“He’s Genetically Predisposed to Heroism”: Dean Haspiel talks The FoxJuly 15, 2015
The Fox is a comic series which has absolutely stolen my heart. Covering a reluctant superhero, and his heroic family, it’s a sublime mix of great storytelling and brilliant comedy from co-writer and artist Dean Haspiel and comics legend Mark Waid.
We had the chance to pick the brain of Haspiel about the series so far, and the future for our hero The Fox.
I have to admit, I had never even heard of The Fox before I got the first issue. What’s your history with the character? And how much of The Fox’s history are you including or ignoring with your take?
My only history with The Fox before I started writing and drawing the character was when I discovered him in the back of a Black Hood comic written and drawn by Alex Toth in the 1980s. He was pulpy and noirish yet whimsical.
I must’ve seen The Fox in other Red Circle comics in the periphery of my buying habits back then, but never followed up on his exploits until I decided to create a character called The Red Hook, which was an experiment I did while on a writers retreat at Yaddo in 2012, to give birth to a new creator-owned character as if imagined by the combined sensibilities of Alex Toth and Jack Kirby, two of my favourite cartoonists.
After I drew a short Red Hook story, I got the opportunity to pitch a Fox story to then-Archie Comics editor Paul Kaminski and used my Red Hook art to prove I could do it. A six-page Fox comic quickly turned into a five-issue mini-series called “Freak Magnet,” and that led to the current “Fox Hunt”.
I’d also love to hear about how the partnership with Mark Waid works. What’s it like co-writing a series rather than helming it solo? How does the process of actually putting together a comic work?
When I was developing the first Fox series, “Freak Magnet,” I didn’t feel confident scripting and dialoguing the story I’d concocted. I realized this would be a great opportunity to work with Mark, in the old Marvel Comics style where the artist does most (if not all) the story heavy-lifting and the writer provides text while spackling any narrative holes and glitches.
I also wanted to work with Spider-man and Captain America writer J.M. DeMatteis. So, I romanced him into writing The Shield back-up feature (drawn by Mike Cavallaro and Terry Austin) that would eventually collide into the finale.
With Waid, we spoke about what I wanted to do to make sure we were on the same page, and then I typed the story, broken down the plot into pages and panels and would draw it. Waid would get my story breakdown and art and provide the magic that sows the pictures with the words, making a comic book I was excited to read.
With DeMatteis, we talked roughly about how to transition The Fox story into The Shield story with a time-expanding super-villain and he provided a full script for me to visually realize. With “Fox Hunt,” me and Waid are working the same way we did on “Freak Magnet.”
Family has been a big factor in the first few issues, with two members of the family pulling on Fox costumes. Can we expect Paul’s wife to team up too? What is it about fatherhood and legacy that appeals to you from a storytelling perspective?
Issue four just came out and She-Fox has finally made it known that she’s been following her son, Shinji – aka Ghost Fox – only to lose him to the horror of amateur crime fighting. Shinji is in way over his head and is about to pay for it in a scary way unless She-Fox and The Fox combine wit and will to save their son.
Legacy becomes important to The Fox because his father was the original Fox and his son is trying to pick up the superhero baton that he’s trying to lay down for a more normal life.
Alas, that can’t happen.
The Fox is spiritually and genetically predisposed to heroism. Ergo, his freak magnetism. In “Fox Hunt” The Fox goes from quitting to owning and wagging those foxy ears.
We had a brief hint in issue one about Paul’s father being the original Fox. Are we going to get any flashback issues to that time?
No. However, I have written a story pitch that shows us what happened to the original Fox and how that impacts the current Fox. It’s a nasty bit of business.
With your chief villain being a tech entrepreneur, what’s your relationship like with technology? Would you buy a Smile Phone?
Hell no. That Smile Phone is a psychopathic entrepreneur’s annoying attempt to fool chuckle-heads into buying unnecessary features, furthering the distance between connection and communication while, most likely, stealing all your personal information.
Gee, I wonder where I got THAT idea from?
The sheer wackiness of the villains so far has been a delight. What more can we expect on that front? And just why was he called Brontosaurus?
While rummaging through The Mighty Crusaders’ rogues gallery to give Mr. Smile a bunch of villains to hire for the “Fox Hunt” bounty, I came across a bunch of bizarre and absurd bad guys.
My favorites were Dream Demon, The Gasser, BullFrog, and Brontosaurus – who looks NOTHING like a brontosaurus unless he were Fred Flintstone’s brontosaurus burger come alive.
Still, they were a lot of fun to re-imagine.
In terms of the art, one of my favourite things has been the way the ears on the costume change with The Fox’s mood. Just how does he manage to do that?!
Don’t open the can of worms. If you open the can of worms IT WON’T MAKE SENSE. Suspend disbelief, kind sir. These are not the droids you’re looking for.
There’s also that brilliant sequence of panels in issue two where The Fox makes use of the sound effect text. Where did that idea come from? Who came up with the word “sproing”?!
I draw it and Mark Waid has to make sense of it. If “sproing” describes a certain moment, “sproing” it shall be. Don’t open the can of worms!
Besides The Fox, what else are you working on at the moment?
Dammit, you opened the can of worms.
I’m currently on writers retreat at Yaddo where I finished drawing the last five pages of “Fox Hunt”.
I’m writing a Red Hook graphic novel that I aim to serialize online, and I’m about to draw a Sunday-sized Billy Dogma comic while preparing my semi-autobiographical graphic novel BEEF WITH TOMATO (published by Alternative Comics by way of Hang Dai Editions) which will be debuting September at Baltimore Comicon, SPX, and finer comic shops.
The Fox issue four is out now. Go buy it!