Homage: Mobb Deep’sThe Infamous (1995)
Fuse: How'd you and the team decide which hip hop artists and albums got paired with which books?
Axel Alonso: Well, we knew right out the gate that there were certain covers that we just had to do, you know? Illmatic, The Chronic, Straight Outta Compton, 3 Feet High and Rising. You don’t do something like this and not include those records. Also, there were rappers whose work so reflects Marvel Comics and its themes that we thought it would be a nice way to show some respect: Wu-Tang Clan, Meth, Raekwon, GZA, MF Doom, Lupe. So they made the list. We looped in a few comic book artists that were big hip hop heads—Sanford Greene, Damion Scott, Juan Doe, Mike Del Mundo—and they got rolling on those iconic covers right away, and we built from there.
Some cover concepts—Mahmud Asrar’s Captain America/Live.Love.A$AP, Jenny Frisson’s Ms. Marvel/The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Juan Doe’s Dr. Strange/The Chronic homage— were just no-brainers, you know? We married iconic covers to the character we felt best reflected them. There were other cases where we got a little more out there: Kaare Andrews’ Karnak/Saturday Night: The Album, Phil Noto’s Squirrel Girl/Wolf, Jeffrey Veregge’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur/Summertime ‘06—and that came from brainstorming with the artist.
There were no rules except one: each rapper would be limited to one cover homage. We wanted to do the broadest sampling of artists across three decades: East Coast, West Coast, old school, new school, gangsta, trap lords.
Homage: Drake's Nothing Was the Same (2013)
Fuse: How'd you decide to include albums from the last few years alongside the OG classics?
Axel Alonso: Hip hop’s got 30 years of history and we wanted to show that. A lot of us grew up with it. My 12-year-old son turned me onto Vince Staples; this was my chance to turn him onto Eric B. & Rakim.
Homage: Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (2006)
Fuse: Have you tried listening to these albums with the comics?
Axel Alonso: I have not, but I have read countless comics books while listening to hip hop, and as a young one, I wasted countless hours practicing nunchuks to Schoolly D’s “Saturday Night.” I would give anything for a video of that.
Homage: Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron (2014)
Fuse: Do you imagine these books being worth a fortune someday?
Axel Alonso: They might. But we didn’t make these rare variants like the Run the Jewels 1:50 variant from a few months ago. The popularity of—and demand for—those variants really caught us by surprise. I mean, we knew a lot of folks would want them, but that many?!