When Dean Haspiel met Seth Kushner

I’ll never forget the first time I met Seth Kushner because he recorded it with the power of his eye and camera lens. He picked me up in his car in my Carroll Gardens neighborhood and we drove to the end of Red Hook by the old railroad cars, near Sunny’s Bar, before Fairway moved into the bottom floor of that enormous warehouse space by the sea. We went there to take my portrait for his then upcoming love letter to Brooklyn, a photo/essay book collection called The Brooklynites, with writer Anthony LaSala. We talked about why I loved Red Hook but that quickly transitioned into comic books. See, for my portrait, I was holding two of my favorite Jack Kirby comic books, The Fantastic Four and OMAC, and that’s when Seth revealed his passion for the medium and Superman, Spider-man, etc. We became fast friends and I put a bug in his bonnet to do the same thing he was doing for Brooklyn but to do it for comics, too. We had a few brainstorming sessions about it and, later on, he did just that with writer Chris Irving for their book, Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origin of American Comics. During that time, Seth helped me out on several projects with the prowess of his unique photography and I became his comix mentor. With several other artists we formed Hang Dai Studios in Cobble Hill directly over Book Court and launched TripCity.net, our multimedia salon, where he rocked his CulturePOP and Schmuck comix series, among many other things. A year or so later, we moved our studio to Gowanus, next to a bunch of other comix studios that I used to work at, and formed Hang Dai Editions, our self-publishing concern, where Seth would create a superhero called The Brooklynite with artist Shamus Beyale, and I would create an antihero called The Red Hook, before he passed away. When I think about the fact that we simultaneously created heroes that honored where we first met, I can’t help but smile about that.
–Dean Haspiel

Brady Dale at The NY Observer wrote an obituary, “Lost and Found: Seth Kushner—October 30, 1973 to May 17, 2015″

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Robot 6 interviews Benton & Haspiel about Hang Dai Editions’ Fall 2015 Graphic Novels


Brigid Alverson interviewed Gregory Benton and Dean Haspiel about their upcoming graphic novels; Smoke, and Beef With Tomato, the late Seth Kushner and his posthumous graphic novel Schmuck, and the future of Hang Dai Editions at Robot 6.

Here are some excerpts:

ROBOT 6: I want to start out with what must be the elephant in the room for you: the loss of Seth Kushner. Can you tell me what part he played in creating Hang Dai and what place his work will have in your lineup going forward?

Dean Haspiel: Seth Kushner was a photographer/comix creator and founding member of Hang Dai Studios and Hang Dai Editions. When I left Deep6 Studios in 2011, I recruited five other artists to spark a new studio, and Seth was the first person I asked. We had become fast friends after I first met him for a photo shoot for his book, The Brooklynites, and discovered that we had comix in common. Little by small, we worked on several comix projects, including the Act-i-vate movie and other stuff. Seth had never been part of a studio before, so there was hesitation, but he grew to love the shared work environment. So much so we co-created TripCity.net, an online salon version of our studio with Chris Miskiewicz and Jeffrey Burandt. Between the time we spent physically and virtually, it felt like Seth was a Bat-phone call away at all times. Even though it’s been almost two months since he passed away, I still think about Seth 20 times a day and stumble, knowing that I can’t show him anything I’m working on and/or can’t talk to him about anything and everything. When Seth died, a part of me died.

Gregory Benton: Seth was a huge part of my getting out of bed every morning. I looked forward to going to the studio, knowing he’d be there with his huge smile and positivity. He is the only person with whom I never spent a bad moment. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to know him as a friend and studio mate. Even when he was sick he was full of optimism, energy, and humor. The hole Seth leaves at Hang Dai is vast. We lost our heart, frankly. Our thoughts are always with his wife, son and mother.

Dean, I was re-reading that interview you did with Tom Spurgeon a couple of years ago, where you were kind of down on comics as a career and actually thinking of giving it up. A lot of things have happened since then, including your run on Archie’s The Fox. Where are you now, and what part does Hang Dai play in the fact that you are still, two and a half years later, making comics?

Haspiel: On the heels of that sobering, Oprah Winfrey-esque interview conducted by Tom Spurgeon a few years ago, I realized that freelance is synonymous with innovation. As a freelancer you’re constantly innovating. It’s like playing a game of pool; you’re shooting for the next shot and not necessarily for the ball that’s obvious. You try to sink all your balls in one turn if possible in hopes you get a good shot at the 8-ball. Otherwise, your opponent, in an effort to maximize their tactics, will most likely reposition everything you’ve been setting up and promote chaos. And, since nothing ever goes according to plan, we learn to create in chaos. I fight the freelance life most every day. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s gotten harder. It sometimes feel like I have to beg for a few franchise morsels and, after doing this full time for 15-plus years, that’s not fun. I’ve been offered the privilege to shepherd some company-owned characters through the next leg of their legacies but it’s not like I’m breaking new ground. In fact, a lot of what I do honors the classic stuff I loved reading growing up. And, since I tend to steep in the avant garde, my comix come with a weird wink and twist, and I’m not sure most publishers know what to do with me. Ergo, Hang Dai Editions.

