Dean Haspiel has worked on superheroes across the spectrum of DC, Marvel, and even Archie’s Dark Circle, but now he’s creating his own hero – for his hometown of Brooklyn.
The Red Hook is a series about master thief Sam Brosia who begins to see the error of his ways when confronted by the powers and responsibilities given to him when he receives a unique object called the Omni-Fist of Altruism. The Red Hook is the first title from the digital comics publisher LINE Webtoon’s cohesive superhero universe called “New Brooklyn.” New installments of the series are scheduled for every Wednesday on Webtoon.com.
Haspiel talked to Newsarama about this new webseries, and how it’s taken from his own heartbreak at the massive changes he’s seen growing up in urban New York City.
Newsarama: Dean, what is The Red Hook about?
Dean Haspiel: The Red Hook is about a super thief that is bequeathed the Omni-Fist of Altruism and is transformed into a superhero against his will a year after a sentient Brooklyn's heart is broken and physically secedes from America to become its own country.
Nrama: Woah. This is a comic book news website, but you just can’t gloss over something called the “Omni-Fist of Altruism.” What is it, exactly?
Haspiel: The Omni-Fist of Altruism is a Catch-22 combination of a cosmic death-grip and Spider-Man's "Spidey-Sense."
Nrama: Ok, and who is super thief who obtains it?
Haspiel: Sam Brosia was born and bred in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York, almost a century after Steve Rogers (who later became Captain America) was raised there. Sam lost most of his immediate family to a mysterious massacre that left him making ends meet alone in the ghetto of Red Hook and led him to a failed career as an amateur boxer and into a successful career as a masked super-thief like a modern-day Robin Hood. Only, instead of robbing the rich to give to the poor, Sam robs the rich to make himself less poor until a chance meeting with a super-god changes his life.
Nrama: Stories are usually about heroes dealing with problems. What kind of problems does Sam Brosia have now, especially since he has the Omni-Fist?
Haspiel: I've been trying to figure out a way to answer this question without spoiling the drama. The Red Hook is a complex character. He's a charming bad guy but he's not evil. And, as corny as this may sound, the moral of his story is like the flip-side of a superhero-inspired Breaking Bad. Only, it's more about “Breaking Good."
Nrama: And The Red Hook is part of a new comic book line at LINE Webtoon called “New Brooklyn. What is the overall line, exactly?
Haspiel: When Brooklyn physically seceded from NYC and America, the cosmic shift spawned a pandemic of new superheroes and villains. New Brooklyn launches a series of three different origin stories, starting with The Red Hook, that will be accompanied by The Brooklynite, created by the late Seth Kushner and Shamus Beyale, and The Purple Heart, which I co-created with Vito Delsante and Ricardo Venancio.
Nrama: This isn't the real world -- it's a future where Brooklyn seceded from the United States. What's it like, living in that Brooklyn compared to our own?
Haspiel: I can only speak to what I experience and then abstract it in my art. In current, real-time Brooklyn, the cultural community of working art-makers is being threatened by real-estate developers selling off work spaces for higher rents to more established and/or secure businesses in less-than-desirable industrial areas in order to create the verisimilitude of "hot spots" to entice wealthy residents. I don't know who these real-estate brokers think are going to want to live yards away from the Gowanus Canal, infamous for its toxic waters, but they don't care as long as they can boot the avant-garde for more commercial and standard appeal. It's become a crisis for people like me, a native New York cartoonist, who feels like he's being banished from the only home I've ever known and actively contributed to just because I don't ping a certain tax-bracket. I work seven days a week, 12-hours or more a day and make just enough money to squeak by in what's become the most expensive city in America. I'm lucky to be able to do what I love but I pay for it, too. Alas, I don't know that I can survive a break-even lifestyle anymore.
In The Red Hook and the “New Brooklyn” comix, the “Heart of Brooklyn” was wounded by the paramount evidence of a self-entitled, attention deficit disorder society ignoring the promise of a better tomorrow. Brooklyn shrugs and throws down the gauntlet by physically pulling away from further interference, suggesting humanity return back to days of old where things and people were defined by their ethics, values and contributions. Where skills and art could be bartered and traded and land could be farmed to sustain life and spawn beauty. “New Brooklyn” is my romantic response to the fantasy of a city I love.
Nrama: Last question - speaking of togetherness and community, do you have plans for a team-up at some point with the other "New Brooklyn" characters?
Haspiel: If the "New Brooklyn" universe becomes popular, we have plans to introduce new heroes, expand all their stories and eventually unite them in an event that will lead to a possible team. I'm fond of early Marvel Comics and Red Circle comics and team books like The Defenders, The Champions, and The Mighty Crusaders. So, I'm looking forward to exploring those kind of character interactions.