During his second ever visit to Comic-Con International in San Diego, cartoonist Ed Piskor popped by the world famous CBR Floating Tiki Room to speak with Jonah Weiland about his career, earliest works and the mainstream explosion of “Hip Hop Family Tree.” In addition to the series becoming Fantagraphics’ first ever monthly book, earlier this week Piskor announced that the series will be adapted into animation.
The cartoonist talks with CBR TV about “Wizzywig,” his exploration of early hacker culture, and how it’s still a mindset he employs today, explaining how fans can use it at Comic-Con to get where they’re going. Turning to “Hip Hop Family Tree,” Piskor explains the series’ organic growth, compares music to cartooning, and tells Weiland why Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na was the first person, period, to receive a copy of Volume 3. Piskor also talks about why he started the project and what doors it’s opened up for him as both a comic creator and a hip-hop fan.
On how long it took “Hip Hop Family Tree” to catch on:
The first book came out almost two years after I started the online strip. As soon as I posted the very first strip on BoingBoing — like this website gets like 5 million readers a month, right? — I immediately knew that it was popular. It was passed around through Twitter and Facebook by thousands and thousands of people. After about a month, the rappers and DJs started to find it, and then they sent it around and shared it with their circles. So in the hip-hop world it got pretty big pretty fast. And I will say that the bulk of my readership is not the traditional comics crowd. It’s hip-hop people, it’s music enthusiasts, it’s people who like ’80s stuff — just music aficionados in general. One of the reasons why we’re breaking down the hip-hop books into a monthly comic is to just kind of extend a hand to the comic shop crowd to like give them something that’s like more accessible. Like maybe they don’t feel like paying $30 for a big book, but maybe they’ll pay five bucks for a comic and give it a shot.
On the simpatico nature of comics and music:
I would use the word rhythm, like rhythm and pace. If we’re good at our jobs we can kind of manipulate the reader or the viewer, the patron of our art into kind of accepting our world, like what we want to give them. Like if you’re a good musician you could slow people down, speed people up on a good album, and you could pace things in an interesting way. And a good cartoonist does that exact same action. Good cartooning as well, it’s a vulnerable act where you have to put yourself out there. And actors act, there’s like a phoniness that the reader, I don’t think the reader really gets on board with.
On his goals for the project:
I call what I did research, but what it really was was reading for pleasure. I spent a lot of time doing that, but I am a cartoonist and I don’t want to feel like a slacker. So I made a comic in service of my own reading pleasure, if that makes sense. I never really think too much about audience or anything like that. It’s so cliche to say, but I was making a comic that I was stoked to see. I very much would rather just be a reader of “Hip Hop Family Tree” than make the damn thing because it’s friggin’ long, and hard, and tough. But, I’ll do it so you don’t have to, you know what I’m saying? And it’s been very rewarding.
I wasn’t expecting to get access or get back stage at any rap show that comes to Pittsburgh or get phone calls from upper echelon moguls and impresarios and stuff, it just worked out that way. And I take it as like a source of like legitimacy for the project.
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