Happy July!

Here are some quick items followed by a love story.

I went to the incredible opening of Dave McKean’s Black Dog exhibition at Philippe Labaune Gallery in NYC and caught up with old comix pal, Paul Pope. The owner/curator, Philippe was super kind and gracious and treated me and Jen Ferguson like royalty. I'm thrilled that there's a gallery in Chelsea taking comix art seriously. 

In "Life Under The Spreading Green," season 3, episode 27 of LIFE WITH ALTHAAR produced by Gemini CollisionWorks, I portray The Weasel, an intergalactic informant.
Last year, my pal, Daniel Kramer, hooked me up with Mark Stewart, an English musician and founding member of The Pop Group. A pioneer of post-punk and industrial hip-hop, his album "As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade" is one of my faves. Anyway, we collaborated on a "Pop Challenge," a mash up of his philosophy and my comix avatar, Billy Dogma, the last romantic antihero. It appeared in the first issue of Mu Magazine earlier this year.

Above is the cover I did for issue #4 of Cynthia von Buhler's MINKY WOODCOCK, The Girl Who Electrified Tesla (published by Titan). You can see/read a sneak preview HERE.

I also participated in a panel about late/great cartoonist Will Eisner for San Diego Comicon 2021. "From his comics to his graphic novels, city life is at the heart of Will Eisner’s work. Using his native New York as a template, Eisner shows everything from the joys to the terrors of metropolitan life. His classic Spirit stories are set in “Central City” and his autobiographical graphic novels are in the New York City of the Great Depression. In A Contract With God, New York: The Big City, City People Notebook, and others, he reveals the Metropolis as interpreted by his extraordinary skills as a writer and artist. Join David Hajdu (The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America), Paul Levitz (Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel), Jerry Craft (New Kid), Dean Haspiel (The Red Hook), and moderator Danny Fingeroth (A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee) in this discussion and slideshow presentation as they reflect on the relationship between the artist, his work, and his city."

This coming Friday, July 30th, 2021, starting 6:30pm sharp, I'll be attending the reopening to St. Mark's Comics in Brooklyn, NY. I'll be sharing stories and trading barbs with former studio mate/comix legend George O'Connor during a live edition of the Jacked Kirby podcast with hosts Tommy Lombardozzi and Mike D!

Note: you can skip this next part (as it will surely lose me some readers). It's something I wrote as a creative response to a group studio email...

CLOGGED -- a scatological romance

She had a major crush on the art studio manager but, no matter how hard she flirted with him, he never picked up on her overtures. Never noticed her signals.

She asked other studio mates if he was gay? He's wasn't. Did he have a girlfriend or a wife? No and no. He was very single. In fact, he was always busy trouble shooting studio problems or trying to make his own art. Which was confirmed when she mustered the courage to invite him to an art opening but he kindly turned her down due to "too much work."

Then, one day, the manager sent a group email to all the artists in the building concerning two clogged toilets. He advised everyone that they use the plunger that was stationed in every bathroom and/or contact him immediately so he could help take care of the problem.

That afternoon, she happened to be wearing quite a fetching outfit as she strolled by his office a few times in hopes of getting his attention but he barely glanced at her before returning to his paperwork or art project.

Defeated, she started to feel sick to her stomach and ran to a bathroom stall. While sitting there, she was reminded of the one who got away. Of the boy in 4th grade who'd occasionally tease her. Made fun of her freckles that appeared on her alabaster skin during the summer when she forgot to wear sun block. She remembered how in 7th grade he would deliberately bump into her chest or sometimes ignore her on purpose. Performative or not, it was his indifference that hurt her the most.

She started to feel really ill as she sat on that toilet and remembered, quite vividly, graduation day. The day he sneaked up from behind her and put his firm hand on her shoulder. Leaned in and gave her a soft kiss on the side of her mouth, lightly brushing her lips with his as he pulled away and wished her a "great life." Encouraged her to "stick with your art. It's beautiful. Like you." She was stunned, didn't know what to say as he turned into a man and walked away. Never to be seen or heard from again.

And then it hit her. She knew what to do.

After sending the email, she stood by her studio door, pretending to make art but was really just waiting for the manager to arrive. Five minutes later there was a knock on her door. It was him.

He was polite, as he always was, and told her to not be embarrassed. It was human nature and, besides, the toilets were old and could use a serious upgrade. She led him to the clogged toilet and faulty plunger. She felt terrible about the situation but, secretly, felt ecstatic to be talking to him. To be spending more quality time rather than waving hello or goodbye. Of course, she hadn't expected her first real conversation with him to be about diarrhea but she didn't let that get in the way of progress.

After he plunged the toilet, he walked her back to her studio and thanked her for alerting him of the problem. She offered him coffee or tea but he declined and needed to get back to work. He was always working.

The next week, she walked by his office many, many times, wearing the most revealing of outfits and he would lift his head, smile, and return to his work. His stupid fucking work. She felt queasy. Abandoned. Alone. And then it hit her and she knew what she needed to do. AGAIN.

She pulled out the take-out menus in the studio kitchen and ordered a beef burrito with extra beans and jalapenos. Something hot to make it burn as it crawled into her intestines and towards her sphincter.

This time, she didn't email him. She walked directly to his office to ashamedly admit her offense, face-to-face. He tried to hide his dismay but even the most perfect gentlemen would betray a glint of disgust as they walked to the bathroom. This time he showed her how to employ the plunger expertly as he pumped the brown, chunky water. She stood behind him like a good student and smiled as they talked about the virtues and horrors of the digestive system.

She was delighted to be talking to him instead of pining for his attention. But that only lasted a few minutes.

The next day she ordered a quart of chicken chow fun and inhaled the oily wide noodles as they slid into her stomach searching for an immediate exit. She made a half attempt to plunge the toilet but left it in a way that would surely spark a group email and feigned her faux pas to the manager who, this time, could hardly believe her. His eyes were clearly confounded but it was almost as if he was impressed by her candid vulnerability.

He cheered her on as she plunged and plunged and they talked about anything and everything that wasn't about food and toilet. He felt bad for her irritable bowels and gave her his cell phone number -- in case of emergency. He had a studio to upkeep, after all.

The next day she ordered a giant bowl of pork Penang with EXTRA SPICY Thai chili, but, this time, she ate it while sitting ON the toilet. She knew she would hardly be able to contain the food as she spooned it into her mouth and evacuated it AT THE SAME TIME. Once the toilet crowned, she picked up her phone and called the manager.

When he arrived, he didn't expect to see her slumped in the corner farthest from the filled toilet. He asked her if she was okay?

She didn't want her ruse to woo him with her poo to spoil what they had been forming. Suddenly, she felt shy. Protective. Not sure what to say. How to answer.

He saw that she was conflicted. Nervous. And, then it hit him. He realized what was happening. His work had distracted him. His art had blinded him. But, now he was aware.

So he reached out and placed his firm hand on her shoulder and said, "Why don't you just open up?"

The way he asked her. The way he looked at her. So nice. So safe.

She opened up.

Please get vaccinated if you haven't already.

Love, Dean

Read The Red Hook's NEW BROOKLYN saga for free at Webtoon:

NIGHTWORK Studio: my multimedia collaboration project with Whitney Matheson.

SCENE BY SCENE WITH JOSH & DEAN, podcast with Josh Neufeld that breaks down the film American Splendor, Harvey Pekar's legacy & growing up making comix in NYC.

Copyright © 2021 Dean Haspiel, All rights reserved.

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