However, as I type the answers to the interview from the second floor of an old mansion in the woods while on writers retreat in upstate New York, I must acknowledge how lucky I am to be able to steal time away from my normal grind so I can investigate other storytelling methods. So, I can write that novel, finish those screenplays and TV shows, and tighten up those pitches. Even though my heart remains faithful to the art of comix, the business of comix is a bitch and I need to explore my abilities in other media or forever stumble in four color books with a broken heart.

(Greg) You also had a difficult time, losing a lot of your work in a studio flood, before B+F came out. What part is Hang Dai playing in your life as an artist, and how has your work and your work life changed since you became part of it?

Benton: Yeah, in 2011 the studio I had on my own was flooded out. I was distraught. Fortunately not long after I ran into Dean at a mutual friend’s art opening. He mentioned the studio he shared with Seth (who I had never met at the time) and an old pal Nick Bertozzi. They had an extra desk if I wanted to work there. I’d never shared a studio before, and it turned out to be an excellent situation. Hang Dai has gone through several permutations since then: a rotation of artists and a move from Carroll Gardens to the scenic Gowanus Canal into a building with several other cartooning studios. On any given day, aside from seeing Hang Dai folks Jonathan Allen, Christa Cassano, Joe Infurnari or Swifty Lang, you can be swapping war stories with cartoonists as diverse as Jason Little, Sarah Varon, Ellen Lindner, Khary Randolph or Reilly Brown.

I really enjoy being around other cartoonists, talking shop and making comix. Hopefully we all get something out of it through the exchange of ideas and our different approaches to art and storytelling.

You can read the entire article/interview HERE

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Bleeding Cool interviews Benton & Haspiel about Hang Dai Editions’ Fall 2015 Graphic Novels


Hannah Means-Shannon interviewed Gregory Benton and Dean Haspiel about Hang Dai Editions’ three fall graphic novel releases, and the late Seth Kushner at Bleeding Cool: “Edgy Indie Titles Beef With Tomato, Smoke, And SCHMUCK Land In September – The Hang Dai Editions Mega-Interview”

Dean Haspiel excerpts:

HMS: So, how many times has your bicycle actually been stolen? In all seriousness, your love affair with New York/Brooklyn seems to be your longest running fictional romance. Sometimes from reading your comics I think it’s the most messed up place on earth, sometimes I think it’s the most wonderful. What’s life like as a comics creator between those two extremes?

DH: My passion and respect for NYC is very much tactile and real and I have the bruises to prove it. And, even though every year I lose another childhood mainstay or three due to crushing rent increases and the ugly fact that NYC is becoming a bizarre maze of banks and pharmacies while bodega’s dwindle and cheap ethnic restaurants die and reincarnate into obnoxiously expensive health food stores geared to rape your wallet while thinning your stomach with the latest trends, I still hold my native hometown dear to my heart like a battered wife. Which is what I’m comfortable with because, after all, I’m a foolish writer and artist trying to tell and sell stories while living in the most expensive city of the 21st Century.

NYC may be not be the most messed up place on earth but it is the most mixed up. And, I fear that we’re finally running out of rundown neighborhoods for artists to colonize and create what made NYC cool and communal. There is no more middle class. There is just rich people and poor people and I don’t think this modern NYC is worth suffering for anymore. Is the love affair over? Never. I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. Which is why my escape from Manhattan to Brooklyn, as documented in Beef With Tomato, is even more relevant as I consider my next pilgrimage while currently on a writer’s retreat at Yaddo.

HMS: I’m not sure humanity can even bear the too much reality of some of these true stories! Awful George is true, isn’t it? How long did it take you to decide to draw that story and do you recall any of the choices you made narratively to bring out its raw qualities?

DH: All the stories in my memoir comix are true. Sometimes the stories take longer to write than to draw because there is a specific art to making slice-of-life comix. As the author, you have to account for your tale or it fails. But, real life isn’t always plausible. It can be excruciatingly painful yet wonderfully insane with no rhyme or reason. And you have to be able to account for that. So, there is a delicate hopscotch between what is true and what is dramatized and how to honor yet express the emotional truths. Otherwise, it can feel like a ruse and no one reads memoir to be lied to.

