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Darryl Makes Comics On Their First Writing Assignment for Marvel

Mass Appeal has shown plenty of love to the comic book endeavors of seminal rapper/educator DMC (of Run-DMC) and his writing partner Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez over the last few years, but when we heard they had been invited by Marvel to pen a story in Guardians of Infinity #3, we had to catch up with them yet again to hear all about it.

Mass Appeal: Having been a journalist for a while now, I’ve seen lot of hip hop comic book attempts and most were corny. While there have been some one-offs by Hip-Hop artists that were dope, they have mostly been for promotion. DMC is the first ongoing title—and I’m not trying to gas you—that is a dope comic book that takes place in a hip hop world.

Darryl McDaniels: Yo, DMC, check out my hip hop comic book. You don’t make a hip hop comic book, you make a comic book. That’s what fails. Every now and then, hip hop will attempt to do something, but a lot of the attempts are for commercial reasons. It’s almost like hip hop acts like a sucker and they’re not sincere about their ventures, but they do it just to make more money or just to try to cross over. Just because I’m Jamaican and I write a comic book, I don’t run around [saying], “I got a Jamaican comic book.” You got to make a dope comic book. The DMC universe is all about quality and integrity, and the presentation and every aspect of making a dope-ass comic book like the Avengers, or Batman, or Green Lantern, or the Justice League. We didn’t do it to make a new Black super hero. We didn’t do it to make an urban…no, we making dope-ass comic books.

The feedback we’ve been getting from the community would never gas us. What it does is make us work harder to do it with integrity. I didn’t want to give you two issues, so 50 years from now, you go, “Remember 50 years ago DMC did a comic book? Yeah, it was kinda cool, but what happened to it?” And on top of that, I don’t want to give you 100 issues of my boring ass. The DMC character is just the first character that you encounter when you come into the DMC universe. There is going to be other heroes and other villains. By Issue #20, you might not even like me any more. You might fall in love with another hero. Some people might fall in love with the new Latina superhero we just introduced in Issue #2, LAK6.

How did you land this Marvel gig?

I’m still trying to figure that out. We did it. It’s happening. It’s coming. I’m trying to think back, how did this happen? How did it happen so quick? We got a lot of respect from the comic book world. Us geeks and nerds can be very critical. We know when people are fronting. If you’re fronting and you got ulterior motives, we not letting you in. We’ll kick you out, we’ll pick at you, and we’ll make your life miserable.

Axel Alonso, the head dude up there at Marvel, is a big hip hop fan. All he does is listen to Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys all day. So, we got to meet Axel, and the beautiful thing about Marvel is they were like, “Whatever you need, we’ll give you interviews, come to our podcast…” And that’s just because of the love. It’s the same way people got mad at the Hip-Hop Variants, but they don’t know. Whoever got mad at the Hip-Hop Variants isn’t down and shouldn’t be down. This isn’t a thing that was contrived by Marvel, it was already there. Marvel came along and supported the Darryl Makes Comics venture 250%. When we put out Issue #1 at Comic Con, they called us over to their side of the building to do interviews. Issue #2 they supporting!

That being said, we’re doing our thing, and I guess Marvel is looking like, “Yo, these dudes really know damn near everything about us.” Axel was just amazed how we knew about the White Tiger. I said, everybody’s loving the Avengers, but nobody knows about the Defenders… and Shang Chi, and all of that. I guess they looked at how our production was coming out and it was almost like hip hop. They’re doing their label. They got their artist coming out. They got their producers over there producing. And we new guys on the block, but we put out two records and they dope. So, it’s almost like they’re coming to us like, “Yo, Ed, D, Riggs, why don’t you come produce a record for us?”

