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Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
7:01 pm - The Comics Beat: Dean Haspiel’s New Brooklyn Prepares for WAR CRY

AJ Frost interviewed me about WAR CRY for The Comics Beat.


AJ FROST: The Red Hook is this epic story about a “bad guy,” a thief who becomes a superhero, and its one of the most dynamic explorations of using the vast digital space of the web as the mode of dissemination. What excites you about exploring the ambiguity of “goodness” in your work with Red Hook, and now War Cry?

DEAN HASPIEL: Thanks for the cheer! I don’t know anyone who is 100% good and, frankly, those kinds of people make for boring stories. Sorry! I believe most people can be sympathetic to others but not necessarily empathetic. And, that’s a huge difference. To step into another person’s shoes and experience their truth is something most of us can’t do or won’t do. It’s easier to acknowledge pain and struggle and then look the other way or donate to a cause because you’re dealing with your own struggles and pain. People are complex souls and time is an enemy. Some people choose to spend their time understanding others while most people glean a cursory understanding of the human condition, at best, and move on. I’d like to think I observe people well enough to get a good sense but who knows? Our subconscious tends to seek a narrative that supports our personal beliefs rather than energize a third eye for spelunking what’s alien. But, I get it. I’m just as culpable as the next person when it comes to turning a blind eye, but I try to keep an open mind.

I don’t know how many more times I can become outraged by gun violence, racism, and sexism, but I can ask questions in my work and try to impart good will. So, with that in mind, I find that the bad guys or the misunderstood monsters are much more interesting to navigate because they are the ones who have the most to rehabilitate. Thus, my reasoning for starting The Red Hook‘s story as a super-thief who is forced to become a superhero against his will or he will die and the choices he makes to foster positive change. War Cry has to deal with a lot more than just sharing a body. He/she struggles with purpose over persona while desperately holding onto what makes them individual.

FROST: The character of War Cry is a gay, teenage African-American boy who becomes, as you say, a “Super Goddess” when going into hero mode. When did the idea for War Cry come about? And when did it seem that the potential for the character was there to create a new and separate story?

HASPIEL: I came up with the idea of WAR CRY many years ago but didn’t know where to put it or how to use it. So, it incubated until I created The Red Hook and co-created the New Brooklyn Universe. When I was thinking about a sequel to The Red Hook, I knew I wanted to explore the evolution of heroism and the crisis of identity. WAR CRY is about two very different binary characters who share a non-binary body. After being graced with the power of America’s superheroes (think a bastardized combination of The Avengers and The Justice League of America), a teenage boy named Rajak shouts the words “War Cry!” and instantly evolves into a war goddess, the resurrection of The Red Hook’s dead-girlfriend Ava Blume (think of a mash-up between Shazam and OMAC with Hawk & Dove). It’s a big idea that I explore through the eyes of The Red Hook while presenting the concerns of Rajak and Ava. In some ways, the concept is above my head but I’m not a journalist or a reporter and, instead, I’m a cartoonist who is challenged by the idea of what that might be like and express it in my art. As communication artists, we grow up in public, warts and all, but I won’t let that stop me from telling an existential story that explores the shores of identity.

FROST: As I said, The Red Hook is epic in scope and grand in execution, but it’s obvious that the universe you’ve created needs more exploration. When did the idea to do a sequel story become a tangible idea? How much of an influence was Jack Kirby on these projects?

Jack Kirby is the bell I strive to ring every time I tackle a superhero comic book. Kirby is one of the forefathers of the superhero lexicon. I believe the acolytes of Kirby, of which I hesitate to include myself because I don’t know that I have what he had, are unafraid to explore the depths of imagination while making human connections. It’s that very notion that keeps me from suffering writer’s block.

And, yes, there is MUCH MORE of New Brooklyn to explore and make work. The idea of a sentient Brooklyn that’s heart is broken by the apathy and indifference of the world, so much so that it secedes from America to start it’s own republic where art can be bartered for food and services, is a fantasy that could probably never really happen but, like a Jack Kirby comic book that asks questions about God and then dares to answer them, WHY NOT put out stuff that might could alter the tide of the human condition? That might could help affect change? I’m no kinda revolutionary but art has proven to influence and innovate.

Read the entire interview here: http://www.comicsbeat.com/interview-dean-haspiels-new-brooklyn-prepares-for-war-cry/

Start reading WAR CRY for free: http://www.webtoons.com/en/super-hero/war-cry/ep-1/viewer?title_no=1247&episode_no=1

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12:03 pm - The NY Daily News: 'War Cry' enters New Brooklyn comics with a bang
I spoke to reporter Cesar R. Bustamante Jr. about my new free webcomic, WAR CRY, at The NY Daily News.


It tells the story of Rajak, a teenage boy who after witnessing the death of a team of superheroes finds himself sharing a body with the superhuman one woman army, War Cry.

“It makes it feel more real (setting it in Brooklyn). I get to hold up a mirror to society in a more blatant way and I get to comment about current events like how our very best fiction does,” he said.

“It’s just another fun cosmic romp, kind of like what I tried to do at the end of season one, inspired by the works of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, C. C. Beck, all the kind of comics I grew up reading as a young kid,” he said.

You can read the entire article/interview here: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/theater-arts/war-cry-enters-new-brooklyn-comics-bang-article-1.3679299

Start reading WAR CRY: http://www.webtoons.com/en/super-hero/war-cry/ep-1/viewer?title_no=1247&episode_no=1

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11:27 am - Brooklyn Paper: ‘War’ of the sexes: New comic stars gender swap superhero(ine)
Bill Roundy talked to me about my new free webcomic, WAR CRY, at The Brooklyn Paper.