Gregory Benton excerpts:

HMS: It was an intense period of productivity and promotion. You didn’t wait too long to get back to the drawing desk (or should we say, painting).

GB: Ha! I tried to milk every last ounce from B+F but, yeah, at some point I had to throw the smock back on. While I was sketching and writing the next B+F book, the idea for Smoke snuck up on me, plopped down on the drawing board and refused to leave. I began drawing sequences about two young brothers being protected by the skeleton dog (a Xolo) from B+F.

HMS: I started seeing an image here and there that related to this new project, but only about a month ago did I hear the title “Smoke”. When I asked you if it was a cheerful story after the more gruesome aspects of B+F you hinted that it was not. That this story was about kids, hardship, and I think you might have even used the word “horrifying”.

GB: You were visiting the studio, and I had just finished a sequence that at first blush could be construed as horrific, but it hadn’t been put into context (not even for myself) at that point. I don’t think of it as anything more than jarring with the way it fits into the story.

Seth Kushner excerpts:

HMS: Seth Kushner worked on this anthology of semi-autobiographical stories for a number of years before Kickstarting a print collection with many collaborating indie artists. What would you say that Seth accomplishes in his storytelling in SCHMUCK that most impresses you, Gregory?

GB: Being that SCHMUCK is taken from Seth’s life I guess it should be no surprise that the main character, Adam Kessler, evolves in a realistic manner. Taking the stories individually, this might not be apparent, but as a whole works brilliantly. Seth’s scripts were a pleasure to work from, as well. He thought visually, narratively and had extensive knowledge of storytelling having created his “Culture Pop” and “Costumed Characters” fumetti for years. His scriptwriting was concise, dynamic and left his collaborators with plenty of room to breathe.

HMS: What do you think it was about Seth’s personality that enabled him to set up and successfully complete such large collaborative projects? If you think about Leaping Tall Buildings, we have masses of people involved there, and Schmuck, while one story, is composed of many artistic voices.

GB: I think it might have to do with his enjoyment and respect for the people he photographed and artists with whom he collaborated. He was genuinely interested in his subjects, made them feel at ease, and in the case of SCHMUCK made the artist feel like an equal part of the creative process.

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The Three Vices of Hang Dai Editions – Fall 2015


Hang Dai Editions is releasing three graphic novels this September in conjunction with Alternative Comics. Showcasing Gregory Benton’s SMOKE, Dean Haspiel’s BEEF WITH TOMATO, and the late Seth Kushner’s SCHMUCK.

Gregory Benton

After an accident on an industrial farm unhinges two young brothers from reality, they are guided through a weird and wonderful journey by Xolo, the Aztec’s mythological protector of souls.

Gregory Benton’s book B+F was awarded the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art’s inaugural Award of Excellence at MoCCAFest 2013. An expanded version of B+F was published in the autumn of 2013 through Adhouse Books (USA) and Editions çà et là (France). The long form edition of B+F was selected for the Society of Illustrators first Comics and Cartoon Art Annual in 2014. Gregory has written and drawn stories for Nickelodoeon, Vertigo, DC Comics, Disney Adventures, Watson-Guptil, Entertainment Weekly. Gregory has also produced numerous limited-edition mini-comix, some of which reside in The Library of Congress’ rare books collection.

A Hang Dai Editions Production
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
80 page full color 7″x7″ hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-934460-79-5
Price: $14.99 / $18.99 CAN


Beef With Tomato
Dean Haspiel
With an introduction by Jonathan Ames

A native New York bruiser is fed up with life in the dregs of a drug-addled Alphabet City where his neighbors are shut-ins and his bicycle is always getting stolen. He escapes from Manhattan to make a fresh start in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, only to face a new strain of street logic — where most everything he encounters is not as it seems.

Dean Haspiel is an Emmy award winner and Eisner and Harvey Award nominee. Haspiel created BILLY DOGMA, illustrated for HBO’s “Bored To Death,” was a Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, is a Yaddo fellow, a playwright, and is the co-founder of HANG DAI Editions. Dean’s comics include The Fox with Mark Waid, The Alcoholic with Jonathan Ames, and The Quitter with Harvey Pekar.

A Hang Dai Editions / Alternative Comics Co-Production
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
96 page 7.5″x10.25″ paperback
ISBN: 978-1-934460-81-8
Price: $14.99 / $18.99 CAN


Seth Kushner
Foreword by Jonathan Ames

One man’s awkward coming-of-age-quest to find love in New York City, illustrated by 22 artists, whose individual short stories together tell a complete narrative. Artists include Josh Neufeld, Nick Bertozzi, Dean Haspiel, Gregory Benton, Noah Van Sciver, Stephan DeStefano, and Christa Cassano. Cover Art By Joseph Remnant. Book Design By Eisner Award Winner Eric Skillman.

