You love to hear the story, again and again…
Ed Piskor's Eisner-nominated Hip Hop Family Tree has been a music-geek favorite since Boing-Boing began running the serialized comic in 2012. For those unaware, Piskor — whose lifelong love of rap was born between basketball court cyphers and boombox blasts of Eighties Pittsburgh — lovingly draws the origin stories of hip-hop's legendary superheroes. Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Russell Simmons/Rick Rubin crossover team-up are rendered like something between The Watchmen and Wild Style.
Fantagraphics released the first anthology of his comics last year, which covered rap from its early-Seventies Bronx beginnings to 1981. Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 2, due September 1st, covers 1981 to 1983, which means Afrika Bambaata, Whodini, Malcolm McLaren, the World Class Wreckin' Cru, Ice-T and the birth of the Beastie Boys. In addition, October will see the release of a box set featuring both volumes and a new, 30-page mini-comic about the Venn diagram between comics and hip-hop.
Rolling Stone has an exclusive story from that issue, detailing the Levi's commercial that teamed Spike Lee with Image Comics founder Rob Liefeld. Check it out after a quick catch-up with Ed.
There's a lot of "raw" elements in the mini-comic — un-inked panels, penciled panels, fake editors' suggestions. Did you have to give the printer special notes?
Piskor: No, I didn't provide notes to the printer, but my publishers were routinely asking me, "Ed, what the hell are we publishing here?" I'm glad they pulled the trigger and trusted my instincts. I always am obsessive about the presentation of my books. The regular editions of Hip Hop Family Tree are huge in scale to approximate the giant Marvel Treasury Edition size of the late 1970s/early Eighties. This Rob Liefeld comic is a story that takes place in the Nineties, so the format I chose was the distinctly Nineties "ashcan" format complete with gold embossing and super-glossy paper.
What did the Liefeld commercial meant to you when you saw it back in the day?
I was in third grade. Rob Liefeld looked like one of the older kids, but not an adult. It made me feel like becoming a cartoonist was a tangible goal. Rob was also a mega-superstar, millionaire from his efforts. At that era in the Nineties with Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, aspiring to be cartoonists of their stature was similar to the idol worship sports fans have over superstar players. The only difference is that the window to make those sorts of megabucks in that way was a short-lived time period.
How far do you see Hip Hop Family Tree going?
I'm signed up to make at least six books right now. I'm going to keep it going for as long as it's fun. I would say the last great year that I know like the back of my hand would be 1993, but the beauty of this project is that my tastes are growing as I connect more dots. Recently became a big Jay Z and Kanye fan.