2020 has been a year of isolation, hygiene, and stress. And, so many of my favorite places have shuttered for good. I miss going outside. I miss human experiences. I miss hunting for something new or old on the sidewalks of my favorite neighborhoods. I miss finding others in my tribe. The way some of us found each other via niche when we were young.

Comic books are how I met my lifelong friends. The horror and Kung fu sections at the video rental store is where I confirmed those friendships. 
I remember diddy bopping into Tower Records and I knew exactly where the Rap section was due to the kids wearing Kangol's and Gazelle's. You knew where the Punk Rock section was due to the kids with Mohawks and piercings. And, leather jackets made everyone a rebel. Fashion and attitude shaped and celebrated our diverse identities but kept us in our respectful lanes with the encouragement to lurk. Add shelves to our cultural library.

Sure, you could break dance to Kurtis Blow's "AJ Scratch," or pop-lock to "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force or up rock to Hashim's "Al Naafiysh" but you secretly liked Joy Division and you could expand your personal posse with Kraftwerk, Devo, Art of Noise, the Butthole Surfers, and Throbbing Gristle.

It felt good to be different and taught you to explore with open eyes and ears but also double down on what made you passionate. Make weird connections. Invent new stuff. And then, like most cool things, what made you feel special became mainstream and homogenized. And Wikipedia made everyone an armchair expert. I blame musical pioneers Aerosmith and Run-DMC with their groundbreaking mash up of "Walk This Way" for helping blur the lines. Sure, it was bound to happen but they went and gave it an anthem. 

I miss West Side Comics, Funny Business, St. Mark's Comics, and SoHo Zat (thankfully we still have JHU Comics and Forbidden Planet). I miss pinball and video game arcades where I played Asteroids, Defender, and Star Castle. I miss Kim's Video where I discovered cult films. I miss revival theaters like The Thalia where I first saw Martin Scorcese's "Taxi Driver." I miss Coney Island and Reverend Jen's Anti-Slam. I miss roaming the east village and skipping downstairs into See Hear and picking up the latest issue of FACTSHEET FIVE letting me know about all the cool zines and gonzo stuff celebrated and scrutinized by outliers and misfits who probably went on to become CEO's for Hollywood, car and tobacco manufacturers.

I miss your face. The sound of your voice. Let's beat this virus and meet on the streets in 2021 and discover new things together.

I voiced aliens SALIFRENNIX and TRONCORBLOX for the radio play, LIFE WITH ALTHAAR episode 24: “Benefits of a Classical Education,” produced by Gemini CollisionWorks.

"Dean Haspiel turns his love for misunderstood monsters into latest creation for Red Hook series." I was interviewed by Chris Arrant for NEWSARAMA about my current webcomic, BLACKOUT. Here is an excerpt: 

"The misunderstood monster is evergreen with possibility and teaches us the most about humanity. The investigation of the banished misfit is rich with romance and redemption, where we can dissect bitter intent and gain sweet context."

Starting January 6, 2021, Brooklyn artist/teacher Jen Ferguson is offering two new online art classes: Creative Journaling 2, and Drawing Animals.

Studio mate Khary Randolph was featured in a Samsung commercial called "Can This Pro Illustrator Design The Ultimate Final Boss In 60 Minutes?"

Singer/songwriter Don Rauf was inspired by my Red Hook comix and he produced a ditty called 
"Freak of Nature with a Lonely Heart," with his band, Life In A Blender, on their new album, "Satsuma."

Me and Josh Neufeld caught up with our old high school pal, Michael Berrin aka MC Serch (of rap band 3rd Bass) on the SERCH SAYS podcast.

Josh Neufeld also produced "A tale of two pandemics: A nonfiction comic about historical racial health disparities."

"Lovely work, ink-maestro."

Excited to receive some unexpected cheer in response to a drawing of Marvel Comics' The Thing that I posted on Twitter from filmmaker Duncan Jones, director of great movies like "Moon," "Source Code," and "Warcraft." Check out his new graphic novel, "Madi: Once Upon A Time in The Future," co-written by Alex de Campi and illustrated by many artists.

Due to the pandemic, my group studio of many iterations is dissolving come January 31, 2021. For me, what started as a webcomics collective called ACT-I-VATE in 2006, and physically became DEEP6 in 2007, only to transition into Hang Dai (and Trip City), which evolved into Gowanus Comics Artists (aka Studio CLOACA) has been a strange and rewarding 13-years of creative incubating with too many artists to list here. And, despite the challenges of renting and sharing affordable work space in NYC, it doesn't diminish our legacy of making comix together during a robust era of Brooklyn-inspired creativity.

Whether my next phase is physical or virtual (or a little bit of both), Whitney Matheson and I have decided to spark Nightwork Studio, a satellite for our occasional collaborations.

We've published a few things from co-hosting "Halloween Squares" to grieving about "Wet Books" and discussing our lack of sleep, swimming and sewing via "Leif Erickson." Be sure to subscribe/follow Nightwork Studio on YouTube and Facebook and look out for our upcoming "Holiday Squares" event.

For a sweet holiday treat, read Whitney's "I, Santa" comic on her Patreon.

You know how when some people really like something they say "That's the shit!" It's a declaration of cool. But, it always bothered me that the word "shit," which is usually meant to describe something less than desirable could mean something cool. But, I guess that's how we dismantle words. So, with that in mind, I'm thinking of starting a new term. One that acknowledges 2020 but in a positive way.

What if when you saw something you liked you proudly claimed, "That's the pandemic!" Not in a negative, virus kind of way. But, in a way that recontextualizes the virus and quarantine. Takes a horrifying word we hear a thousand times a day and makes lemonade out of lemons. And, to push it further, maybe "the pandemic" is something cool that happened DURING the pandemic or BECAUSE of the pandemic. Like, when people started to applaud @7pm everyday for first responders and the people who delivered supplies, groceries and food/etc.

"That's the pandemic!"

I know some people will find my attempt at levity to be insensitive to those who died as a direct result of the virus which is NOT my intent. We all know people who were infected and/or died because of COVID-19. But, I'm just trying to think of a way to put a positive spin on an otherwise dreadful term during an otherwise awful year. Something "That's the pandemic!" besides the actual pandemic.


Terrible idea?

(I'll just see myself out the door)


Wear a mask.


See y'all in 2021

Love, Dean

Read The Red Hook's NEW BROOKLYN saga for free at Webtoon:
Season 1:  THE RED HOOK
Season 2:  WAR CRY
Season 3:  STARCROSS
Season 4:  BLACKOUT

THE RED HOOK vol.1 New Brooklyn is also available at ComiXology
THE RED HOOK print series is published by Image Comics

Listen to SCENE BY SCENE WITH JOSH & DEAN, the podcast that breaks down American Splendor the movie, Josh Neufeld & Dean Haspiel's relationship with the late/great Harvey Pekar, and growing up in NYC learning to make comix in the 1980s & 1990s.
Copyright © 2020 Dean Haspiel, All rights reserved.

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