Let’s get into today’s book…
Title: Marvel – The Hip-Hop Covers
Author: Alex Alonso, Chris Robinson, and Rickey Purdin (ed.)
Publisher: Marvel (2016)
In 2015-16 Marvel released a bunch of variant comic covers that were created to mirror classic Hip-Hop album covers. And while Marvel caught some backlash about these covers since almost all of the Marvel team was (and for the most part still is) white, the covers were celebrated by fans across the globe. The light that was shed did spark Marvel to re-think some of their staffing decisions, and we are starting to see more diversity in the industry as time goes on.
BUT this post will not focused on diversity or industry decisions. I thought it would be a cool intro into a discussion on the importance of back matter in comics. Back matter is the material at the end of a comic that is not the actual comic story. Sometimes it’s alternate covers; sometimes it’s essays or letters that people have written; sometimes it’s just an author or artist discussing the process. Back matter is cool. Anyone that has read Bitch Planet knows that the essays found at the back of those issues are great! I’ve heard that Image Comics is actually compiling those essays into their own book!
We usually get more back matter in trades that are looking to fill space at the back of a book, and at times, it can feel like straight up filler, but for the most part, back matter gives the reader a chance to learn about the craft and read about the societal implications of a book or series. You should never neglect the back matter of a comic.
This brings me to the Hip-Hop Covers book. I love this book for the art. There is no story in the book pictured above; it’s just art. Art AND two amazing essays about the importance and relevance of the comics/Hip-Hop crossover. These essays are written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Killer Mike. They are fantastic essays! In my classroom discussion of the societal importance of comics this coming semester, I will share these essays, and we will analyze them. Back matter (even though one of these comes at the start of the book…) gives educators yet another avenue to dive into a comic. Back matter is a way to get your kids thinking, at times, abstractly about a comic or idea initiated by the creators of the book. Imagine if at the end of Gatsby we had Fitzgerald’s notes on character, setting, tone, etc. Or drawings/photos from the real places in which the settings were created. Or letters from fans about the book that he got to reply to. It could be great. Just saying.
If you are a fan of Hip-Hop, check out the covers, and read the essays in this book. If you do not have much experience with back matter, make it a point to do so. It just gives you more to discuss in the classroom.
This Hip-Hop variant is probably my favorite: