Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition: Dean Haspiel of 'Opposable Thumbs'

Tue, July 23rd, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

[Opposable Thumbs]Dean Haspiel is one of those Eisner nominees that gets named for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition seemingly every year. Like fellow nominee Dylan Horrocks, Haspiel is a creator who, if comic readers don't know his name yet, it's just a matter of time.

Still, getting nominated for a 2002 Eisner Award did catch him by surprise.

"I was shocked by the Eisner nomination," Haspiel told CBR News on Friday. "I never expected to get recognized among such talented creators. I suspect the jury was spiking goofballs this season. Anyhow, the nod alone is prize enough and I am truly honored."

While most comic readers might know Haspiel for his Marvel Comics work, he was nominated for his work on "Opposable Thumbs."

"'Opposable Thumbs' is a semi-autobiographical collection about ... crack. Episodic tales of a born and bred New Yorker living in the big bad city where crack smoking induces kung-fu fever, vengeful roommates rub unkempt posteriors on each other bed sheets, strange men shellac bits and bobs upon impermissible places, and neighbors slip and lose their faculties. Crack!"

[The Thing]Thus far, Haspiel has bounced between highly independent work like "Opposable Thumbs" and doing work for Marvel Comics, which is atypical for up and coming indie comics types. It's only natural that he'd want to cover all the possibilities in American comics, he said.

"When I was 12 years old, my dream was to pencil Shazam and/or The Fantastic Four. I never thought my dreams would come true, but they have. Don't anybody wake me up, please. It was the solo meditations of the industry that allowed me to create my own character studies sans collaboration and take a mightier challenge when I read the works of C.C. Beck, Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Basil Wolverton, Wally Wood, Frank Robbins, Alex Toth, Roy Crane, Bob Montana, Jim Steranko, Katsuhiro Otomo, Walter Simonson, Howard Chaykin, Michael Golden, David Mazzucchelli, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Jim Starlin, Mike Mignola, Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Ivan Brunetti, Los Bros. Hernandez, Jeff Smith, Dave Cooper, Junji Ito, Paul Pope, Dylan Horrocks, Jason Lutes, James Kochalka, Tom Hart, Jordan Crane, Bob Fingerman, Chris Ware, Jessica Abel, Josh Neufeld, Julie Doucet, John Porcellino, Joe Chiappetta, Baru, Eddie Campbell, Renee French, Matt Madden, Nick Bertozzi, Tomer Hanuka, Colleen Coover, etc.). How can you blame me from zigging and zagging between franchise assembly line journeyman to auteur prima-diva, with so much talent pouring so many highways for me to ride?

[Captain America: Red, White and Blue]"In 1987, I co-created 'The Verdict,' a neo-Batman/Iron Man-noir with writer, Martin Powell, and that was a satisfying albeit short-lived collaboration for such a budding ink-slinger. Soon thereafter, I challenged myself to write my own stories and have been testing those ventures ('Billy Dogma,' 'Keyhole,' 'Opposable Thumbs') in the alternative comix ghetto. But, I've always wanted to draw superheroes and work with steady writers. Hyperbolic super-sci-fi-crime melodrama is my favorite genre of entertainment and you can only find it in comics. I've always cherished the writer/artist team-up for how that clash and war of imaginations makes memorable magic! From Marston & Peter to Kane & Finger & Sprang to Seigel & Shuster to Kurtzman & Craig to Lee & Kirby & Ditko & Romita to Drake & Premiani to Kanigher & Kubert to O'Neil & Adams to Thomas & Adams to Pekar & Crumb to Claremont & Byrne to Wolfman & Perez to Miller & Janson to Moore & Gibbons to Miller & Sienkiewicz to Miller & Mazzucchelli to Ennis & Dillon to Azzarrello & Risso to Azzarello & Corben to Brubaker & Lark to Moore & Ha & Cannon to Ellis & Cassaday & Hitch to Millar & Quitely & Hitch to Bendis & Maleev to Arcudi & Huat to Jones & Romita Jr. to Milligan & Allred to Morrison & Quitely to ... dare I declare it ... Dorkin & Haspiel?"

Speaking of 1995 Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition award winner Evan Dorkin, Haspiel would love to follow in Dorkin's footsteps and do some superhero work in future.

"If I can maintain a professional output, draw vigorous narratives, hand them in on time, and gain a gaggle of accolades, I will no doubt rule the Spandex universe with my 21st Century 'aggro-moxie.' Otherwise, I'll open up a Sloppy Nachos shack on the beach or become an alcoholic paramedic, and write and draw the occasional 'Billy Dogma' at night for the chosen Cool Hand Luke's and Laura's of the world."

But before that day comes the 2002 Eisner Awards. Haspiel thinks he knows who will be taking home the award.

"No contest: Dylan Horrocks will deservedly win the award. What with 'Hicksville,' 'Atlas,' and his Vertigo work, he has made an impressive, early career for himself. My ex-roommate and good buddy, [Juggernaut]Nick Bertozzi and I are neck-to-neck, so I'm sure we'll cancel each other out. Otherwise, the other nominees have as good a chance as any of us. This may sound clichéd, but the nomination itself is an award. I've already gotten more attention for it, so its served its purpose."

Haspiel will be keeping busy in the meantime, however.

"Coming up: besides drawing 'Muties' #3, I have drawn a Captain America story for 'Red, White & Blue,' a Juggernaut story for 'X-Men Unlimited' #39, and I'm currently drawing a 4-issue Thing/Startling Story mini-series called 'Night Falls on Yancy Street' (written by Dorkin), and 'Spider-Man's Tangled Web' #20, featuring J. Jonah Jameson. I'm chipping away at a new 'Billy Dogma' picture novella called 'The Devil's Muumuu' (Top Shelf) and re-launching 'Keyhole' 2.1 with Josh Neufeld (Alternative Comics)."

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