Seth Kushner was an environmental portrait photographer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Time, L’Uomo Vogue, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker and others. He was a founding partner in Hang Dai Editions with Dean Haspiel, Josh Neufeld, and Gregory Benton.

A Hang Dai Editions Production
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
176 page full-color 8″x10″ paperback
ISBN: 978-1-934460-84-9
Price: $19.95 / $24.99 CAN


For interviews, reviews and/or other inquiries, please contact us at hangdaieditions@gmail.com


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Alternative Comics Announces Fall 2015 & Winter 2016 Books

From the official Alternative Comics press release:

Alternative Comics Announces Fall 2015 & Winter 2016 Books

Kevin Hooyman, Anna Ehrlemark, Gregory Benton, Dylan Horrocks, Mardou, Eric Haven and Jon Allen sign up with indie graphic novel house.
Independent publishing house Alternative Comics will have the largest season of its 22 year history this fall, beginning with the September release of a trio of titles from Brooklyn’s Hang Dai Studios. Alternative Comics has twelve books scheduled from August 2015 through March 2016. This will mark their first season to include books from the imprints Hang Dai Editions, Floating World Comics and Revival House Press—who joined Alternative Comics along with Study Group Comics and Hic and Hoc Publications in February of this year. The season also marks the publisher’s second with Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, part of the Perseus Group, as its distributor.

Dean Haspiel and Tom Hart continue their long relationship with Alternative Comics with a pair of largely slice of life comics; but, this is a year of mainly fresh faces. Kevin Hooyman, Gregory Benton, Dylan Horrocks, Mardou, Anna Ehrlemark, Eric Haven and Jon Allen are all new to Alternative Comics. The Alternative Comics house anthology returns with 200 pages of the top comic artists of the moment in Alternative Comics Are Dead, fronted by a stunning Hellen Jo cover. This fall also sees the release of Schmuck, written by the late Seth Kushner and illustrated by a gang of 22 artists.

Alternative Comics still issues the old-fashioned stapled variety of comics including three original titles this fall: Fedor by Patt Kelley (Hic & Hoc); The Yankee by Jason Leivian and Ian MacEwan (Floating World); and, Titan #2 by François Vigneault (Study Group).

Read the entire article about the Fall 2015/Winter 2016 books, including Schmuck, Smoke, and Beef With Tomato HERE.

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Hang Dai at Grand Comics Fest & Special Edition NYC

Hang Dai Editions will be tabling at both Grand Comics Fest and Special Edition NYC this weekend!

This Saturday, Josh Neufeld will be in the heart of Williamsburg at Pat Dorian’s Grand Comics Fest. Originally, it was going to be Neufeld and Hang Dai Editions co-founder Seth Kushner at the festival, but as everyone knows Seth passed away less than two weeks ago.

Seth’s presence at Grand Comics Fest and going forward will be forever missed, but his work will be there nonetheless, including his newest comic Secret Sauce. We’ll try to have Seth’s other comics on hand as well, including Force Field Fotocomix. And there may be some sort of raffle/giveaway to help raise money for Seth’s family (for his outstanding medical bills).

Josh will have copies of The Vagabonds, issues 1-4 (issues 3 & 4 being published through Hang Dai), as well as his books A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, A Few Perfect Hours, and The Influencing Machine. In other words: everything!

Other cartoonists scheduled to be at the curated show—which is open and free to the public—include such luminaries as Derf Backderf, R. Sikoyrak, Kriota Willberg, Jess Ruliffson, James Romberger, Marguerite van Cook, Box Brown, Paper Rocket Comics, and Ink Brick. Come on by!

Grand Comics Fest
Saturday, June 6, 12 noon – 8pm
Bird River Studios
343 Grand Street (corner of Marcy & Havemeyer), Brooklyn, NY 11211

For more information, http://www.grandcomicsfest.com/


This Saturday and Sunday, Dean Haspiel will be in Manhattan at Special Edition NYC, alongside Hang Dai Studios mate, Christa Cassano, artist of the upcoming John Leguizamo graphic novel, Ghetto Klown. Dean will have his Billy Dogma magazine, Heart-Shaped Hole and rare copies of the exclusive The Walking Dead cover he drew for Wizard World/Skybound for sale. Both Dean and Christa will be available to do commissions. In fact, Christa will render any superhero you’d like into the style of Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road. They will be at table E9.

