For more than two decades, Dean Haspiel has been a comic book force all his own. A wildly talented and gregarious writer, illustrator, promoter, creator, and organizer, Dino works nonstop to build up his own expansive resume as well as the industry itself. In February 2006, he started ACT-I-VATE, a web-based comics collective that features such series as Josh Neufeld’s “Lionel,” Kevin Colden’s “Fishtown,” Nick Bertozzi’s “Iraq War Stories,” and his own “Billy Dogma” and “Street Code,” the latter a terrific semiautobiographical tale set in New York City, where Dino was born and raised. Along the way, he has collaborated on prestigious projects with Harvey Pekar (AMERICAN SPLENDOR, THE QUITTER), Jonathan Lethem (the upcoming BACK ON NERVOUS ST.), Michael Chabon (THE ESCAPIST), and Jonathan Ames (THE ALCOHOLIC), and he contributes drawings and illustrations to Ames’s HBO cable series BORED TO DEATH, which features Zach Galifianakis playing a character inspired by Haspiel’s real life.
We caught up with Dino in one of his very few spare moments as he was preparing to spread the word about the ninth annual MoCCA Art Festival, a celebration of comics and graphic novels that will be held April 10-11 at the 69th Regiment Armory. In addition to being all over the fair, including participating in the panel discussion “The Art of the Superhero: When Singular Vision Meets Popular Mythology” on April 10 at 2:00, Haspiel will turn into alter ego DJ Man-Size at the official festival after-party later that night at the Village Pourhouse. “I’ll mostly be spinning old school hip-hop and electronica from the 1980s with a slant on future funk,” he explained. “Think black Kraftwerk . . . think Boba Fett with tassels instead of scalps.”
twi-ny: You’ve collaborated with such talented writers as Harvey Pekar, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, and Jonathan Ames; who is your next dream collaborator?
Dean Haspiel: I've been itching to collaborate with author Tim Hall on an original graphic novel and we have something planned. I’d also like to collaborate with mystery writer Joe R. Lansdale on adapting his brilliant Hap and Leonard characters into comics form. Plus, I don’t think my career would feel satisfactory if I hadn’t collaborated with some of my favorite comic book writers, the likes of Mark Waid, J. M. DeMatteis, and a handful of others.
twi-ny: Who is your favorite character to draw, whether created by you or another artist?
DH: My favorite characters to draw are my creator-owned Billy Dogma & Jane Legit. But I love drawing Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s the Thing from the Fantastic Four, and I was recently afforded the opportunity to write and draw a short Thing story in an upcoming issue of Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales sequel.
twi-ny: On BORED TO DEATH, Zach Galifianakis’s Ray Hueston character is based on you. Is it easy to watch him, or does it hit a little too close to home?
DH: The Ray Hueston character on BORED TO DEATH is loosely based on some events that happened to me, but I don’t think Zach Galifianakis was subjected to a parallax view of my life and my behavioral traits by any stretch of the imagination. So, I can safely declare that Zach and Jonathan Ames have wholly created Ray from spirited, albeit inspired, cloth. However, I was recently privy to the filmmaking of a certain scene in the upcoming season and I remarked how bizarre it was to watch my proposed doppelganger play out an important event, something I never got the opportunity to do in my own life, and how frustrating yet weirdly cathartic that was for me.
twi-ny How do you find the time to do all the things you do, including serving as a relentless promoter of the comics industry?
DH: Don’t even get me started. If everyone on their chosen social networking sites would just share what they liked with the simple click of a button rather than whine about this and that and publish what they had for lunch, I might be able to shrug off my self-imposed burden to cheer what is good and, instead, produce more stories and eat dinner before 10 pm with the people I love to spend time with. Alas, the internet accesses a dark gene in humanity that encourages some folks to constantly complain and act like jerks and do things they wouldn’t dare do in front of real people. I don’t do anything that we all couldn’t do together if we just took a minute to think straight and understand our information and entertainment values.
This year’s MoCCA Art Festival runs April 10-11 at the 69th Regiment Armory, featuring such participants as Kim Deitch, Emily Flake, Jaime Hernandez. Neil Kleid, Peter Kuper, Hope Larson, Frank Miller, Paul Pope, Dash Shaw, Gahan Wilson, and Klein Award recipient David Mazzucchelli. Single tickets are $10 in advance, $12 day of show, with weekend tickets available for $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The official after-party will take place April 10 at the Village Pourhouse, with drink specials and free snacks beginning at 8:00; admission is $5.