I was supposed to do an interview for The PULSE a long while ago, and couldn't muster the energy nor the answers. I think I was burnt out. Then, I got an impromptu call to see if I was interested in answering a few quick questions for the TOON TOWN Study Guide, an upcoming show I'm in for the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. A few quick questions? I said "sure."
It flustered me. I can't do these things anymore.
::Describe the process of going from that initial idea to the page? Is there a message or a theme you want to get across that you get first, then think about ways to show it on the page?::
I don't know where ideas come from but when one tugs at my nape more than twice it usually means I need to pay attention and see what's what. The qualification of ideas is usually a process of elimination. I block out my initial story bits on scratch paper, firming up character designs and agendas. The computer comes in handy by letting me arrange and rearrange plot, dialogue, and narrative flow. Once the script is 98% sure, I go from layouts to pencils, letters, inks, and sometimes digital color. I allow for last minute changes and then it's done. I've made my comic book.
::Why do you work in the format you have chosen?::
I grew up reading comix and loved to draw conflict. I chose the comix medium because it affords me to show and tell cost effective, sequential narrative stories while practicing the chops I'm scared of most: writing.
::How do you use NYC as an influence?::
New York's architecture, street lamps, fire hydrants, pigeons, and street debris are inherent to all my city drawings. The claustrophobia of apartments and the juxtaposition of the 100 year old, 5-story tenement adjacent to the modern glass office building is what describes and sells the personalty of NYC. A punk helping an old lady cross the street. A thug conning a yuppie. Kids playing the dozens on a stoop. Hotdog stands and taxi cabs. A row of stolen flat top sneakers hanging off a lax phone wire like urban scarecrows, rings my big city alarm like no other.
::What cartoon/comic artists have influenced your work? Why?::
My comix are heavily influenced by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, C.C. Beck, Alex Toth, Steve Ditko, Johnny Craig, Gil Kane, Harvey Kurtzman, John Byrne, Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Chester Brown, Katsuhiro Otomo, Harvey Pekar, Dan Clowes, and Mike Mignola.
More recently, I dig the work of Baru, The Hernandez Bros., Junji Ito, Jason Lutes, James Kochalka, Nick Bertozzi, Josh Neufeld, Bob Fingerman, Jason Little, Sammy Harkham, Paul Pope, Frank Quitely, Darwyn Cooke, Eduardo Risso, Sean Phillips, Stuart Immonen, Cameron Stewart, Cliff Chiang, Alex Maleev, Mike Wieringo, John Cassaday and Richard Corben. Some writers I currently enjoy are Brian Azzarello, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Bruce Jones, Mark Waid, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Garth Ennis, Joss Whedon, Dan Slott, Brian Wood, and Brian K. Vaughan. They all bring something extra to the table and spin compelling yarns that resonate beyond the confines of the pulp their stories are printed on.
::What other artists of other media (TV, movies, painting, any others) have influenced your work? Why?::
From Sergio Leone to the Coen Bros, movies influence my work all the time. Although film employs the power of moving images and sound, it shares similar picture making and pacing challenges that comix face. Especially in film noir, kung-fu, and spaghetti westerns for their use of high contrast and bold action. Old NEW YORKER covers and gag cartoonists like Abner Dean make me think about nature vs the surreal while expressive painters like Edward Hopper and Max Beckmann explore the single image to masterful effect. The hyperbolic fiction of Joe R. Lansdale, James Ellroy, and Richard S. Prather makes me consider the beauty of text as does the semi-autobiography of Charles Bukowski, Tim Hall, and Jonathan Ames.
::Finally, you have worked both in the wider commercial arena, for the mainstream comics publishers, and for yourself as an independent. Can you talk a little about the difference, which you'd rather do, which one you put your passion into, etc?::
As much as I appreciate and enjoy the chance to draw my favorite franchise characters, work-for-hire boils down to a page rate and a credit. For a closet-egocentric who battles high anxiety daily, I feel I can say a lot more fulfilling things about adventure, romance, and crime, with my creator-owned fare then exploring universal truths in the confines of corporate comics. I've been awfully delinquent manifesting my unique vision in the past few years while hustling the mainstream. I look forward to the day when one of my creations is making me money while I sleep. Maybe then I'll have what some folks call health insurance, eight hours of sleep, and a sound mind.
(c)2004 Dean Haspiel