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 (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.
On May 14, Ames and Haspiel will be honored at the “100 Works on Paper” benefit at Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook, where attendees donate $200 and go home with an original work of art. On May 18, the Emmy-winning Haspiel will be presenting a new Street Code comic as part of twi-ny’s tenth anniversary celebration at Fontana’s, which will also feature readings from Nova Ren Suma, Andrew Giangola, and Kyle Thomas Smith and live performances from James Mastro and Megan Reilly, Paula Carino and the Sliding Scale, and Evan Shinners.
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 ten 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.