Comic books and hip-hop have so much mutual love, they should really just get a room already. Rappers like 50 Cent and Wu-Tang Clan regularly drop references to Spider-Man, Batman and other superheroes into their rhymes. Jean Grae, MF Doom and DJ Green Lantern are just some of the hip-hop artists who have taken names inspired by comic book characters. And we’re pretty sure Kreayshawn was on the West Coast Avengers at one point during the late ’80s.
Occasionally, the melding of hip-hop and comics leads to greatness, like the KRS-One and Kyle Baker collaboration “Break the Chain” or MF Grimm‘s “Sentences.” Most of the time, though, comics that try to inject a hip-hop edge into four-color scenarios end up being embarrassing failures. Here are some those failures, featuring some of the biggest rappers in the game.
“Fame: 50 Cent”
The comic book imprint Bluewater Productions has made a mint hacking out cheaply produced comics based on celebrities and public figures. (Perhaps you’ve heard about its Sarah Palin and Justin Bieber comics?) The recently released “Fame: 50 Cent” is yet another quickie bio-comic that reads like a Wikipedia entry drawn by a 15-year-old DeviantArt member. The panel where 50 Cent drinks his own Vitamin Water is one of the few where you can tell what is going on in the story. Don’t worry, Curtis Jackson is in good company–Bluewater also has comic book bios in the works for Selena Gomez and Black Eyed Peas. At long last we’ll get the real story behind Taboo‘s role as Vega in “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.”
Before Marvel Comics became one of the biggest names in entertainment, it would basically give any celebrity who walked in the door their own comic book series. Thus, the Marvel Music line, which gave us oddball one-off comics like the Neil Gaiman-penned “Last Temptation of Alice Cooper” and the amazing Billy Ray Cyrus graphic novel where the mulleted country crooner travels back to medieval times. Onyx, best known for their 1993 “Rock N’ Jock” favorite “Slam,” also got a graphic novel for reasons lost to time. (Maybe Stan Lee was a big Sticky Fingaz fan?) Set in the far-flung year of 1999, “Onyx: Fight” casts Sticky, Fredro Starr and Sonsee as mercenaries who take on evil bootleggers and aliens in a post-apocalyptic New York City. What should be an awesomely dumb comic is bogged down by heavy-handed messages (the bootleggers steal music and artists) and overly stylized, confusing artwork. The tagline asked, “What do you do when you are rappers in post-atomic holocaust New York? Fight!” They forgot to add, “fade into obscurity.”
“Punisher/Eminem: Kill You”
For 2009’s Relapse, Eminem teamed up with Marvel’s gun-toting vigilante for a little of the ol’ ultra-violence. The “story” finds The Punisher trying to rescue Eminem from Barracuda, a mercenary hired to assassinate Slim Shady by the fictional Parents Music Council. In typical comic book fashion, Eminem and The Punisher get into a fight about five seconds into meeting each other before getting captured by Barracuda and taken out to sea for some reason. Luckily, Eminem takes out Barracuda with a chainsaw he gets from a friendly ice fisherman who also happens to be a huge fan. (Seriously.) Stiffly drawn and incredibly dumb, “Punisher/Eminem: Kill You” is a self-indulgent mess. Though it does feature a scene where Punisher mows down Eminem’s entourage with two giant machine guns while Em runs away like a little baby.
“Rock N’ Roll Comics: Vanilla Ice”
Revolutionary Comics made headlines in the late ’80s and early ’90s with its “unauthorized and proud of it” comic book biographies of everyone from New Kids on the Block to Guns N’ Roses. Multiple lawsuits ensued, and the company folded in 1994 following the death of its founder Todd Loren. (Loren’s murder, possibly at the hands of same man who gunned down Gianni Versace, is still unsolved.) All of which is a hell of a lot more interesting than the Vanilla Ice biography they published in 1991, featuring Rob Van Winkle in front of what appears to be Iceman from X-Men. While “Rock N’ Roll Comics” holds a unique place in comic book history (Bluewater Productions recently reprinted several issues), the only place the Vanilla Ice issue belongs is next to “Cool As Ice” and the “Ninja Rap” cassette single in the dollar bins at Comic-Con.
“The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang”
Released around the same time as its mediocre PlayStation fighting game, Image’s “Nine Rings of Wu-Tang” comic book series was another marketing misfire from the venerable hip-hop collective. Penned by the writer of “Witchblade,” “Nine Rings” tossed the Wu-Tang members into a generic fantasy setting that had little to do with the group’s music and already comic book-friendly persona. It’s a shame that a group so steeped in comic book knowledge ended up with a series that resembles the sort of dreck Rob Liefeld cranked out throughout the ’90s.
“Kid ‘n Play”
Based on Kid ‘n Play‘s short-lived Saturday morning cartoon, Marvel’s comic book series found Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin getting into even more wacky adventures that further softened the duo’s raunchy “House Party” image. After a handful of stories that ran the gamut from insanely bland to just plain insane (in one issue they fight robots and drive a car called the “rapmobile”), Marvel threw in the towel and had Play meet Wolverine, Ghost Rider and a bevy of other characters in the final issue thanks to a pizza-induced nightmare. Clearly this should be the premise of the inevitable “House Party” reboot. Stan Lee can cameo as “elderly neighbor annoyed by Kid ‘n Play’s loud music.”