The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how we live; our interactions with one another; how we work; and our art. Creator Dean Haspiel is no exception to this. Haspiel has been mesmerizing readers for decades with his comic creations such as The Red Hook and The Fox—as well as numerous others—all of which contain Haspiel’s unique storytelling aesthetic and poignant commentary on society.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a few years back, Haspiel co-edited with Whitney Matheson Pandemix: Quarantine Comics in the Age of ‘Rona, which contained stories about the pandemic and benefited the Hero Initiative, helping creators in financial straits. Now Haspiel is back with another tale revolving around COVID-19 called COVID COP. In COVID COP, Lincoln Bio, a New York City police officer, who quits an elite force of cops after discovering the government’s role in the virus. Now Lincoln is on a mission to help the world in an uphill battle against those who would stop him.
Mr. Haspiel recently launched a Kickstarter to bring COVID COP to life. He was kind enough to speak with us about the evolution of COVID COP, the influences and inspirations that have helped in the comic take shape, how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacted his storytelling, and what projects he has coming down the pike.
FreakSugar: For folks who might be reading this, what is the conceit of COVID COP?
Dean Haspiel: COVID COP is my response to a pandemic that never found its cure and has wiped out 98% of mankind. By steeping in the fumes and waters of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, can Covid Cop become the antidote that might save what’s left of humanity and rekindle romance with his ex-wife, Fate Majeure?
FS: The cast details you’ve released so far already have me hooked. What can you tell us about the characters we’ll meet?
DH: Covid Cop is a NYC police officer named Lincoln Bio who takes his job very seriously. When the virus started to ravage the world, he was given a mandate to recruit an elite force of cops called The Corporeal Virus Corps, which included his ex-wife Fate Majeure, to police the plague. Only, Lincoln soon discovered that the government wanted to ultimately eliminate humanity because it felt that mankind was the worst thing to happen to planet Earth. Lincoln quit the CVC and went rogue to find a new way to beat the virus by steeping in the spirits of the Gowanus Canal, famous for its toxic treasures and sunken secrets. And now that he’s convinced himself that he is the antidote, Lincoln must face Fate and try to convince her to mutiny against the CVC and embark on a mission to destroy the architects of rhetoric and fear as perpetrated by the likes of Major Fallout, Admiral Amok, General Disaster, and President Pestilence, in hopes of saving what’s left of society.
FS: Part of the inspiration for COVID COP seems to be right there in the title. What can you tell us about the various influences on the comic?
DH: COVID COP is a cross between Judge Dredd, Toxic Avenger, Mad Max, and Frank Miller‘s Sin City with a dash of Charles Burns‘ Black Hole. Basically, it starts out as The X-Men on Crack and mutates into Romeo and Juliet – if you let it.
FS: The art and aesthetic of the pages I’ve seen are just my bag: futuristic, dystopian, and just filled with pieces to look at in every panel. How did you map out how you wanted the book to look?
DH: Thanks, Jed. I wanted the comic to look like a cross between Heavy Metal magazine and 2000AD from the 1980s by way of black light poster art from the 1970s. Futuristic looking art from the past – if that makes any sense. As the characters mutate, so do the colors and art.
FS: You also worked on the anthology Pandemix inspired the COVID era. For you personally, why has this weird time in our lives been such a font of inspiration?
DH: Story-makers often react to the headlines and get inspiration from human stories. It’s what connects us. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, artist or not, was impacted and effected by the pandemic. Everyone has a personal story to tell and one of the things art does best is spin new stories that spawn antiheroes to deal with horror, truth and hope.
FS: On to the Kickstarter itself, what can you tell us about the campaign?
DH: The campaign is fairly simple. I’m offering a digital version across the board but I’d prefer you get the print version because I’m purposely NOT going to make COVID COP available online. Not while the insidious deluge of Artificial Intelligence pirates and transposes art sans authorial permission. Along with print and digital editions of the comic, tiered rewards for the Kickstarter campaign include personalized and signed drawings of Covid Cop; a Zoom with me and surprise guests; a one-on-one comics consultation; and an original 9×12 drawing of any character the supporter chooses.
FS: Do you have any other projects that you’re currently working on that you’d like to discuss?
DH: I’m currently finishing the coloring and lettering of COVID COP. Then I’m looking for paid work and patronage while considering other Kickstarter projects. Look out for the debut of another new character of mine called CHEST FACE, to be published in a new collection by Xion Studios, and you might see my take on a certain Cimmerian savage, sometime soon.
FS: Based on the success of the campaign, do you have further COVID COP stories brewing for future telling?
DH: I absolutely have a couple of more COVID COP stories to chronicle. It gets quite wild and galactic, and I can’t wait to write and draw them.
FS: If you had one last pitch for potential backers of COVID COP, what would it be?
DH: I don’t have the backing of a mainstream publisher paying me a page rate with the possibility of royalties. I don’t have a marketing expert hawking my wares. And I don’t have a deal with Hollywood. COVID COP is a giant risk and gamble. With the exception of a mighty force of friends and family and my dear fans, I’m doing this project mostly on my own and it’s gonna take a lot of effort just to get my comic book into your hands. As I’ve said to other artists, my work isn’t completed until you’ve received it, for better or for worse, warts and all. That is the kind of communication arts I truck in and I hope you choose to buckle up and take the ride with me.
As of press time, the Kickstarter for COVID COP has already exceeded its initial goal! Make sure to check out the campaign for one of the wildest books you’ll read about these crazy times we’re living in. Dean is wildly talented and brings a unique perspective to whatever story he tackles. COVID COP is well worth your time!