In my time writing for this site, I have talked to and met some very interesting people; game developers, voice actors, and those involved in comics and manga. Recently at the MCM Expo in London, Namco Bandai and ShiftyLook brought a selection of highly talented comic book writers and artists to discuss their various webcomic series‘ based on old disused Namco Bandai properties. I was lucky enough to meet Dean Haspiel, artist for the fantastic webcomic The Five- Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies, who took the time to take part in this interview. In it we discuss the levels of creative freedom offered to him by Namco Bandai, the moment he knew he wanted to get into drawing comics, a sneak peak at the webcomic’s future beyond series one and more.
Laura: For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Dean: I’m a native New Yorker and I just turned 45 years old. In 1985, when I was 17-years old, I assisted Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, and Walter Simonson on New Mutants, Elektra: Assassin, American Flagg! and Thor, respectively. In 1987, I co-created my first published comic series, The Verdict, with writer Martin Powell, and studied film at SUNY Purchase and took random jobs to squeak by. In 1995, I created Billy Dogma ~ “the last romantic antihero,” and have been writing and drawing him ever since, between collaborations with Harvey Pekar, Jonathan Ames, Inverna Lockpez, and Jonathan Lethem, on semi-autobiographical graphic novels and comics. I also write and draw franchise comics for all the major publishers. In 2006 I launched the webcomics collective, ACTIVATEcomix.com, and in the fall of 2011, I launched TripCity.net, a Brooklyn-filtered literary arts salon where I create and curate multimedia content. I currently draw The Five-Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies, written by Ben McCool.
Laura: How did you get involved with Namco Bandai and ShiftyLook?
Dean: Simply put, Ben McCool called me up and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating with him on revamping Warp & Warp into a DIRK DAVIES webcomic and I couldn’t say no. I’ve wanted to work with Ben since I first met the cheeky bastard. By proxy, that meant working for Cryptozoic, Namco Bandai and ShiftyLook.
Laura: How would you describe The Five-Dimensional Adventures Of Dirk Davies?
Dean: DIRK DAVIES is a sci-fi crime noir, an inspired pastiche of TV detectives like Kolchak the Night Stalker and Columbo thrown sideways into Silver Age comic books, illuminated by the likes of Steve Ditko and Jim Starlin as filtered through a psychedelic lava lamp to the tune of early electronica. At least, that’s what I tell myself every time I sit down to draw this stuff.
Laura: How much creative freedom did you have working with Namco Bandai on the Warp & Warp franchise?
Dean: Since Warp & Warp, the original video game that Dirk Davies is based on, has virtually no story to speak of, Ben McCool was given the bragging rights to create a brand new protagonist and universe to flex wise and for me to occupy. We’ve been given unbridled creative freedom.
Laura: What were your inspirations when designing the comic? How much inspiration did you draw from the game?
Dean: I get no inspiration from the original Warp & Warp game because it was too basic and visually banal. Kinda like Pong with aliens and lasers. Your casual 1980s shoot-em-up with a warp button. What inspires me is Ben McCool’s script and the characters Dirk Davies meets and the places he dimension hops to. Plus, those abstract guns and gadgets I get to manifest. Sometimes I look at science fiction from the 1950s and 1960s, my favorite era for showing the future, like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. For the dimension hopping, I pay slight homage to Steve Ditko’s Dr. Strange, Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four and “Fourth World” series, and Jim Starlin’s Warlock and Dreadstar comics.
Laura: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be making comics?
Dean: When I was 12-years old, I was taken hostage by comic books when I discovered The Fantastic Four and Shazam! at my local newsstand. Later on, I learned that comics could be about anything when I came upon Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur and Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor.
Laura: What can we expect to see in the coming weeks in the comic?
Dean: Dirk Davies fights a Spider-Ape and finally confronts the villain of season one.
Laura: Do you have any further plans with ShiftyLook after the first season on Dirk Davies?
Dean: I don’t know if it’s been officially announced yet but it looks good for a second season of DIRK DAVIES and the possibility of a DIRK DAVIES crossover with another ShiftyLook property. I’m writing and drawing a DIG DUG one-shot and I’ve also pitched a couple of ideas to possibly write and draw a ShiftyLook series on my own.
Laura: Do you ever face creative block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Dean: Best way to deal with a creative block is to do other things. Sometimes I wash my dishes thoroughly or take a bike ride. Other times, I hop onto other projects and let my mind work out the creative problems in the back of my head until the answers and/or inspiration come a-knockin’. Nothing beats indulging other stories via comic books, novels, and movies. Stories beget stories.
You can read The Five- Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies for free on ShiftyLook.com and if you enjoy Dean Haspiel‘s work on that series, then you may enjoy his work on Billy Dogma which can be seen here.