If only little Darryl Matthew McDaniels could see himself now. DMC, one-third of the legendary Run-DMC, and his creative partner Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, have been dreaming of working with Marvel Comics since they were children losing themselves in Captain America and Silver Surfer books, and today (February 3), the third issue of Guardians of Infinity sports their names on the cover. The duo, responsible for their own publishing company Darryl Make Comics, wrote the story, which follows “The ever lovin’ blue-eyed Thing” and tree-alien Groot on a trip to New York City, and Miranda-Rodriguez directed the art for the issue’s variant cover by Juan Doe.
In a time when issues of diversity in comics – on and off the page – is more important than ever and Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter is wearing his Republican party support on the sleeve of his wallet, the fact that two of the independent comic industry’s most talented minds of color are on the team is nothing short of a good sign. Both DMC and Edgardo talked with us about working with Marvel, their inspirations growing up, their reactions to Marvel’s vaunted hip-hop variant covers, and much more. Check it all out below.
Your love of Marvel is well-documented. How did you both get in touch with Marvel to write the third issue of Guardians of Infinity?
DMC: It’s a scary huge responsibility. I’m humbled, but it’s the scariest thing ever. We’ve gotta live up to the expectations of the fans/readers. When we started Darryl Makes Comics, Axel [Alonso] and Marvel were very supportive, introducing us to the right press people and the talent, being our guides and our mentors. We met with Axel and them about life and hip-hop and basketball. They called us in for a meeting and gave us inside news about releases and they asked us “If you were to do a team up with two Marvel characters, who would you choose?” And [Ben] Grimm and Groot immediately came to mind for me. Ben Grimm, with his personality and the cigars. With Groot, even though he only says “I Am Groot,” he says so much with his personality without being as in-your-face as Ben Grimm.
Edgardo: I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Marvel for 9 years. Back in 2007 I curated the Santerians: The Art of Joe Quesada, and a couple years later, I worked with Axel Alonso on the Marvelous Color exhibtion. I still had Axel’s ear when we started Darryl Makes Comics, and I’d run ideas and blueprints by him. He was always open and we keep in touch and send pictures of each other’s kids. I’m a go-getter, so I had a conversation with D where we decided to be brave and pitch something to Marvel. I called up Axel and I said we wanna set up a meeting and run some ideas. He introduced us to Nick Lowe, who’s working on Guardians of Infinity, and the two of them wanted them to get us in the door with that. DMC just blurted out “Grimm and Groot,” and we took it off from there. After that meeting, we went off on some ideas. Re-submitted as a formal pitch, script, page numbers. DMC did the plot development and wrote all of the dialogue for the Thing. Marvel didn’t reach out to us, we reached out to them. “Crash through walls, bust through doors.” When you’ve got DMC as your right hand man, it’s like Tony Stark saying “We’ve got a Hulk.” He’s not full of himself; he says he’s the greatest of all time, and he giggles to himself every time he says that.
Bringing The Thing back to New York is a natural fit, but what inspired you to bring Groot along for the ride?
DMC: He looks cool, talks cool, moves cool. Groot is like the cool jazz cat. There’s something jazzy about Groot; he’s definitely Daddy Cool. Ben is the everyman. He’s your friends on the high school basketball team, the guy who owns the butcher shop. Ben Grimm is who he is. In this present day and age, if you’re 12-65, you know about hip-hop. Ben Grimm, being the person that he is, he knows what’s buzzing in the streets. He’s not too old to not be connected to that generation of hip-hop.
He knows about kickin’ lyrics, breakdancing, graffiti. He was on his way to a different planet, but he saw the block parties and graffiti. Marvel Comics always made NYC a character, and Ben would have all the character related to the community of NYC. In the FF comics, he’d always put on the trench coat on the down low, and in that closet, there’s the leather pants and the Adidas, too. He was kinda like the street-savvy dude. Groot’s from out of town, so he was showing him around. It was a conscious decision to do that. Even if he was dumbfounded by something, if it was in his element, he’d take the reigns and run with it. We wanted to give that personality that Marvel gave to NYC in them books when I was 7-8 years old or a teenager. The same thing that me and Ed got from Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Within our issue, you see the diversity of the community, too. It was a huge responsibility.
Edgardo: Groot as a character didn’t resonate to me until the movie came out. We all gravitated toward his character because of his innocence. He conveyed a lot through body language and tonality. I saw Groot in a completely different light while I was writing this script. DMC was able to instill a lot of himself in The Thing, but Groot was a little harder to work with. My first thought was “How can I make Groot more three-dimensional?” I’m Puerto Rican, and just before starting with Darryl Makes Comics, I was a community activist working with Marta Morena Vega, who worked with a program that sent college students to Puerto Rico. Thinking on that, I decided to link Groot to the legend of the ceiba tree, which Puerto Rican, Guatemalan, and Mayan cultures believe were the vessels of our ancestors.
There’s an episode of the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series I was watching with my son where Groot’s home planet Planet X was destroyed and all of his ancestors were put into him through a crystal, and I linked it with the tree keeps us grounded in nature and what’s important, preserving nature. Given the financial crisis in Puerto Rico, comics can be escapism, but I can throw in meta easter eggs to get people to look into the background of Puerto Rico. I used to be a community organizer, and even back then the two quotes that inspired me were Spider-Man’s “With great power comes great responsibility” and Che Guevara’s “The true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” That’s part of my DNA. I inserted Abuela Estella into the story to not only speak to my cultural identity, but to note that the role women play as our mothers is universal. They’re not only there raising us, but they’re the vessels of our culture. In my opinion, she’s the real hero of the story because she pulls Groot back into his reality after being hypnotized by Plant Man. I got Hispanic mythology into Marvel canon, and I think that’s revolutionary. “Yo Soy Groot.”
