By Alyssa Pak
Dean Haspiel is an Eisner nominated artist best known for his collaborations with Harvey Pekar on the American Splendor series and on The Quitter graphic novel, as well as winning an Emmy Award in 2010 for his design work on HBO's Bored To Death. He is currently working for Archie Comics on The Fox under the rebranding imprint called Dark Circle. However, when interviewing with Bleeding Cool at Wizard World Portland he considered this all old news. Instead, he wanted to talk about Wizard World and how he decided to be a part of the Wizard World conventions.
Comparing the Wizard World shows to a cross between Mardi Gras and Disneyworld, Haspiel decided to try out the traveling pop culture convention even though other independent creators looked at him odd, asking, "Why would you do that?" His response was a simple, "Just to try it." Haspiel elaborated that the Wizard World cons and their approach mirrored Disneyworld in that the celebrity focus mirrored the Disney theme park, focusing on the popular, while fans and cos-players dressed up and "got their freak on" like at Mardi Gras (an image that was fresh in his mind after having just been with Wizard World in New Orleans).
The Wizard World shows have a bad reputation among small publishers and indie creators and it doesn't seem deserved. Haspiel responds, "Just look at the Billy Dogma & Jane Legit trading card they did up for me to promote. It's a nice marketing tool and more than some cons do. Plus, Wizard World takes good care of me." He noted that many fans were there for different reasons, such as a lot of them were there to cosplay and show off their fantastic costumes. However, for fans such as these after spending so much money on their costumes, and the $40 to $50 a day, or $80 for all three, what would these fans really have to spend at the show? "Sometimes, you do have to wonder what are we [the comic book creators] here for if the cost to cosplay at the comix carnival breaks your wallet?" This isn't just a Wizard World issue though, it's a convention issue in general, but he added, "I still admire the artistic work a lot of people put into their costumes."
Right now Dean Haspiel is more focused on The Fox and getting his creator-owned projects off the ground, such as more Billy Dogma stories and is looking for a publisher, but he isn't interested in publishers that wish to crowdfund it. "If I want it crowdfunded, I'll do it myself, not have a publisher do it for me." He has his own book Psychotronic Comix which is a one-man anthology published by his studio imprint Hang Dai Editions, featuring: Tommy Rocket, The Red Hook, A-Okay Cool, and other real life stories that he was selling to fans at the show as a way to give them a taste of his work and style, but something you couldn't get at a store. Haspiel believes "It's important to make human connections between the creator and the reader during a time where digital distance creates faux-intimacy."
Dean Haspiel had several fans drop by while Bleeding Cool was talking with him and greatly enjoyed the chance to share his work with people. His final thoughts for Bleeding Cool, before returning to talking to fans and the curious passers by were that the Wizard World experience has been good for him and enjoyable, "It's a unique and different experience, merging pop and props with fringe."