“War Cry” is a sequel to his series “The Red Hook,” about a superpowered thief forced to do good, in a universe in which Brooklyn becomes sentient and literally separates from the United States. When creating the new main character, Haspiel said he was inspired by two classic superheroes: Captain Marvel, a kid who transforms into an adult hero when he shouts the word “Shazam!” and the superhuman cyborg called OMAC, for One Man Army Corps.

“I always liked the idea of those two characters, and I wanted to do a mash-up,” he said. “And I wanted to do a comic where a young kid shouts a word — and the hero he becomes is this female goddess called War Cry. So instead of One Man Army Corps, it’s One Woman Army Corps.”

The adventure story comes with a dose of melodramatic romance, because the ferocious female he becomes is also the reincarnation of the Red Hook’s dead girlfriend.

“We have to navigate all this through the eyes of the Red Hook — and he just wants his girlfriend back,” said Haspiel. “It becomes this kind of star-crossed Romeo vs. Juliet — or maybe Romeo versus Juliet and Julio!”

The story showcases locations around the borough, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Red Hook grain silo, and an analogue of popular dim sum restaurant Pacificana in Sunset Park. Putting his super-characters in the real world — even a fantasy version of the world — helps the high-flying action to feel more grounded, said Haspiel.

“You can make up characters, but if you can put them in real places, it feels more real,” he said.

Read the entire article/interview here: https://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/40/49/24-war-cry-comic-book-2017-12-08-bk.html

Start reading WAR CRY here: http://www.webtoons.com/en/super-hero/war-cry/ep-1/viewer?title_no=1247&episode_no=1

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10:59 am - Dean Haspiel's WAR CRY debuts!

In the follow up to the 2017 Ringo Award-winner for Best Webcomic, The Red Hook’s dead girlfriend is resurrected into War Cry, a human of mass destruction hosted by a teenage boy. When a demigod from their past comes to haunt them to death they must resolve their lost love.

War Cry is a spin-off title to the critical hit The Red Hook. It will draw readers back into the Red Hook’s adventure with the surprising return of another familiar face. Written and illustrated by Dean Haspiel, War Cry takes readers into the aftermath of the alien attack on earth that killed most of America’s superheroes. Now an orphaned, teenager named Rajak has mysteriously become the recipient of all of the dead superheroes powers and escaped to New Brooklyn. When he shouts the words “War Cry,” Rajak transforms into the perfect war goddess, who is a cosmic resurrection of Ava Blume, formerly known as The Possum and love interest of superhero The Red Hook.

Please click here for chapter one (best viewed on your smart phone or tablet): http://www.webtoons.com/en/super-hero/war-cry/ep-1/viewer?title_no=1247&episode_no=1

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Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
11:33 am - One more day til WAR CRY

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Monday, December 4th, 2017
2:29 pm - 2 more days til WAR CRY

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2:08 pm - Art on A Gallery: 5th Annual Holiday Group Art Show - Dec 7th

5th Annual Holiday Group Art Show
December 7 – December 21
Art on A Gallery and Shop
24 Avenue A, New York, New York 10009

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/138327650156237/

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Thursday, November 30th, 2017
12:43 pm - Endorsing fiction
When I watch Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, I don't endorse Norman Bates' behavior. Same goes for all fiction I indulge. Including the fiction I create.

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Sunday, November 26th, 2017
3:08 pm - MINKY WOODCOCK: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #4

I drew a cover for Cynthia Von Buhler's MINKY WOODCOCK: THE GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI #4, published by Titan Comics, coming out February 21, 2018.

Here is the solicitation copy:

Writer/Artist: Cynthia Von Buhler
32pp • $3.99 • On sale Date: February 21, 2018
Unappreciated at her father’s detective agency, the fabulous, rabbit-loving Minky Woodcock straps on her gumshoes in order to uncover a magical mystery involving the world-famous escape artist, Harry Houdini.
Created by acclaimed artist, author, director, and playwright Cynthia Von Buhler (speakeasy dollhouse, evelyn evelyn, emily and the strangers)!
COVER B: Cynthia Von Buhle


Here are some other ideas I came up with for the cover:

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Saturday, November 25th, 2017
1:02 pm - When The Boxer Hangs Up His Gloves – Dean Haspiel’s Play Harakiri Kane Breaks New Ground
Hannah Means-Shannon reviewed my play HARAKIRI KANE at Comicon.com.


Here is the full review:

Dean Haspiel’s comic career, like many indie cartoonists, is not easily summed up in a single phrase or even a single sentence. However, there is a commonality to his works, both in an out of comics, that does make it feel recognizable when you encounter it. There is usually a central semi-heroic figure, or a couple, and the world around them often feels alien, changeable, given to upheaval. For that reason, his Billy Dogma character, “the last romantic anti-hero” who populates many of his self-published works, looms large against gargantuan struggles. Imperfect, emotional, overtly confused and prone to sharing his mental processes aloud for the reader, Billy nevertheless casts a bold shadow in the face of a hostile environment.

In Haspiel’s series The Fox at Archie Comics, resurrecting a classic character, he nevertheless brought a lot of the same quizzical humor and oddball struggle to the character. And most recently, working on The Red Hook, available to read for free at Line Webtoons, and its soon to be published sequel War Cry, Haspiel crafts a Brooklyn out of joint, and a time of heroes who only half-understand their purpose in life (and that “half” may be generous).

One thing that’s also a common feature of Haspiel’s works, alongside a perplexed but struggling anti-hero, is an exploration of connection—also a warzone—that runs parallel to outward conflict, or through trippy overlap, becomes outward conflict. In Billy Dogma stories, there’s his counterpart Jane, and in War Cry, the Red Hook loses his girlfriend to a superheroic transformation that makes them both estranged and connected.

