Rolling Stone has debuted a pair of Marvel Comics variant covers that pay an homage to critically acclaimed hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. "Deadpool" #45 and "Howard the Duck" #2 will each feature alternate cover artwork that riffs on the group's fist-and-gun logo.
Mahmud Asrar handled the cover for "Howard the Duck," which features the titular character and Rocket Raccoon doing Run the Jewels' gesture. "Deadpool's" homage comes courtesy of Skottie Young and prominently displays the most powerful jewels in the Marvel Universe -- the Infinity Gems. "They couldn't say 'yes' [to this assignment] quick enough," said Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso.
As revealed in the Rolling Stone article, the development both surprised and excited Run the Jewels' El-P and Killer Mike.
"We didn't know it was happening," said El-P. "We just got told it was happening and we were like, 'You can't be serious, that's not possible, how is that even possible?' Then they showed us the covers. And it's fucking crazy."
"I knew it was happening potentially," added Killer Mike, "but when it came all the way through, I was dancing around the room in my Polo underwear."
The partnership sprang up after Alonso watched a football game where a player and his friends enthusiastically referenced a Run the Jewels song after completing a touchdown pass. "Seeing the way that my 11-year-old son and his friends were improv-ing off of this really vibrant, iconic image... It got me thinking," said Alonso. "If you've got this movement around the world from Bangladesh to Taiwan, people are doing their interpretations of this logo, and I got these roughnecks doing it on the sideline of a football game... Maybe Marvel could weight in on this and have some fun."
The Rolling Stone article points out that both artists are comic readers; both are X-Men fans, with Killer Mike also enjoying "Spawn." El-P added that he was "obsessed with" the "New Mutants" and name drops Robert Crumb and Frank Miller.
"You might not admit it on record, but you talk to almost every rapper -- we all grew up with that shit," said El-P. "I guarantee you like 80 percent of any rappers that you meet probably went through a large comic book phase."
"I grew up reading comics with my dad -- my stepdad, but I don't use that word -- he let me just have his comic collection. So this is a very big deal for me, man," said Killer Mike. "I look forward to when this shit drops, taking him up and driving him to the comics store in North Dekalb, just to let him get out and not even tell him that it's going down. I know he's gonna be so proud he could fuckin' cry, bruh."
Both variant covers will arrive in April.