Some of the biggest icons in the MARVEL COMICS universe are undergoing an identity crisis!!!
The Iron Man armor will soon pass from Tony Stark to an MIT student named Riri Williams this fall; metal-clad villain Dr. Doom is welding his own iron duds in Infamous Iron Man set for next month; and founding X-Men member Jean Gray is now a time-traveling incarnation of her younger self (don’t ask). But this is far from the first time superheroes have traded mantles.
The Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah took the moniker Tony Starks to coincide with his 1996 solo album, Ironman, and British MC Daniel Dumile assumed the identity MF Doom in the late ‘80s along with an angular, metallic mask to pay homage to the Fantastic Four’s greatest adversary. Brooklyn MC Tsidi Ibrahim, better known as Jean Grae, found solace in the red-headed mutant’s message of empowerment in the throes of marginalization. Even RZA and his alter ego, Bobby Digital, cite cosmic extreme-sports enthusiast the Silver Surfer as a childhood inspiration.
These are just a few examples of a deep—if complicated—cultural rapport stretching back to the late ‘70s: hip-hop and comic books.
PLAYBOY Magazine reports last year, the COMIC BOOKS - HIP HOP CONNECTION inspired Marvel to launch a line of 50 variant covers with characters posing as luminaries like Ice Cube, Kool Moe Dee and Lauryn Hill from their game-changing album covers. Here are six new entries for Marvel’s second wave launching this fall, with covers offering tribute to the Wu-Tang Clan, Salt N Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Kevin Gates, Chance the Rapper and LL Cool J. (Scroll down to see side-by-side comparisons.) This art will debut on the covers for the comics Champions #1 by Rahzzah, Ultimates 2 #1 by Risa Hulett, Infamous Iron Man #1 by Anthony Piper, Jessica Jones #1 by Jeff Dekal, Nova #1 by Christian Ward and Cage! #1 by Marco D’Alfonso.
MARVEL Editor-in-Chief AXEL ALONSO said via email:
“Comics and hip-hop share a common narrative: They’re all about underdogs struggling, striving and persevering against overwhelming odds. So it’s no surprise that so many rappers have been influenced by the Marvel mythology or embraced the Marvel heroes over the decades. The hip-hop covers were our way of showing that the love is reciprocal. A lot of the writers, artists and editors that make Marvel Comics are inspired by hip-hop, and it shows in their work.”
“We picked Kevin Gates’ Islah for Jessica Jones because his body language simply nails who she is. Ditto for LL’s BAD—the stance, the attitude was all Luke Cage.”