Darryl "DMC" McDaniels (208622)
Credit: Wikipedia

Whereas some children look for leaders on television and media, others in the New York City area are looking towards their communities. On June 22, 2016, at NYC Lab High School for Collaborative Studies in Manhattan, the NYC Department of Youth and Communities Development and well-known hip-hop enthusiast and publisher and founder of Darryl Makes Comics, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, came together to present the “DYCD Heroes Project” comic showcase. More than 100 middle school children from 25 DYCD-funded after-school programs and community centers were invited to the event to showcase original comic books with their unique heroes. For the project, Darryl Makes Comics and the Comics Book Project teamed up to encourage young students in NYC to appreciate local heroes in their communities.

Filled with dozens of middle school students, the NYC Lab High School cafeteria erupted with loud noise and laughter as the students anticipated the fun-filled event.

Darryl Rattray, associate commissioner of Community Centers and Strategic Partnerships for the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, had time to talk about the beginnings of the comics program.

“We’re always looking for ways to enhance the work that our nonprofits do,” Rattray stated. “This was a perfect intersection of events. One, we were trying to figure out what do around art. Two, we knew we wanted to do something around comic books. And three, one of our associates ran into DMC and in a meeting we were like, ‘Wow, let’s pull all three together and come up with this comic book project — DYCD Heroes.”

Though McDaniels is known for his influential presence on the hip-hop scene as a founding member of Run-D.M.C music group, he has also been an avid comic book reader. He started his own publishing house—with the help of Editor-in-Chief Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez and Senior Editor Riggs Morales—and now is the publisher of Darryl Makes Comics. Similar to the collaborative book initiative, Darryl Makes Comics shows children that heroes exist everywhere and that their stories are important.

“When the Department of Youth Services came to me and said they wanted to do something to spark kids’ creativity, I thought what better way than to do it with a comic book,” said McDaniels. “Everything that I’ve got relates to comic books. Reading. People use to say, ‘Don’t let the kids read comic books. They should be reading their school books.’ But the fact that I was reading my comic books every day, when it was time for me to read my school books, I excelled as a student. More importantly, comic books spark a kid’s imagination.”

Most of the students displayed their work or simply interacted with their peers. However, Kylie Macana, Isamar Brito, Giana Then and Makayla Serrett had a hand in the program’s debut comic.

“I’ve been into Marvel movies and comics, but I thought it was really cool for something that came from an idea come to life,” said Macana. “So, I thought, ‘Why not try it out?’”

“Another thing we wanted to bring in was, when you think of superheroes you normally don’t think of girls with band tees or just regular teenagers,” said Brito. “The best thing of doing the comic was incorporating that aspect.”

Whether the inspirational leader or a young aspiring illustrator, each person attending the project shared in a great love of comics. For many of the participants, heroes came from their lives, not from fairytales.