Dean Haspiel is a name I just can’t stop seeing lately and that’s not a bad thing. He’s a talented storyteller both with the written and visual aspects of comics. He’s what we call the “full package.” Was that a sex joke just now? No, it wasn’t move on. Beef With Tomato is an autobiographical (at least I assume it is) collection of stories from Dean’s life in New York City. In my personal experience there are New York people and there are L.A. people. That is to say that people become drawn to one city or the other and both produce great stories. Being that I live in L.A., I’m constantly drawn to New York stories because I don’t live there and my wife said she’d rather divorce me than move there ever. That said, I’ll just stick to the stories because a new city isn’t exactly worth it.
The stories mostly fall in line with the “so strange they must be true” theme. Dean is our entry point into these strange stories; he’s our “every man” in a world that’s a bit weird. He has his moments too though, like a friendship with a woman across the street that asks him to film her trimming her private area with a giant pair of scissors. A lot of the stories involve Dean on his bike and that produces a range of tales. From stolen bikes, to accidents involving car doors, to the police and women’s rears. Let’s just say a lot happens to Dean on his bike.
The stories themselves are well told. They feel well-worn too. Like Dean just showed up to a party and was asked to tell a new person the one about the bench. You cling to his words and no matter the outcome they’re interesting stories. Some of them just capture human moments or insecurities that we all have. Others capture the craziness of New York.
Have you seen Dean Haspiel’s artwork? Well then you’re in luck because Beef With Tomato is filled with Haspiel’s artwork. The book is in all black & white which suits the autobiographical nature of the stories in my opinion. The thing about black & white is that some artists know what to do with it and others don’t. Some artists illustrate as if their expecting it be colored even if it’s not and others, like Haspiel, use each panel to the fullest. Knowing when to use contrast and when to pull back and not let the details be absorbed by the ink. More importantly, knowing how to make the page visible and not a mess of ink in the first place. The page layouts are incredibly strong and will mostly go un-noticed because of how well planned they are.
Beef With Tomato is a treat to read. It does suffer from the one and only problem that I have with autobiographical stories, you can’t read it all in one sitting without becoming numb to the narrative. That isn’t much of a problem with Beef With Tomato because the stories vary so much, but I did find myself putting it down and picking it back up later. But at least I wanted to pick it back up, which should speak to the quality of this collection.
If you’re a fan of Haspiel’s then you should definitely pick up Beef With Tomato. It’s a wonderful collection of stories that are well told, but even better it’s accompanied by Haspiel’s talented artwork. And if you’re just a fan of autobiographical stories, then it’s a no duh for you to pick this one up.
Beef With Tomato Creator: Dean Haspiel Publisher: Hang Dai Editions/Alternative Comics Price: $14.99 Release Date: 9/15/15 Format: Trade Paperback; Print