Marvel Digital: Dean Haspiel & Frankenstein

Marvel Digital: Haspiel & Frankenstein

Earlier this month, Marvel Entertainment announced the launch of several new comic titles online as part of the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscription plan. It's initiatives like this that further cement the rising stature of webcomics as a integral part of comics in the 21st century, and one of the cartoonists involved in Marvel's new titles is someone who is equally popular in traditional print comics and the web.

Cartoonist Dean Haspiel cut his comics teeth in the late ‘80s in the independent comic scene including a long-time collaboration with writer Harvey Pekar. In the past few years he's experienced new success with print comics such as The Quitter and The Alcoholic while taking part in the webcomics medium by co-founding the webcomics collective ACT-I-VATE, as well as doing webcomics for and DC Comics' ZUDA. And now he's joining Marvel's digital comic ground.

Dean Haspiel is working on a Halloween Special for Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited featuring Frankenstein and Werewolf by Night. For more, we talked with Haspiel from his NYC home.

Newsarama: So Dean, what can you tell us about this story?

Dean Haspiel: I recently completed drawing a six page story written by Jeff Parker for Giant Size X-Men First Class #1 when Mark Paniccia, the editor, contacted me to write and draw an 8pp Frankenstein's Monster vs. Werewolf By Night story for I was intrigued by the offer and asked if I could have a day to mull it over. I rapidly scanned the internet for any history I could absorb about Marvel's version of these famous monsters and I brainstormed ideas with my studio mates at DEEP6, including visiting cartoonist, George O'Connor, and my pal/screenwriter, Zach Chassler, who works at Universal Studios! I wanted to incorporate classic story elements while sparking new ideas and I think I came up with a perfect way for these two tragic anti-heroes to parlay and battle while keeping them firmly steeped in the current Hulk oeuvre. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to get to work with one of my favorite new cartoonists, Joe Infurnari, who's coloring brought a macabre and expressive yet painterly quality to my line work.

NRAMA: Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first time you're writing for Marvel. You've done several art jobs, but this time you're penning your own story. How'd that come about?

DH: I've co-plotted many franchise-oriented stories and generated lots of ideas sans credit but this is my first Marvel comic that will credit me as full writer. I think Mark Paniccia is a fan of my Billy Dogma and Street Code E comix and desired I flex my sensibilities full force. I was more than happy to do so and I'd like to write more.

NRAMA: You've cornered the market in the webcomics playing field: Billy Dogma at your own Act-I-Vate, Next-Door Neighborr for, Street Code for DC's Zuda and now you're at First question – what makes webcomics right for you?

DH: Besides having more creative control, world wide distribution, and reader participation, webcomix are akin to television pilots and first draft author readings where the creator experiments narrative ideas on stage. From beta to alpha, it's not uncommon to replace a panel or a page or an entire sequence once a webcomic has aired. Not that anyone should have to revisit an original story but I wonder how many of our perennial comics would benefit from a tweak or two? Did Jack Kirby ever kick himself the day he got his latest box of Marvel comics and thought, "Hmf, I could've drawn that Hulk vs Abomination battle a little bit better!" I doubt it [hah - okay, bad example] but you know what I mean. I cringe at some of the stuff I've put into print over the years and, sometimes, I wish I had the opportunity to fix things. Awhile ago, my friend, Bob Fingerman, collected his Minimum Wage series into a graphic novel, Beg The Question, and I remember how much revision he did to make the story and art more cohesive. At the time I dubbed Bob "obsessive" but the end result made him a happier author and, ultimately, a better book. In hindsight, I understand his frustrations to better resolve his story. On the web you can fix anything you want as fast as you want.

NRAMA: And two – what do you think of the way Marvel is going about it in this new initiative?

DH: As the weekly comic book becomes more expensive to print and distribute [while yielding less story per issue], I think it's cost-effective for Marvel to afford fans chunks of seamless stories. And, if the subscription model doesn't work for you, there's always free webcomix at ACT-I-VATE where you can read my Billy Dogma series, Joe Infurnari's Ultra-Lad!, and many more great comix by today's best assembly of cartoonists.

NRAMA: This story is about Frankenstein and Werewolf-By-Night. Since this is a Halloween special, if you had to choose to dress up as one – who would it be?

DH: Frankenstein's Monster. No question.

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