Comic Inspired


Every rapper fancies themself a super-hero, or in some cases, a villain. Ask Jean Grae, DJ Clark Kent, Tony Starks or MF Doom. They’ve got the fancy cars, the cool names, and the never-ending adventures running through their careers. How better then to proclaim your allegiance to the world of comics than through album cover art?

Some comic-inspired covers evoke Marvel and DC circa the ‘70s and ‘80s; others blur the line between graf, Sunday funnies and alternative comics; some are just plain awful. But there is no denying the influence of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, their brethren and their offspring on the hip-hop generation. Though not generally acknowledged, rap owes as much to comics as kung-fu flicks and gangster movies. But that’s the genius of hip hop: a new culture created through amalgamating bits and pieces of the outside world.

And just as comics transport you to a fantasy world of imagination and violence, rap aspires to do the same – with a healthy dose of sex and drugs added, of course. Escape is escape, whether it’s in the pages of the X-Men or between headphones blasting Operation: Doomsday.

Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force – Renegades of Funk! & Del the Funky Homosapien – No Need for Alarm & Outkast – ATLiens

Proof positive that cats of all generations love Marvel comics — from 1984 with Bambaataa and Soul Sonic to the ATL with Outkast and Del in Oaktown. An interesting note: Bam and crew are actually dressed like super-heroes, and somewhat skittle happy ones at that. From the ‘90s to now, as evidenced by Big Boi, Andre 3000 and Del, that shit don’t play.

MF Doom – Operation: Doomsday and Special Herbs

Metal Face deserves his own mention for single-handedly repping Marvel as hard and shamelessly as possible. MF Doom is Doctor Doom, at least on records and record covers. From the name, to the mask, to the endless Fantastic Four TV show samples, to the use of his alter ego’s name (Victor Von Doom), there’s no mistaking the idolatry. While Doomsday at least uses original artwork, Doom straight-up jacks F.F. panels for his instrumental series, Special Herbs.

Digital Underground – Dowhutchalike and Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle

Here we have two West Coast artists that steal both beats and inspiration from Parliament Funkadelic, but go about doing so in very different ways. D.U. literally follows in Parliament’s footsteps with their cartoon cover. Snoop (and Dre) jack their beats, then get Snoop’s cousin, or whoever “drew” it, to “bless” his debut’s cover. But wait, there’s more! The liner notes feature a comic by the cover-artist, which is also awful, but somehow endearing. And the comic introduced me to the term “hocus pocus,” meaning weed-bullshit. It has far greater meaning and usage, though. Say you’re running late for work and the bus pulls away as you reach the door. That’s hocus pocus, nawimean?

Rick Kang

Latest posts by Rick Kang (see all)


  1. Very good. You forgot Mark Texeira (P.E., Flesh’n’Bone), very fashionable around the time PE left Def Jam, and Bill Sienkiewicz, who did covers for PE (again) and the rap superhero Bobby Digital…
    I seem to remember Larry Stroman did some album cover, back in the 90’s…

  2. EPMD – Business As Usual, dope cover by Bill Sienkiewicz.

    Plus the shown Smif-N-Wessun and Sean Price covers form a trilogy with Buckshot & 9th Wonder’s “Chemistry” album…

  3. Y’all know y’all’z shit….

    Antonio — props for repping Bill Sienkiewicz — the man’s a genius. Didn’t know Mark Texiera got bizzy rap-wise….

    Stan Steez — great point! How DID we forget The Iceberg? CLASSIC, classic cover! Our bad!

    trees — not trying to dis, but I personally disliked the cover to Beats, Rhyme & Life. Can’t comment on the man’s other work, howev’… Good lookin’, regardless….

    sid — likewise, totally forgot Lootpack! Quas’s album art has comic qualities too, but you can’t get ‘em all…. Good lookin’, again…

    And how ’bout two Co Flow joints — Funcrusher Plus, and the End2End Burnerz 12”? End2End drawn by the legendary Phase 2 — I got to peep the original (done on graph paper) whilst interning @ Rawkus during the brief glory daze…. And if we speak of Rawkus, do we have to mention the Soundbombing II comic-art Midnight-Marauderesque head shots, or the 12” to The Body Rock — which is more Mad-Magazine-steez than comics?

    Werd to y’all comic-headz, tho’ — watch me phase thru these walls like Vision… (totally random nonsensical quote)

  4. (i don’t know why that link didn’t work. anyways, the artist’s name is Timbuktu, and the album is called “the bÃ¥tten is nÃ¥dd”)

  5. there’s quite a few comic book hip hop covers (and nonhiphop), but DOGGSTYLE and DOWHATCHALIKE are not comic book inspired – they’re just illustration. mentioning those two is why all the people in comments mention a ton of other illustrated covers that don’t have to do with comics.

