The way Darryl "DMC" McDaniels tells it, hip-hop wouldn't exist without comic books. There sure as hell wouldn't be any Run-DMC, McDaniels' legendary group that overcame numerous hurdles to bring rap into the mainstream. "I was a Catholic school kid in Queens who got straight As and wore glasses," he says. "I got bullied. Comic books taught me how to define myself with an adjective and tell the world who I am."
He told New Times his comics passion started off as a kindergartner with Batman. "I was learning to read, but I really wanted to draw," he recalls. "I would take tracing paper to the page and try to copy it. Those DC comics were cool with Metropolis and Gotham City, but Marvel took over my life. Stan Lee was brilliant... Spider-Man lived in Queens! I lived in Queens!"
As McDaniels grew older, he began the path toward a rapping career. "Me and my brother wanted to get two turntables and a mixer. We didn't sell weed so we had no money. To get the money we had a comic book sale. I found out later that [members of] Run came to the sale."
He said superhero comic books prepared him as an MC in ways he didn't realize until years later. "I never wanted to get into show business. I saw rapping as a creative outlet, a way to tell stories over music... When you listen to 'King of Rock' — Now we crash through walls, cut through floors/ Bust through ceilings and knock down doors — rappers don't do that stuff, superheroes do."
Run-DMC became the first rap group to have an album sell a million records. They were the first rappers to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the first to have their videos shown on MTV. "When we got on MTV in 1984, we didn't know what MTV was," he says. "People in Queens didn't have MTV yet."
His happiest memory amidst all that fame involved walking off a stage. "Bill Graham personally requested us to play Live Aid," he remembers. "We were the only hip-hop group there and 99 percent of the people didn't want rappers there. They thought rap was a fad like a hula hoop."
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Recently, though, it was hip-hop that connected McDaniels back to comic books. "I was meeting with Eminem's A&R guy, Riggs Morales," he says. "We were talking about superheroes, and he convinced me to write my own." McDaniels has since written two issues of the independent comic DMC, which is set in New York City in 1985 and chronicles the adventures of a track suit-and-Adidas-shoe-wearing superhero fighting injustice. McDaniels will be taking his comic on the road to Florida Supercon July 28 to 30, where he will be autographing copies and taking part in some panel discussions.
But his love for comics doesn't mean DMC has given up on hip-hop. He's working on a new record, DMC the LP. "It stands for Dynamic Musical Collaborations. I'm collaborating with Joan Jett, Sammy Hagar, Chuck D. I want to make music that knocks down separations of the generation gap and the social gap. When Steven Tyler broke down the wall in 'Walk this Way,' that wall breaking didn't just happen in the video, it happened all over the world."
McDaniels sees his DMC comics as having a similarly positive message for kids. "I want to show younger kids it's cool to be a geek or a nerd. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are geeks and nerds. It sounds clichéd, but inside of all of us is a superhero."
Darryl "DMC" McDaniels. Friday, July 28, to Sunday, July 30, at Florida Supercon at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-399-1330; floridasupercon.com. Admission is $8.50 to $395 via growtix.com.