Last October, Run-D.M.C.'s DMC, an avid comic book collector since childhood, began a new career with the creation of graphic novel imprint Darryl Makes Comics. The imprint's first issue, DMC, featured cover art by vaunted Marvel artist Sal Buscema and was overseen by Riggs Morales, a hip hop writer/editor best known for creating The Source's influential "Unsigned Hype" column. But this is far from a vanity project: DMC is expanding on a hobby he began cultivating more than 40 years earlier.
The Hall of Fame rapper explains, in his own words, his lifelong love of the art form, how comic books affected his early rhymes and why hip hop-themed comics are finally ready to break into the mainstream.
Growing up a mild-mannered, Catholic school kid, all I did was go to school and read comic books. I was strictly a Marvel Comics head; Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Fist, you name it. I loved Marvel because it was the city; it was all New York. The same backdrop I was living in in this universe was in the Marvel universe. Comics did for me what hip hop did for me as I got older; it empowered me, inspired me and educated me. I learned about Nazis, space exploration, everything from comics.
It had a huge effect on me once I got into hip hop. I learned to rhyme and put words together from them. I mean, listen to "King of Rock". That's me proclaiming I am the king of rock, there is none higher. I'm coming to get you evildoers. Hell, there's the line, "I'm DJ Run I can scratch / I'm DMC I can draw," 'cause that's all I did before rocking the mic. If you listen to most of my early rhymes, it was always approached like, "What would the Hulk or Spider-Man do in this situation?" That's how I attacked my records.
The first character I was ever obsessed with was The Hulk because when he was Bruce Banner, he didn't want to be the Hulk. He had to live with the realization that this Hulk entity was a part of him. That happened to me. I was always the outcast. When I was growing up, i got picked on until I started realizing i'm a little bigger than these dudes. All I would say is, "What would the Hulk do right now?"
When I was 35, I was in the darkest place in my life. Run-DMC was still doing shows around the world, but we weren't as hot as we used to be. On top of that, I started working on my autobiography and called my parents to ask them a few questions about my birth. That's when they told me I was adopted and my whole world changed. I was confused and angry. When I was on the road in Europe, I had tried to commit suicide and thought about it every day. I put rat poison in a can of soda one time and would look over the balconies of hotel rooms and think about jumping off. But I'd never do it because, as silly as this sounds, I didn't want to fail and have it hurt. I was born thinking I was one person, but it turned out I was someone else. It can't be coincidence that I'm still obsessed with comic books and their alternate universes and alter egos.
It was relatively recently that i got the confidence and courage to do my own graphic novel. When I was 8 or 9, I created my own 32-page comic book, starting with tracing all my favorite superheroes. It took me forever to do it. When I got into hip hop later on, everyone would approach me and say, "DMC, I got this hip hop comic book." Up until now, I always wondered why these so-called "hip-hop" comic books didn't break mainstream. Then I discovered why: You don't make a hip-hop comic book. You make a comic book. If you do a comic book as an authentic, true, celebratory tribute to comic book culture, then if your culture happens to be hip hop, that's okay.
In this universe, right now, that we're talking and living and breathing in, DMC is a little kid from Hollis, Queens who grew up to be the untouchable King of Rock. That's me in real life. In the graphic novel, Darryl McDaniels is a superhero sent here to fight injustice and take up for the weak and do good. Everything I did as DMC: Education, positivity, inspiration, motivation, making it cool to wear glasses -- we're going to do in this other universe. Before hip hop changed the life of this mild-mannered Catholic school kid, it was school and comic books.
I want to create another universe for past, present and future writers and artists. Stan Lee was a visionary and I want to be the next Stan Lee. This isn't about DMC, the hip hop rapper guy doing a hip-hop comic. This is Darryl McDaniels, the comic book enthusiast creating a new vehicle for comic book enthusiasts. I want to bring comic book culture to the forefront. Do you know how many hip hop and metal heads are comic book geeks? We're coming out of the woodwork in roaches. This series isn't just going to be DMC's boring ass with the same artists and writers continually. I'm just the first superhero in the universe.