Escape from Manhattan! Carroll Gardens cartoonist draws tale of finding a home in Brooklyn

Escape from Manhattan! Carroll Gardens cartoonist draws tale of finding a home in Brooklyn
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

He escaped from New York!

Like Kurt Russell before him, this Brooklyn-based comic book artist has escaped from Manhattan into the paradise of Kings County. Now artist Dean Haspiel has illustrated his harrowing escape and subsequent adjustment to life in the Italian enclave of Carroll Gardens in an anthology titled “Beef with Tomato,” which he will show off and sign at the Comic Arts Brooklyn festival in Williamsburg on Nov. 7. The author says that, despite living three decades in Manhattan, Brooklyn has taught him more about community than the Big Apple ever could.

“I was age 30, and I said, ‘I know everything I need to know about New York, I’m a Manhattanite,’ and then I moved to Brooklyn and confronted the real concept of community,” Haspiel explained.

Haspiel’s illustrated exodus from Alphabet City has less gunplay and fewer cannibals than Snake Plissken’s celluloid escape from the maximum-security prison of Manhattan Island, but it features almost as many sociopaths, the author said. And it is rife with true-to-life anecdotes and vivid imagery describing the trials and tribulations of an outsider’s settlement in Brooklyn.

“It’s my love letter to Brooklyn,” he said. “It’s, warts and all, to expose the things that are really cool and f—– up about it.”

During his initial move into Carroll Gardens, for instance, Haspiel was greeted with the “hairy eyeball” and loud coughs that sounded suspiciously like “yuppie,” courtesy of the neighborhood’s largely Italian community.

“The old Italians in the neighborhood I moved into looked at me like I was some kind of yuppie,” Haspiel explained. “I don’t have anything against yuppies, I’m just not one of them.”

It was not pleasant at the time, but Haspiel, who still lives in the area, is now starting to empathize with that feeling of encroachment as he witnesses gentrification creeping in.

“It’s funny, because, as I get older, I’m starting to get those inklings of ‘Get off my lawn,’ ” he said. “But it has gentrified a lot more and I get it. Neighborhoods like to be neighborhoods, and quarantine. It creates a sense of safety.”

“Beef with Tomato” is chock-full of bizarre, factual, and distinctly Brooklyn anecdotes, including the time Haspiel’s Asian neighbors thought he was gay, and another when his girlfriend’s nudity gave a geriatric peeping Tom a heart attack. The illustrations and prose work together to explore one man’s take on Kings County, said the artist.

“I can’t tell you what a New York story is, you have to live in it and it becomes that,” he said. “I’m shrugging off the rigors of Manhattan, while trying to embrace the history of Brooklyn.”

Dean Haspiel will sign “Beef with Tomato” at Comic Arts Brooklyn (12 Havemeyer St. between N. Eighth and N. Ninth streets in Williamsburg, comicartsbrooklyn.com). Nov. 7, 11 am–7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Comics cave; Artist Dean Haspiel takes a break in his Gowanus studio, surrounded by comic books and artwork.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini