DARRYL “DMC” MCDANIELS PRESENTS: BOOM! BAP! HIP-HOP & COMICS!
“Welcome to the DMC Universe,” yelled Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels as his super passionate delivery kicked off one of New York Comic Con’s most insightful panels. Straight up, I feel bad for anyone that missed his presentation on Sunday. This man has been a hip-hop icon for over 30 years; very few MCs have openly worn their heart on their sleeve quite like D.M.C., and no rapper alive could outmatch his quench for comic books.
Look no further than McDaniels’ publishing company “DMC Comics,” which launched its first issue of “DMC” last fall and has since produced two graphic novels. The acronym “DMC” stands for Darryl Makes Comics. Sunday’s panel was held in an intimate room, which should be referred to as a classroom since we listened to a professor demonstrate his craft.
Moderator Chuck Creekmur from AllHipHop.com started off the conversation by revisiting the roots of hip-hip in the late 1970s/early 1980s. He made an excellent point in mentioning how there’s always been a common association between comic books and hip-hop. He quoted the legendary trio The Fat Boys who rapped about Spider-Man on “Place To Be” in 1984.
McDaniels took the audience back one step further to a time before hip-hop became synonymous with the boroughs of New York. He grew up Hollis, Queens and attended Catholic School for most of his educational career. He wasn’t always the confident rapper who rocked the Adidas jumpsuits and dropped the nastiest lines in hip-hop. In reality, McDaniels and Peter Parker weren’t too far apart since they were both picked on for having good grades and shy personalities. In his own words, “When I was in school, it was cool. When it ended, it was worst time of the day for me.”
Before hip-hip changed his life, it all started with Marvel and DC Comics. He said, “As a kid, my whole existence was comic books. In school, I would learn about the planets, moon, stars, and galaxies. When I went home and picked up a comic book, the Silver Surfer would take me there. So when it was time to take my tests every week, I aced them. Even with history, you learn about WWII but Captain America would take you there.”
One of the main reasons why McDaniels found comfort through comics was the hometown element. He said, “Marvel Comics was in New York City. I couldn’t believe Stan Lee had superheroes running around New York City. These superheroes empowered me, inspired me, motivated me, protected me, and they really educated me.”
Once Hip-Hop crossed over the bridge, the pioneering DJs, MCs, graffiti artists, and break-dancers forever changed McDaniels’ life. In his words, “It was like the damn comic book world had came to life.” Hip-Hop helped him discover a new passion for music; he wanted to be Grandmaster Flash just as bad as The Incredible Hulk. He added, “The same way I was pretending to be my favorite superheroes, I started writing rhymes so I could pretend to be those MCs and DJs.”
D.M.C.’s longtime collaborator Run recognized his writing talent in the ninth grade. He said, “I never thought I would be in the record business. Run calls me up and puts me in the group and we make a record.” McDaniels had aspirations to attend St. John’s University after he graduated high school. Instead, Run-D.M.C.’s self-titled debut became a huge hit. He added, “Now we have to go on the road. I’m this shy catholic school kid who reads comic books. I had to create something to get in stage in front of y’all.”
“As a kid, my whole existence was comic books. In school, I would learn about the planets, moon, stars, and galaxies. When I went home and picked up a comic book, the Silver Surfer would take me there. So when it was time to take my tests every week, I aced them. Even with history, you learn about WWII but Captain America would take you there.”
So where did McDaniels look for inspiration? He said, “Oh alright, comic books. Okay, what would the Hulk do? What would Spider-man do? To give me my confidence, my persona, my power, and my presence – it was all because of comic books. Think of titles like “The Amazing Spider-Man” or “The Incredible Hulk,” there’s a description of who you are and the name of the character. I wanted to become the Devastating-Mic-Controlling D.M.C.”
