Amazing Spider-Man #50 — "Spider-Man No More!" — is one of the most famous and widely referenced stories in the character's history, featuring the iconic imagery of a downtrodden Peter Parker walking away from his freshly trashed Spidey costume.
For August's Amazing Spider-Man #692, part of Marvel's celebration of Spidey's 50th anniversary, writer/artist Dean Haspiel is telling an untold tale of what happened to the costume after it got tossed in the garbage can, in the form of an eight-page back-up feature.
Newsarama talked to Haspiel — an Emmy winner in 2010 for the Bored to Death opening sequence — about work-for-hire comics versus creator-owned, his personal fondness for Spider-Man and his further ventures including the website Trip City, Billy Dogma and more Courtesy of Marvel, we're also debuting three pages from Haspiel's Spidey story, scheduled for release on Aug. 22.
Newsarama: Dean, obviously the bulk of your output in your career has been non-franchise work — earlier this year, you wrote "Make Mine Me" on Trip City about choosing creator-owned versus work for hire — but it seems that at least every couple of years, you're doing something at Marvel. Is it simply out of a love for the characters? And in practical terms, have you found mainstream comics work to be effective in attracting readers to your other projects (whether or not that's part of the goal)?
Dean Haspiel: When I was 12 years old, my dream was to one day become the regular penciler of Fantastic Four. A few years later I discovered Harvey Pekar's American Splendor and Chester Brown's Yummy Fur and those comix threw a wrench into my dream and I've been polarized ever since. Despite my cheer for creator-owned projects, I still love superheroes and many of the franchises I was weaned on. I have no issue with writing and drawing characters I don't own when given the chance. Comic books share a long-time tradition of paying for sanctioned versions of their properties in order to perpetuate their mythologies, and I think that's perfectly reasonable. Of course, I think publisher/creator participation is a crucial matter and credit where credit is due is important but, luckily, we're experiencing a publishing paradigm shift where creators don't have to do work-for-hire if they don't want to. When I get the opportunity to write and draw a Spider-Man story, I fully understand the parameters and choose to do the work. Nobody has put a gun to my head and made me write and draw Spider-Man against my will. But, obviously, working on popular characters helps attract fans to your personal works.
What gets me sore about the business of comic books is a whole bunch of other things, including ill communication and lack of professional courtesy and respect. If you're going to solicit a pitch from me, the very least you owe me is a timely response. It's a rare gem to behold when an editor communicates properly and those are the ones you covet and develop working relationships with. Alas, 21st century technology and communications has seemingly phased out most manners as we tip-toe around a "hurry up and wait" world where "me, me, me" has replaced "thank you" and "please" and “you're welcome.” We're living in an “upload to server” culture now.
Nrama: And in a much more direct question, what can you share about your eight-page story in Amazing Spider-Man #692? (Probably not a whole lot, since it's only eight pages, but feel free tease to whatever extent you think is appropriate.)
Haspiel: I was visiting the Marvel offices over a year ago when I asked editor Stephen Wacker if he had anything for me. He thought about it for a minute and asked, "Remember Amazing Spider-Man #50 when Peter Parker quit being Spider-Man? What happened to the Spider-Man costume that night?" He told me I had eight pages to tell that story and the only caveat was the costume had to return to the garbage can by the end of the story. I can't give too much away without spoiling the story, but Wacker admitted my script made him emotional. I originally wanted Sandman to make a cameo, but it didn't work out. My story is true to the Spider-Man canon and I'm really proud of what I did and I hope fans will like it, too.
Nrama: As someone with a story in Spidey's official 50th anniversary issue celebrating the character's history, what are your favorite eras of the character? You've said elsewhere that the story pays tribute to Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and John Romita, so I'm guessing that's a starting point.
Haspiel: Besides the Lee, Ditko and Romita eras of Spider-Man, I really liked the Gerry Conway and Gil Kane and Ross Andru stories and anything John Romita Jr. drew. “Kraven's Last Hunt” by J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Zeck is awesome. I think the first 25 years of most Marvel Comics, from the early 1960s to the 1980s are my favorites. In current Spider-Man continuity, Dan Slott has a great take on the character, but that guy can write anything. Talk to Dan Slott for a half-hour and you'll walk away energized and mesmerized by his ability for story-making.
Nrama: Though you drew a Tangled Web issue several years back (and possibly more Spider-Man material elsewhere), I believe this is your first time credited as the writer of a Spidey story. Had that been something you were hoping to get the chance to do for a while? Was it easy to capture his voice?
Haspiel: I think you'll find that my Spider-Man dialogue is eerily accurate. Otherwise, yes, I've been itching to write my favorite superheroes and super-villains ever since I started writing Billy Dogma and semi-autobiographical comix. I found I had a real knack for it and I developed my 'thug with a velvet mind' style that is influenced by a combination of comix guru Stan Lee, pulp novelist Richard S. Prather, and playwright David Mamet.
Lately, I've been toning down my proclivity for hyperbole by steeping in the more deceptively simple storytelling stylings of authors Joe R. Lansdale, Charles Bukowski, Richard Matheson, Jonathan Ames and Tim Hall. Besides Spider-Man, I recently wrote (and drew) a few other Marvel Comics; a short epic called “The Left Hand of Boom,” featuring Woodgod, The Celestials, and The Thing, that appeared in Strnage Tales Vol. 2, and a story for Deadpool #1000 featuring a little girl hiring Deadpool to get her cat down from a tree and the hijinks that ensue.
Nrama: Returning to the subject of Trip City, the site is about nine months old at this point. What's your assessment of its growth and what you and your collaborators have accomplished thus far? What are your goals for the future with the site?
Haspiel: TripCity.net has been a wonderful playground for me to stretch my storytelling abilities and write essays and prose and curate some of my friends and stuff I want to read and see. My goal is to make something that means something and I believe I have. Plus, I got to break my podcast cherry. It's an online salon-of-sorts, and has taught me a great deal of what to expect when furnishing work for free.
After creating over 400 pieces of exclusive content, I think our goal for TripCity.net is to continue building a home base that we can link to for personal experiences, events, truth and fiction that we wish to share and beta-test the creative itches we need to scratch. Some people have abandoned blogs and solely employ Facebook and Twitter as their only means of public communication (and humiliation) but I prefer to design my destiny as much as I can.
Nrama: And to wrap up: What else are you working on that readers should know about?
Haspiel: I just finished writing and drawing a 12-page Mars Attacks story called "Mars Attacks Christmas" for the Mars Attacks The Holidays special coming out in October from IDW and I'm preparing for a month long stay at Yaddo, a prestigious artists/writers retreat in Saratoga Springs, NY where I aim to finish writing a screenplay and, perhaps, a novel.
Come early fall, I hope to hop back aboard The Five-Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies, my sci-fi-dick webcomic series, co-created and written by Ben McCool for Cryptozoic and ShiftyLook.com, if the second season yields a third season. And, then I am scheduled to attend SPX and Baltimore Comic-Con where I hope to debut and sell a print version of my Billy Dogma comic, "The Last Romantic Antihero." Come October, I'll be teaching a master-comics class at The Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida.
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