RZA’s Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes and the Comics of Wu-Tang

by Eric Gressman

Last November, RZA announced that Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes, a full-length graphic novel featuring his longtime alter-ego, will drop sometime later this year. The official release page at Z2 comics describes the novel with:

“Who are you, what is real? This is the question Bobby Digital is seeking to answer. Embracing his id, ego and superego he embarks on a quest to figure out the nature of his reality and himself.”

A little vague, but I think over the years RZA himself has given us a good idea of what to expect from this most recent Wu-adjacent comic crossover.

In 2005, RZA (with Chris Norris) published The Wu-Tang Manual, an 18-page “introduction to some of the basic principles of Wu-Tang thought and artistry, a glimpse into some of the ideas and life events that shaped the Clan.” Indeed, a whole chapter is devoted to how comics were a driving creative force for most of the original Wu-Tang–how easy it was for them to see the parallels between the projects of New York and a prison, or a mad science experiment gone wrong, or how common it was for young people to want the power and security of a superhero in their life. Maybe as their life.

As early as 2000, the Wu-Tang Clan started appearing on the glossy page. The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang started its 6-issue run alongside the release of Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style for the PlayStation (one). Was a tweenage me reading them quickly on the shelves as they came out and not buying them? You bet I was. Why? They are hammy at best, downright boring at worst, and had little Wu-flavour throughout. Much better was their appearance in Deadpool #10 last year, which even included some shade thrown at Staten Island for texture.

Other members of Wu-Tang have been starring in and writing much more personable titles for years.

In addition to being a famed comic collector himself and announcing his own NFT-based comic universe this year, Method Man’s eponymous 2008 comic debut, a result of story and art collaboration with Sanford Greene and David Atchison, followed a “murder priest” after he is expelled from The Order of the Secret Method for having an affair with the daughter of the Grand Arch Occisor d’Arc. ‘Nuff said.

Ghostface Killah’s album Twelve Reasons to Die is a concept album, set to score the comic book of the same name, and his 2009 graphic novel Cell Block Z is currently the only graphic to have hit shelves after GZA’s Advance Knight was completed and ultimately never released. In it, an unjustly-imprisoned Ghost is experimented on until he becomes the most destructive version of himself, a pretty on-the-nose execution this excerpt from The Wu-Tang Manual:

“If you saw it, you would swear Stapleton Projects was a prison… it’s definitely jail. Everything around it is based on that same idea, that same science project. And in comics, when a science project goes wrong, it produces monsters.”

On the character of Bobby Digital, under whose name RZA released his first solo album, Bobby Digital in Stereo, RZA says he was born during reflection on his younger days, when he was moving through life at digital speeds. He refers to Bobby as having too many women, too many parties, too many drugs, and as the “chance to live out some of my hip-hop past that got pushed aside by RZA.” Someone he had to get rid of, but also as an important step in who he is today.

The RZA has always struck me as more artist than rapper or producer, even when 36 Chambers was the only acceptable CD to listen to on your Discman. He is a person with a perspective, and he brings that perspective to every project he touches, even when he is working as one of his many alter-egos. He has acted in, written and directed feature films, was probably deemed too black by the Academy to be nominated for the iconic Kill Bill score, and is one of the most influential hip-hop producers of the genre’s history.

Over the past years we’ve seen some of the great names of creativity of the past generation–the elder statesmen–produce epics that seem to look back at their bodies of work and wonder what it all amounted to. Films like Scorcese’s The Irishman and Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises come to mind. RZA is only 53 this year, but in digital time, that might be eons.

If RZArector’s verse on Pit of Snakes (by another truly excellent RZA-founded group, Gravediggaz) is any indication, I think from Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes we can expect: science, weed, sex, and fight scenes. I admit I am hoping for more, though.

Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes is available for pre-order through Z2, including an original score on vinyl, set to drop sometime in May. Sure to slap.

Let us know in the comments of the most blatant Wu-crossover oversights!

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