What inspired the Groot/Thing variant cover by Juan Doe and Edgardo?
DMC: Ed had asked me what one of my favorite comic book covers was: Thing vs. Hulk, it had a black background with Thing/Hulk looking at each other about to throw down. That was one of my favorite covers because The Hulk was one of my favorite heroes. This scrawny little guy transforming into the most powerful thing in the Earth. When I got comic books as a kid, my mom’s name was Bannah, and Bruce’s was Banner. So the variant cover was inspired by that cover of FF. Just looking at that cover says a lot. It makes you wonder what’s gonna happen next. Sometimes you can just have a cover that says a lot already.
Edgardo: Crazy Legs is one of my oldest friends. He has a collection of flyers; Grandmaster Flash, Treacherous Three, etc. If you’re in the presence of anyone who has these, you’re in the presence of history. Those and old-fashioned boxing flyers popped into my head when I was thinking of ideas. I was aware of the hip-hop variants, and I wanted to find a different and unique way to homage hip-hop and Marvel at the same time. DMC’s favorite comic cover of all time is Fantastic Four #112 and I wanted to give Marvel and DMC some love with the cover, so I told Juan that we’re gonna swap out the Hulk with Groot. It’s an homage to hip-hop variant covers, but it predates them by going straight to the flyers.
Working with Juan Doe was sick.
When Darryl was a kid, his brother tricked him into selling his comic collection for a turntable.
In a three-man fight, who would win: Ben Grimm, The Hulk, or Drax The Destroyer?
DMC: I’m biased, I’d have to give to The Hulk, unless Drax did something drastic to throw Hulk off his game. Thing put up a good fight, but to me The Hulk still won. The more the Hulk fights, the madder he gets, the stronger he gets. Unless you can put him to sleep or transport him to another dimension, I’m with The Hulk. And Grimm would be caught somewhere in the middle.
What did you think of Marvel’s hip-hop variant covers? Which one(s) was/were your favorite?
DMC: I think they’re the most awesome incredible thing to ever ever happen. I was disillusioned at people who were mad at it. Maybe those people really didn’t know. Marvel Comics is in NY, homie. Axel Alonso is a Beastie Boys/ATCQ hip-hop head. Marvel comics and hip-hop culture are synonymous, point blank. I thought they were gonna use Raising Hell, which is Run DMC’s most phenomenal album, but they threw me for a loop with King of Rock. I also loved the Spider-Man/A Tribe Called Quest and the De La Soul/X-Men covers.
Edgardo: King of Rock w/ Groot & Rocket, for sure.
Favorite comics of the moment?
DMC: I just picked up The Uncanny Avengers, with the older Steve Rogers. The thing that I’m loving right now is that Spider-Man and Deadpool don’t get along. Spider-Man is still that Spider-Man, but it’s bugging me out to see him upset. And Deadpool? He just doesn’t give a fuck (laughs).
I’ve also been going through Hip-Hop Family Tree. What’s beautiful about that is that [Ed Piskor’s] giving you the untalked part of hip-hop culture through comic books. A guy who knows the history of the first seed of hip-hop, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambatta. Ed’s educating people about the real history of the culture through the culture that’s responsible for his existence, the superheroes of hip-hop before they were even on record.
Edgardo: I’m reading Marvel’s Star Wars, Dan Slotts’ Spider-Man, and Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga, which is the best thing happening in comics literally right now. I’d love to work with Fiona Staples, one of the artists working on that series.
Plans for Darryl Makes Comics in 2016?
DMC: Our main concern is completing issue #3. We put issue 1-2 out, so now this is our “Return of the Jedi,” the one that makes us iconic. You’ve gotta have the villain who is more famous than the heroes, the one that will be talked about next to Darth Vader and next to the villains from the Disney movies and Hannibal Lecter. DMC #3, this is our trifecta. It’s not just because of us that we’re being received well, we always said our presentation will be based on integrity and be respectful of comic book culture. These books made us the people we are. Everything that was instilled in us through these books, we wanna pass that down to the coming generations; and the good feeling of hip-hop. Hip-hop is the breakdancer, the dj, the graffiti artist. Hip-hop technically brought up everything the comic books brought to life. Colors, styles, images, the storytelling. It was parallel. You could talk to Pete Rock, Wu-Tang, or Just Blaze about it. It’s not about me, it’s about us as a culture. We’re students of Marvel; they gave us learner’s permits and now we’ve got to drive the damn car.
Edgardo: We’re working on the third novel already. We’ve been putting out one issue a year, and it’s a challenge because of the fact that it’s basically five issues put into one. We’re a small independent publishing company. We’re reviewing talent and deciding our artist’s roster at the moment, but our goal is to have the issue ready by New York Comic Con, just like last year.
Any plans to work with Marvel again in the future?
DMC: I can’t reveal anything to you, but we’re enthusiastic and excited about doing another mission.
Edgardo: We can’t say whether or not we are, but I’d love to work with Marvel again. I think it all falls in the hands of the fans. If it gets a lot of traction and Marve sees us as a good thing, then we’re definitely gonna get some callbacks. It’s based on how much buzz can generate. Hit up Mheroes@Marvel.com if you want to see more of us!
Guardians of Infinity #3 is in stores now!