Photo of Dean Haspiel at the Baltimore Comic-ConI first met Dean Haspiel on a memorable flight from Baltimore to San Jose for APE some ten years ago. Also along for that Southwest redeye flight (which, if memory serves, only held the four of us) were Greg Bennett (friend and fellow Alliance blogger) and Chris Oarr (friend and, as Dino affectionately dubbed him on that trip, "the Alex P. Keaton of comics"), and I learned quickly that hanging out with Dino can be hazardous to one's health ... because you may well bust a gut from all the laughter that ensues.

Given the Baltimore connection, I suppose it's only fitting that the first time I've seen a spotlight panel on Dino was this afternoon at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Also fitting, given the timing of the con, was the fact that Dino today launched part two of his latest Billy Dogma story, "Fear, My Dear," on ACT-I-VATE, the free Webcomic collective he created. For those unfamiliar with Billy Dogma, whose acquaintance I first made on that same fateful trip to San Jose years ago, Dino described the character today as "an avatar for me ... he's Dean Haspiel to the second power ... a big, romantic bruiser." Dino went on to describe Billy Dogma as being a project wherein he "plays with genre ... including Jack Kirby who, to me, is a genre."

Panel from Dino has worked with Harvey Pekar, most notably on the Vertigo OGN, The Quitter, and is currently hard at work illustrating Jonathan Ames' comics debut with the Vertigo OGN, The Alcoholic, due out in the fall of 2008. The Billy Dogma stories are what Dino does to flex his creative muscles, differentiated from the work for which he's being paid, as he's offering them for free via ACT-I-VATE. It's worth noting, however, that Image will publish part one of the current Billy Dogma trilogy, "The Immortal," as a three-issue split mini-series with Michael Fiffe's Panorama under the title Brawl, beginning October 10. Why give the "beta" version away for free? In addition to the creative room to breathe that the Webcomic medium provides, Dino explained that since "we're artists, we're egotistical," the immediacy of Web distribution combined with the immediacy of the reader response that it allows, "feeds the narcissism."

If you haven't yet made Dino's acquaintance (on the page or in the flesh), go ahead and feed the narcissism by checking out part one of the current Billy Dogma tale, and see for yourself why Warren Ellis has referred to Dino as the "heir to Kirby."

More From ComicsAlliance