Your regular, friendly reminder that one of the most popular comic book creations of the late 20th century, not to mention one of the few “Modern Age” characters to truly break out in the mainstream, is still Virgil Ovid Hawkins, known by most as Static, yet to this day called Static Shock.
Over 20 years later, he’s still putting a shock to the system.
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.