“Rap Robot Max”, the first hip-hop comic book
Today, the hip-hop industry and everything connected with it – music, clothes, concert tickets – is a place where many billions of dollars rotate, but from the beginning of the 70s to the beginning of the 80s it was more of a job from the category ” Do it yourself”. DJs and AMs burned at parties in community centers; dancers practiced their movements in clubs, not in video; and artists began to wrest their way from the bottom, and not from the galleries. It was in that spirit that Eric Orr, an artist from the Bronx, published the comic strip “Robot Max Max” dedicated to hip-hop culture in 1986, which became widely known as the first hip-hop comic book. Orr fell in love with comics in his early childhood — so much so that he and his brothers were ready to steal Sunday comics from the church. The first comic-style drawing he created depicted Charlie Brown (the hero of the comic book series Little Bellied Trigger, orig. Peanuts – approx. Per.). “I gave the drawing to my aunt, and without wasting time, she decorated the wall with them,” Orr said. “And that was a positive incentive for further drawing classes.” Until graduation, he continued to draw, write short stories, and create sketches and comics for friends. Perhaps this was the typical life story of most creators, but something else happened around Orr: the Bronx at this time produced a completely new sound. The era of hip-hop pioneers lasted from the 73rd to the 83rd year, explained Benjamin Ortiz, curator of the Cornell Hip-Hop Collection – approx. Per. “But in the middle of the decade, around the 79th, the recording industry began recording rap in studios, turning it on the radio, creating videos. At the time Orr comics were published, a split occurred. There was public support for the industry and advertising in the media, and large fast-growing companies appeared, such as Def Jam Recordings (record label – approx. Per.). But there remained a great many of those who continued to live side by side with us, producing resonance, creating creative things – those that became an event at the mass level, the level of society. People tried to comprehend all the possibilities of this format. ” The production of The Rap Robot Max was helped by artist Keith Haring, as well as Orr’s circle of friends and his family. Eric Orr / “Cornell Hip Hop Collection” At that time, Orr drew miniatures around the area in the form of the head of his future robot, but so far it was only an approximate idea. And only after one chance meeting the robot began to grow into something more. “Once I walked around the neighborhood and heard someone calling me by name: Orr, hey, Orr!” It turned out to be Orr’s classmate, John. After school, John took up music, and under the stage name Jezzie Jay became one of the pioneers of hip-hop, and later founded his own label Strong City. Jay, as a DJ and producer, needed a logo design, and he hired Orr for this work. As Strong City grew in popularity, Orr took up the post of art director and began developing logos and illustrations for masters of the golden era of hip-hop. It was there that Orr managed to perfect the image of his robot. “I noticed that there was no material talking to the hip-hop community in the comic book market,” he said. “And I decided to do it myself.” Orr wanted to create a comic strip that focused on album release, graffiti and music. But it took some effort and some help to prepare the comic for print. As Orr’s portfolio grew, so did his reputation. In 82, he met and became friends with New York artist Keith Haring, and two years later they worked together on a series of drawings that adorned the New York subway station. When the time came for Orru to gather his loved ones in the name of preparing the first episode of Rap Robot Max to print, Harring was one of those whom Orr had called. “Keith Haring bought the ad on the last page of the comic and helped fund the first print on a par with other friends and relatives,” says Orr. “Then I could go to the Bronx private printing house and print 500 copies.” The first issue was released in ’86, and he showed our robot hero in urban scenery: a member of rap battles listening to the latest music release on his boombox and letting dealers know that he is a completely drug-free robot. The pages of the issue were filled with advertisements of local enterprises – a record store, video store, pizzeria – each of which played a role in the comic debut of “Raping Max” and transferring it from Orr’s fantasy to printed pages. The distribution of the comic was also “do-it-yourself”: “I went around all the comic book stores.” Orr’s efforts paid off – the first issue left the shelves in a month. This attracted the attention of the press, a thematic report appeared even in the New York Daily News. Orr received a response from the hip-hop community that inspired him while working on the project. Orr created three more issues, albeit with some modifications.