    LOOTPACK – SOUNDPIECES is comic book inspired. SCHOOLLY D’s early shit is straight up comic book. SWOLLEN MEMBERS – HEAVY is done by an actual comic book artist in comic style, but man, that cover is fucking ugly.

    Bill Sienkiewicz did covers, as people have mentioned here, but he seems like he’s more embarrassed of his comic book affiliation than anything.

  6. To MC Kirby: I gotta agree and disagree with the DOGGYSTYLE and DOWHATCHALIKE sentiments.

    Perhaps it’s true — those two could be construed as illustrated versus comics-style — but I will say that the DOGGYSTYLE sleeve DOES come with a comic, done in the manner of the cover, so I’ll let it pass…

    SCHOOLLY D — great point! This is on sum O.G. comix/graff type shit — a true ghetto-art classic — and the tunes are dope as well.

    As for Bill Sienkiewicz — how could the man be embarassed by his comics past? Son wuz responsible for some sickeningly ill shit — his Moon Knight run and Elektra:Assassin both changed the game. Maybe he’s done with it now, but his comics-work shan’t go unappreciated.

  7. Oldirtybenson says:

    yo what about “Master of Illusions” from Kool Keith & Motion Man? and check out the dope comic videos from James Reitano (who actually drew the cover)

  8. the business as usual cover (epmd) was the dopest one of them all because it was by bill sienkiewicz. anything that guy touches is money. and what about that little comic in 3 feet high and rising?

    anybody know who did the covers for chemistry and monkey barz and the smif n wessun album? those are the hottest covers i’ve seen in a long ass time…

  9. Rick Kang – I don’t know a lot about Bill Sienkiewicz, although I became a fan from the comic days. His website isn’t up at this moment but I remember looking at it on a couple of occassions and seeing nothing about his comic book work. He’s the only comic artist i’ve gone out of my way to see at a store (many years ago) and I although I was pretty young I remember being surprised at how many sidebusting-on-comics comments he made. (I’m not going to judge him on that alone though – could have been a bad day, and I’m sure it’s not that fun having a bunch of comic-reading boys standing around lookin at you.) as for his epmd cover mentioned by taka, I never even thought of that in relation to comic books.

    not hip hop, but one of the first and best comic book album cover of all time has got to be r crumb’s janis joplin

    Oldirtybenson – i forgot about the masters of illusions. that was done by the same guy who did the madvillain “all caps” joint too. fits into this category.

  10. Yeah, it seems like the Snoop and Digital Underground covers are more inspired by the old Funkadelic covers, which were in turn inspired by comic books.

  11. MC Kirby — cool Bill Sienkiewicz anecdote… I could mos def see why even comic-artists feel slighted or have beef with the medium — the “audience” is still seen as geeked out teens or never-grew-outta-teens, and the medium is still regarded as juvenile, no matter how many movies they make outta Jack Kirby’s work.

    That said, the medium still has game! Peep Daniel Clowes & Adrian Tomine (but don’t expect super-anythings…)…

    Good lookin’ on the Big Brother album… If you like comics, you owe it to yourself to peep the Crumb doc. Shit is bananas — almost as much as Crumb and his brothers.

    As for Funkadelic/Snoop — even a second-hand influence of comics is better than none, but agreed…. More Pen & Ink, less Pen & Pixel (tho’ are those guyz even around anymore? Since everyone can PhotoShop at home these days, are these cats out a job? Anyone know?)

  12. how could we all, forget, about LIQUID FUCKING SWORDS. Maybe the sickest comic ass album cover out there.

  13. fuck, its 3am and I was just like wait, no one could have forgotten liquid swords. and then I double checked. Its totally there. I am so sorry.

  14. Liquid Swords — not the illyest cover, but mad props to GZA and the Wu for enlisting comics brethren Denys Cowan — a cat with legitimate comic ties (the Question?, and I forget whut else he drew).

    Also — remember that Def Jam ad from like 8(?) years ago? It wuz a comics-style one-pager featuring Meth (drawn like a latter-day, new-milleny Cyborg of Teen Titans fame), Redman, Foxy Brown and someone else? maybe…. Good artist…. I’ll post if I can find — it wuz the backpage to the Ego Trip with Gangstarr on the cover (97/98)….

  15. Yo, this may be late, but Bill Sienkiewicz is gonna be in Charlotte, NC tomorrow (1/27/2007) at a mini-comic-con on 7th street/monroe at the fireman training facility, i’m trying to dig out a bobby digital lp to get him to sign…call heroes (comic store) for more info 704-375-7462


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>