
A: Really? I think The Last Mortician looks more like The Red Skull. Actually, more like The Blue Skull.
Q: You mentioned The Last Mortician as looking more like Red Skull. Are you a Captain America fan?
A: I love Captain America and I really dug the spirit of the Captain America movie, which I thought was the best of the Marvel movie bunch.
Q: Speaking of which, are you looking forward to The Avengers movie?
A: I’m looking forward to The Avengers movie, but I still think The Dark Knight and The Incredibles are the ones to beat. Now, if Marvel would only hire Brad Bird to do a right proper Fantastic Four movie!
Q: Your work in Bored To Death is great. Have you considered venturing into other animation projects?
A: I drew the character designs and key frame art for the animated opening sequence for “Bored To Death,” but I would never consider myself an animator. I draw all the SUPER RAY comics art on “Bored To Death.” However, I would consider developing an animated project.
Q: What’s next for you and the remarkable ACT-I-VATE?
A: In May of 2011, I went on an unannounced hiatus from ACT-I-VATE so I could open HANG DAI, my new Brooklyn arts studio, and work on other projects. I’ve since left ACT-I-VATE, but I hope it continues to flourish and expand.
Q: In what aspect does your background in film contribute to your work as in illustrator?
A: Studying movies helped me think smarter about how images work to show a story.
Q: You work full-time freelance. Very eye-opening, considering your scope of talent and experience. Has anyone made you offers for permanent work?
A: I have two busted legs from falling off a 3-story building when I was 21-years old, an achy back, stretched drawing hand, and weary eyes. I don’t have health insurance and, when I signed the contract to draw THE ALCOHOLIC, my second original graphic collaboration [of three] for Vertigo, I asked if they would sign me on as an exclusive artist so I could secure regular work and get that much-needed health insurance my body, soul, and mind needs. Alas, Vertigo/DC wasn’t interested in my regular services and, ever since, I continue to worry about my next gig while convalescing at the Russian-Turkish bathhouse. Short answer? Nope. Nobody wanted to hire me full-time and, honestly, I wonder if I would be under-used, seeing as how many varied projects I’m involved in and how many plates I like to spin.
Q: Do you find the art world eats their young, or is it supportive and collaborative?
A: Early on, when my mother was deputy director of The New York State Council of the Arts, I understood that community was important to the success and support of most any artistic effort. Posting on Twitter and Facebook does not a community make. Those services are just billboards. No one is really talking TO each other. They’re talking AT each other. As genuine as I try to be online, I’m semi-guilty of this selling technique, too. Sure, movements like “Occupy Wall Street” speak to community reaction towards our government, but “we the people” will always have political uprisings. I find that art communities, especially comix art communities, are less organized and bask in the niche of their own grassroots clique. The world wide web leveled the playing field and has made everything a niche. I know it’s difficult to rally a gaggle of sensitive, self-motivated artistic introverts into a union but it’s not impossible. So, I don’t think “art eats the young.” I think the young eats art, as they should, and, like how pop culture works, I wonder what that will yield ten to twenty years from now.
Q: What are the influences behind your work? Excluding Jack Kirby, of course!
A: Besides Jack Kirby, my biggest comic book influences are Alex Toth, Will Eisner, C.C. Beck, Steve Ditko, John Romita, Johnny Craig, Frank Robbins, John Byrne, Ron Wilson, Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller, Michael Golden, Baru, Mike Zeck, John Romita, Jr., David Mazzucchelli, Mike Mignola, Paul Pope, Richard Corben, Frank Quitely, Eduardo Risso, Goran Parlov, Marcos Martin, and Paolo Rivera.
Q: Do you feel an artist must be trained through school in order to find work, or can one succeed with raw talent only?
A: An artist can arrive in many different ways. School can surely help experiment and train talent, but desire and dedication are what pushes you through.
Q: Adapting a graphic novel into film is popular these days. Has anyone expressed interest in putting one of your opuses on the big screen?
A: A producer was interested in adapting THE ALCOHOLIC into a movie. Pending.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about your career?
A: Match-making good talent with good ideas, and making stories I want to read (and see).
Q: What do you find most frustrating?
A: Ill communication. Indifference and apathy.
Q: Describe your daily schedule.