Haspiel’s second play, Harakiri Kane, Or Die! Die Again!!, ran throughout the latter part of October and into this week at The Brick Theater in Brooklyn, New York, following on from Switch to Kill, which was performed as part of a festival in 2014. Switch to Kill followed the noir lives of gangsters, and explored the tension between violence and personality. Harakiri Kane pursues the fate of a boxer whose own ending has been mysterious, now elevated to a position as an Angel of Death, and the end-of-life experiences of others that he plays witness to.

At first glance, it might seem like a departure from the characters and themes that interest Haspiel, but in fact it proves to be a fruitful development. Though we don’t get a lot of backstory for Harry (played by Alex Emanuel), our boxer, now living an un-dead existence as an Angel of Death, we can assume that a man who makes his career through violence, even a kind of sanctioned violence, might carry some of that wrath with him into another state.

But Harry, rather, is not a man of violence. His new role dictates that he feels ill every time he knows a human death is impending, and that seems to stand as a proxy for extreme empathy or at least sympathy. A dread for the ending that his fellow beings must face. Harry is a fairly literal reading of John Donne’s sermon “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, wherein we should not ask who the funeral bell is for—it is always for us–because we are all more connected than we like to acknowledge.

So, a non-violent hero with a violent past, observing the vagaries of human lives drawing to a close, unable to avoid empathy for their suffering, is also one who is faced with the problem of connection. He never mentions loved ones or regrets, except for wishing to break through his amnesia about how his life ended, but he does become connected to strangers through his new job.

We gradually become aware, through the course of the play, that there’s a more experienced Angel of Death around who seems to be pulling strings. She, Sharon (played by Jessica Stoya in her stage debut) seems to be looking for her own sense of connection. She encourages Harry to “have a little fun” with his job of taking souls, something he can’t much comprehend, but Harry becomes the object of her study. The goal of her attempt at connection.

Though Sharon cannot touch him, she has some degree of romantic interest in Kane, however, the real connection between them is simpler, more delicate, and as brief as a few lines of a story that she has written which she deigns to read to him. It’s enough to show that even in death, the human quest for connection lives on.

Harry’s role, and the mode by which Sharon tries to reach him, emotionally, is a development upon the more gruff and bombastic approach of heroes, even sympathetic heroes, in Haspiel’s work. Here we see a boxer who has set aside his gloves, a soul adrift, and one who’s kind and receptive enough to forgive Sharon for her manipulations, and still give her the gift of empathy. In this new post-death role, Kane has changed, too. He’s now someone who can visit his old boxing coach (played by Tarik R. Davis) at the appointed hour of his death and handle that with greater grace and understanding than he could have during his mortal days.

The play is obviously built upon plenty of mythological allusions and traditions, though shot through with a New York flavor that you can’t fail to recognize. One of the more interesting through-lines concerns an obsessive cook (played by Ian W. Hill) who, auteur-like brings his creations to the world at the cost of the lives of others. Descending into grotesquery to cheat death, he believes that the fresh human hearts of others can shield him from the arrival of an Angel meant to take him away. Once Harry final does confront him, this heart-stealing becomes the key to Harry’s choice to “die again” and leave behind this role which many covet.

I mention the mythology since it’s an aspect that would’ve been rewarding to develop further in the context of the narrative. Within a performance limited to 90 minutes, and conveying a great deal of information in that time, the play had to pass over those elements fairly quickly. And yet, the idea of hearts as identity, as something that can determine our fate after death, has interesting implications, possible drawing on Egyptian and Central American storytelling and rites pertaining to the afterlife.

The interpretation and performance of Harakiri Kane was highly committed to the exploration of emotional states, to bringing to life the incisive personas that people Haspiel’s own myth-scape, and to planting a few new ideas in the minds of the audience for them to ponder.

Haspiel has mentioned elsewhere that he’s hoping to develop this story of life, death, and connection, as a comic someday, and here’s hoping we see that. Though the performance of the play itself was an achievement, it would be very interesting to see how Haspiel’s art style might interact with a world familiar in many ways from his previous works, but also both darker and more hopeful than territory he’s yet explored in comics.

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Tuesday, November 21st, 2017
12:02 pm - Bleeding Cool: Before The Curtain Rises On Dean Haspiel’s Harakiri Kane For The Last Time…
Rich Johnston interviewed me about my play, HARAKIRI KANE for Bleeding Cool.


Bleeding Cool: You say the play was inspired by morbid events you experienced years ago. What the hell were they?

Dean Haspiel: In the early 1990s, when I lived in comic book writer Denny O’Neil‘s old apartment in Soho, NY, with his son Larry, it seemed like every time I left my apartment, someone died. There was a deadly car accident where the hubcap from the tragedy literally rolled half a block around a corner towards me and circled my body, as if somehow targeting and cursing me like in a horror movie. And, that’s when more and more people started to die around me.

I remember seeing police tape quarantining a corpse under a bloody sheet and looking up to see if he or she had jumped from the roof or a window. I noticed the drapes of an open window blowing in the wind as I slowly walked backwards, across the street, and stepped into the person’s brain matter. It had popped out of their skull upon impact and flew 30 feet — skipping across concrete — waiting for me. There was a delivery boy who had crashed, his face smashed into the back of his head and his bicycle wheels were still spinning like a clock winding down. Bags of Chinese food everywhere. I got hungry but started to wonder, “Was I a specter of death?”

