milestone media

6

It’s a lot easier to pull yourself up by your boot-straps Mr. Man, if you already know how to fly.

WOC Teen Superhero Parade Presents: Raquel Ervin a.k.a. Rocket and Darnice a.k.a. Rocket II

Raquel Ervin grew up in a poor neighborhood, but was always very social-aware and wanted to become a writer to improve the world. She also had a tendency of letting her more selfish friends talk her into stupid ideas. Like breaking into the house of a rich black Republican lawyer, Augustus Freeman IV. Who turned out to have superpowers. Raquel confronted him and convinced he should use these powers to set up a positive example for the community. Augustus became a superhero named Icon and Raquel used his technology to become his partner, Rocket.

When Raquel’s boyfriend got her pregnant, she decided to retire and passed the mantle of Rocket to her friend, Darnice. However, she has later returned to the role after Darnice was unable to continue as a result of the battle with a supervillain Oblivion.

Recommended Readings:

Icon #1-42 – The main book, by many considered Dwayne McDuffie’s magnum opus. Despite the name, Rocket is the real protagonist, something the creator has admitted.

Being a part of McDuffie’s Dakotaverse, the book has crossed over with other titles, like Static, Blood Syndicate, Hardware or Shadow Cabinet and participated in crossovers like Shadow War, Milestone Forever or Long Hot Summer. As a part of crossover with DC Universe, World’s Collide, Rocket has also show up in issues of Steel, Superboy Superman and Justice League tieing-in to the event.

Other Media:

Young Justice – Rocket joins the Team in the first season finale, following Icon’s acceptance into Justice League. After the time-skip she is a full-fledged member of the League, but has a smaller role.

DC’s Static Shock

Or otherwise known as an abject lesson to writers and creators of color to not sell your idea to white people.

Before I get to the actual comic, I’ll just do a little history lesson. Milestone Comics was originally a black owned comic company that noticed that there were not many people of color as super heroes and if they were, they were presented stereotypically(Sam Wilson, Black Vulcan, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and etc) or were pretty much non-existent(Jon Stewart, Storm(I want you to name one Storm centered storyline before the 90s…yeah, I fucking thought so)) or were just flatout fucking racist(Samurai, El Dorado, Apach Chief…like I am not even joking). So Dwayne McDuffie created a whole host of superheroes of color that range from Icon, Xombi(Korean American boy with nanomachines) Rocket, The Blood Syndicate(imagine the X-Men with Bloods and Crips…yeah I bet Wolverine doesn’t sound so badass now), but the most successful of all was Virgil Hawkins aka Static Shock.

Then Dwayne McDuffie sold the rights of Milestone comics to DC. He got a lot of flack from other black owned comic companies, but Dwayne said fuck it and he was about to get this money, playboy! And it worked out just fine. He got a extremely successful television show for Static and Static shared the fucking screen with the Justice League. 

Static was probably the most successful Modern hero of our fucking generation. Fuck Peter Parker’s crying ass, Static was the teen superhero of the generation. A black kid with locks from Compton Los Angeles look alike with a gay white sidekick(Oh yeah if you didn’t know Richie was gay…now you know)was the face of superheroism for an era. It beat out fucking Pokemon. NYUGGA! This was better than Barack Obama. But then Static was cancelled at the peak of his celebrity. Want to know why? Of course you do. Well you see the point of Saturday morning cartoons other than entertain you for a couple of hours so your parents can stay in bed and get their freak on was to sell toys and white boys(the main consumers of action figures) don’t buy toys of black characters. Yes, I am not making this up. I have never seen a Static Shock action figure. I have never seen an ad for such. I have seen plenty of fucking Batman action figures, but not Static Shock, their number 1 rated fucking show! WB didn’t even fucking try! Grrr. Of course Virgil appeared in Young Justice and teamed up with the more politically correct and just flat out better versions of Samurai(Asami), Big Chief(Tye Longshadow), and El Dorado(Eduardo Dorado) and formed the Runaways. Sadly, this was short lived and for the same reason as the previous show just a slightly different. Young Justice never got a third season because girls were it’s main audience and instead of catering towards them and making toys that little girls would be more apt at buying, they decided that girls just don’t buy action figure toys so this awesome show was over. Grrrrrr!

