2 major strands to my DNA are Hip Hop culture and comic books so this project is the perfect vessel to explore and play in these various sandboxes in tandem, to explore certain similarities between the two worlds, and to merge the cultures under one roof.
The format of the Hip Hop Family Tree series is based on the “Marvel Treasury” format, as evidence by the banner across the masthead:
In truth though, the real inspiration wasn’t a Marvel comic, but the DC special Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, which was the exact same size as the treasury editions Marvel put out.
Growing up, this was the ONLY comic in the household of more than a handful of friends I had in Homestead Pennsylvania, a predominantly black neighborhood steeped in Hip Hop culture during the ’80s when I was a boy. Looking inside the massive comic I realized what could have earned this one comic space on the bookshelf. Muhammad Ali fucks Superman up!
This sealed the deal and made it important for my book to be the same format because I like to imagine Hip Hop Family Tree sitting nicely as a companion piece next to my friends parents copies of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.
The top banner “Fantagraphics Treasury Edition” is directly inspired by the famed Marvel Treasury Banners, which were typeset in Cooper font, a popular choice in the ’70s and early ’80s. Many early Hip Hop flyers would use that font and the letters would be applied by hand individually using Letraset press-on type. I wanted my banner to have the bounce of some of the handbills from that era.
The Hip Hop Family Tree logo is obviously a direct lift from the Wild Style logo. I wanted something that would immediately capture the eye of a Hip-Hopper who might not normally choose to look at a comic.
Lots of old comics had mastheads that would fill the top 3rd of the cover. It was a place to set an eye-catching logo within a big field of color. I always adored the color-scheme from Haunt of Fear #18 because of the overpowering green, yellow, and red.
I needed a performer of super-heroic proportions to bolster the image. Who better than Grandmaster Flash?
I chose to simplify the back of Flash’s jacket to correspond with an iconic symbol that has roots going back 70 years of comics history.
The importance of Vaughn Bode on the aesthetics of graffiti goes without saying, so I had to tip my hat to the man by sneaking Cheech Wizard on the front cover. You didn’t see him? He’s peeking over the spine.
I had to also include one of his lizard characters on the back cover:
So there you have it. Some of the stuff that was swimming around in my head while thinking about how to present Hip Hop Family Tree to you on the shelf.
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