I practically barricaded myself inside my apartment in hopes it would stop death or, at the every least, slow it down, and I started writing about it. First as a screenplay and then as a comic book before, eventually, writing about it as a play. I still would like to draw this story.

BC: You have a former boxer, now an angel of death, trying to beat the odds. It smacks somewhat of David Niven in A Matter of Life and Death, but at a different end of class politics.

DH: I’ve never seen A Matter of Life and Death, and now I must! Death is a popular subject. I remember being emotionally impacted at age eleven by Warren Beatty‘s 1978 adaptation of Heaven Can Wait. One could suggest that my play is a different spin on The Walking Dead where, instead of zombies, angels of death have to suffer immortality while helping shepherd the dying and the dead. For some angels it can be a real drag, while others try to find a proactive way to take advantage of the dregs of eternity. The potential to tell tales in this way are limitless. Comic writer/critic Adam McGovern put it succinctly when he reviewed my play at HiLowbrow and stated that it was “a dive-bar Wings of Desire.”

BC: It’s been said that most chefs are psychopaths; that you have to be to do the job. You have a serial killer chef searching for immortality. Is this about food giving life, but the people who prepare it being potential killers? And what are you like in the kitchen?

DH: I’ve never heard chefs compared to psychopaths. Maybe TV show chefs, but certainly not the chefs I was in close proximity to the three years I worked as a waiter/expediter at a Soho restaurant. Chef Eric Bromberg is a generous genius who taught me more about the art of food than any recipe book. His kindness is probably half the reason why his chain of Blue Ribbon restaurants are so popular and successful. He loves food and what you can do with it. Same thing goes for chef Girard Fox, who started off as a sous chef and came into his own, but with the addition of being an artist who loves music and races old motorcycles.

I wish I could spend more time in the kitchen. I love to cook, and I believe it’s one of the most important things a person needs to know how to do in their life. It’s also a loving thing to do for others.

BC: You’re known more for comics than as a playwright – though this is your second professionally staged production. What are you biggest stumbling blocks when switching your writing regime from comics to stage and vice versa?

DH: I suppose I’ve been writing comics all my life because I’ve been drawing comics since I was a kid. And, with comics, image is text. So, the first time I ever really tried to sit down and write something with just words was in a screenplay format, probably because I love movies so much (and I went to film school for a little while). But, I soon realized I was basically writing plays because there was much more verbal discourse over action. Whenever I write, I think in terms of theater. When I write for comics, I have to remember to edit my story into a visual narrative, where picture supersedes text. So, in fact, I often have to bend my writing instincts for comics.

My first play, Switch to Kill (mounted at The Brick Theater in 2014 by director Ian W. Hill) wasn’t specifically written to be a play, but it just turned out to work well as one. With Harakiri Kane, I adapted an old screenplay while modernizing the story, adding new stuff that currently spoke to me, and consciously considered how this might perform on stage. My old college friend/director/actor Phil Cruise helped me workshop Kane, but Ian W. Hill ultimately produced and directed it, again at The Brick (while also brilliantly portraying the psychopathic chef). I discovered that Kane was an ambitious play for an off-off Broadway production to mount, but everyone involved did a great job realizing my absurd, albeit heavy story and brought to life a whole lot of death. I just finished the first draft of my next play, which I will begin work-shopping very soon.

BC: The last night is on Monday. What has reception been, and how have you found the experience as it nears its (current) end? And any chance of moving from off-off-Broadway to just off-Broadway?

DH: Incredibly, every performance has been sold out. The reception has been extremely positive across the board and most everyone who attends seems to be happily surprised by the play. I had no idea what to expect because incarnations of this story have been living with me for over 25 years and I’m just too close to it. I blame the success of the play on the production; the insanely talented and dedicated actors, the avant-garde direction and design, and people’s desire to immerse in live theater during a time where surveillance has replaced experience. The 10 performances Harakiri Kane debuted with have been precious to me, and I hope the play can live to see another day.

I also offered a recipe for a tofu scramble. You can read the entire interview here: https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/11/20/curtain-rises-dean-haspiel-harakiri-kane/

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Monday, November 13th, 2017

"When Adam Greenfield and Dean Haspiel first recorded a Gutter Talk episode, it was September of 2015. In those two years, plenty has happened for both. However, that’s still not the reason why, just as with the first time they spoke, this episode is also two hours long. In fact, it’s so long it had to be separated into two parts. As for the reasons why their talk went over two hours, well, the reasons vary widely. There’s what Baltimore Comic Con does right but what New York Comic Con does wrong. There’s the positives and negatives of being an artist in the digital world we find ourselves in. There’s also talk of fan entitlement when it comes to comics versus perhaps having a reason for their gripes. And all that’s only part of what Adam and Dean discussed."

PART 1: http://www.makingcomics.com/2017/11/13/making-comics-gutter-talk-ep-107-pt-1-dean-haspiel-2/

PART 2: http://www.makingcomics.com/2017/11/13/making-comics-gutter-talk-ep-107-pt-2-dean-haspiel-2/

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Wednesday, November 8th, 2017
10:46 am - Brooklyn Paper Radio: Deep thoughts with Dean Haspiel
I talked to Vince DiMiceli and Bill Roundy about a slew of stuff, including my new play, HARAKIRI KANE, and my upcoming webcomic, WAR CRY, on the Brooklyn Paper Radio podcast the same day Bill De Blasio was elected NYC mayor for a second term.


"There aren’t any original ideas. But hasn’t that been said before?

That was the consensus on the latest edition of Brooklyn Paper Radio when beloved comic-book artist Dean Haspiel joined host Vince DiMiceli and GO Brooklyn editor Bill Roundy to talk about his latest graphic novel, his move into writing words without pictures, and why its a good idea to immerse yourself in the things you love if you want to make those things your life’s work.