And ever since McDaniels entered the comic book industry, fans have revisited his catalog and picked up on the heroic metaphors in his lyrics. He specifically mentioned Run-D.M.C’s mega hit song “King of Rock” where he says, “Crash through walls/ Come through floors/ Bust through ceilings/ And knock down doors.” He emphasized, “I actually morphed. I imagined that I was the Devastating-Mic-Controlling D.M.C. I was the “King of Rock” of the whole hip-hop universe. And this message is to all young people, it really came true. It really came true.”
McDaniels drew those parallels to solidify the inspiration behind his comic book “DMC.” His message is loud and clear, “I understand why we love our favorite characters so much and that’s because there is a superhero inside of all of us.” “DMC” is a huge part of Darryl McDaniels real life persona.
“I understand why we love our favorite characters so much and that’s because there is a superhero inside of all of us.”
And believe it or not, he never thought about publishing his own comic until he spoke with Rigo “Riggs” Morales nearly three years ago. What started out as a music meeting turned into a two-hour conversation about comic books. Riggs eventually asked him, “Yo D, why don’t you do a comic book?”
McDaniels was initially reluctant to the idea since he knows from personal experience; this has to be great in order to succeed. Comic fans are super critical but D.M.C. welcomed the challenge of bringing innovation to the comic book industry; just like how Run-D.M.C. brought innovation to hip-hop. McDaniels explained, “Morales told me listen D, don’t do this as D.M.C. the celebrity. Do this for the little Darryl McDaniels inside you.” He added, “And that’s how the DMC universe started.”
Morales’ credentials are stacked; he was once the music editor at Source Magazine and former Vice Present of A&R at Shady Records. He is currently the Vice President of A&R at Atlantic Records. He put McDaniels in contact with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, an accomplished art director that has collaborated with brands like Marvel, Fruit of the Loom, and McDonalds in the past. The three of them ultimately found friendship through music yet comic books have drove their conversations.
So here we are in 2015, “DMC Comics” has massive aspirations to take the comic industry by storm. This is no small task either; they certainly understand the brutality of comic book fans. Rodriguez said it best, “If you’re a hardcore comic book head, sometimes you don’t realize it but you look at every comic with a Marvel or DC lense. We’re all super freaking critical. And if you look at something that doesn’t have a Marvel, DC, or Image logo, you’re like, “Eh, I don’t know.” And I know this because I’m in artist alley and I see how people look at us. And that’s cool. I told D and Riggs, I want this book to look like it came out of the ‘big two’ and we worked super freaking hard to make this happen.”
“Morales told me listen D, don’t do this as D.M.C. the celebrity. Do this for the little Darryl McDaniels inside you.”
One thing I took away from this presentation, “DMC Comics” certainly has the dedication and credentials to squash those misconceptions. McDaniels, Morales, and Rodriguez all come from different backgrounds and they want to provide a comic book platform for diverse creative minds to showcase their talent. Yes, they’ve worked with established names like Greg Pak but they’ve also given young artists like Allison Smith a chance to get her name out there.
And while there is certainly hip-hop and urban culture attached to “DMC Comics,” that doesn’t tell the full story. In the words of McDaniels, “People back in ‘84 would tell me about hip-hop comics and I wondered why hip-hop in comics never worked and I thought about it. You don’t make a hip-hop comic, you make a comic.”
Also, I’d like to point out. I’ve attended panels where the audience asks some awful questions. However, this panel featured some of the best questions that I’ve ever heard at any Con; this goes for all of my experiences as a writer. There was some great questions about the cross pollination of black culture in anime, the lack of minorities in the every expanding video game industry, and if DMC Comics plans to expand outside of the comic realm?
As of right now, DMC Comics is solely focused on establishing itself in the comic book industry; however, D.M.C.’s ultimate goal is to inspire young minds to change other industries. McDaniels said, “We want to inspire hip-hop to see your vision. We want to let these kids know, you shouldn’t want to be the next damn rapper. You should make the next app or direct the next big movie. It’s all about inspiring anything with art or creativity, that’s the purpose of this comic book. We’re going to get our art out there through these comic books.”