Today (April 1), VICE columnist and Don Diva contributor Seth Ferranti will be in St. Louis at the Wizard World Comic Con (his first of eight Comic Cons he’s been invited to), introducing comic book lovers to the first edition of his latest project, Supreme Team. The project is a collaborative effort between Ferranti’s Grind Studios and Stache Publishing. The comic is based on the reign of the infamous crack kingpin Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff and his Supreme Team crew. The characters include street legends, such as Preme, his #2 and nephew, Prince, Fat Cat and others. Artist and ex-marine Joe Wills was enlisted to create the visuals for the comic. Supreme Team, creates a new, true crime lane for comic books, replacing fantastical super heroes and villains with fictional accounts of historical figures from the streets, based in reality. Ferranti is somewhat of an authority of Preme and his squad, having written about them for Don Diva and penning his own book, The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed. “I grew up reading comics. Just like when I wrote the Supreme Team book, I wrote it because it was a book that I wanted to read and there was no book like that,” Ferranti explained. “Same thing with comics. I wanted to read comics like this one, but it wasn’t available. I thought a lot of the stuff for my books that I wrote about would translate well to comics. Supreme Team is my biggest book and print story, so if I was gonna pick one of my titles to adapt to a comic book, it would be the Supreme Team.”
For a little background on the story, the Supreme Team (originally known the Peace Gods) operated out of the Baisley Projects in Jamaica, Queens, NYC, and was comprised of young Blacks and Latinos. At its height, in 1987, the Supreme Team was slinging 25,000 vials of crack per week and making upwards of $200,000 per day.
Ferranti’s rise to being a respected writer/journalist/publisher was an unlikely one. In the early 90’s, after faking his own death and making the US Marshals 15 Most Wanted list, Ferranti was caught and sentenced to over 20 years in the feds. He was hit with Continuing Criminal Enterprise charges (aka Kingpin charges) for, allegedly, distributing more than 100,000 doses of LSD in Virginia. He was only 22. “I was just a little college kid,” reflected Ferranti. “When I was 18, 19, I would probably make $20-30,000 a month over a three year stretch. It wasn’t like I was some type of big drug dealer.”
It was in prison that he developed his craft as a writer. College courses in arts and humanities (Ferranti left prison with three college degrees) contributed to his skill set, and he went on to hone his skills even more by starting a prison newsletter. As he matured, he started to get published in publications from behind the wall and writing books, which led to the founding of his own publishing company, Gorilla Convict.
Ferranti’s status as a kingpin earned him access to shot callers that were locked up with him. “I had a little notoriety,” he said. “That’s how I could meet the other dudes.” One of the other dudes was Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, who personally put his stamp of approval on Ferranti’s work based on his life and endeavors.
In addition to telling the stories he wants to tell, Ferranti wants to inform readers of the influence that the crack game had on the early hip-hop industry. Figures like Supreme were the early financiers of now-iconic rap moguls and acts, when they were coming up. “Those stories are really kinda together in a strange kind of way. I wanted to show that. Dudes like Supreme don’t even get the credit they deserve for early hip-hop,” said Ferranti. “When those dudes were just rapping on the corner and Russell Simmons was trying to put together little parties and stuff, the drug dealers, like Supreme, were who they went to. Supreme had all those guys: Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys. He had all those dudes perform at different parties in ‘84 and ‘85 and hit ’em all off with like $1,000 each.”
He continued, “In hip-hop, you got all the gangster stuff and all that, but it’s like everybody kinda missed where it came from. I really wanted to show that not only did the rappers emulate these guys, but these guys were their biggest supporters.”
Ultimately, Ferranti looks to present the Supreme Team story and others (such as the story of the father of the modern-day, American La Cosa Nostra Lucky Luciano, which will follow in a month or two) as cautionary tales for impressionable minds thinking that lifestyle is sweet (similar to Don Diva). “At the end of the day, you gotta be able to separate entertainment from reality. I write to entertain, but I also write so you can say, ‘OK.This is what can happen. Do I really wanna be involved in this?’,” he explained. “At the end of the day, everyone doing life, they would go back and change everything they did. Everybody loves the romanticization and glorification and entertainment aspect. I try to mix it all together and give them something real.”
(You will notice a little boy named Curtis in the comic. Yes, that is based on Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and he will be a recurring character in the series).