“As much as you try to crack the code of doing something completely original, it’s almost impossible,” Haspiel said while discussing some of the influences for some of the characters he created in his new web comic “War Cry.” “I hate to say it, but your lunch influences you.”

Later, Haspiel pointed out that he has just converted from watching movies on DVD to BluRay, because he finally found a BluRay player that was in his price range.

“Those things are a dime a dozen now,” a shocked DiMiceli pointed out.

Haspiel also noted that he didn’t get his driver’s license until he was in his 40s, proving he is a late adopter of “new” technology.

DiMiceli, of course, started driving at midnight on Feb. 4, 1988, the moment he turned 17, had a Sony Playstation before it was on the market, and keeps all his videos in the cloud so they don’t take up space in his tiny house on Staten Island.

The guys also discussed the voices they hear in their heads when reading (and writing). For Haspiel as a youngster, that voice was Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, whose actual voice turned out to sound just like the like the one readers — every one of them — imagined while going through the latest edition.

“His voice is the voice,” Haspiel said, before answering a question DiMiceli may or may not of asked. “When I read other comics, do I project some kind of voice? That’s a good question.”

“I don’t know if I asked that question, but I’m glad I did,” DiMiceli said.

DiMiceli subsequently performed the voice he hears while editing and writing for The Brooklyn Paper while doing a live-read for show sponsor Dr. Joseph Lichter — a move that will surely make former deputy editor Ruth Brown laugh when she hears it.

All that, plus how Haspiel barters comic art for dental work, on the latest edition of BPR!"

LISTEN HERE: https://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/40/45/bpr-dean-haspiel-2017-11-07-bp.html

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Tuesday, November 7th, 2017
8:51 pm - Comic News Insider 816 - Harakiri Kane with Dean Haspiel & Stoya

Jimmy Aquino came to see my new play, HARAKIRI KANE, and, afterwards, interviewed me and Stoya at M Noodle Restaurant in Williamsburg, BK/NY, for his podcast, Comics News Insider 816.

You can listen to it here: http://www.jimmyaquino.typepad.com/comicnewsinsider/2017/11/episode-816-.html -or- http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/f/f/f/fff35cdb8020137d/CNI816.mp3?c_id=17670072&expiration=1510110795&hwt=2e3b07ccdb650ccaa33290d22d6982bf

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5:17 pm - Brick Underground: interviews Dean Haspiel

Mimi O'Connor interviewed me for Brick Underground. The article is titled "Comic book artist Dean Haspiel talks gentrification in Gowanus, his rural art colony fantasy, and more" and here are some excerpts:

Where are you from? Can you talk about growing up there and how the neighborhood has changed?

I was born in New York Hospital and grew up at 230 West 79th St. and Broadway, where I got to enjoy the culinary delights of H&H Bagels, Zabar's, La Caridad, Big Nick's, and Flor De Mayo. There used to more diners and newsstands where I'd pick up my weekly comic books and chocolate malted milk shakes.

At age 15, I got my first part-time job working as a clerk selling candy and bus tickets to The Sands casino in Atlantic City while working the lotto machine at a cigar store around the corner from my home. It was owned by a sweet Jewish man named Saul Slotnick. I met my first cartoonist there, a Japanese-American letterer named Ben Oda. I noticed he carried an art portfolio and I asked him what was in there, and he pulled out original art for the comic strip DONDI and other work. I knew then and there that I had to become a cartoonist.

My parents split up when I was 15 and my mother moved to Brooklyn, then the Catskills, and now she's in Florida. My father finally had to give up our home and now he lives in East Hampton. But, I sometimes visit the Upper West Side to go to the Museum of Natural History, eat at La Caridad, and ogle the Hudson River via the Boat Basin. The few occasions I go up there, it's interesting to recognize some familiar faces who never left and aged gracefully while wondering who can afford to live in that neighborhood now.

How many apartments have you lived in in New York?

I've lived in only four apartments in NYC. The Upper West Side with my family at 79th and Broadway where I went to PS 87, IS 44, and LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. After that, I went to SUNY Purchase to study art and film for a few years, and then lived in SoHo on Thompson Street between Spring and Broome with a couple of friends.

It was originally the apartment of comic book writer/editor Denny O'Neil, famous for his runs on Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Iron Man, and The Question. While trying to make it as a freelance artist in Soho I made money as a waiter at Nick & Eddie restaurant, and the co-creator/chef, Eric Bromberg opened the first of many Blue Ribbon restaurants with his brother, Bruce. Later, I moved in with my then-girlfriend, who lived in a one-room apartment in Alphabet City on 14th Street between avenues B and C. When she broke up with me, I moved to Carroll Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where I've been living for over 20 years.

I'd only visited Brooklyn a handful of times when some of my college pals got a place on Bergen Street with a rooftop where they had parties. Moving to Brooklyn felt like moving to the country. Luckily, another college pal knew of an apartment opening up in Carroll Gardens, and I snagged that with my singer-songwriter pal. When he split, I had some more roommates, including a couple of cartoonists, Nick Bertozzi, and then Michel Fiffe, before living solo a few years. My girlfriend, a fine artist/teacher, lives with me now.

How is living and working in Brooklyn different from Manhattan?

Brooklyn feels more neighborly than Manhattan, but with a spaghetti Western vibe. Despite gentrification, some areas are less-charted than others where lines are drawn. When I first moved to Carroll Gardens, it was much more Italian. I felt like an outsider for a while until I somehow passed some kind of quiet initiation that allowed me to get the occasional nod.

