‘Real Deal Magazine’ Is the Greatest and Most Violent Comic Book You’ve Never Read
People speak about their discovery of Real Deal Magazine in revelatory terms. This is mostly because it contains scenes of black characters perpetrating such extreme violence and political incorrectness that it is capable of searing a new wrinkle into your brain. Only six issues were published from 1989 to 2001, but they were enough to leave an impression in the minds of a certain cross section of artists and readers who prefer unrepentant brutality to superheroes and schlock.
Underneath Real Deal’s over-the-top tales of “urban terror” lies a painfully raw nerve. In a way, the comic’s seemingly exaggerated violence was a peek inside the illogical lobster-tank psyche of ghetto life and its resulting insanity. A world in which its inhabitants can’t help but pull one another down, which, come to think of it, is a lot like this awful place we call reality.
Real Deal’s creators, illustrator Lawrence Hubbard and writer Herald Porter McElwee (H.P.), were drawn together through a shared frustration with their lives as black men in early-80s LA, where Rodney King-style beatings were as common as the sunset. Fittingly, they met in 1979 while working a minimum-wage stocking and unloading job in the bowels of California Federal Bank. They soon commiserated over their grievances: the pigs, their grim career opportunities, and, most of all, that they grew up a couple of bastards after their fathers walked out on their families.
“That was our bond,” Lawrence said. “We’d sit around and talk about how we wished we’d had a dad in the house. We shared that feeling—that rage and anger. It’s like going through a war. Unless you’ve experienced it, you don’t know what it feels like.”
In 1985, they were still slaving away at California Federal and, through their friendship, found an unexpected channel for their anger. Like many good ideas, Real Deal began as a doodle on some scrap paper during a break from their shitty job.
“One day I come down to the basement for lunch and H.P. is drawing stick figures,” Lawrence said. “He had this crazy story with this guy selling oranges on the median and this other guy named G.C. driving down the street. G.C. takes the car and runs right over the guy on the median. Then G.C.’s old lady says, ‘G.C., you sure fucked him up.’ And he turns to her and says, ‘That could be you too, bitch, if you fuck up.’”