They saw we were doing things with integrity and quality, and gave us a chance. They planted the seeds by asking, “Who do you like? What two characters would you team up?” And it’s crazy, just prior to this meeting, me, Ed, and Riggs were just sitting around talking about how dope Guardians of the Galaxy is, and how dope Groot is. Then we got onto the subject of the Fantastic Four, and we were asking, “How could they mess up the Fantastic Four?” As good as Daredevil on Netflix is, and as good as the Avengers is, and as good as all the Iron Mans was, and as good as Captain America was, and as good as Civil War looks…I said, “Man, if I was doing Fantastic Four, my focus would have been on Ben Grimm.” Since I was a kid, Ben Grimm always had this personality. He was so street. He was so hood. He was like your uncle. He was like the mafia boss. He was funny. When he didn’t want people looking at him, he put on the long trench coat and the big-ass Run-DMC hat. So, when Axel asked that question, I just shot out, “Grimm ’N Groot!”

Guardians of Infinity 3 Variant Cover

If you got to write one Marvel character for a 6-issue arc, who would it be?

Me, personally, it would be Deathlok. Deathlok is the last Marvel character that I was completely into. Deathlok was almost like the Terminator and The Walking Dead before the Terminator and The Walking Dead. Remember the cannibals that lived in the subways? You had to worry about them. The city was desolate. You had all of these fractured groups trying to survive. Here’s a little surprise: We will be writing something else for Marvel.

Did you see Deathlok on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

I didn’t like the way Deathlok was portrayed. It was corny to me. I understand what they were trying to do, but it was corny. He should have been bad-ass. He should have had the same components as Deathlok in the comics…with Computer, the A.I. that used to talk to him, remember? Shut up, I don’t need to know that right now. Computer would tell him stuff like, “That fire escape will not hold 600 pounds of metal.” He’d go crashing down.

What comic book movie are you most excited about this year?

This Civil War one looks really good. What I like about that is now these guys are fighting against each other, which is kinda cool. You always wonder what would happen if Iron Man fought Cap, and they’re giving it to us.

But I’d also like to say, the movies are cool, but the beautiful thing about us comic book lovers is we didn’t need Hollywood to put it up on the big screen. What I’m getting from the Avengers and Captain America, and all these movies that’s on the big screen now, I didn’t need it from there because I had it 29 years ago when I was a kid. I didn’t need the film, I had the book in my hand, which is a powerful thing.

Me, Ed, and Riggs are kinda biting our nails with Batman v. Superman. The preview looks good, it’s dark. Batman is looking dope. Superman is not as wishy-washy as he usually is. That might be a good thing. But don’t F it up. If it ain’t dope, don’t put it out.

If you got a chance to write a team-up at DC, what two characters would you bring together?

I would definitely have to mess with Batman because he’s the real deal. Then, it’s a toss up, I would like to do something with The Flash, who is on TV now, and Green Lantern because they messed that movie up. There was something about reading Green Lantern when I was a kid. It was intergalactic. It was cosmic. It was engaging because outside of him doing what he did with his ring, it was deep. I would team Batman and Green Lantern.

You’re in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and now you’re getting this Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY. Speak on that.

It’s cool. You don’t have to give me a GRAMMY though, ‘cause my accomplishment is when Run-DMC were nominated for a GRAMMY, they didn’t even have a Rap category. We were so bad-ass that they had to create one because of us. That’s way better than getting one, when you are the cause of why they give out Rap ones in the first place. I guess this signifies the GRAMMY we should have got way back then. I remember we met Michael Jackson and he said, “You should have got all the awards [at the 1986 GRAMMYs]. You’re the hottest thing on the face of the earth.” We was going to make a record with him. We actually met with Michael Jackson two times. But he was too busy. And my joke is, “Run-DMC was too busy to make a record with Michael Jackson.”

What they really should do is give a GRAMMY to all the rappers prior to Run-DMC. People go, we know there was hip hop before y’all, but y’all started it. No, we didn’t. Grandmaster & the Furious Five with The Message, which is the greatest rap record ever made, and the second greatest rap record ever made is Africa Bambaataa & the Zulu Nation’s Planet Rock. They should actually get inducted into the Rock ’N Roll Hall of Fame because Planet Rock was one of the most duplicated, one of the most innovative, one of the most creative records to date. I bring that record up in high schools when I do lectures and the kids go, “Yo, that record is better than everything that is out now.” Arthur Baker and Bambaataa, they changed music with that. So, I take this GRAMMY on behalf of the fact that there is so many people before me that allow me to walk on the stage and accept it.