Manhattan is much more bustling. You can literally walk down Broadway naked with a knife in your back and no one will notice. In Brooklyn, neighbors keep an eye out for each other. But, sometimes you've got to warn the kids across the street to quit throwing water balloons at you because you know where they live. See, you should not mess with your neighbors across the street. You've got to go around the corner and mess with the other neighbors on another block, don'tcha know? In Brooklyn it feels like a maze of mini-borders, kinda like the movie The Warriors, but instead of gangs it's tribes.

How has the city changed in terms of where artists live and work? Can you talk about different neighborhoods/scenes over the years?

Artists spaces have shrunk and become more expensive. And, will probably continue to do so, sparking even more of an artists exodus to upstate New York, the Catskills, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Some folks are just cold splitting for Hollywood baby, and I don't blame them. Good luck in Los Feliz, y'all.

I get it. What I used to be able to afford a year ago costs almost double, for less space in Brooklyn. When we lost our space at 112 Second Ave., I had to move half my studio home, which is no longer a home. It's a disheveled storage unit now. A hoarder's wet dream. I can't even think about what I need to do. What I need to donate or toss in order to carve out a small space to eat a meal and watch a late night movie? Entertain friends? A thing of the past. You have to drive to the Catskills to host a group barbecue.

In 2006, I was excited to co-found a physical studio with five other artists when Gowanus was less desirable, [when it was] a place you traversed to get from Carroll Gardens to Park Slope and Prospect Park. But, like what happened to Soho in Manhattan and across the river in Dumbo, to Williamsburg, Gowanus and, next Bushwick, where artists gather in funky industrial wastelands, make it cool with the energy of their unbridled diversity, creating a geographical synergy between art and commerce, we eventually got the proverbial boot because the kind of currency we truck in isn't necessarily cash money dollar bills. And, not to suggest we're a bunch of scabs who can't pay the bills—we pay our bills—but when will the rent increases plateau? How much more can you charge for an empty box?

Traditionally, artists forfeit a lot of "normal" life and amenities in order to create work that skates the peripheries of experimentation with social commentary and commercial latitude. Nobody put a gun to our heads, making us do what we do but we often sacrifice 401k plans, health insurance, and the concept of a second home (much less a first home) for secondhand couches and converted factories so we can incubate, express and, hopefully, communicate our ideas beyond friends and family.

I fantasize about owning a large retreat in the mountains where other artists create and socialize but I'm tethered to the streets of NYC and I need to learn to let that go so I can realize a space that makes sense for my economy and mental health. I'm too burnt out to let anxiety be my friend anymore.

New York clearly has a big influence on your work. What about it inspires you?

NYC is in my blood. It's known to be the greatest city on earth. Talented geniuses and savants are drawn to NYC like magnets. I will never know what it's like to visit NYC for the first time because I am NYC and NYC is me. If I'm going to write and draw people, places and things, it's inherently going to be about NYC. I thought I was escaping NYC when I split Manhattan only to discover that Brooklyn, like quicksand, only took a stronger hold of me. Despite my public grumblings about NYC, how expensive it's become, how real estate developers don't care about authenticity, I will always be a diehard New Yorker.

Is there a part, area, or aspect of New York that is of particular interest to you right now?

I've always been fond of Red Hook, specifically the Ice House where you can still grab a beer and a shot of whiskey for six bucks while waxing stories about The Butthole Surfers with Gibby Haynes, or Sunny's Bar (RIP Sunny) where the Saturday night bluegrass music provides soul-mollifying spirituality. I cherish the art scene over there: Kentler International Drawing Space, and Pioneer Works.

I love the waterfront. A few years ago I discovered the Mermaid Spa, a Russian bathhouse in Sea Gate, and I was happy to rediscover Rubulad, an art/music party space planted deep in Brooklyn for those in the know. Smith Street in Carroll Gardens still has a lot to recommend itself, as does, I'm sure Williamsburg and any number of the hip 'hoods that are happening. But I just turned 50 in late May and I'm starting to feel less inclined to keep up with the underwritten.

You can read the entire interview/article here: https://www.brickunderground.com/live/dean-haspiel-interview

Photos of Dean Haspiel in his studio by Jason Goungor.

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Monday, November 6th, 2017
5:49 pm - HiLobrow reviews HARAKIRI KANE
Thanks, Adam McGovern, for the great review of my play, HARAKIRI KANE.

"It’s not how you live your life, it’s how you outlive it, or live it down. Comic writer/artist Dean Haspiel (full disclosure, a collaborator and crony of mine) has lived several artistic existences, without once yet falling on his face in-between. In his second incarnation as a playwright, Harakiri Kane (the first was Switch to Kill, in 2014), Haspiel contemplates lives lived poorly, or well enough alone. It’s parenthetically subtitled Die! Die, Again!, but the Russ Meyer hysteria and hardboiled melodrama promised by that title (and delivered, epicureanly, by Haspiel’s previous play) is a lifetime ago. This is pop-philosophy with no pretension yet unimpeachable insight; a dive-bar Wings of Desire.

The above and below are both accounted for, however. Though most of Harakiri Kane takes place in the shadows (bars, boxing rings, industrial wastelands, funeral homes), it begins in the sky. We’re in the Himalayas, where an explorer named Orlagh is climbing a mountain to enact an ever upward aspiration after receiving a diagnosis of imminent death. She’s on a tower that will fall short of heaven, talking to lost and burdensome lovers and then to a long-frozen corpse, forced to stage entire conversations on her own (a performance of desolate tenderness by the always heartbreaking or electrifying Alyssa Simon).

