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According to McDaniels, diversity already exists among the creators of comic books. "It's the companies, the creative heads, who need to be more open to giving new, diverse characters an opportunity," he says. "This is true of all the arts. A lot of times the things that are needed aren't given an opportunity."
As such, he's justifiably proud of the D.M.C. graphic novel, where a variety of comics pros script and illustrate his stories. "We didn't want to make just another black hero. We wanted to make another cool-ass hero," he says. D.M.C.'s "not a rapping superhero. He never meets Run in this world. He's a graduate from St. John's and a teacher. You look at his students and there are blacks, Asians, Latin students, whites. Our pop-culture world should be reflective of our audience walking the floor of the comic con."
- Photo Courtesy of D.M.C.
- Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels
In the graphic novel's first installment, set in 1985 in New York City, D.M.C. is a junior high school English teacher by day and the protector of a disheartened citizenry at night. As the series progresses, McDaniels weaves in characters like LAK6, a thirteen-year-old Puerto Rican graffiti artist. The third issue comes out in April.
The creative process typically begins when McDaniels and his partner in the company, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, sit down with Riggs Morales, a senior editor, to talk out the story. "We talk it all the way through. Here are the players, here is where we want it to happen," McDaniels says. Then they bring in the writers and go over it with them, taking their input.
Darryl Makes Comics has attracted some serious talent. Ron Wimberly (creator of the amazing Prince of Cats) was part of the team working on the debut issue. Amy Chu (Poison Ivy, Red Sonja) was part of the second-issue squad.
Since he drew as a kid, we wonder if McDaniels might ever try his hand at illustrating a story. He responds with a laugh, and says, "I've got to start brushing up on my skills. Maybe someday."
Also in the maybe-someday category: a film or Netflix-style series based on D.M.C.
"From the first issue we were getting approached," he says. "I'm so humbled, but it's scary too. We want to be known for making dope comic books first. I want the executives of the studios to become a fan of my comic book, not just of the character. Besides, we can't just throw it out there with Marvel and DC. When I come with it, I've got to come next-level with it. My vision is, a hundred years from now, when they talk about Marvel, DC, Fred Flintstone, Bugs Bunny, I want all the D.M.C. characters to be iconic like that."
WANT MORE HIP-HOP COMICS AFTER YOU READ D.M.C.?
Hip-hop Family Tree Ed Piskor's Eisner Award-winning multivolume series began in 2013. Piskor, who worked with such underground comics figures as Harvey Pekar, delivers an engrossing history of hip-hop. "What he did is so brilliant," Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels says. "He is doing what people do in film but through the medium of comic books. It's phenomenal."
Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm A raw work detailing the life of rapper Percy Carey (aka MF Grimm) drawn by Ron Wimberly, who worked on the first issue of D.M.C. This 2007 release is worth seeking out.
Twelve Reasons to Die A six-issue companion series that accompanied Ghostface Killah's 2013 album of the same name. The bloody story captures the music's pulp feel perfectly.
The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang This 1999 comic from Avalon Studios features the entire clan—RZA, Raekwon, Masta Killa, Osiris (ODB), and the rest—in a tale of mystical martial artists battling ancient evil.
- Photo Courtesy of D.M.C.
- Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels
Eminem/The Punisher This 2009 team-up from Marvel has Detroit's Eminem working with Frank Castle and avoiding a hit man hired by the Parents Music Council. Really. In terms of serious quality, this pales compared with the others on this list, but it's bizarrely goofy enough to merit a mention.
DIVERSITY MATTERS AT NC COMICON: OAK CITY
Among the cornucopia of exhibits, vendors, cosplay contests, and other events at NC Comicon: Oak City are almost four dozen panels on topics such as "The History of IDW" and "Girls in Gaming."
Other notable panels include "Black Heroes Matter" and "Down with the King," both featuring Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels; "B Movie Magic" with Ron Fazio from the Toxic Avenger films; "The Past, Present and Future of Female Superheroes;" "Diverse Comics for Kids;" "Science in Games;" and "Love Is Love."
Matthew Conner, a panel coordinator for NC Comicon, will be on the "Love Is Love" panel. He says that over the past few years, whenever there was a panel that specifically addressed LGBTQ representations in comics, it always met with an enthusiastic response. Unfortunately, some years the topic was bundled in a general diversity discussion, which made it hard to get too complex.
But, Conner says, "last year at the Durham con we had multiple breakout topics about gender. One about queer issues was packed twenty minutes before it started. We could see there was an audience for it, and with everything going on politically, such as HB 2, it feels like the LGBTQ community is eager to talk about this."
The panel will be moderated by Cap Blackard of the Nerdy Show Network. Its approach will be broad but Conner says the conversation will likely include some of the panel's favorite queer characters, thoughts about straight creators writing queer characters, and the need for queer creators to have greater opportunities.
Conner will moderate four other panels, including "The Art of Afua Richardson," a Q and A with the artist ("She always steals the show on any panel she's on so we decided she needed her own," Conner says) and a Q and A with Jeremy Whitley, who's been making waves writing the new The Unstoppable Wasp series and using it to spotlight women in science. —Curt Fields
This article appeared in print with the headline "Superhero MC."