So what about the comics….well when Milestone Universe integrated with Mainstream DC Universe, McDuffie realized that DC was like pro wrestling booking. If it interfered with the big 3, then your story got no development. There was so much red tape that McDuffie had to plow through to even receive the benefits of being a part of such a prestigious universe. Static couldn’t work with the super popular characters like Superman or Batman. Static could not use their villains or anything. He had to work with lesser known heroes or B-list characters in spite of 1.) Static was by no means a B-List hero and 2.) he might as well stayed in the Milestone Universe if he had no relevance in the DC universe. Then they had Virgil join the Teen Titans…which did absolutely nothing for him.Then Dwayne McDuffie died and so did the comic series. Then New 52 happened.

New 52 decided to reboot Static and they did so by removing everything that made him special. They removed him from his cast and placed him in New York with some sort of continuity, but different takes. They changed his costume and his board and gave him the most generic villains on the planet. New 52′s Static only lasted 8 issues meanwhile misogynistic and horrible debacles like Red Hood and the Outlaws are still going on today(It’s bullshit). Static Shock and Milestone comics was created to recognize that minority characters can be multifaceted without ignoring their race and the racism they face. I am not talking about a literal scene or panel where person of color confronts a racist. I am talking about when Static goes to Africa for the first time and tells Richie about how empowered he feels and for once, he is not a black kid, but just a kid in Africa. Static’s entire origin mimicked CRASH methods on how LAPD wrongly imprisoned and infiltrated and terrorized black people. You notice how many of the Bang Babies where people of color or urban? Then you have Static facing racism from the police. Static sagging his pants thus recognizing that he is of the hip-hop community. Static being unapologetic-ally black and it was awesome and DC could not capture that magic again.

Static was special and DC dropped the ball because no one knew how to write him. Writing him meant that you had to think outside your own experiences for white authors and while they can talk about aliens and cyborgs and mutants, they can never understand what it is like to be black, Static went from our greatest modern hero of our generation in fiction to a cautionary tale about racism in comic books.

It’s been two years since I first saw the cover of Static Shock #8, drawn by Khary Randolph, inked by Le Beau L. Underwood, and colored by Emilio J. Lopez.

It was the final cover of a title that had been maligned by an artist/editor tandem with no understanding of the original character at all (they never even seen the award-winning animated series) forcing out a writer who not only knew the characters but actually written them for the original publisher two decades earlier. By the time this issue was done, complete with a new writer onboard, the damage was already done and DC decided to kill the book and, unfortunately, any chance of Static or any other Milestone characters being seen in any DC books (aside from the one scene Static was in during the first Teen Titans series and the appearances of Icon and Rocket in the adaptations of the Young Justice animated series, they pretty much vanished without a trace).

When I saw this cover a few years ago, it hit me hard.

I wrote the following to Mr. Randolph because I was a fan and wanted to thank him for making this great image that bridged the Static Shock series with shadows of the Milestone days. The feelings remain the same as it did when I wrote this:

I was 14 when the books were announced. I still have the Va Pilot article with the first sketches and the interview with Mr. Dingle. I read the Milestone books when I could find them. Hardware. Blood Syndicate. Icon.

Static.

Static broke out, and rightfully so because he offered something different. Heck, the entire Milestone line brought out a world of comics that were entertaining with something to say instead of just battering our heads with a morality lesson like a lot of books did. Finally, books where the lead Black character wasn’t an ex-con, an African prince or princess, or a hell-borne demon with some unearthly voodoo spellcasting. They were relatable, and they were real, if not in flesh and bone, then on the printed page and, for 52 glorious episodes, on Saturday mornings.

I think the Milestone books were the reason I wanted to pursue creating my own comics, my own characters, my own voice. I was just lucky I told Mr. McDuffie that while he was still with us. I look at how he and so many others kept Milestone’s legacy alive over the years in other media, and I look at them all with a sense of pride. Proof that in the great cosmic sense of comic book myth-making, we exist. We may be shrouded in shadows most of the time, but when we’re out in the light, it’s a beautiful thing.

I look at this cover, and I see that you feel this too. You see the present but don’t ignore the past, and every Milestone fan out there recognizes that the final issue of Static Shock is AN end, not THE end. He’ll be back one day, but time goes on and the volatility of the market and the unspoken bigotry of the direct comic shop marketplace still exist.

You have made a very impactful cover, Khary. I probably talked way too much here (I have a sickening need to do that from time to time). Much success to you and your colleagues in the months and years ahead.

6

“I’ve always felt that the cool thing about being a writer is that all you need is paper to do the job. The best thing to further what you do is write and read all you can. Read both stuff you like to see why its good and read bad to see how to fix. Doing that will help you see and solve problems in your own writing. 

