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DF Interview: Dean Haspiel brings Dark Circle’s Fox to life
By Byron Brewer
When a billionaire philanthropist prepares his hometown for demolition, Paul Patton Jr. is sent on assignment to photograph the event. But what strange force lurks in the shadows, and why will it take Paul’s alter-ego, the Fox, to stop it?
To find out the answer to this question and more, Dynamic Forces met with artist/co-writer Dean Haspiel to discuss this newest book in the Dark Circle line and the return of a relatively unknown legend.
Dynamic Forces: Dean, the Fox has been around since the 1940s and yet few fans, I would guess, have ever heard of him. Can you tell us a little about his precarious publication history and how he came to have his own new series?
Dean Haspiel: I first discovered The Fox, written and drawn by Alex Toth, in the back of a Black Hood comic book in the 1980s. I might have spotted The Fox a couple of more times throughout the years but I didn't learn the character's publishing history until I loosely studied his legacy for the job. Which wasn't much. The Fox was featured in some of Archie's superhero and crime anthologies and then in cameos via The Mighty Crusaders. At one point, he was more a ladies man chasing comets rather than chasing crooks. I kinda liked that. But, it was Alex Toth's brief noir stint that left an ever-lasting impression. So much so, a few years ago I created a character called The Red Hook that was semi-inspired by Toth's Fox and it was that comic that scored me the gig to rock The Fox in his first-ever miniseries cum ongoing series.
DF: How does it feel to be a part of this new launch of superhero titles by Archie Comics under the Dark Circle brand? Pretty exciting, I would imagine.
Dean Haspiel: At first I was daunted by the prospect of taking part in a new imprint, especially one called “Dark Circle.” I didn't think I was the right guy to shepherd The Fox from my original “Freak Magnet” status to “Fox Hunt” mode but editors Paul Kaminski and Alex Segura convinced me that I had the chops and gusto to bring the pain. I still get to flex my trademark psychedelic superhero-on-acid leanings while raising the stakes. Plus, I'm excited to contrast The Fox alongside fresh, new and exciting takes on The Black Hood, The Shield, and The Hangman.
DF: So for the uninitiated, who is Paul Patton Jr. and why is he the Fox?
Dean Haspiel: Paul Patton Jr. is the son of the original Fox. Like his estranged father, he is a photojournalist who often finds himself in the wrong place at the right time and is forced to fight crime within an inch of his life. What started out as a way to draw drama towards him so he could get a good story for his job has recently soured our reluctant hero with no superpowers, and he's recently quit being a punching bag for psychos and freaks. But a certain someone won't let him quit and it threatens his family. Alas, Paul is forced to put the mask back on – one more time.
DF: Given what you have just told us, Dean, how does today's iteration of the Fox differ from, say, the '40s original and later interpretations like that of Alex Toth?
Dean Haspiel: I've kept some of the zany qualities that I liked about earlier versions of The Fox but “Fox Hunt,” albeit humorous in some of its wild absurdity, puts our guy through hell. He gets attacked by so many different hyper-focused super-powered hit men vying to score a million dollar bounty that was placed on his head while trying to protect his family that he hardly gets a minute to nap until he literally passes out on the street as more bad guys come dropping out of the air towards his unconscious body. The Fox can't seem to get a break. “Fox Hunt” brings out a lot of guilt and anxiety and makes Paul confront the man he is supposed to be.
DF: You are drawing the book. Have you done any design alterations to the costume of the Fox, or to Paul?
Dean Haspiel: I believe Irwin Hasen's original Fox design coupled with Alex Toth's noir flair is perfect. Why mess with that? The only thing I feel that I've added is more character to The Fox's ears and eyes, allowing more expression. As for Paul the common man, he's slightly based on Josh Holloway, the actor who played “Sawyer” on the TV show, Lost.
DF: You share writing assignment on this book with Mark Waid. Can you tell us a little about how that process works?
Dean Haspiel: I plot the entire story and show it to Mark Waid to make sure I'm not a total idiot. Then, I breakdown each issue into pages and panels, provide motivation and reason, get notes from my editors, draw it and then Mark reads my breakdown while contrasting it with my art and goes to town – making the comic sing and howl and help knit all my crazy into one sexy quilt.
DF: Does the Fox have a Rogue's Gallery? Can you tell us who might be that BIG big bad for our hero going forward?
Dean Haspiel: The only regular Fox villain I could find was The Gasser. So, I did a redesign of him for “Fox Hunt,” something akin to another pulp-noir iteration of The Fox that Alex Toth did in the 1970's. The Fox also had a girlfriend who was the original She-Fox that I would like to revisit in a future story. Other than that, the big bad of the current tale is Mr. Smile. He's a rich entrepreneur that is annoyed with The Fox putting the kibosh on some of his lucrative ventures, and he decides to place a million-dollar bounty on his head to make him go away while, curiously, investigating what makes a superhero so he can better understand the concept of extraordinary altruism.
DF: Finally: Elephant in the room: OK, Dean, tell us: What is it like to not only be nominated for but win an Emmy Award?
Dean Haspiel: It was an honor to win an Emmy and be recognized for my participation on the opening titles for HBO's Bored To Death. My friend/show creator/writer/renaissance man, Jonathan Ames, and I have made some great collaborations, including The Alcoholic (Vertigo/DC), and I look forward to more. I recently co-wrote a TV pilot about the comics industry with former Vertigo/DC editor/writer Jonathan Vankin that we're shopping around and I hope that Emmy helps open a few doors.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Dean Haspiel for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Fox #1 hits shelves April 15th, this Wednesday!
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