Ed Piskor’s work is excellent. Hip-hop and comic books don’t always sit together too well (see, Nine Rings of Wu-Tang), but his well-documented work with Fantagraphics to create the Hip-Hop Family Tree — with book #2 having just dropped this week — is a thing of beauty. Taking its sweet time to explore the origins of the culture — significantly more than any hatchet job documentary — with Piskor’s painstaking approach to art and shedding light on the unsung (plus the challenge of filling the gaps to create dialogue and an engaging narrative) and putting out 200 pages to reach 1983, I’m in awe. His dust-addled Russell Simmons needs his own spinoff graphic novel. The forthcoming box set comes complete with an issue #300 that switches appearance to an early 1990s Image aesthetic to look at the connection between comics and hip-hop, as best demonstrated by Spike Lee’s 1991 commercial for Levi’s starring a then red-hot Rob Liefeld. Everyone who looks at this blog will find something to love in this project, if they haven’t already invested in it. While it’s aimed at my generation, I envy any kid picking it up and getting educated without the feeling of being bellowed at by intense old-timers in South Pole denim.
The aforementioned Wu-Tang effort was bad, but their former collaborators Onyx put out something equally weak with their Marvel book Fight back in 1995. We’ve discussed the Jive comics like the 1994 Crustified Dibbs one that came with the promo tape, the Casual and the Extra Prolific editions, but RA has gone on record discussing the effort that his name was attached to and one of the packs was on eBay fairly recently (see below.) Given RA’s encyclopaedic b-movie knowledge, it could’ve been great. This Dream Warriors comic from Canada is also from 1994. Speaking of that strange year for rap funny books, I’ll always defend KRS One’s Marvel Break the Chain “Psychosonic Comic” with Kyle Baker on art, plus an accompanying tape — shouts to Big Joe Krash. Issue #40 of Rock N’ Roll Comics from 1991, covering the career of NWA was a glorious oddity too. Nothing came close to Percy Carey’s Sentences: the Life of MF Grimm until Piskor’s work arrived — both deserve to be on the shelf if you’re a rap trivia fiend. This one-hour interview with Piskor from earlier last year explains a little of this labour of love.
Hip-Hop Family Tree could’ve been abysmal, but it’s one of the best books on the subject ever.