Grimm N Groot

Unofficial fan-art tribute to Run-DMC's self-titled debut album, by Rob Crump

Mass Appeal: What part did you play in writing this Guardians story?

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: I was tasked with fleshing out the story with our editor, Nick Lowe. I took the story to the Lower East Side of New York City or Loisaida, Nueva York. My family moved from Puerto Rico in the 1950s to El Barrio and settled also in Loisaida. I spent many weekends there visiting my uncle, Pastor Samuel Rodriguez, and all of my cousins. As a young man out of college, I used to perform at spoken word events hosted by Bobbito Garcia at the Nuyorican Poets Café. Throughout Loisaida, there are many Puerto Ricans and a few establishments like Casa Adela, The Nuyorican Poets Café, and Ene Salon that are owned and operated by Puerto Ricans. It was important for me to feature this part of the neighborhood in this story. There are also various community gardens, many maintained by senior citizens of Puerto Rican heritage. DMC took immediately to The Thing, leaving me with Groot. I studied Groot, and saw the similarities in his character design to the actual Ceiba tree of Puerto Rico. I spoke with Dr. Marta Moreno Vega of the Caribbean Cultural Center [African Diaspora Institute], who gave me additional insight on the trees, which helped with our story.

In our world, there is the Ceiba tree. Ceiba is a town on the east coast of Puerto Rico. My uncle Joaquin Rodriguez lives there with my aunt Diana. As an adolescent, I lived there as well with my cousin Jonathan and Frances. The town is named after the Ceiba tree. In the center of the island is the Parque de la Ceiba in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where the 500-year-old Ceiba tree grows to this day. Archeological findings proved that Tainos existed in Ponce long before the area was settled by Spaniards.

Getting Marvel’s permission to have Groot speak in Spanish was a big deal for me as a writer, but more as a Latino. It meant that via this one comic book story I could connect to Latinos and Spanish-speaking readers all over the United States and the world. It validates our identity and our culture having characters recognize our language.

What Marvel characters are you dying to write?

There are quite a few characters I would love to write for Marvel. Spider-Man would be my first choice because I grew up enjoying this title the most. My son enjoys the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, but loves to read Miles Morales’ Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis. If given the chance, I would rather write a story about Miles Morales around tying him to the Morales side of his secret identity. Many Puerto Ricans growing up were sent to Puerto Rico for the “summer vacation,” but ended up actually staying with a grandmother doing chores around the house, not really seeing any beaches! It would be great to write a story that showed Miles trying to navigate the culture of the island having been born and raised in New York City. Myself at 14, I lived in Puerto Rico in a very rural town. I have many personal experiences that would translate well into a comic book. One funny story was when I had to chase a cow through the narrow roads of San Lorenzo, so narrow that I couldn’t get around her to get her to get back to the farm! It was so bad that summer that I contemplated selling my boom box so I could get a one way ticket back to Nueva York!

What can you tell us about DMC #3?

For our third graphic novel, we’re going all out. Right now we’re tweaking the plot that will tie in to the first two graphic novels. On the publishing side, I’m reviewing portfolios and looking over talent for the interior art. That’s always an amazing opportunity to work with established artists and up-and-coming artists. We’ve had the honor of working with the prolific Bill Sienkiewicz, whose work has graced the covers and pages of Marvel and DC for over three decades, while at the same time publishing Allison Smith’s debut comic book art. We’re looking to do the same with our third graphic novel. Once the story is wrapped up, the assignments go out to the artists, and the last thing I focus on is the cover and the bonus pinups. In the past, we’ve had Sal Buscema, Tula Lotay, Damion Scott, and Humberto Ramos do covers for us. We’re going to blow fans away with this next book, which is set to premiere this fall at the New York Comic Con. This completes the trilogy…or does it? You’ll have to catch up in the pages of DMC #3 when it debuts this fall!

For more info beyond this interview, just added a video featuring DMC and Ed talking about writing their Grimm ’N Groot story. Check it out below.

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