By Dean Haspiel
Version is a tradition. There is the authors original intent [which is always right -- no matter what -- end of discussion George Lucas haters*] and then there is the fan’s response [yes, I would much rather have seen what fans would have written than hold solemn the three most recent Star Wars movies but they would, in fact, not be lore. Sorry]. Then, there’s interpretation and adaptation which is easier to consider and qualify. Interpretation gives the new author latitude to add their sensibilities and/or modernize a bronzed concept while adaptation is just a version based on the same story, sometimes re-imagined while employing the virtues of another medium. For example: David Fincher’s Fight Club is just as good as Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. So, there. Alas, that’s not always the case and versions, of all stripes and colors, can be complicated.
*I read somewhere that filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, was asked once if he would ever consider taking on a franchise and he said “No.” Tarantino didn’t want to deal with a loyal fan base that would scrutinize his version of a franchise, which is why he sticks to his own mythologies. No one can tell him what’s right and wrong. I don’t blame him. Although, I’d like to see what Tarantino would do with a remake [a "remake" is a whole other can of worms] of Freebie and The Bean.
For a born and bred comic book artist like me, there are a bunch of Marvel and DC Comics characters that I’ve always wanted to draw [The Thing, Daredevil, Shazam, Hulk, Plastic Man, Thor, Devil Dinosaur, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Batman, Luke Cage, Jonah Hex, Mister Miracle, Wildcat, Captain America, OMAC, Woodgod, etc.]. I’ve been lucky enough to be afforded the opportunity to draw [and even write] some of them. Most of my first attempts have yielded less than stellar results but that has more to do with the fact that I’m no Orson Welles [Citizen Kane at age 25? C'mon! Not fair!] and I’ll never be Jack Kirby, ever, but I hope to reach a comfortable apex of my ever-forming story-making career by the time I’m 50 years old when I will finally [hopefully?] have some universal wisdom to impart. Until then, we will have to suffer my output until [fingers crossed] I kick and scream through my Punk Rock years and earn my way into Disco.
So, Marvel and DC aside, I have a short list of characters I’ve always wanted to tackle and, this year, I got to draw three of them!
Michel Fiffe created, curated, and edited TWISTED SAVAGE DRAGON FUNNIES for Image Comics. What started as a 12-part series, featuring the very best in current indie/alt talent, published in the back of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon, became a gorgeous, hardcover book with added new stories and value. In my case, Fiffe challenged writer, Joe Keatinge, to create a sanctioned story that would encompass the talents and sensibilities of seven different artists into one short tale featuring the art of, Simon Fraser, Mike Cavallaro, Joe Infurnari, Tim Hamilton, George O’Connor, and myself, and have said story be book-ended by the art of Savage Dragon creator, Erik Larsen. Keatinge pulled off the impossible and wrote a swell, time-warped sci-fi romance that packed in a lot of Savage Dragon iterations [proposed versions] designed by the great, Art Adams. Excited to contribute to this project and celebrate one of the longest running, independent comic book creations, all I asked from Joe Keatinge was to draw a kiss and a punch.
I’m a huge fan of Madman, and creator/cartoonist, Mike Allred is kind of like the illegitimate love child of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. Allred’s stories and art is like a 1980s indie/alt version of Marvel Comics 1960s “Pop Art” era by way of movies and toys from the 1950s. With me? So, when I got to meet Mike at Stumptown Comics Fest last year, it was a dream come true. We hit it off [he said I reminded him of his Uncle Huey, which was a good thing] and Mike asked me to contribute a one-page narrative to his Madman 20th Anniversary Monster. I was honored to riff off Madman with my very own, Billy Dogma, and add my own 2-cents to the Madman lexicon.
Recently, IDW editor/writer, Bobby Curnow, asked me to draw his Godzilla story for GODZILLA LEGENDS #5 [coming March, 2012]. I was flattered by the offer but wondered what he saw in my work that convinced him I could draw the infamous monster? Bobby said he dug my work with Harvey Pekar on The Quitter. So, yeah, my domestic version of a curmudgeonly Jew from Cleveland landed me the gig to draw a thousand foot tall, nuclear irradiated, Japanese lizard who stomps planet earth. I was hesitant to take the gig until I read Bobby’s story and I couldn’t turn it down. It’s that good.
A short list of other non-Marvel/DC comic book characters I would like to try my hand at include:
Cartoonist, Simon Fraser, who created Lilly MacKenzie, co-created Nikolai Dante, and is a veteran at drawing 2000AD characters, including Judge Dredd, equated my brief attempt at drawing Dredd to that of a Teddy Bear. He was right. Back to the drawing board.