Marvel certainly deserves one of Rich Homie Quan’s ‘going in’-related mixtape titles as a pseudonym, because if you ever think they will stop going in, think again. Or just ask Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. “We’re modern mythology that’s stayed relevant for decades because we reflect the world around us,” Alonso tells REVOLT. From movies to television, and comics, the Marvel powerhouse stays charged up, always.
Fittingly enough, the ongoing machine has been blessing the world these past few months with rounds of hip-hop variant covers that connects the world of Marvel with hip-hop for one super collaboration. Last week saw new additions like the Ice Cube Death Certificate-inspired Old Man Logan #1 by Tim Bradstreet and the Doggystyle-influenced Weirdworld #1 by Juan Doe. Now, they’ve delivered a new batch of illustrative gold, this time honoring Run DMC, Mos Def, Souls of Mischief, and 2Pac. “These Hip-Hop covers is Marvel shouting back to decades of Hip-Hop artists,” says Alonso. “We want the dialog to increase.”
Check out REVOLT’s exclusive interview with Marvel’s Axel Alonso below.
How did the concept of this pairing come together?
A few months ago, we did two Run The Jewels/#tagthejewels variants and they absolutely blew up — nothing prepared us for the response. That confirmed what I’d always suspected: that a lot of comics fans are Hip-Hop heads, and vice versa. So I decided to go all in and do a Hip-Hop variant for every new release during the “All-New, All-Different Marvel” campaign, from October through April – around 60 titles.
The overall theme of this fusion, in my opinion, seems to illustrate the blurred lines that tie these worlds together, while also drilling the message that art is art, no matter what it is or where it comes from. How would you define this collaboration?
Exactly. Hip-Hop music’s oxygen – the thing it thrives on – is dialog with other art forms. The music was built on “sampling” – on creating a sonic collage of sampled pre-existing sounds. Listen to Pete Rock, and you’ll hear echoes of classic R&B and jazz from deep in the crates; listen to el-p (Run the Jewels) and you’ll hear a sonic landscape that echoes everything from funk to metal to industrial. The same is true with Hip-Hop’s aesthetic; it’s always absorbing and reinterpreting other influences, always evolving into something new and fresh. It needs that dialog to thrive. Young guns like A$AP Rocky and Vince Staples echo the past, but pave the future.
That’s true of Marvel Comics, too. We’re modern mythology that’s stayed relevant for decades because we reflect the world around us. To stay relevant to the times, you have to reflect the times, and that starts by hiring editors, writers and artists with wide-ranging backgrounds, interests and tastes, and that’s been a priority with us. These Hip-Hop covers is Marvel shouting back to decades of Hip-Hop artists. We want the dialog to increase.
What are the two levels of decision-making in determining what album and hero gets paired together?
Where to start? Well, there were certain covers that we just had to do: Illmatic, The Chronic, Straight Outta Compton, 3 Feet High and Rising, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. And there were a few iconic artists who drop references to comics all the time in their lyrics that we had to holler back to: Wu-Tang Clan, Meth, Raekwon, GZA, MF Doom, Lupe. So we started there; looped in a few [comic book] artists right away because we knew they were Hip-Hop heads – Sanford Greene, Damion Scott, Juan Doe, Mike Del Mundo – and got them rolling on the most iconic covers right away, and we built from there. Some cover concepts – Mahmud Asrar’s Captain America/Love.Live.A$AP or Juan Doe’s Dr. Strange/The Chronic homage – were no-brainers. Others – Kaare Andrews’ Karnak/Saturday Night: The Album, Phil Noto’s Squirrel Girl/Wolf, Mike Choi’s Venom/Black Elvis/Lost in Space – took more brainstorming with the artist. Our one self-imposed rule was that each rapper would be limited to one cover homage; that way we could do the broadest sampling of artists across three decades: East Coast, West Coast, Old School, New School, Gangsta, Trap Lords, etc.
What's been the feedback from artists?
We’ve had an amazing outpouring of support from the rappers themselves. Killer Mike [Run the Jewels] was the first artist to give us a shout out on Twitter, and the floodgates opened: Posdnuos [De La Soul], Pete Rock, DMC, Questlove, Lil B, Pharcyde, Kool Keith, Wale, Eminem and Nas all gave us a shout outs on Twitter. And someone told me this morning that Meth[od Man] and Snoop just Instagrammed Mike Del Mundo's "Tical" homage and Juan Doe’s "Doggystyle” homage. When the artists themselves embrace what you’re doing, that speaks volumes.
Any personal favorites?
How can you do this to me!? They’re all so cotdang good. There’s Brian Stelfreeze’s Black Panther/Black Album…Adi Granov’s Miles Morales/Illmatic…Damion Scott’s Web-Warriors/Lord Willin’…Juan Doe’s Howard the Duck/Return of the 36 Chambers…Jenny Frisson’s Ms. Marvel/Miseducation of Lauryn Hill…Mahmud Asrar’s Captain America/_Love.Live.A$AP, Jeffrey Veregge’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur/Summertime ’06, _Sanford Green’s X-Men/3 Feet High and Rising, Keron Grant’s Wolverine/Flesh of My Flesh Blood of My Blood. I could keep going. I can’t pick.
(The entire series will be on sale later this year)