This weekend at New York Comic Con 2023, you can find acclaimed comic book artist and writer Dean Haspiel in Artist Alley at Table F-16—which, he commented, sounds like “a fighter plane or something.” Haspiel has worked with multiple publishers over his career, including Marvel, DC, Archie Comics, Dark Horse, IDW, and more. He also did a series with Webtoon, The Red Hook; Image Comics later published two volumes.
At his table, however, Haspiel is promoting two Kickstarted comics: Covid Cop and Billy Dogma and Jane Legit.
Regarding the first one, Haspiel said, “What are two words people have trouble with? Covid and cop, and I mashed [them] together to see what kind of story I could tell… Basically, it’s me taking the piss out of the pandemic.”
After writing and drawing a heartfelt story about first responders during the pandemic (which, he noted, it still feels like we’re living some form or another), Haspiel chose to take on a more satirical project.
“What else do comics do really well? They make fun of stuff!” he said. “Like Judge Dredd [or] Toxic Avenger.” So he decided to explore the question of, “What if we’d never found a cure?”
Covid Cop takes place in a dystopian near future. “It’s 10 years from now, and you find out that the government has mandated an order to all the police that we need to get everyone to be infected and die from this, because the government feels the worst thing to happen to Planet Earth is humankind,” he explained. “So maybe this Covid thing is supposed to happen and wipe out humanity, right? That’s pretty bleak, right? By the time you open up this comic, it’s 10 years from now, and 98% of humanity is gone. But then our hero, Covid Cop, aka Lincoln Bio—which is playing off the idea of ‘link in bio’ because you hear that all the time—discovers a cure by drinking the Gowanus Canal water in Brooklyn, which is famous for being toxic and disgusting. But it actually cures you, or at least stops the Covid from killing you.”
For Lincoln Bio, the cure is a way to save not only humanity, but his marriage with his his ex-wife, Fate Majeure, as well. “So it’s also a love story,” Haspiel said. “It’s all done in 24 pages, and I’ve written already the second issue, and I have the plot for the third issue.”
Each issue can be read on its own, as a standalone story, but all together the series tells of a bigger picture. Haspiel doesn’t currently have plans for additional issues beyond the first three but may consider collecting them into a graphic novel.
With a career as varied and storied as Haspiel’s, spanning multiple genres from superheroes to memoir, it can be difficult to pick favorites. Some highlights were American Splendor with Harvey Pekar, The Alcoholic with Jonathan Ames, and Cuba: My Revolution with Inverna Lockpez.
“They were really meaningful and important,” he said. “But they were their stories. As much as I collaborated on it and brought my A game, I think I probably have to pick [as a favorite] something I wrote and drew, just because that’s where you get the ‘full-frontal action’ from Dean Haspiel. So I would say… That’s a really hard question, because I would have said The Red Hook at one point, and I did so much of that, but honestly it might be Billy Dogma & Jane Legit. That might be the two characters that I would probably revisit until the end of my life. Just because it’s something that keeps speaking to me… It’s essentially a romance comic, it’s about love, and matters of the heart… why do we make stories? To connect with each other, right? So I feel like that’s my way of connecting with strangers. And vice versa.”
For Haspiel, romance is essential to storytelling. “I don’t know how a good story doesn’t have romance,” he said, while acknowledging that there are examples of works without romance. “Even if it’s just a kiss [or] something like that… Because there’s so much punching and violence and fighting and horror and hate, but how do you balance it? You can balance it with one kiss. Or a hug. You know? I feel like that’s the kind of stuff I want to impart in my work.”
Haspiel signed off with, “I look forward to meeting and greeting new fans!”