Dean Haspiel ACT-I-VATEs in Print With IDW

Dean Haspiel ACT-I-VATEs With IDW
Dean Haspiel ACT-I-VATEs With IDW
Dean Haspiel ACT-I-VATEs With IDW
Founded in 2006 by Haspiel and seven other cartoonists, the webcomics collective has organically grown into a diverse international assortment of talents that is parts family, commune, studio and small press publishing company. The experience has been a success for the individuals and the group as a whole, with several series featured on the Act-I-Vate website going on to print publication, and with the creators also scoring new work based on their work at Act-I-Vate. In many ways, it's a new-school turn on the classic comics anthology magazine, and Act-I-Vate is coming to print as a group with the upcoming release of The Act-I-Vate Primer from IDW Publishing.

Scheduled to debut this October, the Act-I-Vate Primer will contain stand alone, never-before-seen stories from several of the Act-I-Vate cartoonists' respective series that run on the site. In addition to Haspiel's new story about Billy Dogma, he will be joined by Nick Bertozzi, Molly Crabapple, Michel Fiffe, Simon Fraser, Roger Langridge and more. For more, we talked with Haspiel for more on the upcoming book.

Newsarama: It's good to talk to you again, Dean. Let's talk about this book, then… how’d you go about deciding on the stories to include in the Act-I-Vate Primer?

Dean Haspiel: The Primer list started with Act-I-Vators [the name of the Act-I-Vate members] who write and draw character driven stories. There are many creators at Act-I-Vate who are making their own densely interwoven heroic narratives like Joe Infurnari's Ultra-Lad!, Mike Cavallaro's Loviathan, Simon Fraser's Lilly MacKenzie, Ulises Farinas' Motro, and Nick Bertozzi's Persimmon Cup.

Everyone who contributed to the Act-I-Vate Primer is world building, creating their own intricate universes with what I deem to be our franchise characters.  

NRAMA: You mention many people, but let's not forget your own now! Can you tell us about your story?

Haspiel: My Act-I-Vate Primer story, "Bring me the heart of Billy Dogma," is about the day Billy Dogma and Jane Legit broke up and the impact it had on their town, their hearts, and their loins. I never wanted to write and draw this story but, now that I have, I think it adds a fresh dynamic to their eternal war of woo.

NRAMA: "Eternal war of woo" – I love the way you spin words.

Is this book something you’ve had in mind for some time now?

Haspiel: Act-I-Vate was a reaction to making print comics which can be a mine field of too much editorial oversight, distributor benchmarks, and prohibitive production costs. For a creator, taking your works directly to readers via the web helps solve a lot of those problems. Now, a few years later, our online experiment has been successful enough to make print publication viable for us again. Ergo, something like the Act-I-Vate Primer. See, as a freelancer you only get hired to do more of whatever you've just done. For some of us that's coloring. For others it's drawing. With the exception of a few collaborators, most of the comix at Act-I-Vate are solo creations where the onus of the production; from creation to writing to drawing and lettering and, sometimes, coloring, is on the comix author. Act-I-Vate allows us to challenge ourselves creatively and build new, employable skills while showcasing a wide variety of sensibilities and talents. Before Act-I-Vate started, I was only hired to pencil and ink. Since Act-I-Vate started, I've been hired to do it all.

NRAMA: You've become one of the big players in the web comics movement, spearheading Act-I-Vate and also doing work for DC's Zuda Comics as well as Marvel's Online Comics initiative. With all that web mojo built up, the transition of A-I-V comics to print might seem weird. How does the Primer book fit in?

Haspiel: Act-I-Vate Primer is our bridge, a boomerang effect, between web and print comics. The Primer's primary directive is to entice new readers to seek out Act-I-Vate's vast inventory of free webcomix online and, eventually, sell sexy print versions of those same stories back to our loyal readers. 

NRAMA: If sales go well, would you consider making this an ongoing anthology to compliment the web version?

Haspiel: Act-I-Vate Sundays is the next project I'd like to put together. The idea is to invite all Act-I-Vators to write and draw, poster-sized comics like those great Sunday Comics from the early 20th Century, only as self-contained stories. Down the line, I have an idea for something called Act-I-Vate Renaissance.

NRAMA: Keep us informed, Dean.

When talking to someone about Act-I-Vate, it's easy to come at a loss for a way to explain the comics grouping as a whole. Would you say there’s a set theme or style with Act-I-Vate, or what is it that holds it all together?

Haspiel: A collective of creator driven stories is what makes Act-I-Vate. I think it was Alfred Hitchcock that declared, "Ninety percent of great directing is great casting." Over the years, I believe Act-I-Vate has done a phenomenal job of casting great creators and we trust each other to bring our A-game to the collective and any projects we desire to do together. Plus, we have a smart readership that helps keep the community and communication of Act-I-Vate alive and fresh.

NRAMA: Do you have any special events planned to coincide with the book’s release?

Haspiel: We are doing a panel about the Act-I-Vate Primer at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 13th, where we will announce two new members to Act-I-Vate.

We're debuting the Act-I-Vate Primer at Baltimore Comic-Con the weekend of October 10th & 11th, to coincide (fingers crossed) with The Act-I-Vate Experience, a video produced by photographer, Seth Kushner, and filmmaker, Carlos Molina, of Culture Pop Productions, that takes an intensive look at the genesis of Act-I-Vate with exclusive interviews and footage.

I will be a featured guest at The Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco the following weekend [October 17th & 18th] and doing an Act-I-Vate Primer signing at James Sime's Isotope on Friday, October 16th.

And, finally, we hope to do a local NYC signing among some of the retailer tribes and cap it off with an Act-I-Vate Salon where we will do a live, slide-show reading of some of our PRIMER comics.

For more on Act-I-Vate, visit their website by clicking here. For a preview look at some of the comics in the Primer, click here!

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