Smash Pages Q&A: Dean Haspiel on ‘Starcross’
Alex Dueben kindly talked to me about my new webcomic, STARCROSS, The Red Hook season 3.
"As I was writing Red Hook and imagining what the big stories are because it’s hard to write a big long epic story especially because every big long epic story has been told. From Shakespeare to Stan Lee, they’ve told all the stories. It’s basically how you make it unique. For this third story I was going to use this idea about how love could save the world. As I was putting that together I realized that it’s not just a story about the Red Hook and his lost love The Possum, a.k.a. War Cry, but it’s also about community. It’s about these other characters. And if it’s about love, maybe it’s not just one person’s love but a whole bunch of love. What does love look like in its many iterations? It’s complicated in this third season because I’m letting other characters shine just as much as the Red Hook because it’s becoming more of a communal story. Curiously enough, it’s a weird metaphor for global warming. The sun is dying and they need to reignite the sun. It takes a bunch of characters to ally and figure out what to do next. It involves the community and the people of New Brooklyn. It become a weird metaphor about global warming and lost love and it becomes Shakesperean on a galactic level."
"I’m highly inspired by 1961’s Marvel Comics, or those first three years from ‘61-’63. When I was invited to pitch to Line Webtoon I came at then editor Tom Akel with three different ideas, one of them being The Red Hook. He liked The Red Hook but I said, there are other New Brooklyn characters. At the time Seth Kushner was alive and he had been writing this idea called The Brooklynite and Vito Delsante had co-created The Purple Heart and so we got artists to become co-creators and we created this three pronged universe. Everyone had a first season. As you know Seth passed away in the middle of working on the Brooklynite and Shamus Beyale and Jason Goungor completed that season. Vito and artist Ricardo Venâncio completed the first season of The Purple Heart. To preserve Seth’s legacy I don’t really want to touch The Brooklynite anymore. I love that character but I don’t want to touch that character unless Seth’s wife wants us to do more, so we’ve told his story and he’s going to be pushed to the side. I would love to do more with the Purple Heart, and in fact he makes an appearance in Starcross. I have other characters that I feel are as crucial and critical to The Red Hook like The Coney, Sun Dog, even Benson Hurst. I have others set up. Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri created Aquaria, and Aquaria has always been loosely attached and tethered to New Brooklyn. I’ve talked with other creators about coming up with characters for the New Brooklyn universe. It’s a long winded answer but yes, in my heart and even written down on paper there is a whole universe expanding through New Brooklyn."
"They don’t want you to be complicated. They like a complicated story, but they don’t want you to be complicated. They want you to be the person who does that thing. I like to use Frank Miller as an example. He did Daredevil, Batman, Sin City, they all can be under the banner of neo-noir and it keeps it easy to track. Ed Brubaker has a track. Brian K Vaughan is hard to pin down, but I feel like writers can away with expanding their rubber bands but it’s harder for artists and/or auteurs. People don’t like it when you hopscotch all over the place because they want to place you in their mind where they understand you and again.
I’m guilty of this as well. I look at filmmakers like Tarantino, who’s a great DJ of cinema. I look at musicians like Scott Walker, who just passed away. What an interesting artist and musician. Or someone like Prince or David Bowie. There’s a lot that’s similar in their music, but they were always creating different things. I wonder if in my career I’m making albums, and I don’t mean bande desinée French comics albums, but these little experiments. To your answer about where I belong, I don’t know if I belong anywhere. Maybe I belong everywhere?"
"That was an editorial mandate. I was happier with my original color scheme in Volume 1 but I was told that the readers of Line Webtoon prefer a four color experience over the limited palate that I use. I disagree and also I’m not a good colorist. I tried to meet the challenge of producing a four color comic with War Cry and I realized that I don’t have the talent or the skillset to do what four color colorists are doing today, which is one of the reasons why I created a limited palate. Having said that, I came upon a collection of Batman and The Outsiders written by Mike Barr and drawn by Jim Aparo and colored by Adrienne Roy. It was a team book; it was going to get cosmic. I knew there was going to be a contrast between the New Brooklyn setting and it would get a little wild. I liked a lot of what Adrienne was doing, her solutions, keeping it a flat color schema. I was looking at that. With Starcross I was just pushing what I learned in War Cry a little bit more because now we’re really getting cosmic. There’s a lot going on in this comic. In a way Red Hook is almost a secondary character to the story in this third part, even though he’s essential."
"At the end of the day, I’m writing all kinds of characters. I’ve always represented diverse characters and strong females – I grew up around strong females, my mother is my first superheroes. Nowadays people are being called out for not being the person that they’re writing or drawing, but I feel like I’ve been very respectful of the different cultures and different kinds of people that I write and draw. But at the end of the day I’m telling this story through the eyes of a straight, white man, i.e. Sam Brosia, the Red Hook. So it is his story."
"Josh Blaylock, the publisher of Devil’s Due, reached out to me and said, do you want to do something for this? I didn’t have any thoughts on it, but he asked me if I knew other local cartoonists who might want to be involved. I sent out a call and a bunch of people responded. He asked me one more time and I had an idea that wasn’t a comic about AOC, because as you’ve read, it mainly focuses on someone else. The little I know about AOC, she seems to be a catalyst of new fresh ideas so she could be the person that sparks this fire. I hate the 45th President, as most of us. I can’t stand him, he shouldn’t be President. Having said that, I don’t like the amount of horrible drawings – and I know why artists do it – of this guy drawn every day. He’s throwing himself under the bus everyday. I feel like we’re in some ways perpetuating this monster by talking about him and drawing him constantly. We have to keep him on his toes, but I thought, if I’m going to contribute to this, what can I do to put a positive spin on it. Not that he’s doing something good, but what story can I tell to put a positive alternative spin on what will happen. I didn’t draw it. I wrote it, laid it out and lettered it and my former studio mate Christa Cassano, who drew the first half of John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Clown graphic novel, did the line art and colored it. I’m happy with the collaboration and I’m glad I was able to contribute, but I am curious to see how it all comes together as an anthology."
"I’m in the middle of writing two new plays. I am wondering about my next phase because I wrap up production on Starcross around mid-August and then I’m going to be going to Yaddo, the writers retreat, for a month. I hope to finish the first draft of a prose novel I’m writing and hopefully tweak this play. I might need to really buckle down and invest in myself and try to stay in this autonomous creative space. I spent years wanting to draw other people stories and characters, and slowly but surely I started to write my own stories and create my own characters. Now I want to stay here."
Read the entire interview here: http://smashpages.net/2019/04/11/smash-pages-qa-dean-haspiel/