“So hip-hop for me wasn’t about making records and selling records and being in show business. Instead hip-hop allowed you to tell stories about who you are, just like the people in the comic books. I wasn’t shouting out Queens to rep my hood. I was shouting out Queens because Peter Parker and Spiderman comes from the same place I do!” – KING DMC
Matthew A. Eller: Today, I am hanging out with the one and only DMC of RUN DMC, and we’re at New York Comic Con 2023, at the Javits Center. So, DMC let’s talk about your art and your comics. What are you doing at New York Comic Con?
DMC: I’m here selling my actual comic books. About nine years ago, a friend of mine looked at me and said, “DMC, you’re like my superhero… What were you like when you were a kid?” And I said, “Well, all I did was read, collect, and draw comic books”. Before hip-hop came over the bridge from the Bronx, before 70s rock radio, before 60s and 70s folk rock music, all I did was read, collect, and draw comics.
Matthew A. Eller: Okay, growing up. Your, the first comic book you remember that really impacted you. Is it Spider Man, because you grew up in Queens? Or is it something I wouldn’t expect?
DMC: Well, the first book that impacted me was The Incredible Hulk, but it was for silly, stupid little kid reason… that was actually really smart. My mother’s name is Bannah. B A N N A H, like Hannah, but it’s Bannah. So, as a kid… Kindergarten, first grade, Dr. Bruce Banner. Not Bannah. Oh my God. The Hulk!
Dr. Bruce Banner has the same name as my mother! So that gravitated me even more towards Marvel comic books. That’s where I discovered who the Hulk was, who Spiderman was…. Then I found out what really grabbed me was… OK so DC was cool… Batman was actually the first comic I brought as a kid because of the cover art. I don’t remember which issue, but it was definitely like 1969… But, Metropolis in Gotham City was fictional, it was just trying to be New York City. Stan Lee was so brilliant because he put the superheroes actually in the place I lived! So it didn’t seem like it was as much fantasy… It was real! So then, when I found out Peter Parker, who was a smart student, clumsy and awkward like me, but was badass because he was from Queens. So I discovered the Hulk because of my mom. Then I gravitated to Marvel because Stan Lee had the superheroes actually living in New York.
So every time I opened up Marvel comic books, I learned about Hell’s Kitchen, the Lower East Side, Harlem, all of that. So it was like a geography lesson. I couldn’t actually leave the block, but I learned about New York City through Marvel comic books. It was like your internet or subway way back then. Then I found Captain America and I just became a Marvel fiend. So that’s when I began to collect and draw comics. I still drew the Flash. I also loved to draw Green Lantern and Batman of course.
Matthew A. Eller: So were you drawing long before you were rapping?
DMC: Yes, yes. If you listen to King of Rock, 1985 Run says, “I’m DJ RUN, I could scratch”.
I don’t go, “I’m DMC, and I can rap”. I go, “I’m DMC, and I can draw!” So I was still drawing in 85, and it was 86 where I really put down my art pencil and picked up the pen and started just focusing on writing rhymes.
Matthew A. Eller: You always have some lyrics that you’ve used to tell people, “I was into comics and you weren’t listening”!?
DMC: “Crash through walls, come through floors, bust through ceilings and knock down doors. Son of Bifred”. Which is my ode to the son of Odin. Thor is the son of Odin. From Asgard. He has a brother named Loki.
“I’m the son of Byford from Hollis. I got a brother named Alfred and I got a microphone!”
So I became, because of comic books;
“Son of Byford, brother of Al. Banner’s my mother, runs my pal. It’s McDaniel’s, not McDonald’s, rhymes with Darryl…”
So hip-hop for me wasn’t about making records and selling records and being in show business. Instead hip-hop allowed you to tell stories about who you are, just like the people in the comic books. I wasn’t shouting out Queens to rep my hood. I was shouting out Queens because Peter Parker and Spiderman comes from the same place I do! It’s cliche, but we are all superheroes in our own way, but I was attracted to all of these superheroes my whole life and then one day Riggs Morales convinced me to actually start a comic book company. And then a couple of weeks later, my story came out about me finding out I was adopted at age 35. So Riggs comes to me and says,
“Oh shit, D, you really on some superhero shit?” And I was like, why are you saying that? Because most superheroes are adopted, or have a family situation, “ Superman, sit down Clark, there’s something we need to tell you…. We love you, but you’re not really from here…(Laughing)”
That happened to me. But it was beautiful. This universe let me become DMC. Let me meet my mother and father. Let them adopt me. If my mother and father never adopted me, I would have never met RUN! They would have sent me back to the agency. So that’s my destiny. Eminem said to me, “D don’t you know your a superhero!?” Big shout out to Eminem and Riggs Morales, both of them big comic book geeks.
So all my other “cousins”, I was told they where my cousins, I didn’t know there were other foster kids. When all of the mothers came and got them, I was the only one left. My brother, who’s my mother and father’s biological son said I was in a room alone, the only one left. My mother says to my father “What are we going to do with this one?” Like a dog or animal, so my father goes, “Uh, I don’t know. Maybe we should adopt him. Maybe he’ll grow up and do something great in this world.”
That’s one of the reasons why I was attracted to all these superheroes. The other reason I loved superheroes was it wasn’t cool being a straight A student going to Catholic school. But then I found out most superheroes have their own problems. No superhero is perfect.
Batman’s traumatized. Peter Parker lost his parents, had to get raised by Iron Man. Everybody got something going on with them. But, most superheroes are educated. Reed Richards, Tony Stark, who’s an alcoholic like me. Of course Peter Parker, very smart journalist. So as a little kid, I was like, fuck the gangs, fuck the drug dealers, I’m going to get an education like superheroes! In my own little world, I was a superhero. When hip-hop came over the bridge, I was like now you motherfuckers in trouble cause Darryl McDaniels transforms into the devastating mic controller King of Rock when I get on that mic!
Matthew A. Eller: Ok we are sadly running out of time so one last question for you. Give me a funny story about some other hip-hop and comics situation with one of your contemporaries from over the years?.
DMC: OK, so the funniest story ever was with Riggs Morales. This was even before I completed my book. Riggs Morales did an event here in New York City where they were trying to get hi- hop artists and producers in the same room with comic book people. So they made this little announcement word of mouth throughout the industry and Pete Rock hears about it and shows up with all of his incredible Hulk books. Like comic books, anthologies, everything! People are trying to talk to Pete about hip-hop and he ain’t got no time for any of the hip-hop motherfuckers. You gotta ask Riggs about this. Because all he wanted to do was get his Incredible Hulk book signed. He went into strict comic book geek mode. I’ll never forget that!