Hip Hop and Comics: A Love Story
There are few art forms that are more truly American than Hip Hop and comic books, both created by minorities and immigrants who were trying to express themselves through their artistic creations in a society that rejected them. With the rise of Blerd culture in recent years, the relationship between these two mediums has started to grow, but few people know this romance goes back a long time into the early nineties.
Eazy-E and Rob Liefeld’s Secret Comic
Eazy-E and Rob Liefeld at Youngblood's launch, 1992.
On April 15th, 1992, legendary comic creator and artist Rob Liefeld launched his Youngblood series in Southern California, in an event that had thousands of visitors and started the now gigantic publisher Image Comics. One particular guest made a surprise appearance, shocking comic book fans and hip-hop heads alike: Eazy-E, from NWA fame, had showed up to get his own copy of the new comic.
In his podcast Robservations, Liefeld confessed to be a huge fan of Eazy-E and NWA and said he used to work listening to his music in his studio in Southern California. He recalls that Eazy-E parked his brand-new white BMW right in front of a line of thousands of fans and walked into the comic book store where the event was taking place to meet with him. Eazy-E, who was also a fan of Rob Liefeld’s work, wanted to develop a comic book with the artist. During their encounter the rapper got some records from the trunk of his car for Rob, who describes it as being “full of CDs and Uzi machine-guns.”
Original designs of "The Hood" by Rob Liefeld and Eazy-E
After their meeting, they developed a friendly relationship, with Eazy-E inviting Liefeld over for recording sessions where they exchanged ideas about their comic book project. Together, they started developing a concept called The Hood which would follow a superhero team from Compton. However, the rapper was not able to finish the project due to his complications with AIDS. Decades later, Rob Liefeld shared some of his concept art for the project, honoring Eazy-E’s legacy and life.
Wu-Tang Clan’s Comic Book Series
The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang issue 2, published by Image Comics
It is no secret that the members of the Wu-Tang Clan have championed geek culture from the very beginning, making references to classic kung-fu films and Marvel comics characters like Iron Man, Spider-Man, and others in their song lyrics. RZA directed one of the episodes of Netflix’s Iron Fist series, and Methodman has slowly become involved with Marvel in several projects.
One interesting fact that many fans might not know is that the group had their own comic book series back in the 90s published by Image Comics. The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang told the story of a group of heroes (Methodman, RZA, Raekwon, and the other members of the Clan) who battled in a world of fantasy full of mystical beasts, warriors, robots and ninjas, in a wonderful mix of Battle Chasers and Japanese anime. The series was canceled after 5 issues, but it will remain in history as one of the coolest intersections of Hip Hop and comic books. Hopefully, the Wu-Tang Clan will get back into the medium in the future.
Methodman and Marvel
Methodman cosplaying Bishop from X-Men
Methodman has been the most vocal member of the Wu-Tang Clan about his love for comic books. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, he claimed that he had 30,000 books, including the first appearance of Wolverine, and that he wished he “could be on the credits of the Avengers for just sweeping the floor.” Shortly after, he was invited to make a cameo on the first season of Luke Cage, performing an original freestyle dedicated to Harlem’s greatest superhero.
"Death" short story, included in Marvel's Voices, published by Marvel Comics
He was also a guest author in Marvel’s Voices #1, where he co-wrote the short story “Death” in which Wolverine met with the Grim Reaper and confronted it about his immortality in a surprisingly human and emotional tale. I don’t know about you, but I would love to read more comics written by him!!!
Eminem and The Punisher Crossover Comic
Cover for Eminem/Punisher, published by Marvel Comics
It is well known that Eminem has a fascination for superhero comics, with a personal collection full of Marvel and DC classics that is valued in the tens of thousands of dollars. However, did you know that he was formally introduced in the Marvel universe in his own comic?
Eminem/Punisher debuted in 2009, and it had the award-winning rapper team-up with Frank Castle in a brutal adventure to prevent the singer from being murdered by a hired gun. It is full of hilarious moments, like Eminem gunning down the Punisher while singing the lyrics of his song “Kill You”. As publicity for the book, Eminem also wore the iconic skull symbol on his chest for the cover of XXL magazine.
Eminem wearing The Punisher skull on his chest for XXL Magazine, 2009
Who knows? Maybe we will get some amazing cameos in the future, now that the characters from the Marvel Netflix shows are getting back to Disney’s domain. It would certainly be a killer!
DMC Makes Comics
DMC issue 1, cover art by Sal Buscema, published by DMC Makes Comics
DMC has always been a huge fan of comic books, and back in 2014 he launched his own imprint, DMC Makes Comics, aided by his Editor-In-Chief Edgardo Miranda, creator of La Borinqueña graphic novel series. Bringing his on-stage persona to the realm of comic books, Darryl McDaniels created a new kind of superhero story set in a world inspired by 1980s street culture in New York. To this day the company has published three full-length graphic novels that have been received with great commercial success and critical acclaim.
DMC issue 2
Reflecting on his decision to create the book, DMC said:
“What I wanted to do was create a comic book or graphic novel that was reflective of the universe we're in and the lives we live today. I didn't want to make a White superhero or a Black superhero. I didn't want to use those labels. I wanted to create a character and an entity that was reflective of the New York City that I've lived in. When I walk out the door, I see Black, White, Puerto Rican, Asian, Latino, gay, straight, fat, skinny... I see all of it. I wanted the comic book to reflect both the young and older people who can break down those political walls of separation and the walls of race that people think separate us.”
Childish Gambino Inspired the Creation of Miles Morales.
Many fans relate Donald Glover, famous actor and rapper, to the world’s new favorite Spider-Man, but not everybody knows he was a direct inspiration for the character’s creation. On an episode of the show Community, Glover’s character dressed as the beloved web head for a scene, and then tweeted a screenshot from it with the hashtag #gloverforspiderman. The tweet quickly became viral, gaining the attention of Stan Lee himself, who was openly on board with the idea, and Marvel’s top-selling writer at the time, Brian Michael Bendis.
The famous scene in The Community that became viral on Twitter
Bendis was writing Ultimate Spider-Man at the time, and after killing off Peter Parker (spoilers, sorry!) he decided the arachnid needed a new identity. When he saw the massive support for Glover on social media, he decided it was time to bring a new hero to the world, and so Miles Morales made his first comic appearance in 2011.
Childish Gambino as Uncle Aaron (AKA The Prowler) in Spider-Man Homecoming
After that, Childish Gambino has been involved with different iterations of the character, voicing the character in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and making a cameo as Miles’ uncle in Spider-Man Homecoming, where he makes reference to having a nephew in Brooklyn. A tv showing The Community’s scene that inspired Miles Morales’ creation can be seen in The Prowler’s apartment in the Academy-Award winning Into the Spider-Verse film. Hopefully we will get to see him carry a bigger role in the future of the MCU!
Daniel D. Calvo is a Cuban writer, editor, translator and comics journalist currently based in Pennsylvania, USA. He is a published author in both English and Spanish, having his work appear in anthologies, magazines and literary websites. He is the Editor in Chief of Konkret Comics, working on titles such as “Akolyte”, “Absolver” and “Odina”. His translation credits include books, comics and film. As one of the lead writers of the Konkret Comics’ Blog, he has interviewed several figures from comics, animation, and other areas of the entertainment industry. He recently graduated from the prestigious screenwriting course of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. His first creator-owned comic series “Andy Starboy” launched with great success in 2020.
You can follow him on Instagram @danieldcalvoauthor