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FOG! Chats With The King of Comics Kayfabe, Ed Piskor, About the ‘Hip Hop Family Tree Omnibus’

Art by Ed Piskor / Photo by Selbymay

Ed Piskor is far from shy when it comes to discussing his love of comics, hip hop and Pro Wrestling. His first major body of work, Hip Hop Family Tree combines both comics and hip hop and began as a series of single page strips on in 2012 and was collected in a series of several print editions from Fantagraphics beginning in 2014, becoming a global phenomenon and perennial bestseller.

The award-winning comic provides an entertaining and encyclopedic history of hip hop culture, told in comic book form with verve, swagger and style taking readers from the parks and rec rooms of the South Bronx to the night clubs, recording studios, and radio stations where the scene started to boom, capturing the flavor of late 1970s New York City in panels bursting with obsessively authentic detail. The technical innovations, the triumphs and failures are all thoroughly researched and lovingly depicted, making Hip Hop Family Tree an essential cultural chronicle and a must for hip hop fans, pop-culture addicts, and anyone who wants to know how it went down back in the day.

Now, for the first time the entire Hip Hip Family Tree series is being collected in a stunning and definitive new hardcover edition, The Hip Hop Family Tree Omnibus, which collects all of Piskor’s previously published material and  features over 140 pages of extra material, a foreword by Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn, an afterword by esteemed hip hop journalist Bill Adler, new annotations of the entire series by Piskor, a comprehensive cover gallery, and much more.

Ed took some time to chat with FOG! about the series, his other work, and teases his upcoming project.

*  *  *  *  *

FOG!: You were born in 1982, making you 13 in 1995.  What are your first memories of Comics, Wresting and Hip Hop?

Ed Piskor: Comics were a constant. I’d regularly collect G.I Joe, Batman and X-Men comics reliably. Then I’d grab whatever piecemeal kind of comics I could find in between.

Wrestling would come to town often and the earliest match I remember seeing live was Jimmy Snuka vs. Sgt. Slaughter at PGH Civic Arena.

On TV I was there for all the great promos, Macho Man getting bitten by a snake, Million Dollar Man kicking the basketball, Mr. Perfect throwing himself a 50 yard pass.

Hip Hop is trickier, because it’s always been there. It was the music of the neighborhood. Maybe the first tape I had was a Naughty By Nature album.

When did you first think about comics as a career?  How did you start working with Harvey Pekar?

I always planned for being a cartoonist when I grew up.

Always worked toward it. I was working at a call center when I was sending strips to all the anthologies that were around at the time, in the early 2000s. I’d get routine rejections from such anthologies.;kk So I started sending comics to the cartoonists I liked and Harvey was on that list.

This is also right before social media so I had to scour the letters columns and indicias to make those connections. Pekar hit me up after I sent about 3 packages of comics and we began our association. I think I ended up doing about 300 pages of stuff with him in my early 20s.

It’s the tenth anniversary of your comic history of rap, Hip-Hop Family Tree.  What was the genesis of the book and what kind of research did you do?

The comic started when I was serializing a weekly strip called “Ed Piskor’s Brain Rot” and HHFT was just another strip, until 2 hours later when the strip was shared all over the internet let me know there was an audience that was very interested in my approach. I knew the records pretty well so I filled in the gaps with lots of reading via any available channels from books to magazine to radio archives.

You just completed a thriller serial on your Patreon, Red Room.  It received strong reviews. Why’d you end it?

I have a million ideas. Red Room was always gonna be 12 issues of comics at this time. It’s not necessarily over though. I just want to do a lot of things.

When writing a dense history (Hip Hop Family Tree, X-Men: Grand Design) what unusual challenges do you have when comes to constructing a narrative?

Sometimes important moments might not be so visual. With enough research and thought, it can then be turned into more evocative pictures.

You and Jim Rugg co-host the daily podcast Cartoonist Kayfabe.   Can you explain both what the podcast is about and what is the Kayfabe effect?

Jim and I have dedicated our lives to the medium of comics.

We chatted comics for decades and we ultimately decided to record our chats and present them publicly.

The channel got popular enough that it turns out we sell books.

Sometimes we sell all the books available online if something is out of print and only exists in the aftermarket.

What comic stories and artists have been your biggest influence?

The Fantagraphics brand of comics have always been huge for me.

Los Bros Hernandez, Clowes, Bagge, Ware, Burns, Crumb. My favorite stories always change.

What do you have coming up?

Working on a daily comic strip that has yet to see the light of day. I want to get 100 done before releasing them starting January 1, 2024. I need a big backlog because it’s not gonna be dashed out and will take a lot of time to work on.

What are you currently geeking out over?

I’ve been making a lot of manga discoveries that have been getting me as excited about the form as when I was first discovering the medium. Comic strips reprints are something I’ve been getting very serious about too. Creators like Go Nagai, Sanpei Shirato, Kaze Shinobu, Suehiro Maruo where manga’s concerned. Comic Strips I’m stoked on these days are Buz Sawyer, Dick Tracy, Peanuts, Lil Abner, Popeye, Terry and the Pirates and more.

The Hip Hop Family Tree Omnibus is available now!



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