Monday, May 9, 2016

Dean Haspiel's 10 Rules

1. Observe and listen and react. This is your primary engine for story.

2. Write or sketch (do both) until it resembles something of a story. A story is like a series of jokes and punchlines, funny and not funny. One thing leading to another, and not necessarily in that order!

3. I understand why we're encouraged to remove story elements that don't strictly contribute to the over-arching narrative, but I try to make entire stories feel like one big red mess because life is chaos. Answers are not as interesting as questions, but choices and decisions (for better or for worse) make or break characters and steer story.

4. Shape your story. Subtract for clarity, but leave room for interpretation. Your reader is your co-author. Struggling through the layout stage is the most critical part of making comix. Everything after that is craft, revision and execution.

5. I used to care about accountability for verisimilitude but emotionally true is what I strive for. You want a photo? Take a picture. You want a fact? Do the math. Otherwise, draw something that means something but don't be scared of what's complex and human. It's how we relate.

6. Image is text, too. Sometimes I draw first what I want to write and then reverse-engineer my story-making process.

7. The art should always serve the story. A splash page should feel like a Sergio Leone vista or extreme close-up. The moment before or after a trigger is pulled or something is revealed. Inset panels expose, hyphenate or hide information. Use them wisely.

8. If your art stops me from indulging the story at its intended narrative pace so as to ogle and cheer how well you drew something, you're being a diva. Don't vogue. Immerse me.

9. Read books and comix. Watch movies. Listen to music. See people doing things. Do things. Talk.

10. Sometimes, walk home a different way. It allows you to see new things and, perhaps, think differently. 

You can view Dean Haspiel's work at:


  1. Thanks, good stuff to keep in mind here. Especially that last step. I think I get all my best ideas when I'm out walking.

  2. Number #8 should be an automatic email sent to all comic artists daily.

  3. Have to disagree with number 8. In fact my main gripe about comics in general is that people don't focus enough on drawing backgrounds, making the panels as good as the cover. I get that not doing that allows companies to crank out a book a month, but if the interior art looks like you are mailing it in...I am not going to bother.

  4. I don't mean to be unkind, but you may not understand the function of sequential art. Cover quality panels aren't necessary. Detract and distract. Each panel is a collection of moments designed to be read at variable speeds. A fight doesn't have the same beats as a car chase, a love scene isn't a church scene. Pace and attention to detail are everything, but not all details all the time.