A: I wake up @10am. Spark coffee and internet. If my girlfriend slept over, I cook her breakfast and make her watch The View with me. We’ll admire Whoopi Goldberg, as she drops science, while I rifle through a bunch of news items and respond to emails. Suddenly, I feel time slipping away and get anxious. I bike to my studio @12pm. Catch up with my studio-mates, and put out fires while starting new ones. I spend the day developing concepts, hustling work, pimping cool stuff online, rallying peers and bugging heroes and, eventually, get to the paying work portion of my day where I meet or blow deadlines while listening to music and Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. Some evenings, I try to go for a local swim with my girlfriend and, depending on how good or bad my drawings are going, call it a night and grab grub with my girlfriend. We’ll either engage in some NYC culture or watch DVDs (which is becoming rare these days). Most nights, my art table holds me hostage and I bike home @midnight. I’ll crash on my couch with my two cats. I watch a horror movie or Jimmy Fallon, read a few comic books, or a couple of chapters of my latest book, and, finally, lay in the dark and ponder my self-imposed responsibilities, my bills, my health, account for my time, judge myself, and eventually pass out from exhaustion and pray for one good dream to come true.
Q: Your basic work day is jam packed. Do you get assistance or do you go solo?
A: I work solo. Although, studio mates and internet parlay helps convince me I’m not doing what I do, naked, afraid, and alone. Of course, it takes a select group of skilled talent to make something like WelcomeToTripCity.com sing.
Q: What do you engage in to relax and recharge?
A: The Russian-Turkish Bathhouse.
Q: What’s the appeal of a Russian-Turkish bathhouse?
A: The Russian-Turkish bathhouse is a place of Zen for me. The heat and steam allows me to shut down, heal, soothe, meander, access hidden ideas and confront buried feelings.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: Making mixed CDs. Playing softball. Biking. Swimming. Frisbee. Cooking. Listening to music. Reading. Watching movies. Adventure.
Q: What do you engage in regarding “adventure”?
A: Hiking and biking in the mountains. Tubing in the Delaware River. Drinking on the waterfront of Red Hook. Attending “Reverend Jen’s Anti-Slam” at the Bowery Poetry Club in the lower east side of Manhattan.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator/writer?
A: I’d be a cop, or a paramedic, or a cook.
Q: What interests u about cops, cooks and paramedics?
A: I like to help people. I feel that I roam around wearing an invisible badge; identifying bad behavior like a self-imposed deputy of life. A weird tic that, I believe, I inherited from my father. So, being a cop would come naturally to me. Although, I’d probably shoot someone my first day on the job. And, since I’d probably go to jail for being a cop, I’d try to scratch some of that altruistic itch to serve mankind and help people extend their mortal coil by learning emergency medicine. I don’t know that I’d have the stomach to be a good paramedic, but I sure do have the third eye for danger and chaos. Ultimately, it would be best to retire by creating delicious sustenance for people. Food is a basic need and we indulge it several times a day. There’s nothing more communal and gratifying than visiting your regular eatery, catching up with neighborhood faces and friendly strangers, while inventing culinary specials for the day.
Q: What do you like to cook?
A: I wish I cooked more than I do. I yield towards steak and sauteed collard greens with fennel, and cous cous with shallots. Breaded chicken cutlets and spaghetti. Grilled pork chops with yellow rice and black beans. Bean curd with spicy vegetables and rice. Glazed ham and scalloped potatoes with string beans and toasted almonds. Ravioli and salad. I order out for my ethnic desires. I sometimes joke that I have many chefs on my phone’s speed-dial, because NYC is swarming with so many great take-out restaurants.
Q: Did you have a mentor? Are you serving as a mentor now?
A: Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, and Walter Simonson mentored me in 1985 when I assisted them on their comics projects (during) my senior year of high school. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentored anyone, properly, but I’d like to think I helped cartoonist Michel Fiffe, in some way, when he helped me meet my deadlines and gave me someone to talk shop with before I launched web-collectives and shared studio space.
Q: What advice would you give to ambitious artists?
A: Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good, and show up to the party. Also, know your history, respect your peers, and practice your craft in public. You learn how to show and tell stories better when you let readers respond.
Q: Where do you see yourself in one year? Five? Ten?
A: One year from now? I hope to still be working full-time freelance rather than occupying my neighborhood wearing a sandwich board that says “Gimme Eat.”
Five years from now? I hope I’m developing/directing a TV show or a movie I created.
Ten years from now? I hope to be writing a really good novel and tending to my fruits and vegetables, if I can ever afford land and a home.
Q: You’d grow fruits and veggies? What kind?
A: I’d grow garlic, jalapeno peppers, onions, basil, cilantro, rosemary, etc.
Q: Trip City looks great. What are your plans?
A: WelcomeToTripCity.com is just getting started. We’re learning how to curate and market a multimedia website with cool/free content that means something to us and to you.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Trip City, visit www.WelcomeToTripCity.com today and tell ’em The Hourly Planet sent ya! Nothing and no one stands in the way of Dean Haspiel, not even Victor Von Doom!