Childish Gambino - "Bonfire"


"I made the beat retarded, so I'm calling it a slow jam."

The Li'l Depressed Boy #10 (Image, 2012)


Premise: In this issue, the reserved protagonist of S. Steven Struble and Sina Grace's series starts work as a movie theater usher, attends a Childish Gambino show, and then has a life-affirming heart-to-heart with the MC himself. That last sequence actually feels a lot like when Bruce Springsteen consoled John Cusack in High Fidelity.

Does it look any good? Sure does. Even though Gambino fills his rhymes with confidence (which isn't Li'l Depressed Boy's thing), another side of Donald Glover's persona fits the book's vibe. “Both Childish Gambino and hip-hop as a whole music culture [are] about bravado, and you have to have a lot of confidence to be a hip-hop artist and talk about these things that they do. The funny thing with Childish Gambino is the music is fraught with uncertainty. 'Am I gonna make it? Am I gonna be big? I'm just trying to live here.' It's incredibly human, but it's in a superhuman musical genre, so that's what drew us to Camp. It explores all of these themes we are constantly toying with and questioning in The Li'l Depressed Boy, so it was a real fit,” Grace explains. “The fact that Donald responded to us was even more telling of how this collaboration came together. From beginning to end, it was just always about two art forms coming together and trying to create something bigger.”

The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang (Image, 1999)

The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang

Premise: Much like their 1999 PlayStation One fighter Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, The Nine Rings transforms the Wu-Tang Clan from Staten Island MCs into superpowered beings. Check out this over-the-top product description for an idea of the series' angle: “There once lived a day when mysticism and science blended into the balance of yin and yang, and men still possessed the memory that they were more than simple earthbound mammals. Out of those murky winds arose a group of nomadic warriors who banded together for survival; they became the Wu-Tang Clan. Nine Moorish warriors, martial artists of the highest caliber, individually fearless, unstoppable as a team.” It's like the plot of a kung fu movie that would have been sampled on 36 Chambers.

Does it look any good? Not really. The Wu is one of the most unfuckwithable entities in rap, but this comic looks about as substantial as the video game (i.e. not very). The art is heavy on the garish, overly muscular designs that were Image Comics' calling card in the '90s, and none of the group members resemble their real selves. Based on the evidence, Nine Rings captures the Clan's fantastical, martial-arts-loving side while neglecting all their other facets and quirks. If you're really on the hunt for a Wu-related comic, Cell Block Z: Ghostface Killah (2009, Grand Central) looks marginally better.

Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm (2007, Vertigo)

Sentences- The Life of MF Grimm

Premise: Percy Carey, a.k.a. MF Grimm, has had a pretty fucked up life, which receives the spotlight in Sentences. The book covers the highs (picking up a mic, being a child performer on Sesame Street, his musical success) and valleys (incarceration, dope dealing, the shooting that left him in a wheelchair) experienced by MF Doom's one-time running mate. Carey writes the book himself.

Does it look any good? Definitely. Carey's fascinating history and perspective appear to be addressed in detail, and Ronald Wimberly's art is heavy on blacks, whites, and grays—an effective palette for a story that values itself on being sobering and earthy.

Public Enemy (American Mule Entertainment, 2009)

Public Enemy

Premise: American Mule's synopsis for this series' first issue notes that “evil Executives and their New World Order are about to unleash their master plan for world domination,” but in order to pull that off, they have to get rid of Vincent, a kid who has “the key to their ultimate secret weapon.” Thankfully, Vincent has pals in Public Enemy, so “the Executives devise a plan that will eliminate Vincent, Public Enemy, and their Underground Railroad allies in one clean swoop. This is the beginning of an epic battle for peace and justice as Public Enemy and the Underground Railroad fight the powers that be to keep the America people free from tyranny and oppression.”

Does it look any good? Yes, as the us-against-corrupt-powers angle has a solid grasp on what makes Public Enemy appealing. Also, Chuck D, Professor Griff, and S1W's James Bomb write the series—a good omen.

Felt: True Tales of Underground Hip Hop (Image, 2005)

Felt- True Tales of Underground Hip Hop

Premise: Remember Felt, the on-and-off collaboration of MCs Murs and Slug? In-between releases dedicated to Christina Ricci and Rosie Perez, the duo teamed up with Ant, Slug's beat-generating counterpart in Atmosphere, for 2005's Felt - Vol. 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet. In the same year as the record's release, Image put out Felt: True Tales of Underground Hip Hop, a book written and drawn by Jim Mahfood. Details on what exactly the book consists of are scarce, but a press release indicates that it's “a visual interpretation” of Felt's then-new album.

