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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Local cartoonist scores deal for hip-hop book

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Just nine months after he started drawing it, Ed Piskor’s web comic strip Hip Hop Family Tree is set for publication as a book. And the publisher is Fantagraphics, arguably the top name in bound comics.
Hip Hop Family Tree, which premiered in January on boingboing.net, tells the story of hip hop starting with its roots in the Bronx, in the 1970s, and seminal figures like DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.

hiphopstrip5.jpg

(That’s the Grandmaster DJing in the background of the accompanying panel, a depiction of the legendary block party where hip hop reputedly got its name.)
The series is colored in the grainy style of ’70s comic books, with Piskor’s distinctive lines, memorable characterizations and earthy wit.
Hip Hop Family Tree will be a full-color, 112-page book. And it’s a labor of love for the Munhall native who’s often seen clad in a Public Enemy T-shirt.
But his subject matter’s combination of hipness and commercial popularity didn’t hurt: Piskor (who’s an occasional CP contributor) says publishers were contacting him about a book within weeks of his launching the series.
Ultimately, though, Piskor says he chose Fantagraphics for the promise of creative control. Other publishers offered more money, he says, but wanted him to change the strip — for instance, to make it more a “highlight reel” of hip hop’s history, or even to extend the story up to the death of Tupac.
But Piskor says the series’ success lies in its small moments. Readers “like to see the slow burn, they like to see how things fit together” in the story of how, long before the Internet, this ghetto music became a worldwide phenomenon in a couple decades.
Fantagraphics “really believe in the artist’s vision,” says Piskor, 27. “They were the only dudes who were saying yes to everything.”
And Piskor gets to be on a publishing-house roster that includes many of the biggest names in comics, from The Complete Peanuts and R. Crumb to Love and Rockets, Charles Burns and Chris Ware. “Just to be a part of the pantheon of Fantagraphics cartoonists is a geek dream,” he says.
Fantagraphics sounds hyped, too. “Hip Hop Family Tree is not only a great read, it’s a wonderful visual history of the important genre of music of the past 30 years,” associate publisher Eric Reynolds said in a statement. “We’re excited to publish it.”
For a guy who earned his stripes drawing for late comics icon Harvey Pekar — in Macedonia and The Beats — this has been an especially big year for Piskor. In June, he saw publication of Wizzywig, his formerly self-published computer-hacker series, by Top Shelf Comix.
Look for Hip Hop Family Tree between covers this time next year.

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