Read a rave review of Heart-Shaped Hole at Bleeding Cool: Love Gives You Lazer-Eyes And Fists Of Fury In ‘Heart-Shaped Hole’

Special Edition NYC
Saturday, June 6, 10am – 7pm
Sunday, June 7, 10am – 5pm
Pier 94, located at 711 12th Avenue, NYC.

For more information: http://www.specialeditionnyc.com/Home/

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RIP Seth Kushner

SK_RIP(photographed by Dean Haspiel)

Founding member of Hang Dai Studios, Graphic NYC, Trip City.net, and Hang Dai Editions; photographer, comic book writer/artist, husband, father and friend, Seth Kushner, passed away the early afternoon of Sunday, May 17th, 2015 at the age of 41, leaving behind his wife Terra and son Jackson, and a galaxy-sized hole in the comix universe.

Co-creator of The Brooklynites (with Anthony LaSala), Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics (with Christopher Irving), CulturePop (photocomic profiles co-curated & co-edited by Jeff Newelt & Dean Haspiel), and many essays, articles, interviews, podcasts and comix, including Force Field Fotocomix, Secret Sauce, The Roman Nose (with George Folz), and his upcoming SCHMUCK graphic novel.

The comics community, friends & family honored Seth with memorials and eulogies, too many to list, but here are some to remember him by…

Gregory Benton
Josh Neufeld
Dean Haspiel
George Folz
Christopher Irving
Amy Finkel
Vito Delsante
Katelan Foisy
Carlos Molina
India Rose
Ron Scalzo

Bleeding Cool (Hannah Means-Shannon): Inspirational Pop Culture Photographer & Comic Creator Seth Kushner Has Passed Away
Bleeding Cool (Hannah Means-Shannon): The Comics Community Pays Tribute To Seth Kushner
Bleeding Cool (Hannah Means-Shannon): Friends & Family Gather to Remember Seth Kushner’s Name

The Comics Beat

The Comics Reporter




13th Dimension


Washington Post: RIP, Seth Kushner: Through the lens warmly, creators salute the N.Y. pop-culture artist

John Siuntres at Word Balloon represents two podcast interviews he conducted with Seth in 2012 and 2014. Hear Seth here.

Seth’s alternative healer, Doctor Sam, had this to say:

“My name is Dr. Samir Chachoua, I was introduced to Seth by a mutual friend, Kirsten Holly Smith. Seth Kushner and Terra Kushner quickly became my favorite couple. Seth went into remission during the months I knew him from treatment that I had developed.

I have no interest or reason to say this other than a basis for you to believe the following: Doctors had stopped all treatment. Chemo and transplant had failed, even when family were summoned to say good-bye, they were scanning the globe for alternatives, conventional experimental or other. Love usually buckles to despair faced with a death sentence…not here. Treatment began.

YOU ALL KNOW THIS if you have been following his story and life. What you may not know is that Seth had genes predisposing to his cancer. They also disappeared after treatment, making Seth unique in the history of humanity.

To put this in perspective, genes that predispose to cancer are why people including, most famously, Angelina Jolie, have their breasts and ovaries removed to avoid cancer. She was hailed as a hero for this mutilation. What would you call someone who showed the world that this could be done with an injection as opposed to surgery? Seth did that and had it documented at Mt. Siani Hospital, becoming the first human being to successfully remove cancer genes from his body. Can you imagine how that alone can impact millions of lives?

This was proven by independent hospital tests, over and over again. Seth overcame Leukemia, Liver Failure, Graft vs. Host rejection, pneumonia, so many faces of death, beaten.

Each time a Doctor would come bearing terrible tidings, Seth and Terra would beat it. Seth wanted to live, to perfect the treatment that cured his Leukemia so it would work just as well on other cancers. Seth wanted to bring it to the U.S. and help millions. He fought for his life and for others every day.

Seth will be the last patient I treat. I was retired when he found me. I don’t need credit or attention. I just want these words to come from me and have the people reading them know the credibility of the source.

Seth often told me how Terra and Jackson kept him here and how he needed to stay for them. I just need them and all of you to know that…

Jackson, your dad lived in a world that creates comic book heroes and fantasy figures. He was the first man ever to beat Leukemia and remove every genetic trace from his body. He was the only man ever to come back from a Cancer coma. He loved you so dearly. He fought for everyone to know his story and feel his inspiration.

This is the only time that these words really mean something,
Your Dad was a bigger hero than superman, much bigger and real.”

Please help support The Kushner Family at their GoFundMe page, during this tough time, if you can. Every penny counts.

Rest In Peace, Seth Kushner.

SK_CM(Photographed by Carlos Molina)

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