WHAT DOES the Fox say?
Waid — most recently known for his popular, fun and not-so-dark run on Marvel's “Daredevil” — and Haspiel, an Eisner-nominated and Emmy-winning artist, have teamed to bring the classic character the Fox back to the pages of Red Circle Comics (an imprint of Archie Comics) in a five-issue miniseries.
Waid — one of the top writers in comics, of course — has always been fond of non-powered crimefighters who are in over their heads, so the the Fox character quickly appealed to Waid when he discovered the character in the ‘80s.
But what made him want to come onboard and write new Fox stories now? The answer had everything to do with the chance to work with Haspiel .
“[Dean] and I have been fans of one another's work for years, and have been searching for a project upon which to collaborate — and [The Fox] fit the bill perfectly," Waid tells Comic Riffs.
Haspiel echoed that praise when asked about the opportunity to finally work with Waid.
“Collaborating with Mark Waid is a dream come true,” Haspiel tells Comic Riffs. "He's like the Comics Whisperer,. He makes comics better.”
The Fox’s secret identity is Paul Patton, a newspaper journalist stubbornly wedded to the print age who refuses to use a digital camera, let alone tweet. Waid gives a voice to a hero whose profession faces a similar predicament to his own.
“I'm sympathetic to those who cling to 'the old ways,’ be they film cameras or print media,” Waid tells ‘Riffs. “I think there's an indefinable warmth that comes with ink and paper. But, like comics readers today, the Fox is finding that sometimes you miss a lot when you're too cold and unresponsive to the future.”
Although he may be writing the Fox as being relatively old-fashioned, Waid also uses the character to express his thoughts on the world of superheroes today. Example: When the Fox tries to take down a supernatural villain called Madame Satan by rearranging her neck,
Waid's Fox says he “learned that from a superhero movie,” a nod to the controversial ending from “Man of Steel” — an ending that Waid made clear through social media that he wasn't happy with.
When asked whether the "Man of Steel" finale still bothers him, Waid says: “I'm getting over it. Ask me again in about 20 years.”
Haspiel, who became a fan of the Fox through the work of Alex Toth, is enjoying introducing the Fox to a new generation of fans. He also delights in throwing in cameos from other Red Circle classic characters in each issue of the miniseries.
“I created a story structure that could reintroduce a pulp hero per issue of the [Fox] series, but I wasn't sure who I was going to use until I consulted the Red Circle roster and discovered some real gems," Haspiel tells us. "I've fallen head over heels in love with Marvel and Inferno. Especially the way Mark makes Marvel talk.
"I've always liked the idea of the Mighty Crusaders, but despite the fact that a bunch of those team members came before or side-by-side our more popular superheroes, I don't feel that they were given the latitude to truly develop into something more substantial and legendary,”
Added Haspiel about mining this roster: “I feel Red Circle's commitment to give these characters new personality and forward drive is a right direction into making comics that superhero fans will enjoy and become loyal to."
Much like Waid's decision to give the Fox an old-school approach to his civilian career, Haspiel has taken a similar approach to how he puts the comic together visually. At the end of each issue — to go along with his fun art style — he writes a letter to readers detailing his thought process in plotting out the Fox's adventures.
“I always liked reading 'Stan's Soapbox' and 'Bullpen Bulletins' from those older Marvel comics when I was kid," Haspiel says. “ Hearing from the creator makes me feel closer and less intimidated by the process when they slightly lift the creative veil. Just as long as they don't wholly reveal the magic."
Haspiel is known largely for his work on such titles as “American Splendor”(with Harvey Pekar) and “The Alcoholic” (with Johnathan Ames), but he's happy to be back in a superhero universe. "My love of comic books starts and ends with superheroes," he says..
"I've done a bunch of short-form superhero comics, but I've been itching to do something bigger and zanier,” Haspiel says. “Withholding years of unbridled superhero action and adventure finally got unleashed in the Fox, and I don't know that I can go back to drawing real life. Real people don't usually talk about their desires and anxieties while kickboxing a psychedelic monster."
Waid's contributions to the Fox miniseries ends with Issue No. 4. Haspiel draws the fifth and final issue next month (with J.M. DeMatteis taking over the writing).
Haspiel says that a return to the Fox in the future is dependent on how fans respond to the character's 21st-century reboot.
“I've already started writing a second Fox story arc," Haspiel says.
“So don't let me down people. Get out there and shake the cages. Me and Mark want to keep working together and make new Fox stories!”
[BALTIMORE COMIC-CON: Our Q&A with Dean Haspiel]
[LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: Haspiel donates mini-comics collection]
[THE EMMYS: Haspiel basks in win for HBO’s ‘Bored to Death’]