Having only yourself to remember your story to is tragic, but more so if you don’t even know how it goes. Harry “Harakiri” Kane, an ex-boxer who starts shambling through the narrative when we cut from mountaintop to alleyway, takes a while to even recover his own name. He’s the kind of tabula rasa through which fate can get itself written (in the tradition of mysterious or amnesiac champions from The Man With No Name to Demon With a Glass Hand). We come to learn that he is one of many forgotten men and women, walking a path between existence and oblivion and roaming the land of the living, visiting strangers near to the moment of their death. Haspiel’s modern metropolis is still populated by archetypes from as far back as penny dreadfuls and as farther back as mythic antiquity, like the death-worshipping, human-butchering chef Jack (played in haute dudgeon by director Ian W. Hill), and the corps of beat-walking Valkyries to which Harry now belongs.

The world feels like all of us are stepping over bodies anymore, and escape from either the danger they face or the duty it calls upon is inconceivable. For Harry, it’s also not possible — trying to release himself through suicide never works. Others of his kind don’t try at all, either renouncing the physical for philosophical pursuit (Nicodemus, a suave and subtly frightened portrayal by Rolls Andre), or making a pastime of testing themselves for vestiges of human feeling (the wistful, fearless storyteller Sharon, a poignant and powerful stage debut from Jessica Stoya).

As played by Alex Emanuel, Harry is in the grand tradition of poetic palookas from Wallace Beery onward, and his stubbled, square-jawed countenance and scuffed, haggard grandeur make him a Haspiel cartoon come to life, in a brutally sensitive performance that’s staggering in more than one sense. His instinct is to be an angel of mercy, befriending doomed losers like the barfly and desperate bankrobber Joe (played in myriad shades of mournful, mischievous resignation by Linus Gelber), but Harry’s curse is to be the one left standing.

“We only get one chance to die, and I screwed it up somehow,” Harry says at one point, and his crime seems to be trying to reject his destined narrative — he’s the soldier who disobeys orders, the epic warrior who has declined his role.

The script Haspiel has written for him suggests there might be a virtue he holds on to and a way to claim its reward, but nothing will be gained easily. Hill and collaborator Berit Johnson keep the guignol gore startling yet sparing, and Hill’s staging and pacing are stark without austerity, brooding but never overbearing; having created painterly noir before, with his comicbook scenarist he achieves an eloquent, tensely alive sketch.

Sharon watches mortals through entire lifetimes and writes stories of her own lives unlived. Like Orlagh at the play’s beginning, she alone is left to tell her tale, a holy text or mythos to fill the blank page of her past. She is the last being we see, and the end of the story is expressed beyond words…a shout in the dark, echoing the pain of birth and the feeling that connects us to the earth. Harakiri Kane sacrifices everything for its artistry, and wipes the canvas clean for any new life story to begin."


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10:21 am - Graphic Subversions: A Live Comics Reading at KGB Bar 11/6/2017


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Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
2:58 pm - RiYL Episode 239 (Bonus): Stoya

From RiYL podcaster Brian Heater:

"It’s a few days before the opening of her first theatrical performance, and Stoya doesn’t know what to expect. It’s all really new — aside from a few trivia nights here and there, she hasn’t really done much in front of a live audience since some ballet classes as a youngster.

She’s committed to trying new things, moving outside her comfort zone for the sake of a new experience.

Her first acting gig outside of the adult film industry came not all that long ago, when she agreed to star as an Android in a still-unreleased sci-fi film, so when cartoonist Dean Haspiel approached her to star in his new play, Harakari Kane, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it another go.

In this bonus episode, we discuss the adult film actress’s decade in the industry, her on-again, off-again work as an advice columnist and surviving in the city as a freelancer."

Listen here: http://riylcast.tumblr.com/post/167034936225/episode-239-bonus-stoya

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Friday, October 27th, 2017
7:46 pm - The Comics Beat INTERVIEW: Dean Haspiel and Stoya bring sensuality to death in HARAKIRI KANE

(Stoya and Alex Emanuel rehearse HARAKIRI KANE at The Brick theater)

Edie Nugent conducted an in-depth interview with me and Stoya at The Comics Beat about my new play, HARAKIRI KANE.

You can read the entire article/interview here: http://www.comicsbeat.com/interview-dean-haspiel-and-stoya-bring-sensuality-to-death-in-harakiri-lane/


Edie Nugent: You’d done some play-writing in college, and now you’re mounting a full production of Harakiri Kane after work-shopping it for a bit. What draws you to express yourself in that medium, in addition to your comic work?

Dean Haspiel: My godmother was Oscar award-winning actress, Shelley Winters, who once directed my late brother Michael in a play at Lee Strasberg‘s Actors Studio where I witnessed the process of theater. I was barely a teenager but got to get a sneak-peek behind the curtain. As a child, I hung around talented actors the likes of Farley Granger, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Sally Kirkland, Michael J. Pollard, Susan Tyrrell, Steve Railsback, and Fisher Stevens. But, I was too young and didn’t have the proper context to fully appreciate the people my parents knew. Thanks to my mother working at The New York State Council of the Arts, and my father’s personal connection to Marilyn Monroe and writing about old Hollywood, I was prone to entertainment. My first love was comic books but I was fascinated by off-Broadway productions for its minimalism, experimentation, and low-budget innovations.

