To help you understand how crazy this past weekend at New York Comic Con was, close your eyes and remember how excited you were about the Grand Theft Auto V release. Then multiply that excitement by 10 and imagine being surrounded by over 125,000 people on that same level of excitement. That’s what it is like being at NYCC. It’s Nerdvana.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of geek culture and hip hop. I was that girl with the not-yet-trendy glasses, listening to Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life while doodling Pokémon in my notebook. While most people thought the only connection between hip hop and a N.E.R.D was the one that included Pharrell, I actually felt the similarities between the two cultures. That’s why I felt right at home during the “Comic Books & Hip-Hop with DMC” panel.
“Comic Books & Hip-Hop” included the legendary Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Chuck Creekmur (AllHipHop.com), artist Damion Scott (Batman, Spiderman), graffiti artist Carlos “Mare 139” Rodriguez (Style Wars), writer/artist Ron Wimberly (Prince of Cats), Music Exec Riggs Morales and Art Director Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. DMC and his team announced that they were trying to change the comic book industry with their new indie publishing company, Darryl Makes Comics. During the panel, the guests discussed their lifelong love of comics and how the medium has influenced their work in hip hop today. Whether it was the typography that influenced the graffiti of Carlos “Mare 139” or superheroes inspiring DMC’s lyrics, it’s easy to see that comics left a noticeable mark on these men.
The most important thing that DMC wanted the crowd to know was that Darryl Makes Comics isn’t a gimmick. “You don’t do a hip hop comic, you do a comic book that’s authentic,” he told the audience. He stressed that he doesn’t want to be that rapper that messes up another genre. Instead, he wants Darryl Makes Comics to be a place that inspires a new generation and supports diversity not often seen in the “big two” — DC and Marvel. Mare 139 added, “When talking about diversity in comics, you can’t wait for the industry to decide that for you.”
After the panel, I spoke with Miranda-Rodriguez about why there’s such a strong connection between geek culture and hip hop. “Both hip hop and comic book culture on a certain level represent escapism,” Edgardo said. Whether it’s escaping bullying at school or your rough neighborhoods. “Fans embody the artist to the point where they feel they are the artist when rapping the lyrics. Comic book culture represents escapism on an existential level. Fans cosplay as their favorite characters at conventions.” Another connection is more recognizable, “alter ego,” which is prevalent in both comic book characters and hip-hop artists. Rappers, graffiti artists, b-boys and b-girls don’t go by their real names (usually), they became their persona, just like superheroes. Miranda-Rodriguez used DMC as an example, “He was a mild mannered boy that grew up in the suburbs… and becomes a larger than life character when on stage.”
Despite how mainstream both hip-hop and comics are now, they are rooted in counter culture and still remain there today. With so many similarities, it’s only natural that these two cultures continue to connect and inspire each other. And who knows, maybe next year at Comic Con Drake will announce he’s releasing a hip hop inspired manga. Although we know he’s much more of a Tuxedo Mask than a Piccolo.