Does it look any good? Oh yeah. The indie-friendly Mahfood is a crack shot artist with an idiosyncratic, graffiti-influenced style (his work appears in the Clerks comics, too), and Slug and Murs are strong rappers, so if the whole is like the sum of its parts, Felt must be pretty cool.

Fame: 50 Cent (Bluewater, 2011)

Fame- 50 Cent

Premise: If you're somehow not already familiar with the life and times of Curtis Jackson—rapper, vitamin water entrepreneur, candy shop patron, dildo model—Fame: 50 Cent is your primer.

Does it look any good? Nope. Don't be fooled by the crisp, glossy cover art, as this biography's interiors are haphazard anime-style illustrations that don't fit the 50 Cent world. 50 doesn't look like 50, and Vivica A. Fox sure doesn't look like Vivica A. Fox. Moreover, Fame's dialogue is too obvious for its own good, and the story does little to go under the surface of Jackson's public persona. On the fourth page of the first issue, it gets a key detail in the 50 Cent saga wrong when a fan gushes over him and says, “He's a genius. And he's lived his music. How many other rappers have actually been shot seven times?” Whether or not the legend is true, the correct number is nine, and getting that wrong is an awful sign.

Rock N' Roll Comics: Vanilla Ice (Revolutionary, 1991)


Premise: A black-and-white, unauthorized account of Rob Van Winkle himself. Describing it that way makes it sound way grittier than it actually is.

Does it look any good? It's a Vanilla Ice comic released in 1991. It shamelessly plugs his appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. It features this exchange:

Mama Ice: “Well, son, I'm proud as punch that you did all this without cursing and carrying on like some of these 'wrappers.'”

Vanilla: “I call it 'aboveground.' The kids respect it 'cause they can tune into it any time and they don't have to be 18 to buy the record.”

It looks great!

Eminem/Punisher: Kill You (Marvel, 2009)

Punisher- Kill You

Premise: Right around Relapse's release, Eminem appeared on two XXL covers in Punisher gear. Apparently, Marshall Mathers was so into the idea of the bloodthirsty anti-hero that Marvel Comics put him in a story with Frank Castle himself. Kill You is framed around a brewing feud between Em and The Punisher that turns out to be one big misunderstanding. As it so happens, Castle is pursuing Mathers so he can protect him from Barracuda, a resilient gangster-type bad guy and old friend of Eminem who now wants his buddy dead.

Does it look any good? Cracked.com broke down the whole story (spoilers ahead), and it looks gory and absurd enough to entertain in a turn-your-brain-off way. Any comic that makes a barely veiled reference to the Parents Music Resource Center hiring someone to murder Eminem must be worth your 15 minutes. If nothing else, Kill You has to be a better crossover than the time when The Punisher met Archie.

Comeback Kings (Ardden, 2011)

Comeback Kings

Premise: In a story reminiscent of Bubba Ho-Tep, Comeback Kings brings Tupac Shakur, Bruce Lee, Elvis Presley, Andy Kaufman, and Jim Morrison back from their graves, only to reveal that these pop culture icons never saw those graves in the first place. Instead, they faked their deaths, live in hiding, and are part of a global crime-fighting squad who emerge when needed. Writer Matt Sullivan described his series as “Super Friends with superstars” and emphasized that the creative team used it “as a satirical springboard to comment on both celebrity culture and the superhero genre simultaneously.” Sullivan also called Kings' Tupac “a thug angel, torn between being a socially conscious man of honor and a ready-to-die gangsta who just doesn’t give a fuck. Focusing his revolutionary impulses beyond 'me against the world' is his mission—and his struggle."

Does it look any good? Imagining the above five working together is some Avengers kinda shit, so yes.

Brain Rot: Hip Hop Family Tree (Boing Boing, 2012)

Brian Rot_Hip-Hop

Premise: Indie cartoonist Ed Piskor's web comic hosted at tech/culture/sci-fi blog Boing Boing is easily the most ambitious project on this list. Every Tuesday, Brain Rot: Hip Hop Family Tree chronicles hip-hop's salad days. It traces connections between Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, Kool Moe Dee, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, and several others to explain how the subculture grew into what it is today. Gradually, Piskor is building a visual family tree of all of hip-hop's key players, which is no easy task. Hip Hop Family Tree is a labor of love, and its '70s comics aesthetic syncs perfectly with the subject matter. Piskor also intends on taking his time to finish this thing. “I don’t want [a potential book publisher] to force me to go from Kool Herc to the death of Tupac in 200 pages,” he said. “That would fuck up my entire scene.”

Does it look any good? It is good. Gold, even. You can read the whole thing free of charge ASAP, so visit Boing Boing to catch up.