In college, at SUNY Purchase in the late-1980’s, I studied art and film and befriended a bunch of young actors who I worked with; some of whom went on to become well-renowned, and we stayed in touch. In the early-90s, I took a crack at writing screenplays that never left the bottom of my desk drawer. With those stories collecting dust, I focused on making a career in comix, my first passion, while dipping occasional toes into movies and television. I was either too shy or lacked the confidence to pursue moving pictures but I’ve cherished all narrative mediums as far back as I can remember. Storytelling is in my soul. And, with a couple of thousand comic book pages under my belt and latter-day encouragement from playwright Crystal Skillman, and actor/director Philip Cruise, I’ve come to resurrect and transition some of my old works into theater with the custodianship of sir Ian W. Hill, a masterful director/producer and actor at The Brick Theater in Brooklyn, NY.

Edie Nugent: A good bit of your work draws on the neo-noir pastiche, what fascinates you about telling stories in that style and mood?

Dean Haspiel: The tenets of neo-noir share core similarities with the Silver Age comic books I enjoy; featuring morally complicated characters steeped in high stakes situations coupled with heart-shattering romance where promises are broken and time is a luxury. In my personal works: Billy Dogma, The Red Hook, Beef With Tomato, and even with the franchise stuff I’ve been the shepherd of, like The Fox for Archie Comics, I tend to abstract conflict and excavate the emotional truths so I can express something meaningful yet entertaining. At least, that’s my goal. Harakiri Kane is next-level pulp, an existential gore noir.

Edie Nugent: The earlier play work you’ve done was a staging of Switch to Kill in 2014. You’re working with the same producer, who also acted in that show and directs and acts in Harakiri Kane. What did you both learn through that process, which I think was your first full production, that carried over?

Dean Haspiel: With the exception of writing the script, I had no influence on the production of Switch to Kill. I had a couple of initial meetings with Ian W. Hill who read through some of the dialogue with me and I immediately felt confident in his understanding of what I was going for. See, I’m a fan of stylized dialogue, the likes of Harold Pinter, David Mamet, and Edward Albee. Tonally, Switch to Kill was like a cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by way of Abbott and Costello with guns. Alas, it only ran four shows as part of a bigger festival and I hope we get to revive and expand that play someday but to say I was bit by the theater bug is an understatement. My current play, Harakiri Kane, is more akin to a twisted Wim Wenders by way of the Grand Guignol.

Edie Nugent: Harakiri Kane is a story of angels and demons, as well as serial killers. What inspired you to write this particular story?

Dean Haspiel: There was a brief period of time when I was living in Soho, NY where I felt like I was a magnet for death. It seemed like every time I left my apartment, a stranger died. I remember hearing the horrific sounds of metal smashing into metal as I stepped onto the sidewalk of Thompson street and a sole hubcap came slowly rolling towards me and circled my body, settling at my feet. I traced the hubcap’s journey back to its source a block away only to discover a car wrapped around a pole. People dead. Blood and glass everywhere. Policemen had just arrived. Everyone was shaking.

Naturally, I was shocked by the tragic scene but I couldn’t stop thinking about that hubcap and how it had to turn a street corner and roll towards me as if it was anointing me for some kind of mission. Another ferryman to help others cross the River Styx? Stuff like this started to occur on a regular basis. A man jumping off a roof. A woman getting hit by a car. An overdosed derelict. Was I a specter of death? So, I locked myself inside my apartment in hopes it would decrease the deceased and started writing about it–which helped me think about the dying and the dead in ways I’d never considered before. I started with a character named Harry Kane, a boxer who died a year ago and doesn’t know it. Thus, began Harakiri Kane.

Edie Nugent: You’re working with your Heavy Metal collaborator Stoya. What did she bring to her role in Harakiri Kane that wasn’t in your original workshops of the material?

Dean Haspiel: Stoya was my only choice to play Sharon in Harakiri Kane and it was immediately confirmed when she first read the character. I took notes, further developing the resurrected script. Stoya is a renaissance woman, a force of nature, who has a gift to hold hostage space and time in compelling ways. I’m honored to have her break her NYC theater cherry with my play. In fact, the entire cast and staff is an assembly of truly brilliant talent and I’m extremely lucky to have them all bring my words to life.

Edie also added:

Indeed, Stoya’s varied experiences as a performer and personality led me to wonder what of those skills, which include aerial performance work, might have been helpful in approaching her role in Harakiri Kane, which is her theater debut? Her answer was straightforward. “Taking direction,” Stoya told me. “Whether it’s a porn set or live theater, the ability to take direction is the most useful skill I have as a performer.”

Stoya also appreciated Haspiel’s work ethic, citing it as one of the reasons she wanted to work with him on the show. She called Haspiel: “serious and efficient with his work,” explaining these are qualities she especially appreciates. Haspiel also made sure to be aware of Stoya’s comfort level in the process of staging the show. “He kind of eased me into it,” she said, “first it was the reading in someone’s living room just to hear the script, then the public reading and the actual play.”

When I asked what was it about the story of Harakiri Kane in particular that she found compelling, Stoya simply said: “It’s hard to choose between the humor and the point it makes about the will to live.”

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Thursday, October 26th, 2017
10:06 am - Creator Talks podcast interviews Dean Haspiel
"Dean joined the show from his Brooklyn Studios late one evening while feverishly inking pages for War Cry, his sequel to The Red Hook.

We also talk about his play Harakiri Kane, coming to The Brick Theater in late October.

Dean shares his physically painful experience at The New York Comic Con and suggests a new model for large cons to alleviate the crushing crowds.

We talk about the format of comic sand their sky-rocketing price tag: could digital distribution be the ultimate fate of new comics?

What would happen to local comic shops?

All this, talk about Dean's hero Jack Kirby, and my R&R questions!"

Listen here: https://creatortalks.podbean.com/e/76-dean-haspiel-on-war-cry-harakiri-kane/

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