By Frank Reynoso
Percy Carey has embarked on a new venture, which is to be expected of an artist like him. With enough street cred to choke a stable of horses, he’s trained his energy to music under names like Grand Master, Jet Jaguar, Grimm Reaper, and MF Grimm, and founded Day by Day Entertainment. Even if we were to dismiss all of his previous musical output, his latest release American Hunger, an imaginative and versatile triple-disc album, is enough to make him a force within Hip-Hop.
And it’s his former street life and artistic aspirations that’s the subject of Vertigo’s upcoming, autobiographical graphic novel Sentences: The Life and Times of MF Grimm illustrated by Ronald Wimberly. Sidestepping the well-publicized rivalry he had with one-time friend and partner at the mic, MF Doom, Mr. Carey discussed his latest creative endeavor as a writer of comics. Sitting between smokers and dumpsters on a warm Sunday afternoon on the infamous Mulberry Street outside the Puck Building — and with Mr. Carey’s blessings — we spoke about craft, comics, and Krypton.
Frank Reynoso: So I’m at the MoCCA (Museum of Cartooning and Comic Art, NYC) Fest 2007, here with Percy Carey also known as MF Grimm.
Percy Carey: How’s everything?
FR: Doing good. How are you doing today?
PC: I’m very good, sir.
FR: Cool. So how’s the convention been treating you so far?
PC: The convention has treated me well. I’m very happy. This was my first convention here and I look forward to the next one. I’ve been greeted with open arms and I’m thankful. I’m blessed and I look forward to the next one.
FR: Did you read any comics or watch any cartoons as a kid?
PC: Yes. Of course I watched the Incredible Hulk, the old Iron Man cartoons with Captain America [and] Thor. Mostly with reading comics, it was DC you know: Superman, Batman... But I always had a fascination with the Hulk. (smiling) I can’t go against that.
FR: Are there any comics you read now or cartoons you watch?
PC: Batman in the morning. Mostly I watch Channel 11. Anything dealing with DC comics I watch. So that’s where my head is at. [As for] reading: DC. I strictly read DC. Vertigo as well.Wildstorm.
FR: They always do great stuff. Really mature comics.
“I thought my life was boring to
write about. But Casey Seijas showed me that everyone has a story so
I sat down and wrote it out.”
FR: Speaking about Vertigo, you have a comic coming out, a graphic novel called Sentences.
FR: So how did this project come about?
PC: It came about with a good friend of mine, Casey Seijas. He’s an editor at Vertigo, DC comics. He approached [me] with the idea of doing a story on my life. [He asked me to do] a couple of pages on my life. It was something that I didn’t really – I thought my life was boring to write about. But he showed me that everyone has a story so I [sat] down and [wrote] it out. [I] did it and [editor in chief] Karen Berger and [publisher] Mr. Levitz, Paul Levitz approved it. And here we are today. It was a beautiful experience. And Ron Wimberly I can’t forget him. Ron Wimberly did the artwork for Sentences.
FR: Yeah. Looks like he did an awesome job from the looks of the sampler.
PC: Thank you so much.
FR: What’s it like to transition from being an artist, a rapper, [and] a musician to being a writer of comic books?
PC: I would have to say it’s the equivalent of a writer of comic books coming into the realm of hip-hop. You have to be looked at. You have to be watched. For instance, I don’t want it to be seen as a gimmick or just a commodity. I really have comics in my heart and I’m a creator so I want to be viewed in the same way and held to the same standards as someone coming into my medium. I want to be watched [and] critiqued and also if need be, and appropriately, praised. So, I’m just thankful. I don’t want it to be viewed as something to be taken advantage of, you know. It’s a sacred art and it should be held at a higher esteem and I look forward to the people telling me if I’m appropriate for the medium.
FR: Speaking about [being] appropriate for the medium, what projects do you have lined up?
PC: Outside of this first one, I’m working on something called Crumbs. It’s dealing with a world made of cookies and cake. And I have other things throughout the DCU (DC comics universe) but I’m not able to speak about it.
PC: And I have other projects working on Vertigo [that] Ms. Berger is going to get me started [on]. So I’m loyal to Vertigo and DC so that’s where my focus is.
FR: Yeah, Karen Berger is an awesome person to work with from what I heard.
PC: She’s the best.
FR: [It’s] 3pm [on a] Saturday, what are you doing?
PC: Working on a graphic novel or I’m studying Krypton.
FR: Studying what?
PC: (smiling) Krypton.
FR: What do you mean?
PC: The planet Krypton.
FR: Oh? How so?
PC: Just studying the lineage of Kal El and things of that nature.
FR: Oh, I see.
PC: Just the planet Krypton for instance Mark Waid, of course Geoff Johns, and Grant Morrison, and [other] great writers. And Jim Lee and Brian Azzarello. It’s a world so therefore I need to respect the world, so I study it.
FR: Wow, that’s amazing.
PC: Yeah. So I do that most of the time. If [I’m] not [doing this], I’m working on the album.
FR: Very productive, very prolific.
PC: Thank you.
FR: This is just me coming in personally because I [- like you -] was also raised in Manhattan. I was born and raised in Morningside Heights on 111th and Amsterdam.
PC: (smiling) Yes, sir.
FR: So, that’s what I feel an affinity with you. That’s what I found it really cool and refreshing to see you at this [MoCCA Fest]. Because I don’t think there’s a lot of kids or a lot of folks from the hood or Uptown in a convention like this.
PC: I have to say that where we came up, some of us we were fortunate to be able [to be] exposed to the arts at a young age and to grow up around [something like] the Museum of Natural History. Maybe some of us as a child might have [taken] for granted but now looking back [we can see] how important it was and such a cornerstone to the development of how we are today and I’m thankful. It was something that I overlooked throughout a large portion of my life and now that, I see that I’ve been blessed. And I need to come to events like this and show that we have a voice in this medium. It’s a responsibility that I need to take upon myself and stand up. Put up or shut up. So that’s why I’m here.
FR: Which kind of answers my next question and last question: any advice for kids like us who grew up in Uptown.
PC: Of course I want to say education because education is important. But I also want to warn the kids [of] people who double talk and tell you what you should do and they don’t follow suit. So therefore, I say that because my goal is to get back into school and educate myself and get a degree. To what, I’m not sure. But to go back to school and lead by example and not just tell people to go get a good education when I haven’t followed through. So I would have to say if you’re in school stay in school, acquire as much knowledge as possible, and do good for your people and your community and let that be shown through your actions.
FR: Words to live by.
FR: So you started Day By Day Entertainment so where can folks find your works?
PC: …online. Most local stores have it throughout the United States: HMV, Tower Records — well Tower is closed now — but HMV, Best Buy, Sam Goodie… it depends. But people can check me out at daybydayent.com. We have myspace too: myspace.com/daybydayent. (laughing) You’ll catch me somewhere.
FR: (smiling) Ok, sounds good. Thank you very much, Mr. Carey.
PC: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.
FR: It’s a pleasure.
(We shake hands.)
Sentences: The Life and Times of MF Grimm by Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly and published by Vertigo Comics will be released in September 2007.