Darryl "DMC" McDaniels sat between his Darryl Makes Comics compatriots Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez and Riggs Morales at New York Comic Con, as the trio spoke among themselves and to the gathered crowd for a panel hosted by AllHipHop.com's Chuck Creekmur. It was a reunion of sorts for the quartet, who had all attended the same panel last year, and it quickly became apparent that they had much to discuss.
DMC began by saying how hip-hop is more than just emcees. "It's not a real big deal that we are from the hip-hop culture and we love comic books. Hip-hop didn't just create rappers... It created writers and journalists, and artists and designers, and teachers and educators, and scientist and genies on Broadway." He highlighted some songs that showed comics and rap have always been connected, from the Superman verse in Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," to The Fat Boys' "The Place to Be." Creekmur even delivered a few bars of the latter track: "Didn't need a door, used a fire escape/ Now, Spidey's chilling in the crib one night/ Just waiting one day for the super... something. You get the idea!"
For DMC, reading and drawing comics as a Catholic School kid in Queens allowed him to not only escape bullies, but connect with the things he loved learning about in school. "I would learn about the planets and the moon and the stars in the galaxy, but when I got home and picked up my comic books, Silver Surfer would take me there." While superheroes, especially those from Marvel Comics, were fictional, he saw the rappers coming over the bridge during the rise of hip-hop as real-life heroes. "The same way I was pretending to be my favorite superheroes, I just started writing rhymes just so I could pretend that I could be those emcees and DJs."
After saying DMC was that same voice to him, Morales took a moment to remember "the late, great Sean Price," who died earlier this year, in the summer. "Not only was he one of the best rappers, he was a die-hard, devoted, comic book-referencing fan." Miranda-Rodriguez mentioned that Price called himself the Gray Hulk.
DMC recounted how he took inspiration from superheroes in starting his rap career. When it came time to go on tour, the shy Darryl McDaniels had to come up with an on-stage persona. "I started thinking... What would the Hulk do? What would Spider-Man do? My confidence, my persona, my delivery, my power, and my presence is all because of comic books." He realized many superheroes took on names preceded by descriptions, like the Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. "So I was like, 'I'm gonna become the devastating, mic-controlling DMC. I'm gonna become the microphone master DMC." Thinking about Thor, son of Odin, that inspired him to write "Son of Byford." Now that he's released the "DMC" comic, people have gone back into his lyrics and noticed the many references. "What do superheroes do? Go listen to 'The King of Rock.' 'Crash through walls/ Come through floors/ Bust through ceilings.'" When it came to making comics, he just imagined he was the persona he'd always had in his raps. "What I'm trying to say to all of you, especially the young people: It really came true."
The panel discussed how Darryl Makes Comics came out of a chance meeting between DMC and Morales that was meant to be about music, but became a two-hour discussion about comics. When Morales asked if DMC had ever thought about doing a comic, he was hesitant at first, not wanting to be a celebrity attempting something outside his scope. "I wondered why hip-hop comics never worked. And then I realized: You don't make a 'hip-hop' comic -- you make a comic." Morales made him realize this when he said, "Don't do it as DMC the celebrity. Do it as little Darryl McDaniels, the kid who loved comic books."
"We were lucky enough to be blessed by having a great person like Greg Pak sit in on three of these meetings with us," Miranda-Rodriguez recalled of the development of the second graphic novel" "He took notes, and he came up with this dope script outline. [We] brought in Amy Chu, and she knocked out a script." Beyond writers, they gathered some impressive artistic talent, including Juan Doe, Sung Goo Won, Marcus Williams and Afu Chan. He also mentioned "kings" like Humberto Ramos and graffiti artist Bio, who did covers for the book.
The floor was opened to questions, and a fans asked if they'd ever consider bringing DMC to the world of video games. "Right now, we're making comic books," Miranda-Rodriguez replied. "Right now, we want to make good comic books."
Asked what new music the panel was listening to, DMC said he'd just discovered Pentagram, while Morales said he couldn't stop listening to Kendrick Lamar's new album. "Look at it as five graphic novels in one entire body of work."
The next question was about how rap conforms to comics. "[It's] the whole idea of creating an alias," suggested Miranda-Rodriguez. "Every emcee, every b-boy, every [graffiti artist], every DJ, every crew does not go by their government name. They go by an alias. And when they become that alias, they become larger than life."
Marvel Comics' hip-hop variant covers came up, and though they have been someone controversial, DMC called them "the dopest shit ever. EV-ER." To him, it's all about the lost art of the album cover. "Albums used to be comic books! Go pick up a Parliament Funkadelic album. It was comics and stories. Even people say Run DMC's albums were like comics that you wanna read." Morales agreed, saying he shed a tear when Marvel announced they were continuing to produce the covers. "Each one came off so authentic and so well executed. They picked the exact right albums to cover, too."
Miranda-Rodriguez pointed out that the back of "DMC" #2 actually features tributes to classic Marvel and DC covers. "They celebrate us, we celebrate them."
The idea of race in comics was brought up, and Miranda-Rodriguez says diversity has never been an issue for them. "We didn't set out to say, 'We're going to make black comic books.' It just happened organically, because that's who we are. We are diverse, organically. Most of our characters are people of color."
Finally, a fan asked if the other Run DMC members would be showing up in "DMC." Unfortunately, McDaniels said the book and the rap group are two different worlds. "In the DMC comic book, it's still me, but I never meet Run. I get to St. John's University, I graduate, I become a teacher. In that universe, I'm not the rapping DMC, so there's no sense for Run to be in there." However, "Jam Master Jay is in the book as a tribute to him. But dead or alive, Jay is in the book, but you all gotta figure out why."