'Supreme Team' Graphic Novel About ‘80s Crack Era New York Written By Former Prisoner

By May Wilkerson 08/11/15

Seth Ferranti has been a prolific writer about drug use and the prison culture, most notably for The Fix.

Supreme Team
Courtesy of Seth Ferranti

After 21 years in prison on drug charges, Seth Ferranti has developed a career for himself as a writer. Now his first novel, about a famous drug lord he met behind bars, has inspired a graphic novel planned for release in late 2016.

Indie comic publisher Stache has announced the upcoming publication of The Supreme Team, about a group of drug-dealing gangsters fighting to control the streets of New York in the ‘80s, when both hip-hop and crack were at their peak. It’s based on The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, Prince’s Reign of Terror and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed, which Ferranti wrote while he was serving a 21-year sentence in federal prison on charges of trafficking LSD.

“Back before rap became big in ’85, the rappers emulated the street guys,” says Ferranti, in a press release. “It was guys like Supreme who would pay these young artists $1,000 a night to perform at parties. This was before they even had a record out or were playing at clubs. It was the drug dealers that funded their early careers in order to let the talent flourish. The Supreme Team influenced the music and culture of hip-hop as a developing art form."

During his time in prison, Ferranti met the infamous hip-hop drug lord, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, upon whom the book is based. He first published an account of Supreme’s story for Don Diva magazine.

Ferranti wrote prolifically while incarcerated, documenting drug use and prison culture for The Fix and other publications. Despite using a pseudonym, he was found out and landed multiple stints in solitary confinement as a result of his writing. He says the time to himself helped him develop a skill for writing and creating comics.

Since getting out of prison last year, after 21 years, Ferranti met up with Anthony Mathenia, who helped him produce the book into a graphic novel. “I was impressed by the dialogue,” says Mathenia. “It had the authenticity of how people talk and it felt real.” The novel is illustrated by St. Louis artist Joe Wills, who has done thorough research in order to realistically capture the mood of the streets at the time.

It’s a fairly groundbreaking endeavor; a comic book about drug dealing, written by someone with firsthand knowledge of that world, is outside your typical comic book genre. “What we’re trying to do with Supreme Team is to take crime comics from the past and figure out what a modern urban comic would look like,” says Mathenia. “I think Supreme Team nails it."

“I don’t see anything like the kind of book that we’re trying to do,” says Ferranti. “You’d think that being in prison 20 years would make me a patient person, but I’m ready to get this comic out to the world.”

Check out Seth's Kickstarter page for The Supreme Team here.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.