“But I think the biggest advice I can offer is don’t just pick one story and stop, write as much as you can, as many stories as you can. The best thing about being a writer is, a writer’s craft is nearly perfect because a writer can go anywhere and do his craft.”

Dwayne McDuffie, writer, creator of worlds, legend.

Happy birthday, Maestro. We still miss you five years later.

Still fighting down here. 

10

The reason I will always love Static Shock is not only because the animated series was my gateway into comics but because, like Batman, Virgil Hawkin’s world was so convenient. It seemed so possible.

He didn’t have his own private estate where he could meet up with his fellow superheroes. He had an unassuming abandoned gas station.

The way he got his powers is something I would’ve daydreamed about in the fourth grade. Virgil was the only superhero to come out of an event that primarily created super villains. He was the only one to not turn into a villain because he was there by accident.

He has a family, not just an aunt he needs to return home to by dinner.

And then there’s the Smallville complex. Lastly, the same thing that made Smallville a hit is in Static Shock - the school. In contrast to someone like Chloe Sullivan or Pete Ross, Virgil has Richie Foley, the only friend who’s close enough to be trusted with his double life as a hero. And then the origin story comes into play for the villains - they all came from the same place. A lot of the kids from his school had also gotten powers and all of those kids had gotten those powers because they were in the gang war that happened that night at the docs.

It’s so convenient. As a creator myself, I think it’s great how well it all fits together.

“If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren’t just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can’t be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. You know, Superman isn’t all white people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn’t do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that’s wider than the world we’ve seen before”  Dwayne McDuffie, about Milestone Media

Day 1:

You may or may not recognize this gentleman his name is Dwayne McDuffie. He is responsible for the writing and scripting the majority of DC animated universe. Unfortunately he passed away in February 21, 2011. He’s written for Marvel, DC, and his own Milestone Media. The home of such characters as Static Shock, Icon, and Hardware. His approach to writing comics was to fill the void of lack of minorities in comics. He created various superheroes of color.
He was presented with the opportunity to write for various cartoon series. Such as Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited, and Ben 10. McDuffie wrote a number of direct-to-DVD animated films featuring DC Comics characters – including Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and Justice League: Doom. He scripted the direct-to-DVD adaptation of All-Star Superman, which was released one day after his death. Justice League: Doom was released posthumously in 2012.
#blackhistorymonth #blacknerds #kamism #blacksuperheroes #blackpower

3

Okay, here’s what we know about the second (third?) coming of Milestone Media:

  • Milestone Media’s lineup of books will be published and distributed by DC Comics and will be part of the recently reintroduced Multiverse as Earth-M. 
  • The books will be under direct editorial control of the Milestone partners and not DC Comics themselves, which is not unlike their previous arrangement. 
  • Milestone owns their properties outright.
  • At least two “Earth-M” hardcover graphic novels will be published annually, as well as a yet-to-be-determined number of miniseries and one shots set in the Dakotaverse. 
  • In addition to Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan, creators such as Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Christopher Priest, Ken Lashley, and many others will be a part of it. Some reports have Hudlin and Lee and Johns and Cowan on two different books and Hudlin and Lashley on one of the main titles. 
  • The books announced officially so far are Static Shock, Icon and Rocket, and Xombi
  • This is not a continuation of the old continuity but rather a reboot of the entire universe. A new beginning for a classic brand.
  • The original books will be revived in collected editions in both print and digital formats. 
  • DC Collectibles will be making Milestone action figures, designed by Denys Cowan.

And now we’re caught up. 

washingtonpost.com
EXCLUSIVE: Milestone Media rises again. Hudlin, Cowan and Dingle will revive company with eye toward characters of color

With the pioneering spirit of the late Dwayne McDuffie in mind, three leaders team to revive the first prominent black-owned comic-book publisher.

My favorite excerpt:

In recent years, major comics publishers have aimed to make real strides in character diversity. Marvel, for example, has introduced a half-black/half-Puerto Rican Spider-Man (Miles Morales); a black Captain America (formerly the Falcon/Sam Wilson); and a female Thor. DC Comics has made similar advances with such existing characters as Green Lantern John Stewart, and by introducing Batwing (a black member of Batman’s team of crimefighters) during the debut of the New 52, and announcing that there will be a black Power Girl (Tanya Spears).

Yet Cowan says that putting a character of color in a well-known, previously white mantle doesn’t hold the same impact as creating a new wave of heroes for an ever-diverse readership and new generations of fans.