May 9th, 2016


10 Rules For Drawing Comics

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(photographed by Matthew Ballen)

Dov Torbin asked me to give 10 Rules For Drawing Comics. Nothing scientific here. Just stuff to think about.

1. Observe and listen and react. This is your primary engine for story.

2. Write or sketch (do both) until it resembles something of a story. A story is like a series of jokes and punchlines, funny and not funny. One thing leading to another, and not necessarily in that order!

3. I understand why we're encouraged to remove story elements that don't strictly contribute to the over-arching narrative, but I try to make entire stories feel like one big red mess because life is chaos. Answers are not as interesting as questions, but choices and decisions (for better or for worse) make or break characters and steer story.

4. Shape your story. Subtract for clarity, but leave room for interpretation. Your reader is your co-author. Struggling through the layout stage is the most critical part of making comix. Everything after that is craft, revision and execution.

5. I used to care about accountability for verisimilitude but emotionally true is what I strive for. You want a photo? Take a picture. You want a fact? Do the math. Otherwise, draw something that means something but don't be scared of what's complex and human. It's how we relate.

6. Image is text, too. Sometimes I draw first what I want to write and then reverse-engineer my story-making process.

7. The art should always serve the story. A splash page should feel like a Sergio Leone vista or extreme close-up. The moment before or after a trigger is pulled or something is revealed. Inset panels expose, hyphenate or hide information. Use them wisely.

8. If your art stops me from indulging the story at its intended narrative pace so as to ogle and cheer how well you drew something, you're being a diva. Don't vogue. Immerse me.

9. Read books and comix. Watch movies. Listen to music. See people doing things. Do things. Talk.

10. Sometimes, walk home a different way. It allows you to see new things and, perhaps, think differently.
2010 Interview: Dean Haspiel Talks About "The Red Hook" and His Love For Brooklyn

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Chase Magnett interviewed me about my new/free webcomic series, THE RED HOOK, and the "New Brooklyn Universe" for


"I think what makes Brooklyn a force for manifesting superheroes comes from the fact that blue collar workers like Jack Kirby and Will Eisner, and a slew of other progenitors of the comix form, hailed from Kings County. Kinda like Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon, they got there first and Brooklyn is where the genesis of many famous cartoonists created extraordinary characters to deal with extremely tough times dating as far back as Captain America punching out Adolph Hitler.

Lots of heroes were spawned from war and economic strife. In fact, The Red Hook and New Brooklyn is partially a response to my getting the proverbial boot from my own studio soon so that land developers can attempt to revamp a few more artist-friendly neighborhoods into expensive condominiums and co-worker hubs for those who won't blink at a $12 shot of bourbon. Rapidly dying are the affordable underground happenings that made NYC rich with experimentation."

"My exodus from Manhattan to Brooklyn became the basis for my graphic memoir, "Beef With Tomato" (published by Alternative Comics). I think I fell in love with how Brooklyn kept things "street." There were hardly any pretensions when I landed. What Manhattan abandoned for brighter lights and bigger signs and whiter noise, Brooklyn brandished in their water towers and stoops and trees and people. I felt a better sense of community in Brooklyn, even when I was getting the stink eye from indigenous locals. Hipsters came later. But, in the late '90s, I had to earn my way in. Brooklyn hazes you for your self-worth, especially in Red Hook. Ironically, since my Manhattan escape, Brooklyn has become more expensive. I can't win. Nobody put a gun to my head but I've given my life's blood and art to NYC and it sometimes treats me like an infection just because I'm economically (and esthetically) allergic to champagne and caviar while my veins proudly pump 70% cheap Chinese food takeout and 30% discounted peanut butter. Give me royalty checks or give me grape jelly."

"All good superhero stories express a healthy mix of science-fiction, romance, and crime, don't they? That's what makes superhero comics stand part from singular genres. If you've ever read any of my Billy Dogma comix or the occasional superhero stuff I've done for Marvel, DC and Archie/Dark Circle, you'll know that I've never been good at sticking to the trappings of a particular genre. Listening to Prince, Throbbing Gristle, The Clash, J.G. Thirlwell, Moby, Swans, Death Grips, The Chemical Brothers, and Run The Jewels while watching horror movies, spaghetti westerns, and AMC/HBO shows, has a way of influencing a mind and body. Like life, I'm influenced by a cacophony of diverse cultures, ideas and ambiance. I'm hard to peg. Dub me a one-stop-shop; a Renaissance cartoonist."

Read the entire interview here:

You can read THE RED HOOK here: