[As we wrap up Will Eisner Week, Cartoonist Dean Haspiel is Kickstarting THE RED HOOK x DEAN HASPIEL, and sent us some thoughts on jumping into crowdfunding…and how Will Eisner inspired so many spirits of independent comics.]   


by Dean Haspiel

It happens to be “Will Eisner Week.” Celebrating the man who created The Spirit and practically invented the graphic novel. A champion of alternative and semi-autobiographical comix.

I had the good fortune of meeting Will Eisner thanks to Diana Schutz, who was walking him around the Small Press Expo (SPX) in the year 2000. She wanted Will to meet me and show my work. Will flipped through the pages and ogled my art. When he got to the last page, Will smiled and said “You’re the future of comics, Kid!” as he pumped his fist. To say that it made my decade is an understatement. About five minutes later I heard Will pronounce the same decree to another young cartoonist in the far distance and I knew that it was his way of rallying the troops. Encouraging dreams.

When I was twelve years old, my dream was to draw The Fantastic Four.
It took many years of trials and errors, drawing and writing all kinds of comics for Marvel, DC/Vertigo, Archie, and a plethora of alternative comix publishers. Including webcomics. I was starting to carve my own lane when I finally got to draw The Fantastic Four. A dream come true. I was forty-six years old.

And that’s when I realized I never dreamed bigger than a work-for-hire paycheck. I was more concerned with expressing myself, communicating my art and making human connections than making money.

And when I discovered that most publishers just pay the printers bill and, maybe, JUST MAYBE, promote the work you put your heart into while taking half your rights, is when I started to think about crowdfunding my personal work.

What would I make? Would anybody care?

Last year I successfully Kickstarted Covid Cop, and Billy Dogma & Jane Legit. And I’ve been living off the fumes of those two campaigns supplanted by a few freelance gigs. Just enough to squeak by but it told me to lean into Dean.

Right now I’m campaigning for THE RED HOOK x DEAN HASPIEL. Where I merge the two genres I’m best known for, superhero and memoir, and have been producing separately for the last 30+ years…until now.

For many years I saw print comics and books I worked on shoved between bookstore racks. When I was producing The Red Hook for Webtoon, I used to joke that my comic is in your pocket and on your phone for free. Now, I create comix that arrive in your mail box for the price of a few slices of pizza and coffee.

By crowdfunding, am I shooting myself in the foot circumventing an old school distribution system to stores that engenders impulse purchases? Alas, I am. By crowdfunding am I losing out on the potential for reviews? Indeed. But that stuff can be worked out. That will change.

These days, I dream for keen ways to communicate my art. Cool ways to grow a community. Smart ways to foment a better quality of life where I can occasionally leave my work desk to hang out with the people I love and indulge the stuff that thrills and inspires me. To live life, experience wonder, and report back the stories I desire to show and tell as a comix publisher.

Will Eisner recognized the spirit of talent, community and entrepreneurship at SPX 2000. He was passing a galvanizing torch to a generation of new cartoonists to ignite an autonomous path for our futures. Where the spirit of independent comix could one day be crowdfunded beyond the confines of hotel conference rooms.

Where my dreams were once small, people like Will Eisner dared to dream big. And so can we.


[Emmy and Ringo Award-winning cartoonist Dean Haspiel is best known for creating Billy Dogma, The Red Hook, and Covid Cop. Collaborating with Harvey Pekar and Jonathan Ames, and illustrating for HBO’s “Bored to Death.” His published work includes writing and drawing for Marvel, DC/Vertigo, Archie, Image, and Webtoon. In addition, Haspiel is an accomplished playwright and Yaddo fellow. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.]

Check out THE RED HOOK x DEAN HASPIEL campaign that ends March 28th: